When We Were Alive, Cover Reveal

Okay, lads. Here it is. Here’s the cover. My previous post detailed the process of working with my publisher to decide on a cover we were both happy with, so have a click there if that’s of any interest to you.

When We Were Alive

I’m really pleased to have a cover that is (hopefully) neutral, whilst still being relevant to the story. I think it avoids being masculine or feminine, it could be picked up by a reader of any age, and it doesn’t presuppose the type of person who might enjoy the story. When asked ‘Who is the target audience of your book?’ I always think, can ‘people like me’ be the answer? And by that I don’t mean a white female in her 20s, I mean someone who has a crippling fear of death, only likes simple coffee, loves dogs and hates cats, doesn’t want to grow up in some ways but grew up too fast in others, feels most alive when scared, cracks their knuckles, feels trapped by routine, is super into the idea of sea-monkeys, feels guilt from others’ sadness, loves pulling fluff out of their eyelashes, dropped their snack biscuits in a puddle at age four and is still haunted by it, doesn’t believe in ghosts, gets freaked out by them anyway, and at the same time desperately wants to see one so that life and death still have mystery. Just someone human, really.

Whilst I adore pretty books, and I obviously understand the necessity of commercial design, I think reading is so personal, that it seems absurd to subtly suggest a book should be read by a certain ‘type’ of person. If some guy who works in finance and plays rugby at weekends loves Twilight, that’s his prerogative. If there’s some twelve year old girl sitting in a room plastered with One Direction posters, staying up into the middle of the night reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, fine, that’s what she’s into. People are complex, let’s not insult them by telling them what they should read. How the hell am I meant to know who will like my book? If anyone will like my book? I’m going to be grateful to every single person who takes the time to sit down and read it.

Of course, assuming that a pink glittery book cover would be aimed at young girls, or a stark, black minimalist cover at adult males, is a problem in itself. But right now I’m just showing you the cover of a book I wrote that will be available on real shelves in physical shops. Or you can pre-order it, which I think you can do here (or at least there will be a link to Amazon there, I don’t know, I just do the writing).

Please buy, read, and then pretend you like my book. Thank you.


Book Cover Design

A big part in the publishing journey of any novel is settling on a cover. I’ll admit this is what I was most apprehensive of when signing with my publisher. A novel is a lot like a baby, I imagine, I haven’t got a baby and I don’t want one. But I do have a novel and I don’t want people to look at it, squint, and ask if it’s a boy or a girl, only for me to explain that it’ll let me know it’s preferred gender when it’s good and ready.

Cover Design

I had no idea how much input an author would have in the cover of their novel, but I assumed it was minimal/none. Regardless, I made the above design and sent it to my publisher to sort of hint at what sort of style I might like, hoping to influence the style somewhat.

My book was originally to be published earlier this month (1/9/2015), but when I received the cover proposals I was slightly disheartened. The designs were definitely attentive to my story, and I really appreciated what I was shown, it just didn’t fit in with something I’d pick up in a book shop. And obviously I’d read the novel I wrote, so there was a slight disconnect there. I told my publisher this, and they were so very accommodating in altering one of the designs to something we both thought would work. I was worried it looked too YA for a novel which wasn’t YA, and they obviously wanted it to be commercial. They knew what would work on a shelf much better than I did, and all I knew was that I wanted my novel to look like something I’d own. We eventually settled on a design I didn’t love, but could live with. However, this back and forth meant the release date of When We Were Alive was delayed, and had to be re-shuffled into their catalogue at an appropriate time.

I want to point out that whilst I didn’t like the cover, I felt incredibly lucky to be working with people who were willing to listen to my criticisms when they really didn’t have to. Over the past few months I came to terms with the cover, and was just excited to one day see it in a bookshop.

Because of the new six month delay, I asked if I could make some small edits to the original MS. Four years had passed since I had first written it, and I like to think my writing has improved, so I wanted to tidy some areas up stylistically before a professional got their hands on it. My publisher said of course, and gave me an October deadline.

I finished editing a couple of weeks ago and sent it back to them. Yesterday I received an email with some new cover designs. This was a complete surprise. I didn’t expect any, and they certainly didn’t have to do them, but the email said they wanted us both to be happy. I was very grateful. And luckily there was a design which we both loved. It’s very different from anything we had discussed before. It’s ugly. In fact, it’s almost boring. But I really like it. I like how ugly and boring it is, because it’s somewhat different from everything else. It’s adult. It’s simple. It’s gender neutral. And it allows the story to speak for itself. Most importantly, it’s something I can be proud of without a ‘but’. I fully expect some people to dislike it, and I don’t care. I think it will reach the right audience and, most importantly, my publisher and I both love it.

I can’t show it yet, as I’m not in charge of the reveal. But I’m really pleased.