The Importance of Cover Design

Margaret Barnes

This week, CWC member Margaret Barnes talks to us about the importance of cover design and the rebranding exercise she went through with her series of legal thrillers.

“I chose to publish on Amazon again using KDP for my fourth book, a novel called Legal Privilege. My main protagonist is barrister, Cassie Hardman, and this is the third in the series. The other book is non-fiction and is based on my experiences working as a barrister in the Criminal Justice system. The Cassie Hardman series draws on those same experiences but the cases they describe and the people she meets are fictitious. For my initial foray into independent publishing I bought a package to guide me through the process, including designing a front cover for the e-book and the front and back cover for the paperback. I had already decided I did not want a picture of the cupola of the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey) as it is such a cliché and I wanted to avoid that.

The cover design I settled on was of the print of a DNA analysis but although I knew what it was it was soon obvious others didn’t so when I decided to republish the book under the Scribbling Advocate imprint (the name of my blog) I wanted a new cover. At the same time I was publishing my second Cassie Hardman book, Reluctant Consent. I also decided to collect the articles from my blog into a non-fiction blog Trials, Errors and Misdemeanours.

This time I approached Bernie Stevens and asked her to look at photographs taken in the Inns of Court. For those who are unaware of the Inns, they figure in every barrister’s life as it is a necessary qualification for being ‘called to the bar’ to be a member of one of the four Inns: Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Grays Inn and Lincolns Inn. They are situated in London and wrap round the Royal Courts of Justice on the City side. The Inns are frequently used for period dramas – if you have watched any of the BBC’s dramatisations of Dickens you will have seen one or other of the buildings. Many barristers have their offices called chambers in these buildings that date at their earliest from Tudor times up to the last century.

One of the advantages of publishing your own novels is that you can choose what you want for the cover. I took time to look at the covers of other similar books on Amazon to see what those in the same genre looked like. Generally crime novels use dark colours and try to create a sense of mystery. They have to look as good thumb print size as they do on the cover of a paper back. After looking at number of photos I choose this one. Bernie Stevens then added the title and my name as the author. I like it because it’s quite a dramatic picture of the Undercroft in Lincolns Inn. The light at the far end suggests resolution. The original was lighter but a film of blue has been added to give that sense of mystery.

I then wanted another cover that clearly identified Reluctant Consent as being part from the same series. In order to do that the title and my name are in the same font and the same size as for Crucial Evidence. This is a photograph of Middle Temple Lane which runs from Fleet Street down to the Embankment and is part of Middle Temple.

The non-fiction book of memoir, although clearly not part of the Cassie Hardman Series, I thought should maintain consistency with the novels. This is a photograph in Inner Temple of the archway into Temple Court and was built in the twentieth century after a bomb destroyed part of the Inn during the World War 2. Although the font is the same as on the other two books, the colour way has changed so that there is a demarcation between the fiction and non-fiction.

For the fourth book, I again asked Bernie Stevens to find appropriate photographs and she provided two for my consideration.

I thought the one on the left was rather gothic in character and had too much foliage at the bottom of the photograph which hides the door into Middle Temple Hall. The other one was brighter and is of Grays Inn where the final scene in the book is set. Also there is a sense of entrances and exits which is quite important for this, the last in the series. So I decided on the one on the right hand side.

This final book in the series is published this month and then I can start on my next project – something completely different and the subject of another blog.”

Margaret Barnes

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