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The comeliest daughter – walking the Talk IV

The comeliest daughter – walking the Talk IV

Today, I put on a pair of deerskin breeches, a red coat with tails, and a kepi, adorned with a fistful of white ostrich feathers. Thus adorned, I present:

An extremely short, but beautiful email

On Cover Design –

This is the fourth email in a loosely bundled series on Walking the Talk: an attempt to show you guys how the things I yap on about in these emails actually translates into the decisions I make as a writer.

So: cover design.

In my boxes, owl & imp email on elevator pitches, I wrote:

The cover quote and the book blurb and the cover design and the query letter and all those things: they are the daughters of your elevator pitch. They spring from it, but they are not it.

That’s true. The elevator pitch is the magic juice which underlies everything else. Literally every time your manuscript touches the world, the elevator pitch should inform what that touch looks like.

But the pitch doesn’t necessarily have to dominate – it just has to play its part.

Cover design is probably the single clearest illustration of this. Yes, a cover design can’t be at war with the elevator pitch … but the first job of the cover design is to get someone to explore the book.

Cover designers (understandably) always want authors to look at the full, 4 quadrillion megabyte version of their cover image, and ideally on a 96” screen. That, for sure, is the best way to admire the cover designer’s art. But in practice, the most significant role of the cover design is as a thumbnail on an Amazon selection screen.

At that stage, the thumbnail’s job is mostly: “Induce someone to click through to the book page itself.”

You can’t completely ignore the elevator pitch: if you stick a sign in your shop window saying “Brilliant new summer dresses at 75% off”, there better blooming well be some summer dresses inside the shop when people walk in.

Same thing with the cover design. There needs to be reasonable continuity between the promise made by the thumbnail and the more detailed view offered by the book details page.

But if you had to rank the order of priorities here, it’s something like this:

#1 Goal Attract readers in your genre(ie: get the click)

#2 Goal Honour your elevator pitch

Both goals matter, but the first is more important.

I write gritty crime – so my genre is something like Celtic noir / police procedural. Because my book is #7 in a series, a lot of the design decisions are already set. That said, my elevator pitch (covering both the book and the series) is something like this:

  • Homicide detective
  • Used to think she was dead (Cotards Syndrome)
  • Murder investigation
  • Secure psychiatric hospital
  • 50 special forces veterans as inmates

I want a cover design to (a) fit in with the other covers, (b) attract readers in my genre, (c) be consistent with the promise that will be made on the book details page itself.

And …?

You can see the results here:

You like? You not like? Do let me know.

Oh yes, and an interesting issue came up with my designer.

Actual hard-copy printing is done using a four-colour system: CMYK, which comprises cyan, magenta, yellow and key, meaning black. What you see on screen is RGB-based, namely a mix of red, green and blue.

My designer couldn’t get the “pop” in CMYK that he could get in RGB: the colour was more muted. That said, he thought that maybe the more muted colour looked classier overall, more stylish. He thought maybe we should tone down the ebook / RGB version of the cover.

And …?

Viewed as a pure design matter, he was probably right. (He usually is.) But remember that selection screen, where all you have is a thumbnail. I didn’t want muted, I wanted the pop, so we went for the zingier version. The first job of that cover is to secure the click.

Again, you can see the book cover choices we made, and a couple we discarded on this page. Let me know what you think.

Feedback Friday

Write with Jericho Week #8 / Show Don’t Tell

If you’ve registered for the course, you’ll already have received the course material.

If you’re a Premium Member and you haven’t registered, you can find the course material here. You can register yourself, for free, to get the same material by email.

If you’re not a Premium Member, and want to be, here’s what you need to do next.

Whether or not you are a Premium Member, I’d love you to participate.

Here’s what I’m after:



A passage of 250 words. Take any scene from your work, and convert it into a screenplay. No interior monologue. Nothing in the script that you couldn’t film.

Then give your own feedback on the scene. What has it gained? What has it lost? What (if anything) did you learn from the exercise?

That’s it from me. Share yours here as a ‘New Discussion’ and include a sensible title, eg: ‘Show Don’t Tell, Title of your WIP, Genre of your WIP’. Also, if you’re looking for some top tips to help you search Townhouse better, take a look at this thread.

Til soon.


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