The Story of a Book Cover

Posted on 14th August, 2020

After hosting other writers for some weeks, while they shared their Cover Love for their favourite book covers, it's now my turn, after a fashion. I thought you'd be interested to see how the front cover of my forthcoming Polly Heron book, The Surplus Girls' Orphans, was developed.


Here it is. Isn't it gorgeous?


I love it, not just because it looks so good in its own right, but also because it is such a good match for the first book.


My previous experience with my book covers has always been that the first time I've seen them has been when I've been shown the almost-finished article. But this time around, I had the chance to be involved in the process, initially because I had an old family photo from the 1920s, with my grandmother as a young woman sitting on a bench with her much younger half-brother sitting at her feet. His cheeky face and bright smile were loaded with character and the whole image was - or would have been - perfect for the cover, because, as the title suggests, children feature in the story (including Jacob, Belinda's younger brother from book 1).


Unfortunately, the resolution of the photo wasn't high enough, so the picture couldn't be used. After that, my editor and the cover designer decided in principle what they wanted. The designer created the backdrop of buildings and bunting, with the title in purple (I love it - purple is my favourite colour) and the overall colour being a light blue to tone in with the blue of book 1's cover.


So the background and title were sorted out, but they weren't completely sure about the various components that would create the best central image.


And that was where I came in. I was offered a selection of 1920s photos of young women to look through and comment on. The two women in the picture above were originally in a group of five women walking along. There was a gap between these two women and the other three, which made it easy to crop out these two.


My editor also wanted to have a child or children in the picture. A couple of attempts at introducing a child from another photo didn't really work. With the two women walking along, a child would have to be walking at the same pace to look like a natural part of the image.


Then the deisgner had the brilliant idea of putting children into the background. She came up with several terrific pictures - atmospheric, of the time and also suitable for the type of children in the book. I was shown all the pictures, out of which my editor had chosen her two favourites - the one you can see on the cover, of the boys playing football, and another, smaller picture of boys playing marbles. I agreed with her that these were the best pictures, but what made the football picture stand out for me was its width - the picture stretched across the cover so that the boys were playing football on both sides of the walking women, whereas the marbles picture was on one side only of the women.


So there we have it - the story of how a book cover came into being. It was a wonderful experience for me to be involved in the process and I've loved sharing it with you here.


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The Surplus Girls' Orphans - blurb


Manchester, April 1922 

Molly Watson has had enough. Engaged for the past three years to a penny-pinching pedant, she decides she would rather be a surplus girl than marry a man she doesn't truly love. Aware of the need to support herself if she is to remain single, she joins the Miss Heskeths' business school to learn new skills and a whole new world opens up for her.


When she gets a job at St Anthony's Orphanage, she finds herself drawn to the caretaker, Aaron Abrams. But a misunderstanding leaves them at loggerheads and damages her in the eyes of the children she has come to care for so deeply. Can she recover her reputation, her livelihood and her budding romance before it's too late?


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The second book in The Surplus Girls series will be published in January 2021.


You can pre-order the paperback here ...


and the Kindle version here.


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And if you'd like to see the two book covers side by side, to see what a good match they are....






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Comments (1)

I enjoyed this 'glimpse behind the book cover,' Susanna/Polly and your 'Orphan Girls' covers are both stunning. You mentioned drawing inspiration from a family photo from that era, and when I first saw the cover for 'The Surplus Girls' Orphans' I was immediately reminded of an old photo of my grandmother that was taken in 1925. I'm excited to read the next book in this series when it comes out in January.