Dear Readers: A Letter from Liesel Schwarz


From the Desk of Liesel Schwarz


Dear Readers,

The soft rains of March are sifting down outside my window here in London. And as I sit here, sipping a cup of Assam tea wondering about what to write, it occurs to me that it has been almost exactly a year ago to the day that I heard the fantastic news that I was going to be a published author.

And what a year it has been. Going through the process of turning a rough manuscript into a shiny, polished book that sits on the shelf of a bookshop is one of the most thrilling things I have ever experienced.

But of all the steps in the process there certainly are few things more exciting for an author than seeing the cover of their book for the first time. Many people take book covers for granted, but a surprising amount of work and thought goes into the concept and design. The cover is, after all, the shop window of the book. It is the one thing that will attract and persuade someone to pick a novel up from the shelf in the bookshop. Conversely, a bad cover could end up impeding the success of a novel.

Strangely enough the author often has little, if anything, to do with the cover design process, as it is a very specialised field. Cover designers take into account all manner of factors such as the age and gender of the readers they wish to target and the general impact they wish to convey.  There are a number of interesting theories and principle of design that are used to create the cover such as association, symbolism or images that allow the eye to zoom in on the image.

Then there are factors such as colour and typeface to consider. The colour red, for instance is more often used in horror novels. Gold might cause the cover to lose visual impact. Blue might be too masculine. Pink too feminine.

Designers need to decide where to put the title of the book. Then they need to consider where to put the name of the author. Should the author’s name be bigger than the title – as is often the case when books are designed for very successful authors.

In addition to all this, designers also need to consider whether the cover will work in a monochrome setting for digital eBooks. And lastly, there is the matter of the author and whether they will be pleased with the end result.

It certainly was a meaningful moment for me when I saw the cover of A Conspiracy of Alchemists for the first time. My kind editor gave me a heads up on the initial concept which I had liked very much, so I had been awaiting the end result with much excitement. Nothing could prepare me for the visual impact of seeing the image for the first time though. I think I let out a little squeak of excitement when I opened the attachment in my email inbox.  It was like someone had reached inside my head and pulled the images out and onto the paper in the most wonderful and vibrant way.

I am extremely lucky though, because steampunk is such an exciting aesthetic that it gave the cover artist a rich seam of images to mine for inspiration. In the end I got a gorgeous cover that I loved. It is also a cover that looks great on the shelves bookshop and online.

So next time you pick up a book, pause for a moment to consider the design on the front. Because sometimes, you really can judge a book by its cover.

Happy Reading,

Liesel Schwarz