Guest Post

Hidden Among Us Blog Tour: A Tale of Covers and Titles by Katy Moran

Today I have the wonderfully brilliant Katy Moran talking about the different stage that come from publishing a book when it comes to the title and the cover. Katy’s book, Hidden Among Us was released yesterday by Walker, my review will be published on Monday so make sure you are back for that!

I often think that coming up with a title is the most difficult thing about writing a book. Having also witnessed the cover design process from the perspective of a desk editor within a publishing house, I also know that creating that perfect cover is far harder than it looks, and takes a really special kind of skill. The only time I have ever thought of a title with no pain and complete spontaneity, it was for someone else’s novel. (Here Lies Arthur by the wonderful Philip Reeve, when I was his copy-editor, in case you want to know!). There is something about trying to force an unwieldy leaking mass of ideas to coagulate into just a few pithy and eye-catching words that really makes my brain ache. If I were naturally any good at this sort of thing, I would be a poet and not a novelist. It usually takes me between 60,000 and 80,000 words to get to the point!

Unusually for me, Hidden Among Us had a title from its earliest stages (unlike the sequel, which is still without one), but having that apparently perfect title in your mind as a writer doesn’t mean that this is what will appear on the front cover of your book. Hidden Among Us was actually originally called Here Among Us – a title which came from Rafe, one of the main characters in the book, and one of the few living people to have seen one of the Hidden. Rafe had come to the horrifying realisation that there were people in the world who “looked human, and passed for human, but were not human”, and that they drifted undetected in the mortal world, harbouring malignant intentions towards not only Rafe’s closest family, but to the human race as a whole. I found that I could hear Rafe’s voice in my mind, saying very clearly: “They’re here among us, all the time,” and this really resonated with me.
However, as a traditionally published author you form a surprisingly small percentage of the overall team involved in producing a finished book, and it wasn’t long before the Sales Department at Walker told my editor that they felt Here Among Us wasn’t quite strong enough as a title, and Hidden Among Us was suggested as an alternative. I really didn’t like this new title at first, and felt that it lacked the strong rhythm of the original, but authors are no different to anyone else, and sometimes it is best to choose your battles wisely. With this in mind, I accepted the alternative title, and after a while I found that Hidden Among Us really grew on me. I can now see that it’s a better title than my first idea – every word is working hard for its living. I also love the way that “hidden” functions as both a noun and a verb depending on how you read the phrase, and that the title has two slightly different but complimentary meanings. I’m using this as a basis for trying to think of something incredible for the sequel, but I’ve often found in the past that clinging on to a specific concept can actually act as a red herring in the search for that perfect title, so wish me luck!

To put the design together I started looking for inspirational images of Lissy and the Swan King and then I designed a few visuals of the cover playing with the typography. Once I was happy with the design I commissioned an illustrator (Alejandro Colucci) to create the final image for the cover. We worked together until we were happy with the final representation of both characters. 

It wasn’t just the title for Hidden Among Us that started out life in a different form, either. We originally had a very different cover, too – rather than Lissy, the star of the original jacket was Larkspur. This was the first time one of my characters had ever been illustrated (I’ve had lots of characters appear photographically before, though), and I was excited to see how he would appear in the eyes of somebody other than me. The original jacket was mysterious and beautiful, but I feel that one of Walker’s strengths as a publisher is their ability to admit when they are wrong about something, and last summer they went for a complete re-design of the cover for Hidden Among Us. When I worked at Scholastic, I remember the Sales Director telling me that, on average, a book jacket has just eight seconds to hook in a potential reader. That’s extraordinary – a designer has to produce a miniature work of art that in less than ten seconds will persuade a book-shop customer to part with their hard-earned money, so it’s obvious how important it is to get that design absolutely right. I think that everyone will agree that the instincts of those who were a little unconvinced by the original approach have led us to a wonderful result: Maria the designer has done an absolutely fantastic job. I can’t speak for Maria, but she has very kindly agreed to contribute to this blog post and tell everyone how she arrived at the final jacket design.

My main inspiration for the cover creation was to show two worlds – Lissy’s world and The Hidden world – along with the thin veil that separates them. I also wanted to represent the two main characters -The Swan King and Lissy – facing each other on opposite sides of the cover. The idea was to create a mirror image suggesting a connection between these two beautiful creatures with a secret that will be revealed when their two worlds collide again.

Maria has made it all sound so easy! Cover design is such an incredible art form – it takes real skill for a designer to take a story and bring it to life: they have the power to convince people to spend their money and take home a copy of the book. The illustrator, Alejandro Colucci, has really brought Lissy and the Swan King to life, too. There are so many factors to good cover design, and it’s not only the artistic side, either: my editors Denise and Daisy thought long and hard about that strapline, too, and I think they’ve done really well. “One promise binds two worlds” is strong and very intriguing, but I know that it must have taken many cups of strong tea to arrive at this point! Getting book cover copy right is difficult but extremely important. Denise also sent an early copy of the final manuscript out to two fantastic authors, Celia Rees and Ruth Warburton, who read Hidden Among Us when it was still just a pile of A4 and very kindly provided some lovely quotations saying how much they had enjoyed it.

The journey towards the perfect title and cover is much more convoluted than it looks, but I am so proud of what Walker have achieved with this book. Thank you, Walker Books – and thank you Raimy, for having me as a guest on your lovely blog!

One Comment

  • Jesse Owen

    Fab post – I’m not surprised it can take so long to come up with a title. cover and copy – they’re so important in making that first impression.

    And once a first impression is formed, it’s very hard to be proved wrong!

%d bloggers like this: