Like Your Jacket

What makes you reach for a book in a bookshop? Prompts you to turn it over to read the jacket copy on the back then open up the book, your attention caught… It may be true that you ought not to judge a book by its cover but the jacket is the first signal of what lies inside, an invitation to further exploration.

The Painted Bridge has been produced so far in four different jackets; a number of others have been tried on for size.

painted bridge 6.6-1

This was the first. I liked this image – the vibrant colours, the inclusion of water, the contemplative figure – but I didn’t feel it was quite right for the book. This woman did not resemble my Anna Palmer; her costume was too sumptuous and fashionable, her hair too perfect and her bearing too composed. She didn’t appear to have suffered as my character had.

painted bridge aged-1

Even when the image was toned down through being ‘aged’, it didn’t feel quite right.





My editor at Simon & Schuster, listened to my concerns, shared some of them, and the designer came up with an alternative.

painted bridge 7.1a

I liked this much better. It was a ‘narrative’ cover – showing the little bird both caged and flying free, although not in the most obvious order. I thought the subtlety of the colours was great and the ghostly rectangles evoked the photography theme of the novel. I appreciated the way the curly metal in the birdcage echoed the typography of the title. I was happy to think of the book going out wrapped like this.

Meanwhile, the designer at Scribner, my US publisher, came up with a set of possible covers for the American edition.

Image 3Image 1

Image 2


All were possibilities but again none seemed quite right. The two using the photograph I’d supplied of the bridge that inspired the title were less interesting than the ones featuring the Julia Margaret Cameron photograph. I somehow couldn’t reconcile myself with the idea of my heroine being depicted without eyes, or literally upside down – even though that is a key image in the novel.

When they came up with this alternative, I loved it.


This figure closely represented my idea of Anna Palmer. She looks to me as if although she’s living her life in the mid-19th century, she is recognisable, someone you might talk to now without difficulty. I like to think of my characters in that way – that they are separated in time but not emotionally.

Close examination of the picture revealed that she carried a birdcage in her hand. I liked this almost invisible link with the UK hardback jacket. And the shade of blue conveyed the mood of the book.

The Painted Bridge will be out in paperback in the UK this week. The paperback edition contains a reading group guide, an interview with me on the themes in the book – and the first two chapters of my new novel, The Sacred River.

It has again been re-dressed, in a new jacket. I have to admit that I love this one best of all. The cover sums up something of what I think The Painted Bridge is about: a woman on her own path, a lonely and difficult path, bleak and surrounded by tall and gaunt trees, the distance obscured by mist. But the trees will in their season come into leaf, the path is leading somewhere… Anna Palmer is making her way.


Which do you like best of these covers? How important is a book jacket to you? I’d love to hear your comments.







10 Responses to Like Your Jacket

  1. I love the paperback cover of The Painted Bridge. Actually, I love both your US and UK hardbacks, too. It’s helpful to read that you were able to contribute to the process and interesting to learn the way the covers progressed.

  2. I Love the U.S. hardcover copy, as it is the same as the pre- release paper back I have. This new cover is faboulous. It fits with the book nicely, pleasing to the eye. I can admit while searching through a book store, myself being an artist the cover and story genre is what initialy leads my hand to a book.

    Julie Saffold

  3. Glad you like the paperback cover too, Julie. I’m also very influenced by jackets of the books I’m drawn to, even online.

  4. What makes me reach for a book–the same conversation I’m having with my editor! I love the latest dressing; the bare trees and figure are hauntingly beautiful. I want to push through into the mist and discover…

  5. Hi Sandra, thanks for commenting. I think maybe a path is effective in pulling in a reader? I hope so. Good luck with the selection of your cover.

  6. I would pick up any of those covers – and certainly the US hardback had me grabbing it off the shelf. But I must agree with the UK paperback – hauntingly appropriate – and even though she walking into fog, she’s still walking in to light…love it! Hope you have a fantastic sales bump – you deserve it!

  7. Hello, Jennie. I very much like the idea of Anna Palmer walking into light as well as fog! Thanks for responding and best wishes for your writing.

  8. There is nothing else TO judge a book on other than it’s cover, particularly if it is written by an author you do not know. If the cover were unimportant then all books would have a plain cover with just the author name and the book title.

    Out of all of the ones above only the new UK paperback cover would grab my attention. Which it did, which is why I am here reading about the book.

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