Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cover Story

'I haven't read your novels - I did see a couple but the covers put me off.'

I'm not going to tell you who wrote that about me because she's terrifically important and anyway it was in an email, which sort of counts as being off the record. But Dyan makes a very valid point. I'm never going to read a book with a pastel cover featuring a martini, a handbag and a pair of stiletto-heeled shoes. And yet, you'll see thousands of books like this, so obviously someone is reading them. So of course the cover is important. Jaws wouldn't have sold anywhere near as well if the shark had been done by Anne Geddes.

I've been lucky. I've liked all my covers. In the case of The Life of a Teenage Body-snatcher, the artist who was originally contracted to do the job became unwell and couldn't do the work. He was very apologetic and we were sympathetic, even though we were also tearing our hair out. Then Penguin designer Karen Trump (now Karen Scott) recalled seeing the work of an artist, Polina Outkina. I hadn't heard of Polina, but she seemed almost too romantic to be true. She was born into a family of jewellers in an ancient Russian city called Yaroslavl. She is a keen violinist. Even her name is perfect. Polina Outkina. And when I saw some of her work online I was even more enthusiastic. How's this for starters?

I was confident that we had found exactly the right person to do the cover for a dark comedy about certain unpleasant goings-on in England in 1828. But could Polina do it in time? A matter of days after Polina was briefed, Karen received this piece of rough cover art from Polina's studio in New Zealand.

We all jumped for joy because this was even better than we'd hoped. Karen gave Polina a few minor notes and the final art appeared shortly afterwards. Below is Polina's artwork for the front and back cover. Beneath it is the very final version with Karen's extra design touches. 
And now, thanks to the generosity of The Children's Book Council of Australia, the cover has a medal on it. Actually, I stuck this one on myself because the reprint hasn't happened yet. I believe that if and when it does, the medal will be rather less obtrusive, which is a good thing because you'll be able to see more of Polina's artwork.

1 comment:

Sheryl Gwyther said...

I love reading your oh,so, honest posts, Doug. This one was a great insight into the fraught with danger world of book covers, authors and illustrators. Absolutely fascinating, Doug. Thank you for opening up your cupboard of skeletons and covers! :)