The cover is often the first thing that attracts a potential reader - either on the shelves of a traditional bookstore or on the virtual shelves of an eBook shop.
My new thriller First Response is being published in the UK by Hodder and Stoughton on February 26. Here's the blurb -
London is under siege.
Nine men in suicide vests primed to explode hold hostages in nine different locations around the city, and are ready to die for their cause.
Their mission: to force the government to release jihadist prisoners from Belmarsh Prison.
Their deadline: 6 p.m. Today.
Their deadline: 6 p.m. Today.
But the bombers are cleanskins, terrorists with no obvious link to any group, and who do not appear on any anti-terror watch list. What has brought them together on this one day to act in this way?
Mo Kamran is the Superintendent in charge of the Special Crime and Operations branch of the Met. As the disaster unfolds and the SAS, armed police, and other emergency services rush to the scenes, he is tasked with preventing the biggest terrorist outrage the capital has ever known.
But nothing is what it seems. And only Kamran has the big picture. Will anyone believe him?
And here's the cover that Hodder and Stoughton are going with.
It's a traditional thriller cover with a Lee Child/Jack Reacher feel to it. It's a nice clean cover and the typeface for STEPHEN LEATHER echoes the Spider Shepherd books. I like the London skyline and the way the light (an explosion?) comes out from his right side. The figure could be the enemy, or the hero. It's left vague.
You see a lot of thrillers these days with the lone figure, staring or running into the distance.
The publishers of Vince Flynn, for instance, have just rejacketed his books and every single one has solitary figure on it.
The concept is so popular with traditional publishers that often you see the same figure being used, for instance here British writers such as JEREMY DUNS and MATT HILTON with identical running men!
I have to say that I think the lone figure has become something of a cliche and it wouldn't personally attract me to a book. I prefer something that stands out from the crowd.
I got a chance to try out my own design for First Response because Hodder and Stoughton decided they didn't want the US rights to the book, which means that in the US it could be a Stephen Leather self-published book.
I got in touch with the wonderful Debbie at THE COVER COLLECTION and we started throwing around some ideas.
Here are some initial thoughts -
We decided that a suicide vest would be a better image but we loved the Big Ben background, so we came up with these.
After more discussions we decided to drop the gun completely and to change the wording of the heading at the top.
We then had chat about the colours (I preferred the orange) and whether or not the trigger was a good idea. I also thought the explosives were a bit too orange and glossy. So this is the final result -
I love it. I think it's more dramatic than the UK cover, and tells more of the story. I also like the typefaces, again I think they are more dramatic, more thrilling, if you like! It's less subtle than the UK cover, that's for sure, but I don't think that's a bad thing. It seems to me that US thriller covers have a more 'in your face' feel, a baseball bat compared with a scalpel if you like. Anyway, that's the US cover done and dusted, I'll be putting the US edition up for advance purchase sometime in January. Watch this space!