.As a Writer.

As a writer, it is normal to be drawn to the written word, to daydream and to write down sentences that begin with the phrase: “as a writer”. These days, my fantasies center around the publication of my second book and what book cover to use. Of course, as a writer, one of my favorite authors is Patti Smith.

Patti’s book Just Kids has become a staple in every hipster-aesthete’s literary arsenal just because the cover is so goddamn awesome. As a writer, I have often pondered what makes a successful book cover these days, especially in the age of e-books and Audible. Would Daniela Henry’s book Sometimes Raw been such a hit without this cover?

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“The real marrow of what makes a great cover is looking at an image and it being able to project out the abstract but important ideas or story that book is trying to convey, “explained Abigail Bergstrom, Head of Publishing Gleam Futures. “A lot of my authors have existing communities, so they have a real instinct and intuition on who’s going to buy the book,” she continued. This increase in agency among authors is reflected in their covers. “I think in the non-fiction space it’s very type-led, especially on issues of gender and women’s voices. They’re being taken seriously in the way that they should be and maybe haven’t in the past. Their covers are looking more authoritative — that’s a word I hear a lot of my authors say — they want to look authoritative. Less millennial pink, more authority.”

Bergstrom says that e-book sales have now plateaued, hinting that people still desire the physical object over its digital counterpart. I totally agree with this. People rarely post pictures of their Kindle book and a cup of coffee on Instagram for example. A book is a symbolic object which makes the picture so much more significant. Holding it, smelling it…. You get my point.

So, what draws you to a book? The cover for one because it speaks volumes about not only the content but how we choose to represent ourselves. How do I choose a design? “Really, it’s not about designing a cover that works for Instagram, it’s about designing a cover that’s going to be saleable through the internet,” explains Bergstrom. “Things like thumbnails on Audible — if you’ve got a cover that has really intricate tiny drawings, that’s not going to speak to the reader.” I heard stories from my writer-colleagues who had fights with their publishers over their cover design. How come? “The tug and war of the creative process is helpful,” says Bergstrom. “It really brings to light the positioning of the book and who it’s for…it’s good to have that ironed out and focused so that everybody’s on the same page before we enter the stage of comms and marketing the book.” For me, it is hard to find a suitable cover. Why? Because there is no specific formula for guaranteeing a cover’s success. “A successful book cover properly captures the tone of the book,” says Joan Wong, book designer. “To me, it’s not so much about making sure the book sells as much as it is about doing right by the writing.”

As a writer, I have to tell you that writing a book is not easy. It is hard work but I love it. I also have to tell you that I am in the final stages and just sent my second manuscript to a publisher. I love it at the moment and then I hate it in others and finally, I get used to it. After finishing a book, often an emptiness results and I write nothing. But I have found it is important to just be patient and go about my business and unexpectedly it will happen again. I know it always does. I will sit down again and begin the next book. This way I am never discouraged.

It does not matter if your dreams come true and you do get published, if agents swoon and audiences cheer. Trust me on this: It truly does not matter! What matters is the feeling that you are writing, every day. What matters is the work, diving in, feeling your way in the dark, finding the words, trusting yourself, embracing your weird (german) voice, celebrating your quirks on the page and believing in all of it. What matters is you, all alone on your desk, your favorite place to write, a place where you know who you are and what you are meant to accomplish in this life. Realize that it all depends on you. If you don’t want it, then to hell with it. Reach for what you love with abandon, with hope in your heart, with fragility, without knowing exactly what comes next. Reach and never stop reaching.

One last piece of advice. Whenever you feed your soul and truly savor what you do with your time, it makes it much more likely that your big dreams will come true. Now write and don’t judge the book by its cover.

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