Essentially, I didn't want my cover to look like the sort of thing most often seen on Jane Austen spinoff novels. I didn't want it to look like a romance novel, or a novel just for girls, because it really isn't. I mean, it is a love story, but an Austenian love story, with the protagonists acting properly, and the conflict being of good judgment and self-doubt.
|Regency Fashion Plate|
I thought about doing a few different things for the cover, but they had already been done many times, like fashion-plate type images, or ink drawings on a creamy background.
|A fine house, happily situated|
The other option was to try to look like a work of classic English literature, and use an image of an old oil painting, or just a plain, monochrome cover with black or gold embossed border. But those didn't seem eye-catching or interesting enough.
In the end, I sat down with Angela Rout, a visual artist, and she showed me some of her design work. I was intrigued when I saw a paper-cutting that she had done for some promotional materials for a local theatre production. I really liked the fact that this was a very old and simple art form, and yet was very graphic and clean and kind of contemporary in its effect. I started to see examples of it everywhere, and I was determined to use it for my cover design.
Although the image we put together is simple, it contains a lot of detail. I wanted to include the image of a man waiting at a door because for me this created tension and intrigue. Who is this man? We cannot see his face. Who is he waiting for? Is he a welcome guest? Is he calling on a lady? What is his purpose?
The general effect of the image reminds me of a cameo, or a silhouette portrait, like the one of Jane Austen that we so often see. The images around the edge of the oval, of ladies and carriages and tea, etc. are like a frame on a pendant. The background is an image of an old piece of parchment, which, of course, looks old, like a lost manuscript discovered 200 years later. The vines creep over the letters, suggesting an overgrown ruin, a folly perhaps, about to be discovered in the woods.
I thought perhaps people might be interested in seeing some of the images that I put together as inspiration, or that contained elements that I thought I might like to include in the cover design. Not all of them bear any sort of resemblance to the final product, but here they are. I searched through a bunch of images of book covers on line, as well as just images that captured my imagination. Below are a few that I liked.
This one was an unexpected take on a typical image - the mansion on the green. I liked how stylized it was, and yet very hand-made. It looks charming, like it doesn't take itself too seriously and yet is the result of an artist's application. It is very inviting and again, makes me want to read the book. I expect it to be light and enjoyable, without being trite.
I thought this cover was adorable. I loved the mixed media. I loved the handwritten text. I loved the imaginary character in a real building. It raises so many questions with just one tiny addition of a drawing to an otherwise very plain photograph. I loved the solid, pale blue sky, the way it looks like you could just float away in it.
The design we came up with in the end may yet be adjusted, or scrapped all together, and I know it is not everyone's idea of what the cover to a book like mine ought to look like. I have even been told that it doesn't reflect the quality of my writing, but we all have different tastes, and that is all right. I think my cover is very sophisticated and I am quite proud of it, particularly because it doesn't look like what you would expect to be on my cover.
Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice
Read Chapter 1 Watch the Trailers Order Paperback Download eBook