Hazel McHaffie

book covers

Brevity

Well, here it is – the most exciting development of the week: my new book cover, designed by Tom Bee. Many many thanks, Tom. I love it.Over-my-Dead-BodyI wanted to end this week’s blog right there, but then thought you might feel mildly short-changed, as Over My Dead Body‘s cover won’t thrill you in the same way it does me. Which led me to think about the whole notion of brevity.

As writers we’re always encouraged to be succinct. My editor’s catchphrase was, ‘I want you to lose X thousand words’. So we spend weeks, months, years even, revising, paring, editing our precious manuscripts, looking at each phrase and sentence to see if it’s earning its keep.

A few literary journals actually invite readers to submit flash fiction; a brief passage which tells a whole story. Some indeed stick in the mind. One I read years ago touched a cord for me: For Sale: Baby bootees. Never worn.

And I heard recently of a Scottish woman in Peterhead, a Mrs Reid, who was newly widowed. She went in to put a short obituary in the local paper and was rather scandalised to find it cost £5 a word. There and then she made her decision: Reid. Deid. Peterheid. ‘That’ll be £35,’ she was told. She remonstrated: ‘You said £5 a word.’ ‘Ah, but there’s a minimum charge of £35.’ Back she went to the drawing board and soon emerged with her revised obituary: Reid. Deid. Peterheid. Volvo for Sale.

Have a fun week. I have great things planned, of which more next time.

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Judging a book by its cover

Wahey!! Good news to report this week. The cover for my next book, Remember Remember, has been designed. And I love it.Remember Remember

Just in passing I should say that I’m extremely fortunate in having a publisher who believes in the author having a say in production. They don’t all.

It’s a jaded aphorism: ‘Never judge a book by its cover’, although of course applicable in all sorts of metaphorical senses. And, goodness knows, I’m jolly glad people don’t leap to conclusions based only on my outward appearance! But when it comes to real books, the fact is we all do gravitate to certain styles of cover more than others – aesthetic appeal, dramatic impact, pictures evocative of an age, a memory. Tricky to know just what will hook someone in. But, for me, the cover dreamed up by Luath’s designer captures the right look for the story – a family saga; lives changed by Alzheimer’s Disease; secrets unravelled – so I’m highly delighted.

Now we have a cover, the book has become more of a reality in my mind. Time to approach the list of people who I hope will give us good advice on how to promote it in the big old world out there. But first … I have a minor mountain of books to get through.

It was a bit of a shock to discover just how many novels there are out there that include Alzheimer’s in some form. Whacky, sickly, gritty, stark, tender, compassionate … I’m ploughing through them, checking out the competition, making sure my unique selling point really is unique. So far so good. Phew! Can’t have a perfect cover go to waste!

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