I’ve written many times about The Sparrow Conundrum, usually trying to persuade readers to buy it. But this time (although I’d still love you and all your friends and family to get a copy because my wife is still dreaming of the tax exile she envisaged when my first book was published in the 90s), I’m using it to illustrate a different point.
It’s under new management and the new edition has been published this week by Thorstruck Press. Why? Because my marketing and PR ‘skills’ (sorry, I need to pause for a laugh), show no signs of improving and because most bookshops still seem reluctant to stock Indies. I clearly need help.
But the main reason I’m writing this is because the change has brought home very forcibly the impact of a new cover. I liked the old cover and, when I got the first proof copies of it, it gave me the usual ‘this is my baby’ pride. It’s been with me for three years and helped the book to win a couple of awards. And maybe the familiarity of it helps to explain my reaction to the new one because, frankly, it feels like a different book. I’ve made just one or two tiny changes to the text so it’s more or less identical to the previous edition and yet it doesn’t seem so.
I always claim that I never judge a book by its cover (except when the cover’s so awful that you know the book can’t be any good because it’s been treated so shamefully), and I’m not ‘judging’ the Sparrow either. It’s not a question of whether it makes the book look ‘better’, that one is ‘bad’ and the other ‘good’; it actually seems to be a question of identity. I know the book well. It was my first ever novel and I not only wrote it, I rewrote it many times over, gave it at least 4 different titles en route. So it’s a long-standing, familiar friend. And now, all of a sudden, I see it wearing a new outfit and I don’t recognise it.
It reminded me of an exchange I had with a young girl who was in a workshop I did for children in Huntly library last year. After the class she asked me:
‘Is that your book, The Darkness, on the shelf upstairs?’
‘The cover’s rubbish, isn’t it?’
As it happens, I don’t agree with her but this latest experience has made me very aware that I maybe need to think more carefully about the power of a book’s appearance. In fact, The Darkness has had 3 covers in its time but none of those changes struck me quite as forcibly as this one.
I now want to get on with the sequel, just so that I can see what the cover will be like.