You can’t judge a book by its cover. Isn’t that how the saying goes? Well, yes, except, of course, when it comes to actual books. With actual books people do exactly what the saying warns them not to. Certainly, at the outset, books most definitely are judged by their cover. Covers are vital. They can sell a book. They can stop a book from selling. They are like the sirens calling out from the shelves and shelves of books out there. A cover is the thing an unpublished writer dreams of. Seeing your name on the jacket of a book becomes the Holy Grail when you’re striving all the extra hours in a day, filing your seventeenth rejection letter, battling relatives who suggest kindly that perhaps you should get a ‘proper’ job and stop ‘wasting your time’. All the while inside your brain, you’re thinking one day… One day I’ll see a book in a book shop with my name on the cover.
The Judas Scar is my second book. My first book, Sworn Secret, has a cover that I like. I don’t love it but I like it. There are elements of it I love; the atmospheric trees in the background, the colour scheme, my name on it in blingtastic writing! I was walking the dog when my editor sent the image through. I remember clearly closing my eyes, opening the file, then opening my eyes after stealing myself to do so. It wasn’t what I was expecting but it was a cover with one of my characters on it. And she wasn’t far from how I’d seen her in my head. It’s funny though, as an author you have no say in the cover. This is not your job. I’m sure the Big Names get input, but for the rest of us, it’s out of our hands.
My second book is published by Cutting Edge Press and Paul Swallow over there is mighty proud of his jackets. Rightly so. They are strong. They stand out. They represent the story inside and they try to be as striking as possible. From the off he told me he wanted to pitch The Judas Scar right, that he had certain ideas. When he finally sent through a mock up of his idea, I didn’t know what to think. It was so nothing like what I was expecting; eight coloured hands in squares of contrasting colours, with a squiggly line drawn on to them, and a square in the middle with the name of the book. I stared at it thinking: what on earth is that? I didn’t hate it, it was just so very different to the tormented man or the rooted oak tree I’d had in mind. But its immediate appeal was the echo of Warhol, the artistic elements of it, the creativity and individuality it embodied. As I got used to it, I began to think it was actually pretty damn clever. Repeated hands carrying repeated scars (a direct reference to scarred hands in the story). The idea that all of us carry scars, that all of us are different, but at the same time remarkably similar. What happened next was brilliant. The image went back and forward between Broo, Paul, myself and Ollie, the designer. Versions and versions of it, tweaking and tightening, and each time it came back it was better. The final design that Paul settled on is a triumph. It has Cutting Edge Press’s trademark cover flaps, the background is a subtle mimicking of the central image and the font is just perfection. I can’t stop looking at it. It’s so pleasing to the eye, different to anything else out there, delicate in places but packing a punch. I am friends with the lady who runs our local book shop after years and years of loitering and browsing, and I went in to give her a sneak preview. She immediately said: I love it! Wow, that will really stand out from the crowd. And this, of course, is just as Paul imagined it. He and Ollie have created a stunning cover and one I don’t think I will ever tire of looking at.
My baby, as Paul likes to say, is going out immaculately and stylishly dressed.
The Judas Scar is published today and has been getting brilliant reviews: Order here.
Follow Amanda on twitter: @MandaJJennings