Less than two seconds….

… that’s the time a potential reader gives to the cover of each book when scanning a bookshop display or online screen.  So say the publishers. In that time the individual takes in the design, the title and whatever is written – tag-line or glowing review – on the front cover. If it doesn’t get their attention, their eye moves on to the next. So the pressure to make the cover arresting and appealing is intense.

The new novel from yours truly – a contemporary political thriller set in Westminster, entitled Plague – is due for publication in the Autumn of 2020, with review copies available in the Spring.  So I am currently engaged with publisher Claret Press and designer and artist Petya Tsankova in deciding upon the cover. Petya is a freelance graphic designer who frequently works with Claret Press.

I am used to working with cover designers. Readers of my blogs at The Story Bazaar will be familiar with the work of Andrew Brown, who designed the cover for Reconquista  see ( Reading a Book by its Cover ) and that of Dan Mogford ( Final Touches ) who designed the cover for The Silver Rings. Both are excellent designers who created covers which, in my humble opinion, have stood the test of time, with arresting images, bold and interesting lettering and sufficient of a theme to link the two together. Credit for this must go to Dan who designed the second of the two  and continued the pattern – quite literally when it came to the tracery at the foot of each cover.

Incidentally, both books in the Al Andalus series can be had half-price, for less than the price of a cup of coffee, at the Smashwords Christmas Sale which runs from Christmas Day until the New Year.

This time around, however, it’s not just the cover for Plague ( a very early version of which can be seen above left ). Plague is the first in a series of novels with the same protagonist, so there must be commonality in the designs for each of the covers, thereby establishing a brand. A quick visit to Amazon or any other online bookstore to take a look at a long running series will show how that translates in design terms.

So I have received not one, but three covers recently, for the first three books in the series. For Plague, but also for Oracle, the second in the series, which is set in Delphi, Greece and Opera the third, which returns to central London ( and which I have not yet started writing – although I know its last line – I have my writing life mapped out until December 2022! )

The covers aren’t final and they will change and develop ( the photo right does not do that cover justice ).  The title needs to be clearer I think, especially of Plague – two seconds, remember, and the eye moves on, the gaze won’t linger to decipher a word which isn’t understood immediately.  I do like the fractured nature of the space in the first set of covers,  the jagged edges which promise the excitement of the thriller within which remind me of film titles of the nineteen sixties.  But there’s a way to go yet….

In the meanwhile Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers!

 

Clapham Book Festival 2019

Calling all lovers of books and reading!  The countdown to the annual south London celebration of both has begun.  Clapham Book Festival takes place on 5th October 2019 at Omnibus Theatre.

The preparations are now well under way.  The CBF stall at the recent Clapham Summer Fete attracted a lot of interest from locals and visitors alike. It’s taken us almost four years but folk now expect the Book Festival to take place, it has become part of the Clapham scene.  Our stall this year had books donated by Clapham writers, especially those who had been prize judges. So they were, by and large, pristine copies at knock-down prices and some of them signed by the authors as well. One woman was delighted to find the signature in the book she had just purchased. We had a superb hand-made chocolate cake to raffle off as well (congratulations John, I hope it tasted as good as it looked).

Ably assisted by the ladies from The Reading Den another Clapham-based not-for-profit organisation which acts as an on-line central hub of advice and guidance for book clubs, we managed to raise £130 for the Festival, as well as doing a lot of promoting of the events ( and having fun talking about books and writers ).  Clapham Writers has at least three new members, who we hope to see at the Meet & Greet event after this year’s Fest.

We have also been out and about leafleting around Clapham. We were at Venn Street market on Saturday and our small battalion of volunteers is posting flyers through letterboxes all over Clapham. One may be coming through your door soon.

The Windmill on the Common has again supported the Festival by donating a voucher for an overnight stay for two in that boutique hotel as a prize in our Festival day raffle.  Last year’s winner was a Clapham resident who, as the occupant of a one-bedroom flat, was able to have his parents to stay by using the voucher.  Thank you The Windmill and Young’s Brewery.

