Covered in Glory

Well, perhaps that's an overstatement. But it is undeniably an exciting moment when the cover of your book (especially a first book, especially a book you've worked on for more years than you care to admit) is ready, at last. 

Here it is, and I am delighted with it.

Being published by a small press has meant, for me anyway, that I've been involved in the cover design and also in the internal design of the book.  Of course, the process was in the hands of experts, in this case Miriam Seidel for the cover, and Douglas Gordon for the internal design; but I was able to make important choices. I've known of writers published by big houses whose books have had covers conveying completely the wrong impression, so I count myself lucky.

There's so much more to a book than I, bibliophile that I am, had ever thought about. For example, what is written at the top of each page?  Often, it's the book title and the chapter heading alternating. But what if your book (like mine) doesn't have chapters? Book title on both pages? Or your authorial moniker on one and the title on the other? These are matters I'd never even considered before.  

Then, do you have a line separating that running title or chapter heading from the text below, or just a space? Where do you put the page numbers—at the top or bottom, on the right or on the left? Do you want any little squiggly symbols separating the sections of your immortal prose? 

Of course, as soon as these issues were drawn to my attention, I started looking in a new way at the books I have around me, and noticing the effect of different designs. Often a book is visually satisfying and harmonious, but as we turn the pages, we're only subliminally aware of this, and don't even realise why. Yet the design affects our aesthetic experience.

For the cover there is even more so to think about, from the main image to the typefaces to the layout.  All the elements involved, and the way they work together, are more complex than I'd ever realised. In fact, the whole book design thing is a specialised world, and I'm so glad the professionals were there.

Anyway, it's done.  I've had visions over the years of what might be on the front cover of the book, if it ever achieved a physical life: leaping dolphins from a first-century mosaic; an ancient Roman ink-pot; a stylus (antique, not the kind you use with some modern hand-held devices); Odilon Redon's painting "The Mystical Boat";  a notebook half-bound in leather with a marbled paper cover, like the one my modern protagonist writes in; an very early codex, like the Nag Hammadi books, leather-wrapped and with trailing thongs; and more. But in the end I am very happy with this cover as representing—hinting at? echoing?— my double-stranded story of two women connected across two thousand years.