Creating a Cover
Updated: Aug 19, 2022
The most exciting moment of the journey so far was when the team at Burning Chair sent over the first cover designs for The King's Pawn. Up until then, it had been a story I had been working on for years, but it existed in various drafts of Pages documents called things like: 'spy story', 'sarah and michael', 'charlie's orders' (yes I know), 'black begins', 'the king's indian draft 743' and finally 'The King's Pawn final final final'.
But it wasn't until I saw the cover mock-ups that it actually looked real - a book that you could pick off a shelf, curl up with under the covers, bring as company on a long journey, scribble in, throw across the room and share with friends.
One of the big positives about working with an independent publisher rather than one of the big boys, is that you get a lot of input into all of these creative decisions. I've heard of many people who are presented with their cover as a fait accompli without any say in what it should look like. It seems strange to me that you could pour your sweat, blood and tears into a creative work and then let someone you've never met decide on how the world will judge it.
The team at Burning Chair asked me for input to share with the designers so I sent them this ragtaggle collection of images and ideas:
1. Chess - it is such an essential theme to the book and I could not imagine a cover that did not include it as an element. I loved this image of a pawn becoming a queen as that is essentially Sarah's journey. She begins as a pawn - limited power and controlled by her spy master - and has to learn to be a queen - the most powerful piece on the board.
2. Tbilisi - the book is a love song to Georgia and the Tbilisi setting is an important part of the story. The Marriot Courtyard Hotel (the building on the right of the below image) used to house the British Embassy before it was deemed a security risk to be located in a public building above a car park. My office was in the corner and I watched as the extremely gold statue of George and the Dragon was erected in the centre of the square.
3. A female figure - one of the elements that makes The King's Pawn different from many other spy stories is that it has a young, female protagonist. I thought it was important for this to be reflected somehow in the cover. I'm not a big fan of real faces on book covers as they remove the space for the reader to fill in the details themselves, so a figure from behind seemed like a good option.
I couldn't believe it when I saw what the designer came back with. Every element I had asked for was reflected in the design. I love the colour scheme and it makes me smile every time I look at it. Now I can't wait to have a real copy on my shelf.