2 Mar 2015

Book covers, Slavic pimps and a dystopian horror carnival

A draft cover for Something In The Water
I just finished designing a cover for an ebook by the Tunbridge Wells Writers - Something In The Water, an upcoming collection of "unreliable biographies" of historical figures related to Tunbridge Wells - and it got me thinking about how cover images work in an age of electronic publishing and internet retailing.

In the dystopian horror carnival of Geordie Shores and Deals and No Deals and Ants and Decs in which we now live the traditional book cover is dying. It's not like back in the long-forgotten pre-Kindle past of 2006 when books - real, solid, lumpen books - would sit on shelves all gaudy and alluring, their bright covers and spines calling you towards them like a series of illegally trafficked Bulgarian women forced by a Slavic pimp to drape themselves on the low, stained sofa of a Chatham knocking shop.

No, the brutal world of bookselling today is all about thumbnails. Rows of postage stamp-sized images that sit desperately alongside ranks of hyperlinks, stars and prices printed in struck-through font, too small to convey anything substantial but there nonetheless.

Special offers, reviews, recommended for yous, star ratings, customers who bought this also boughts, look insides...these are what influence the modern online buying decision. Sure, most of this happens with physical books and physical book shops, but I'd argue that when browsing in a bookshop the cover is what compels you to pick that book up and look inside.

For online shopping, however, I'd argue that it barely moves the needle. The cover is part of the book's brand - it affects how we feel about the book, it sets our expectations before we even open it - but when it's diminished to the size of a postage stamp in an online shop, it's concomitantly diminished in importance.

And that's just the buying part. On an e-reader (other Kindles are also available) I don't even look at the cover of a book once I've bought it; I've made that decision, now I'm going to read the text that I've paid to obtain - which means I virtually never see the cover again.With print books you see the cover every time you pick it up, but an e-reader automatically opens at the page at which you were last. With an ebook, the cover ceases to contribute to the book's brand once you've got to page 2.

Despite this, the book cover persists. But for how long?

We don't buy the cover, we buy print; we buy the plot, the characters, the prose. With a virtual book there is no need whatsoever for a cover. It's an electronic file sitting in an electronic device. There is no cover.

While I don't think that print books will disappear any time soon, I do think they will become less prominent, and that electronic books will become the normal way of consuming print content.

In which case, the cover image is a dying art form. Or rather, it is an evolving art form...as I think that instead of going away it will adapt to meet the new requirements that are being placed on it.

I'll write more on that in a later post...

25 Feb 2015

100WC - Tracks

The disused railway cut through the wood from Hob's Cross all the way to Wykeham before it disappeared into the tunnel. They said it was bricked up, but you'd never meet anyone who'd been in far enough to confirm it.

People walked there, at weekends. Families on bikes whirred alongside the tracks. On weekdays teenagers played truant, smoking stolen cigarettes behind the rotten signal station, risking sexual adventures with each other.

It's where they found that body that time. In the brambles, white with frost.

People said the tracks went on forever. They probably would.

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This is a 100-word flash fiction story, prompted by the picture you can see up there, as part of Friday Fictioneers.

Click here if you'd like to take part, and click here to read other pieces.

Out Of Context Wednesday: Fake and Charlatan

Every Wednesday I take a sentence or paragraph from something that I've written in the last week and post it entirely without context.

This week:
I recognise that what is recounted in these pages might draw claims of “fake!” and “charlatan!”, and even among those who would not venture so far I have no doubt that the evidence that I present will excite criticism and disbelief, so I can only beg that the reader accept that I have described what I witnessed truly, honestly and with the utmost sincerity.

18 Feb 2015

100WC - The Crystal

It would be many years before Dr Fong would develop a treatment, but by then it would be too late. The sea would be black, the sky would be bruised, and all the oil would be rotten.

The folks at Exxon would be as hungry as the rest, and they’d look back on the day that Dr Fong came to them and wish they’d left the crystal safely in its case, far from the lasers and chemicals that would ultimately awaken it.

“What do you want with it?” they’d remember asking.

“Oh, it’s just a hunch,” they’d remember him say.

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This is a 100-word flash fiction story, prompted by the picture you can see up there, as part of Friday Fictioneers.

Click here if you'd like to take part, and click here to read other pieces.

Out Of Context Wednesday: Further Ado

Every Wednesday I take a sentence or paragraph from something that I've written in the last week and post it entirely without context. 

This week:

So, without further ado, or rather with only a relatively small amount of further ado – honestly, so little further ado as to make no difference – in fact so little ado that you probably wouldn't even go so far as to call it further ado at all – really, such an insignificant amount of further ado that I don't even know why I mentioned it at all – with that little further ado (i.e. hardly any, or at any rate not really any worth commenting on), here is the story.

17 Feb 2015

100WC #168 - The Man Who Was A Dream

Prompt: "…the blue was sapphire…"

The man who was a dream stepped in from the cold, and his coat of colours flashed in the candle's dying light. Every panel and thread glittered and gleamed, and each one was a story, each told its own tale: the blue was a sapphire, the pink was a gown, the green was a meadow, the gold was a crown. They loved him, these dreamers, and he loved them back. But only for a night; for when day broke he would flee, riding west on the winds, and the gathering dawn would tug at his coat-tails as he went.


https://jfb57.wordpress.com/2015/02/03/100-word-challenge-for-grown-ups-week166/

15 Feb 2015

100WC - On The Porch

Across the lawn from us the Radcliffes sat draped on their chairs and loungers, wilting like neglected flowers in the heat.

Now and then I'd look up and catch Emily watching me, her white dress gleaming, her skin the colour of toffee, and sometimes I would wave to her. Sometimes, if her father wasn't looking, she would wave back.

In those days the sun seemed angrier than it does now, and the shadows that it printed on the porch were sharp and unforgiving. It was as though it knew what we were planning, Emily and I, and it disapproved.

# # #

This is a 100-word flash fiction story, prompted by the picture you can see up there, as part of Friday Fictioneers (yes, I know it's late).

Click here if you'd like to take part, and click here to read other pieces.