I recently received the final version of my book cover for Darwin’s Microscope. (Dance happy dance here.) I say ‘final version’ because I was able– very fortunately– to ask for some adjustments, which I gather is a privilege only really available when working with a small press. I have to say Flambard was great (Will and Peter at Flambard were great) at agreeing to a number of little picky requests I made.
The flexibility might be a poetry thing, too; I’m not sure. Covers for novels are probably subject to marketing editors and I doubt authors get any say in that…which makes sense but also seems odd. A book is usually, in its way, a piece of art, and the author’s creation, so the author having a say in the cover design makes sense to me. The ‘art’ element is more evident with poetry, though– not that novels aren’t art! Just in the more abstract, total creation sense. The object of the poetry book is the art as well as the poetry itself. So I’m happy to have been able to choose the image for my book cover and instruct on what I was looking for. My friend Tom at Edinburgh deserves my thanks for pointing me in the direction of macro-micro-photography (super enlarged photos of microscopic organisms taken with a microscope/camera). When he heard about my book he thought an image like that would be perfect for the cover, and he was quite right!
In the end, it’s quite simple. I wanted the image, the title, and my name. I looked at poetry books I own and I think those with a cover of that style look best. It also makes me think that the graphic designer who is hired to design the cover must find his (or her) job rather boring. I could probably do it…my computer-geek husband could certainly do it. Maybe the graphic designer gets to be more creative with other projects. Sorry, graphic designer, if I made your job boring– but I love my book cover! So thank you.
The cover image is a photo of radiolaria. I found it on the Science Photo Library, which is great. For the book, on one of the first pages, we have a description of the picture, which is SPL’s own caption:
Radiolaria. Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the shells of various radiolaria. Radiolaria are single-celled protozoans that are found in marine plankton. They have a silicate skeleton with pores through which pseudopodia (false feet, not seen) of protoplasm project. As the animal floats in ocean currents the pseudopodia trap food particles on which the radiolarian feeds. Magnification: x150 when printed 10 centimetres wide.
It is always interesting when you only know an author by his (or her) back-cover photo, and then you meet him (or her) and are completely surprised at how different he (or she) looks. I think especially with established authors, ONE photo from like 1972 gets circulated around and then by the time you meet him (or her) he (or she) is now 65 and totally not what you were expecting…even though you knew he (or she) was older than that. This happened to me when I met Richard Dawkins. He’s still a rosy-cheeked dapper British intellectual, but a lot of his PR photos are definitely from a number of years back! Actually, the photo I have of him with one of my best friends, Summer, is on his publicity website…I just told her the other day that she looks timelessly lovely while I’m kooky/crazy (as usual)…so maybe that’s one I’m going to look back on and ask what was I thinking. Of course you can also say, guess which girl is the poet & which is the philosopher?