This month, author Sophia Tobin and Senior Commissioning Editor at Simon & Schuster, Clare Hey, reveal the cover of The Silversmith’s Wife.
Clare: The journey of designing the cover is both one of the most
exciting parts of the publishing process but it can also be one of the most difficult.
It is certainly one of the most important – we all do judge a book by its cover
so it’s vital we get it right.
As an editor, I often have a clear
sense of potential cover approaches right from the moment I first read a
manuscript. But I used to work in the Art Department at HarperCollins (as the
Studio manager) and so I know that designers are not keen on heavily
prescriptive briefs – on top of the synopsis, a designer will need to know
where a book sits in the market, where it will be selling, who the reader is,
and what the competition is. So I let Mel, the designer, know the keys things
about this novel: that it’s set in London in the winter of 1792, that it’s
perfect for fans of Tracy Chevalier, and that at its heart is the story of a
silversmith and his wife. I also mentioned to her that this novel brings to
mind those old antiqued silver mirrors and delicate silver filigree and I
included some pictures to demonstrate that. I confess that I wasn’t sure
whether Mel would go down an illustrative or photographic route – both would
work for the novel – so I was really pleased to hear that she had read the ms.
This isn’t something that designers always have time to do, but it really
helped in this instance.
The cover went through several
stages before we hit upon the final look. First Mel tried an illustrative
approach, with delicate silver foil and a woman centre stage. I really liked
this, but something didn’t feel quite right. It was quite young in feel and,
though beautiful, I wasn’t sure that the reader would know what they were
getting if they picked this book up. So we decided to try a photographic
approach, trying an image of a women in a period street. But again it didn’t
feel quite right. There are so many people at S&S who have read and loved
this book that we kept asking ourselves: is this cover special enough for a
book this good? And when the answer was no, we kept pushing ourselves.
And then Mel emailed me to say
that she’d gone off-piste and tried something different and what did I think? I
wasn’t sure what to expect as I open the jpeg but I was blown away by what she
had come up with and I knew we had finally found our cover. It feels special in
its own unique way, while feeling atmospheric and appealing. It’s clearly
historical fiction, but I hope it will also appeal to people who think they
don’t like historical fiction.
But I don’t get to decide on a
cover by myself and I needed to get the buy-in of the sales, marketing and
publicity teams here at S&S. Luckily they loved it too, so it was time for
that most nerve-wracking of moments: sending the cover to the author. I felt
fairly confident that Sophia would love the cover too, but you can never
predict how an author will react. So I sent it off to her and waited for her
Sophia: I should confess, up front, that I had no idea how I wanted
the cover of The Silversmith’s Wife to
look. I thought I would – because when
writing the book I often looked at images and paintings as part of the
research, and I also have firm views on the importance of book covers. But when I thought of my own cover, there was
just a blank.
I was very reassured when Clare
told me that the designer, Melissa Four, had read The Silversmith’s Wife – something which she didn’t have to do, but
which was immediately apparent when I saw the cover she had created. The fact that Melissa had chosen a pocket
watch as the central image delighted me, not least because I had never even
considered it for the cover, even though it was central to the plot. I loved the moonlit night and the London
skyline – creating the kind of backdrop in which the book opens – and I really
liked the faded type at the top of the cover.
It looks like eighteenth-century newsprint, and also links into the
plot, giving the cover another layer of mystery.
This is a part of The Silversmith’s Wife that I’ve had to
surrender to others – and I’m well aware that a huge amount of work has gone
into it. I think the final product is
not just beautiful, but also intriguing.
Clare: So that’s how we got to the final cover for The Silversmith’s Wife. We would love to
hear what you think – do you like the cover? Would it make you pick this book
up? And do you judge a book by its cover?