As regards publicity, you will find us mentioned by the Royal Society of Literature, the Society of Authors, in the Sunday Times On-line and in a veritable cornucopia of local media of various kinds.  There’s also a podcast coming out on 1st October.  Henry Hemming – Our Man in New York – had a double page spread in the Sunday Mail and Elizabeth Buchan – The Museum of Broken Promises – an excellent review in The Times.  Aida Edemariam and Ursula Buchan won the plaudits when their books, The Wife’s Tale and Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps, respectively, were first published. That’s not forgetting our opener – Professor Kate Williams on the relationship between the Rival Queens, Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots – and Frank Gardner OBE, BBC Security Correspondent to close the Festival.

Tickets can be had at Omnibus £16/£13 concessions or £10/£8.  A snip at the price.  Buy soon, the events are filling up fast!

For more on Clapham’s own Book Festival try       On The Day….           Books and Walking – A Literary Trail 

Introducing….and reading

As part of 2019’s amazing line-up of authors at the Clapham Book Festival  on 5th October, we introduce a new type of session this year, of an author introducing his or her new book and then reading from that book.

Local historian, biographer and travel writer, Henry Hemming takes the inaugural slot talking about, then reading from, his latest book Our Man in New York.

After the hugely successful M, a biography of Maxwell Knight, MI5’s greatest spymaster, Hemming has moved on to tell the story of the covert British operation to manipulate public opinion in the US, using, amongst other things,  fake news and spin, to prepare the way for America to enter World War II. Our Man in New York has been described by William Boyd as “A revelatory and wholly fascinating work of history. Superbly researched and written with gripping fluency, this lost secret of World War II espionage finally has its expert chronicler.”  

As Nicholas Shakespeare has said, it is Gripping and intoxicating, it unfolds like the best screenplay.’ There are rumours that Hollywood is interested. So come along and listen to its author read an extract at five o’clock on Saturday 5th October.

For more on this year’s Clapham Book Festival take a look at the Programme on the web-site. Or buy your tickets at Omnibus Theatre.

Summer Book Sale

It’s that time of year again and books are being discounted to promote sales and capture the Summer holiday trade.

LastSaturday my local church had its annual fete, smaller this year, as the event has grown in recent years ( see Books for Sale in the Sunshine ), but the Clapham Book Festival had representatives there, including me, staffing the book stall, handing out our flyers. A must for the diaries of book lovers and those who like talking about books is Saturday 5th October, the Saturday of the 2019 Clapham Book Festival!  Check out this year’s Programme.  Tickets are on sale from 1st July.

But last Saturday we were selling books – £1 hardbacks, 50p paperbacks, everything must go!  Lots of people browsing and buying mentioned that they were looking for a good book for the beach, the country, the plane or the train and, in one instance, the fishing.  I guess reading a good book is ideal when sitting on a river bank waiting for the fish to bite.

On-line too, the Summer Sales begin. Over at Smashwords from 1st July until the end of that month you can find J.J.Anderson’s ‘e’ books at a major discount.  In the Al Andalus stories , Reconquista will be FREE to download until the 31st July. The next book in the series, The Silver Rings, will have 25% off RRP at $2.45  or less than £2.  The Village; A Year in Twelve Tales will be discounted by 50% to $1.99 or £1.50.  So, if you want to make a journey in the imagination on your holiday, why not travel to 13th century Al Andalus, or to a contemporary English village, you can do so for free or at a major discount on Smashwords as part of its summer sale!

In the meanwhile it’s time to submit my latest manuscript to the publishers. A real departure from the historical adventures written previously, Plague is a contemporary thriller set in Westminster, which draws upon my own experience working in Whitehall and the rich history of Westminster and Thorney Island.  On the basis that informed and independent criticism is worth its weight in gold, I have been fortunate enough to have the members of three different book clubs read the manuscript.  Any author will tell you that, however objective your friends try to be, they will, invariably, be less critical than people who don’t know the writer personally. Their comments have been insightful and very useful, helping me refine the novel before submitting it to the publishers.  Now I await the editor’s comments.

Plague is also the first in a series – I am about to begin writing Oracle, the second book featuring the same protagonist, while I wait.  I am enjoying researching the ancient temple complex at Delphi on Mount Parnassus, somewhere I actually visited during a 1999 conference at the modern conference centre just below Delphi town. What a place for a murder mystery story, I thought at the time. Now it’s going to be just that!

For now, if you haven’t already, why not make a visit to the exotic Al Andalus, with its Kings and Emirs, its warlords and treasure and all for less than a cup of coffee.

For more about Reconquista and The Silver Rings and writing them try             Seduced by History            The Godmother’s Tale              Warp and Weft