Posts Tagged Guernsey
What particularly struck me about this series of books was the cohesive, professional branding across all the book covers.
I wondered whether Anne had started off with this brand in mind or whether it developed as she went along. This is what she told me:
Authors are often encouraged to create a ‘brand’. To be distinctive. To stand out in the crowd; never more important than now when thousands of books are added to Amazon on a daily basis. I knew nothing of this when I published my first book, ‘Dangerous Waters’, a romantic mystery/family drama set in Guernsey. Then came book two, ‘Finding Mother’, also set on the island, but there was little cohesion visually between them, although they shared characters and setting. By the time I wrote the third, ‘Guernsey Retreat’, I had realised (somewhat belatedly some might say!) that I was writing a series. The covers of the books bore little resemblance to each other, except for my name, although I had chosen a strong image of Guernsey as the background for book 3.
These are the original three covers:
Then came the enlightenment, in the form of a successful American author I met at an Indie event as part of The London Book Fair. She told me I had no brand and the genre of the books wasn’t clear. But she did like the covers, particularly the third. Sooo, it was back to the drawing board.
I decided I needed a fresh approach and engaged a cover designer who came highly recommended, Jane Dixon-Smith, who also writes books. Together we worked on producing four covers, three replacing the old ones and one for my nearly finished fourth novel, ‘The Family Divided’. I knew the backgrounds had to be of Guernsey as I now had The Guernsey Novels series. The new branding was launched in 2015 to coincide with the latest book and, boy, were they well received! Even Amazon liked them, creating a little series motif on my books page, so anyone buying one of the books could see it was part of a series, even though each book is a standalone story.
If an author isn’t writing a true series, I think it’s still important to have a cohesive look for their books, unless they write in multi genres. I’ve often noticed how the books of top-selling authors frequently receive new covers to emphasise their ‘brand’ in line with current fashion. Speaking to insiders of the Big Five publishers, I learnt huge sums are spent on cover design and redesign to keep the brands fresh; something independent authors would be unable to afford.
I’m currently reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
It’s set just after the end of WWII and the book comprises a series of letters to and from Juliet Ashton. She is an English writer looking for her next ‘big idea’. By chance she hears about the existence of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and decides to include it in an extended feature article for The Times. The various members of the society write to Juliet telling her how it was founded accidentally to escape the wrath of the Germans, they also write about the hardships of life under German occupation and about other things in their lives. Juliet also corresponds with her editor, her best friend and the rich Markham Reynolds, who appears to be trying to woo her. There may be more, but I’m only part way through the book so I’ll let you discover that for yourselves.
So far, I’ve found the book charming and easy to read – and it’s teaching me a lot about history.
But, as a writer, what interests me most is the story of its author, Mary Ann Shaffer. Mary Ann was an American born in 1934. In 1980 she visited Guernsey and left with a fascination with the history of Channel Isles during WWII. She was a ‘hobby’ writer, always working on something but never completing anything to her satisfaction, however around twenty years after her visit to Guernsey, and encouraged by her writing group, she started work on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. The completed book was snapped up by a publisher just before Mary Ann’s health began to fail. When the book’s editor requested some changes, Mary Ann wasn’t well enough to do them and so her niece, Annie Barrows (also a writer), stepped in to complete the book. Mary Ann died in early 2008, knowing that her only novel was to be published in thirteen countries but she was never able to enjoy its international success.
What’s the moral of this story? Get writing before it’s too late! Like all writers, I’m guilty of procrastination but the more birthdays I chalk up, the more aware I become of how little time we have. So I’m going to try to take Mary Ann’s story to heart – if I ever produce a best-seller (extremely faint chance, I know) then I want to be around and healthy enough to enjoy it!
And, if you need still more inspiration before facing that blank document, A Writer on Writing – Advice to Make You a Success, is only 99p until Monday 11th May 2015.
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