"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?"
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.