8 November 2011

Author Article: Michele Gorman on self-publishing

Today, I welcome Michele Gorman to my blog. Michele's debut novel Single in the City was released in the UK in June 2010, and has chosen to self-publish the book in her native country, USA. Here, Michele writes about the changing face of the cover for the American release of the book, and at the bottom of the post, you can see the two covers side by side, so let me know which you prefer!

"Last year Penguin (UK) published my book, and what a thrilling process it was. Today I’m self-publishing Single in the City in the US, and it’s even more exciting!

I should make a confession right from the start, dear reader. * Whisper * My slight control-freakishness is what makes self-publishing so exciting. I loved having 100% say over every aspect of my book. I got to rewrite it for the US market, I got to decide whether to keep the title (it was originally called The Expat Diaries), and I got to design the cover.

I soon realized however, that with all this empowering decision-making comes a heck of a lot of pressure. Nowhere was this more true than with the cover. The cover is the “face” of the book and I only get one chance to get it right. Out of a million and one options, what kind of cover should I choose? On the surface the answer seemed obvious.

Recent events suggest a population who’ll retch at the sight of a cupcake on a cover. UK-based book shop WHSmith recently announced that the women’s fiction label will be eliminated from its shops after complaints that the books filling those shelves were "very light, [with] lots of pink fluffiness”. Newspaper articles predict the demise of the genre and the term chick lit is used as an insult.

Plus, a quick look at American chick lit covers told me that they tend to be photographic. Yet British chick lit leans towards the illustrations that have critics seeing pink. So clearly American women prefer photographic covers.

I thought long and hard about all of this. I asked my agent, friends and family. Then I made my decision. I’m proud to write chick lit. More than that, I’m proud to write chick lit that stays true to the genre’s light-hearted, humorous roots. I want readers to judge my book by its cover. If you market cheese as chocolate, all you do is miss the cheese-lovers and disappoint the chocoholics.

So I emailed Nellie Ryan, the genius illustrator who did my original cover, and we got to work. The evolution took a lot of time and a lot of patience. Luckily Nellie has the patience of Job.

First, Nellie sent me some photos of sassy city girls to get a feel for outfits and body language. From that brainstorm she sketched the first girl. We wanted her to reflect Hannah's decision to move her worldly belongings to London.

It wasn't quite right. First of all she'd freeze to death in that dress, given that she arrives to London in January. And her body language didn't convey Hannah's trepidation at having moved thousands of miles from everyone she knows. I thought that a 'Jeez, what have I done' look might be better. So we gave her a coat, a passport, and a couple of new stances to try.

I liked her biting her nails but the sense of fun still wasn't there. And this IS a fun book after all. A few polka dots, jaunty scarf and a sense of movement in swirling leaves did the trick ... nearly.

After a transatlantic flight she’d probably have a ponytail. Besides, that’s more fun.

Definitely better with her hair tied back, but let's face it, Hannah is never quite that put together. She's well-known for her wardrobe malfunctions, and she envies women with perfect hair, so we gave her some flyaways in the final version. And here it is. What do you think compared to the UK cover?"

(UK Cover on left, US cover on right)

You can buy Single in the City (UK version) in paperback and on Kindle. (Links go to Amazon.co.uk)

US readers can also buy the ebook at Amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble.


  1. Good call :)
    I personally judge books by their covers. I do. I'm not ashamed of it. The cartoony feminine covers of chick lit appeal to me for what they are, the more photographic covers put me more in mind of romance and seriousness.. If I'm reading chick lit, I like a little light-heartedness. I do avoid romance. Love the US cover!
    Once Upon A Time

  2. Thanks Hannah! What say the rest of you lovely readers, what are your thoughts on illustrated versus photographic covers, and does this depend on your nationality? Mx

  3. Though the covers are similar, the US cover is definitely the stronger of the two. The colors pop more and there is more going on with the scene. Great cover! Rosanna

  4. Oh and I definitely prefer illustrated over photograhic. But a few photographic covers stand out such as Nora Roberts' covers.

  5. I agree with Hannah that illustrated covers is more light hearted chick-lit and photgraphic are more romance and serious.
    I like the addition of staple London images of the US cover such as the red telephone booth and the black cab, I think that will say more to the American readers what the book is about, connect it better to London.