I was thrilled when my friend Moira over at ClothesinBooks.com gave me a copy of this splendid book which brings together Tom Adams’s original cover designs for Agatha Christie’s novels. They are works of art in their own right. If I am looking to buy a second-hand paperback of an Agatha Christie, I always prefer one with an Adams cover. My copy of The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side has the one that is featured here on the dust jacket and I think it is one of the very best of his designs. It inspired me to reread the novel (a late Miss Marple with a dazzingly original motive for murder!).
Moira’s gift set me thinking how important book covers are – and how few really good and memorable ones there are these days. The current Christie covers are pretty insipid, though perhaps by now she is so famous that it doesn’t really matter.
Authors do not have the final say, readers may be surprised to know. Though publishers do generally want their authors to be happy, untimately it is the marketing team who will judge what is most likely to sell the book. And it is not a neutral thing: a bad cover can actually deter a reader. I dislike covers which feature seductive women who have nothing to do with the plot and it has put me off buying one particular series.
I have been lucky with Lion Fiction, my current publishers, and with St Martin’s Press, a little less so with Hale. Perhaps it is because of my background as an art historian, but it really matters to me what a book looks like, and I have been known to buy the US edition of Andrea Camilleri’s novels rather than the UK ones because I prefer the covers.
I’d be interested to know how important it is to other readers. Do you judge a book by its cover? Any that you think are stunningly successful?
It is always a slightly anxious moment when your publisher sends you the cover for your new book and asks for your comments. But when I saw the cover for Deep Water a couple of weeks ago, all I could say was ‘Wow!’ It’s simple, elegant, and striking. The novel begins with a death in a clinical trial so the image couldn’t be more appropriate. And I love the strap line, too.
It’s so important what your book wears to go out into the world. First impressions do count when someone is browsing in a bookshop or on-line. Publisher have the final say and sometimes they chose something that they think will sell even if it doesn’t reflect the content of the book. That’s not fair on author or reader. It happened to my friend Sue (over at SueHepworth.com) whose publishers picked a pink and frilly chick-lit cover for Zuzu’s Petals, her comedy of middle-aged love and loss. It wasn’t appropriate and she hated it.
I have been lucky on the whole with my covers – I especially liked the US editions of Murder is Academic and Stage Fright – but I really think this is the best so far.
Deep Water will be published by Lion Fiction in October in the UK and in January in the US.