by Kim Kelly
Don’t judge a book by its proverbial, so the saying goes – oh but how we do.
I once had a fairly influential publishing industry fabulosa come up to me at a festival and say, ‘Yeah right, you’re Kim Kelly – with the moody ladies on your covers. My girlfriend and I were only having a laugh about them yesterday.’
She meant that in the nicest possible way, of course. Those of us who’ve been around the traps for a while have learned to have a sense of humour about the reductive nature of our books’ outer apparel – especially if you happen to be female and write anything that involves a bit of girl-boy action.
I’ve heard a lot of laughter over the years from all sorts – publishers, designers, booksellers and authors. ‘If I see another girl in an Akubra…’ is the most common refrain.
I’ve also been asked some serious questions about the phenomenon of women’s fiction in particular being so uniformly dumbed down this way before it’s even left the warehouse. And up until fairly recently, I’ve shrugged in response, repeating the generally accepted wisdom: ‘It’s not the author’s decision to make. Sales & Marketing know what they’re doing…’
Do they? I wouldn’t know. No-one from Sales & Marketing had ever had a conversation with me about any aspect of my work.
That all changed for me, though, a year ago when I jumped ship from traditional Australian publishing to The Author People – a deliciously disruptive, international publisher whose mission it is to smash boundaries and expand possibilities for writers, through cleverness and collaboration.
One of the first things my publisher there, Lou Johnson, asked me was how I’d felt about my marketing to date – and more specifically, how I felt about my book covers.
‘Er, um,’ I said. ‘Maybe we could try a different tack from the moody ladies…?’
‘Right. Well, let’s do that,’ was her response.
And so we did.
The cover of my first book with The Author People – Wild Chicory – is a wonderful story of clever collaboration in itself. The field of chicory that appears in the image is from a random photo I’d taken the summer before along the country lane on which I live. And the little girl running through it is Lou’s daughter, Ruby, captured by her dad and Lou’s husband, the photographer Douglas Frost. The designer who put the images together to create such a gorgeous, dreamy vibe is Alissa Dinallo.
And now, for my next novel, Jewel Sea, we’ve all teamed up again – minus any random photos from me. The exquisite image of the seashore with its sparkling gold-edged swash is Douglas’s and the delicate composition of the design is Alissa’s, but if you look closely, you can see the faint impression of a map of the coast of Western Australia – a map which adds more than a little magic to the story of this cover for me.
This map was created by writer, historian and designer, Annie Boyd. She’s an amazingly accomplished person and I’ll have to dedicate a separate blog post to tell you all about her down the track. But for now, I have to tell you it was a book Annie wrote a couple of years ago that inspired me to write Jewel Sea in the first place – Koombana Days – the story of the life and times and disappearance of a luxury passenger ship in a storm off the coast of Port Hedland in 1912, and one that contains this very map.
Throughout all my scribblings I’d refer to Annie’s map of the coast just about daily – as well as to her lively history, her timeline of events and the photographs she reproduced in her book. But really, if I hadn’t stumbled across Annie’s work a couple of years ago when I was just idling on Goodreads, searching for something interesting to lose myself in, there would be no Jewel Sea at all.
Annie Boyd’s influence on me is in every page of my story, so how could she not be part of the cover as well?
We could so easily have gone for a moody lady for Jewel Sea – the narrator of the story, Irene Everley, certainly has some shifting moods and she is arrestingly beautiful, too – but the story is much more than Irene. It’s about fatal desire and loss, greed and theft, courage and redemption.
Another tale about Australia, the beautiful, moody country that made me.
The Nor’West Run
Annie Boyd, Blue Ruin Design
For more information on Annie Boyd’s Koombana Days, go here.
For more information on Jewel Sea, go here.