The literary agent Jonny Geller recently tweeted that there were three components crucial to a novel selling: title, cover, and timing of the release.
As a reader, I'm hugely influenced by that second part. Unless I've read a review or have read the author before, it's the cover that draws me to pick it up - particularly if it's placed alluringly on a table at the front of a shop.
My first two novels - dubbed women's fiction for the reading group market - have the swirly font associated with women's fiction in their UK editions. It's something that has perturbed some readers when they found unanticipated darkness within the covers of the books.
For my third novel, Anatomy of a Scandal, published by a new publisher, I needed something very different. Because although I'm still interested in female psychology and relationships, the truths we tell ourselves and the compromises we make, Anatomy is more deliberately suspenseful and darker with a very current and problematic theme at its heart.
I'm thrilled that my editor Jo Dickinson, and Simon & Schuster UK's art director Jack Smythe, had such a strong vision for my novel. Anatomy of a Scandal is partly a courtroom drama and the black strips conjure up the shredding of legal documents or the spooling of cassette tapes - the ripping up of words, of different truths - because the idea of differing perceptions of the truth is key. And the woman glimpsed through these ripped words, enticing you to enter the world of this novel? Just watch her carefully:
Anatomy of a Scandal will be published in January in the UK and December this year in the US as well as in 15 other languages. It will be fascinating to see how the covers vary - or whether this striking version is adopted elsewhere. The US cover, by Simon & Schuster US, brilliantly complements this - with another black cover, and another woman glimpsed through a gap. But that reveal's for another day.
Meanwhile, here's the blurb, which will run on the back, and should hopefully further entice the bookshop browser - a person intrigued by this cover - to go ahead and read:
Part courtroom thriller; part portrait of a marriage; part exploration of how our memories still haunt us, Anatomy of a Scandal is a disarming and provocative psychological drama.
Sophie’s husband, James, is a loving father and a successful public figure. Yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to engulf him. She’s kept his darkest secret ever since they were first lovers, at Oxford. And if she stood by him then, she can do it now.
Kate is the barrister prosecuting his case. She’s certain that James is guilty and determined he should pay. No stranger to suffering herself, she doesn’t flinch from posing the questions few want to hear. About what happens between a man a woman when they’re alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in a lift . . .
Is James the victim of an unfortunate misunderstanding or the perpetrator of something sinister? Who is right: Sophie or Kate? This scandal – which forces Sophie to appraise her marriage and Kate her demons – will have far-reaching consequences for them all.
And here are some comments from some of the very first readers. Almost pinching myself that it's resonated in this way.