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Book Covers and Why They Matter

You can’t judge a book by its cover

You can’t judge a book by its cover is something we have all heard said. A phrase that has the meaning that very often an outward appearance does not give the true picture of a person, telling you not to be fooled by bling or glitz, or shabby and worn out.

But in the literal world, or indeed the literary world, book covers are all important. Not only the picture that might be there or an image but also the typeface. For historical fiction there are some considerations to be taken, no anachronistic images or a modern edgy font.

Headless queens

There have been cries of scorn for the many historical novels, which feature a headless woman on the cover. Sweeping gowns, lovely arms, even a hint of bosom or décolleté but no head! Apparently this is so the reader can imagine Ann Boleyn or Margaret of Anjou and not have their idea spoilt by the cover.

Image of three headless queen covers, courtesy of the Historical Novel Society 2015

The font that is often chosen for historical fiction is TRAJAN or a close version of this.

Isabella of Angoulême: The Tangled Queen and my covers.

The cover Part 1

Isabella-of-Angouleme-The-Tangled-Queen-Part-1 Book Covers and Why They Matter
Isabella-of-Angoulême-The-Tangled-Queen-Part-1

When the first cover proof was sent to me back in 2015 I was very nervous but excited. I had sent some images of Isabella but the designers at Silverwood had not used those, but they had taken the ideas of how important land and her domaines were to her. They used an old map of France and superimposed on that a quill pen and some sealing wax. And the town of Angoulême is there in the centre with Périgueux and Niort and Bordeaux all shown very clearly. The map wraps around the cover and if you look on the back you can see, just see, Guernsey or Guernesey. This really pleased me and pleases me because of my connection with that island. The Channel Islands also appear in the books, as they were part of the Duchy of Normandy.

The cover for Part 2

Isabella-of-Angouleme-The-Tangled-Queen-Part-2 Book Covers and Why They Matter
The cover for Isabella of Angoulême – The Tangled Queen – Part 2

This cover was decided upon very quickly, we all wanted to use the image of Isabella’s seal as Queen of England. The problem was that all the images on the web were of poor quality. I discovered that the actual gold matrix that makes the seal was in the archives in Angoulême. With the help of a friend a phone call was made to the archivist, and she was delighted to send a really good image of the sceau. We could use this as long as an acknowledgement was made. And there it is on the back cover of Part 2, Archives Municipales d’Angoulême.

Isabella’s seal is a typical queens’ seal. It is oval whereas kings’ seals were round. It shows her with flowing hair, a lily in one hand, a cross in the other with a bird above that. All of these are symbols of purity and fertility.  To read more about medieval seals see my post for June 28 2018.  

The cover for Part 3

Isabella-of-Angouleme-The-Tangled-Queen-Part-3 Book Covers and Why They Matter
Isabella of Angoulême – The Tangled Queen – Part 3

Again we knew what we wanted for this; I had some images of Isabella’s blazon as Queen of England, taken from Fontevraud where she was buried. The three lions of England and the red and gold lozenges of Angoulême joined together. We couldn’t use the images I had because of copyright, so an artist’s interpretation was used. In all three covers the map remains the same, a unifying theme and the spines now have 1, 2, and 3 on them.

When I took copies of the books to the independent bookshop in Angoulême, a bookshop near the cathedral where she was married to King John, the book seller stroked the covers and remarked how beautiful they were for Isabella Taillefer. Her family name is still used to this day in Angoulême. It is hoped that these symbols on the covers are compelling images that attract the reader. A quill pen, a seal, and a blazon. I wanted symbols that show that there is history in the book. I certainly did not want a headless queen for Isabella, I wanted something that showed her power and strength and position.

You can visit here for further information about my trilogy.

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