Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Sparrow’s new clothes

by Bill Kirton
The new clothes
I’ve written many times about The Sparrow Conundrum, usually trying to persuade readers to buy it. But this time (although I’d still love you and all your friends and family to get a copy because my wife is still dreaming of the tax exile she envisaged when my first book was published in the 90s), I’m using it to illustrate a different point.
A while ago, it came under new management and the new edition has now been published. So what? You ask. Well, to begin with,  having a new publisher may counteract the fact that my marketing and PR skills show no signs of improving and most bookshops still seem reluctant to stock Indies.
But the main reason I’m writing this is because the change has brought home very forcibly the impact of a new cover. I liked the old cover and, when I got the first proof copies of it, it gave me the usual ‘this is my baby’ pride. It’s been with me for a few years and helped the book to  win a couple of awards. And maybe the familiarity of it helps to explain my reaction to the new one because, frankly, it feels like a different book. I’ve made just one or two tiny changes to the text so it’s more or less identical to the previous edition and yet it doesn’t seem so.
I always claim that I never judge a book by its cover (except when the cover’s so awful that you know the book can’t be any good because it’s been treated
The old clothes
so shamefully), and I’m not ‘judging’ the Sparrow either. It’s not a question of whether it makes the book look ‘better’, that one is ‘bad’ and the other ‘good’; it actually seems to be a question of identity. I know the book well. It was my first ever novel and I not only wrote it, I rewrote it many times over, gave it at least 4 different titles en route. So it’s a long-standing, familiar friend. And now, all of a sudden, I see it wearing a new outfit and I don’t recognise it.
It reminded me of an exchange I had with a young girl who was in a workshop I did for children in Huntly library last year. After the class she asked me:
‘Is that your book, The Darkness, on the shelf upstairs?’
‘The cover’s rubbish, isn’t it?’
As it happens, I don’t agree with her but this latest experience has made me very aware that I maybe need to think more carefully about the power of a book’s appearance.
It also makes me want to get on with the sequel, just so that I can see what the cover’s like.


Jean Henry Mead said...

I've had the same experience with book covers, Bill, and I agree that the first cover is much better than the latest. Perhaps when The Sparrow goes out of print, you can indie publish it yourself with a cover that you like.

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks Jean. Interesting though that you use the very familiar 'when it goes out of print'. With ebooks that no longer happens, does it? And yet switching covers and editions is really easy nowadays.

Jean Henry Mead said...

No they don't, but I'm sure print books still do. I've changed the covers on a number of my own books when I received the publishing rights back.

Jackie King said...

I sort of like the new cover, Bill. It made me stop and wonder what the book might be like. Noir? A literary mystery? At the very least it would be quirky, which I like. Hummm? The only way to make sure is to download the book to my Kindle and read it. Which I'm going to do.

Perhaps others will do the same.

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks, Jackie. It could claim to be some of the things you said but mainly it's supposed to be funny. I remember enjoying writing it, and all the subsequent rewrites, and just wish my WIP was flowing as easily. Maybe the job gets harder the more you do it.