Getting the Image Right - Kathleen Jones

It isn't just politicians and celebrities who have to think about their image - if you're publishing a book you have to be very conscious of the way it's going to be marketed.  Your cover, front and back - the design and the blurb - are the advertisement for the content and it has to be exactly right, otherwise the reader will feel cheated.

My latest book is a travel journal; part memoir, part social history, part adventure - an absolute nightmare to pin down. Finding a cover has been very difficult.  Poor Neil, my designer, has been dragged from photo-shop to photo-shop, figuratively speaking, in an effort to realize the vague image that I had in my mind. Several early sketches were rejected by a daughter in publishing sales, who thought it looked too like a novel. 'The cover has to say what the book's about,' she said sternly.  So I gave Neil another brief and some images of what's in the book and he came up with two covers that I put up on Facebook for all my friends, relatives and anyone else who knows me to vote on.  This was the first:

It says clearly what is in the book and conveys the idea that it's non-fiction.  But the vote was that it was rather dull and looked a bit like a text book.  Neil's next idea was much bolder:

This is Raven, discovering human beings in a clam shell on the Northernmost beach on Haida Gwaii - the islands that feature in the book. He is rather menacing, but in mythology he is a powerful figure.
This is the cover that got the highest number of votes.  Note that the title's also changed.  There was an older book and a TV documentary by the same name and although there's no copyright on title I decided that 'Travelling to the Edge of the World' was actually better than 'Journey'.  That too, was the suggestion of a friend.  When you're self-publishing you need all the outside input you can get to make sure that you maximize the book's impact. It's other people who  - hopefully - will be buying it!

I'm now editing the text and other lovely friends (some of them fellow authors) are beta-reading it and flagging up typos and queries.  I really don't know what I would do without this supportive network.  Now I'm impatient to get this journey to Myth World and back out into the shops and into the hands of customers so I'm working long hours on the computer to get it right.

Curious to know what it's about?

The blurb on the back cover is the advertising 'puff' that - you hope - sells the book to shoppers who pick it up because they like the cover. This is one of my big weaknesses and I spend almost as much time writing and editing it as I do the rest of the book.  But this is what I've come up with  (for better or worse!) and what will probably appear on Amazon as a synopsis.

"Kathleen Jones travelled to the islands of Haida Gwaii, off the northernmost coastline of British Columbia, to talk to a nation who have lived in total harmony with their environment for more than ten thousand years. They have a saying, ‘Everything is Connected’ and it underpins their philosophy. ‘Yah’guudang’ is about “respect and responsibility, about knowing our place in the web of life, and how the fate of our culture runs parallel with the fate of the ocean, sky and forest.”  The Haida Nation are at the forefront of environmental opposition to the commercial exploitation of the planet and they have a blueprint - the Haida Land Use Vision - for our survival.

But there is a darker side to Haida history.  Kathleen Jones uncovers the story of how the British Colonial administration reduced the population from more than twenty thousand to just over five hundred by a policy that has been identified as ‘cultural genocide’.  Haida artist Bill Reid, whose sculpture ‘Raven and the First Men’ appears on the cover, wrote that, ‘It is one of the world’s greatest tributes to the strength of the human spirit that most of those who lived, and their children after them, remained sane and adapted.’"

Kathleen Jones is a poet and biographer who lives in the English Lake District. Among her award winning books are ‘A Passionate Sisterhood’, ‘Katherine Mansfield: The Storyteller’, ‘The Sun’s Companion’, and a collection of poetry ‘Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21'. She is a regular blogger at ‘A Writer’s Life’ and is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow.


julia jones said…
I think it looks and sounds terrific -- and I want it. Available for preorder yet?
Susan Price said…
I agree with Julia - sounds wonderful. And I definately agree on the 'raven' cover.
Bill Kirton said…
Yep, it sounds fascinating and the cover image is very powerful, especially when the blurb identifies it. A tiny quibble about the blurb. I think it's great but couldn't help noticing the repetition of 'about'. But I get obsessive over weird things.
Kathleen Jones said…
Thanks all - and Bill, that's exactly the feedback I need.!

Not on pre-order yet, but will be available soon, I hope.
Lydia Bennet said…
It sounds fantastic Kathleen, do keep us informed about when it's available! It sounds very topical too and I hope will do really well.
"Raven and the First Men" is going to make an unusually powerful cover, Kathleen, and, yes, I think "Travelling to the Edge of the World" is the best title.
The blurb seems to me very strong also, and the subject matter important, and timely...
("...knowing our place in the web of life...")(...if only...if only...but maybe the start is to learn from what we once dismissed, or all but destroyed...)
Anonymous said…
"...and how the fate of our culture runs parallel with the fate of the ocean, sky and forest.” Especially apt just after the draft of the climate change convention was just issued. I look forward to reading of the human beings in the clam shell.

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