Thursday 23 May 2013


The above photo is nicked from the very lovely Facebook page of Saturated Space.

The CB editions covers are, as you know, brown card with just type on that. No pictures. (There are one or two exceptions, but let’s not go into that just now.) The self-imposed rule (like a rhyme scheme?) for the type that goes onto the brown card is one colour plus black. A small degree of cheating is allowed: printing a colour at a certain percentage as well as at 100% (see, e.g., D. Nurkse, Voices over Water). In theory this simplifies things: it bypasses the whole argument between author and publisher – a traditional part of publishing, and hugely time-consuming – about the cover design. In practice it’s not that simple. Quite apart from what font, what size of type, we (me plus author) have to decide what colour; and to say blue or green or a kind of orangey red only gets us so far, because there are many orangey reds and only one that will be right. We may well go through as many cover roughs as publishers who do use images as well as type. And always, what you see on screen is never exactly what you get in print – because of, among other variables, the absorbency of the cover material and what happens when you add on lamination.

So to some extent it’s guesswork. But it’s still important: when I take on a book, pretty well the first thing I do – before the nitty-gritty editing, before the text design – is decide what colour it is. Until I’ve got that, it isn’t properly a CBe book.

Years ago, in Earls Court and maybe slightly drunk, a friend was talking about a girl’s yellow dress. He needed to do better than that. We wandered up and down the aisles of a supermarket: this yellow (cans of tuna), this (cerial packets), this (washing-up sponges)? We could have done the same in a bookshop but we’d have been more distracted from the immediate issue.

And today, at Tottenham Court Road tube station at around 7 p.m, there was a woman wearing such an unexpected but gorgeous combination of just two colours that I’m tempted to loosen up the one-colour-plus-black rule, or rebrand the whole thing, or at least do something.

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