Today I was doing one of my favourite tasks as an Assistant Editor – writing the cover brief for a new title. In my opinion, this is one of the all-time best tasks I can be invited to perform at work. When you’ve read a book that you just so happen to love, that you just so happen to have bought, that you just so happen to have dragged through the acquisition meeting successfully, kicking and screaming your little heart out, there is a sense of enormous satisfaction when you get to this bit,. For me, when you’ve read a book that you love, you haven’t just read it, you’ve felt it, and that’s often where the idea for a cover will come from.
Conveying that to the designer is the trickiest part.
How do you say to someone ‘Well, when you read it, it feels like it should have an exotic cover/an intricate cover/a plain cover, and the reason is because of absolutely nothing but my intuition’. It is hard because it is a set of ideas in your head only. No one else thinks like you and the designer hasn’t read the book. And I’ve learned the hard way to be particularly clear about what the book needs because some things have come back and all my brain can do in response is go What?!
More often than not though, we get some epic covers thanks to our art department. Try having a look at Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds for example – nothing like what we briefed but beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. On the other hand, sometimes the designer just gets your brief – check out The Silver Bough, that came back exactly as it is first time round. Or Unholy War, another one that was pretty much perfect; just wait until you guys get to see it.
(I have to interrupt you here to announce some exciting news: we’ve just been told that – a week before publication – our very own Traitor’s Blade is the 5th biggest fantasy and SF seller of the week! Just under Brandon Sanderson, Joanne Harris and Terry Pratchett! Hello! And also number 47 for ALL hardback fiction! Buyit, buyit, buyit.)
But, even if it needs tweaks or is perfect the first time round, one of the best parts of my job is still coming up with a cover concept for the books you love (your own) and then seeing that cover come to life before you. As Mastercard would say: it’s priceless.