martin white | author

Cover Versions

Cover Versions

I promise not to mention tax again after that last post. At least not til I end up greetin’ about having to do it all again. The police haven’t turned up yet so I’m guessing all is good so far.

The theme for the past few days has been book cover design. I probably mentioned covers before as I’ve always done these things myself in the past (CD covers anyway) due to never being able to afford to get someone in who knows what they’re doing. In my defence I didn’t think any of them ended up too bad…

Well – this time I did, err, scientific research – and – surprise surprise – whether it should be the case or not, it appears that the cover really can be the life or death of a book. No shit Sherlock I hear you say (well, you’d probably rather be watching Sherlock anyway wouldn’t you?) – but the proven fact is that good covers sell more books – so theres a lot of marketing psychology and cash chucked into researching all that witchcrafty stuff. And it’s probably also why every thriller cover now looks like a Lee Child book. Jeez, are us readers really that fickle? Well, I suppose we are if we’re not already fans. You’d have to be feeling pretty rad to buy a book you’d never read by an author you’d never heard of if you thought the cover was pants.

Which kind of reminds me of an embarrassing experience in the late 80s I had when I bought a vinyl album by Yngwie J Malmsteen (widdley, Swedish, hair metal guitarist) as I’d heard on good authority he was the next great thing – but hadn’t actually heard his music – no internet back then, see. So, there I was in Woolworths, Princes St, Edinburgh – found the album – saw the cover was about as embarrassing as you could possibly get (full size painting of him baring his ripply chest fending off a three headed fire breathing dragon with a Fender Stratocaster) and wondered if buying it could be any less embarrassing that going into the chemist and asking for a large box of small condoms. Not that I’ve ever done that – ahem.

But hey, I was a serious guitar player and wanted to hear this guy. So, buttocks clenched and probably glancing about to make sure there was no one I knew in the shop, I pulled out said LP, handed it to the woman at the till and prayed there wouldn’t be any pricing queries to prolong the pain. Again, condom shopping comes to mind. As it turned out there weren’t – however – Woolies had just introduced new plastic bags for their LPs which were almost entirely transparent. So – I was then faced with the prospect of carrying this thing all the way back home on the bus (quite a journey) looking like I was the sort of guy who happily buys LPs condoning dragon fighting by bare chested muscular blokes with guitars. I very quickly found enough money to by another album by UFO (Phenomenon, Im pretty sure), which I could at least hide the worst of the artwork with on the way back.

I had way bigger traumas than that growing up, but its funny how these things stick in your head. Yngwie was a young guy himself at the time and who knows, maybe it was the record company who decided it would be a great idea? Having seen him interviewed though, I doubt it! I wonder if he has the original up over his mantlepiece? In his loo? Garden shed? I’ll ask him next time I see him down the pub. By the way I always regretted buying the album – he was (and still is) a great player and a hugely entertaining guy – but boy did that LP suck. Sorry Yngwie if you’re reading this. Okay, next round will be on me and I’ll fork out for some real ale. Phenomenon on the other hand was and still is an excellent album – full points to UFO.

So for my next verbal total detour I have yet another 80s cover story! I’ve already harped on about this on Twitter so look away now if you don’t want a repeat – but one of my favourite book covers ever is Communion by Whitley Streiber – the one with the painting of the Aliens face on it and nothing else. Around that time (sort of 1987ish maybe?) I had a girlfriend who lived in Abbeyhill in Edinburgh – and every time I drove down Easter Road to visit, I passed a bus stop which had an enormous poster on the side – usually for some movie or chocolate bar or something.

Then one day I drove past and saw there was just a huge poster of the alien face on the bus stop – no lettering, no explanation or text – just the face and a London phone number in small type at the bottom. It was pretty striking to say the least – with a huge dose of surreal and a hint of terrifying. In fact there are probably blogs around somewhere written by folk who lived round there at the time remembering how they were traumatised as kids by this enormous Alien face on a bus stop in Easter Road…

So it took me a few passings, but eventually I must have written the number down as I called it up (from her flat of course – well, it was a London number, pretty pricey in those days…) – and was answered by a a pre-recorded message at the other end. It started with weird swirly music and then a guy in his best dramatic voiceover saying ‘This is the face that haunts Whitley Streibers nightmares…” and so on, eventually telling you about the book. I was well chuffed of course as I actually knew who Streiber was as I already had one of his other books (The Wolfen). Yes, I seriously wanted to buy that book after that. And, it’s not a bad book either – and actually pretty terrifying when you think about it. Even the 90s movie has a few genuinely scary moments too – though at risk of spoilers I have to say the ending is awful. Best book promo Ive ever seen for a book though.

Why was I here again? Oh yes, book covers. So, after getting lucky on a premade cover site for Joey by David (it wasn’t perfect but a striking image and sort of suggested a feel for a character) I’ve decided to get a proper book designer to do one for Club Medusa. Not cheap (though the designer I went with was competitive) but I’m expecting to be happy with the outcome – and with unlimited revisions I’m guessing I’ll get something along the lines of what’s in my head – even if that is a slightly weird thing.

Ive also been laboriously going through the Club Medusa manuscript again sorting out rogue typos. Another few sessions and it should be good to go. Im expecting some ideas for the cover over the next few days and will see what we get. I did ask to NOT get Lee Childish silhouettes walking into the distance, as every time I’m in the thriller section of Waterstones all I see are these damn lonely dark figures on the front of all these books either watching me or walking away moodily. Or maybe they’re just getting out the way before I start telling them about my blog site… Ahem, moving swiftly onwards…

Okay, next months blogging exercise will be to stay focussed on what Im supposed to be talking about and not prattle on about things that happened back in the days when I had luxuriant hair and Stock, Aitken and Waterman were a thing.

I might have some proofs of the cover I can share by then – meanwhile, have a swatch at the two suspects mentioned in my earlier tales and tell me you wouldn’t be embarrassed waving Yngwies LP around on the 10 mile bus trip home!

The paperback edition I have just has the face on it – no text. Its creepy as.
Don’t try this at home kids, Yngwie has had special training – also, the speed he plays at makes his guitar neck specially heat repellant.
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