New Year, New Cover -- a Guest Post by Sue Purkiss
Our guest author for January is Sue Purkiss, whose claim to fame is that she's met Arya Stark!
Below, she discusses something that gives a lot of indie authors headaches -- covers!
|Emily's Surprising Voyage|
I had a number of books on display. I'm not a particularly prolific author, and I'm a bit of a butterfly - my books are all quite different. I've always seen this as a disadvantage, but on this occasion, it turned out to be be a good thing, because there was something for (almost) everyone: Spook School and two similar funny fantasy stories for younger children; Emily's Surprising Voyage, which is a story set on Brunel's ship the SS Great Britain in the 19th century, beautifully illustrated by James De La Rue; Jack Fortune, which is a middle grade historical novel about a boy who goes plant-hunting in the Himalayas at the end of the 18th century, in search of the elusive blue rhododendron; and Warrior King, which is a novel about Alfred the Great.
They all attracted attention - except for Warrior King. The reason for this was pretty obvious.
The book was originally published by Walker. I loved researching and writing it, and I had high hopes that it would make out of Alfred a hero of the stature of King Arthur - with whom Alfred is often confused. Arthur is, or was then (this was before Bernard Cornwell's books and the subsequent TV series) much more famous than Alfred, and this struck me as particularly unfair as Arthur isn't even real - or at least, the Arthur of the stories isn't.
They designed a beautiful cover for it - this one.
Anyway, for whatever reason, the book didn't sell in zillions and went out of print. I got the rights back, and decided to reissue it through Amazon Createspace. Lots of adults had read it and enjoyed it, so I thought I would try marketing it as a book for a wider audience, not only for children. And so the cover I made for it is sombre and moody: I used a photograph of floods on the Somerset Levels near Athelney, where much of the story takes place. There is a regular trickle of sales, small but satisfying.
But at the book fair, I watched as children's eyes slid over Warrior King and lighted on Jack Fortune - clearly because it was sending out signals that here was a book for grown-ups. Hm, I thought.
So I decided to bring out a new edition that would a) be clearly for children/young people, and b) would make it obvious that it wasn't just about the king, but also about his daughter. I toyed with various ideas as to how to do this; and then I remembered the work of a friend on Instagram called Norlemann, who posts wonderful pictures of Viking re-enactors in Norway. On impulse, I sent him a message to explain what I was after, and ask if he had anything I could use.
Now, I called him a friend just then, but he was only a friend in the sense that I followed him and often 'liked' his pictures. It turns out he's an art director and professional photographer - and yet he agreed to do a special shoot, with his daughter as Aethelflaed - just because, he said he and his daughter, Minna, believe that historical fiction is valuable and there should be more of it. Such kindness from a stranger! And when the photographs arrived, I thought they were stunning.
The next hurdle was fitting the photograph I eventually chose - with help from friends - into an Amazon template. That wasn't as easy as it could have been. In the end, I used Canva to add title and text to the front cover - and here it is.
|Warrior King by Sue Purkiss|
It would be lovely to hear your thoughts - but do forgive me if I'm not able to implement them. There are some changes which would be easy to make, but others would be very fiddly and might possibly result in my brain imploding. (Basically, changes to the front cover would be tricky: changes to the rest of it, less so.)
All I need to do now is add the content of the book. But first I will tweak it; and in a prominent place there will be an acknowledgement of the generosity - and skill - of Lasse and Minna. Oh, yes, and then it would be really very nice if it would sell lots of copies to the children for whom I originally wrote it...
You can find out more about Sue Purkiss and her books at her website.
|Jack Fortune and the Search for the Hidden Valley|
Umberto - I've only seen one or two episodes of GOT so I can't really comment - I met Maisie before she became Arya! In fact, I went to her school to talk about Warrior King. She and another pupil were photographed with me afterwards, and she was kind enough to include this picture in a collection of significant photos to mark her 18th birthday some years later.
I like the original Walker cover for your book (there could be many other reasons it did not sell), but the new one is definitely more appealing for girls. Also, cover fashions come and go - a cover that worked 20 years ago is unlikely to work well today, which is another good reason to update them from time to time.