Event report

March 2008 meeting

Report published 18 March 2008

Event took place on 18 March 2008 - read event entry »

The panelists addressing the meeting

Matt Bates, Louise Willder, Catherine Jones, Nick Halliday

Katie Fforde presenting the 2008 Katie Fforde Bursary to Henriette Gyland

Katie Fforde presenting the 2008 Katie Fforde Bursary to Henriette Gyland

After a welcome from chairman Catherine Jones, the first item of business was the announcement of Henriette Gyland as this year’s recipient of the Katie Fforde Bursary.

In fact, Katie said presenting this award was far more about pleasure than business.
The KFB is given to those who are very nearly there with their writing—and to prove it, a glance at the previous names on the trophy shows a high proportion have indeed been subsequently published.

Introducing the ‘Judging A Book By Its Cover?’ panel, Catherine remarked that jacket covers are a hot subject for debate amongst writers, because they are the one thing we have very little control over. She was therefore delighted to welcome Louise Willder, who is a copywriting manager for Penguin, Nick Halliday, a freelance jacket designer, and Matt Bates, the buyer for WH Smith Travel.

Louise said she really tries to get the flavour of a book into the blurb on the back cover—but she has to stop herself giving too much away or customers won’t buy the book! She read out various examples to show how the style of the blurb changes according to who the edition is being aimed at.

Nick (himself an author/illustrator of children’s books) caused a gasp when he said he has never read a book for which he has produced the cover art. This is because the jacket design is required so far in advance of publication that the book has frequently not been finished yet. Instead he has to rely on a brief from the editor. He produces several different concepts for the publisher to choose between, then refines the one selected.

Matt told us that he is offered five or six hundred new titles a month, of which he is only allowed to pick ninety-five. Although he is an avid romantic fiction reader, he cannot possibly claim to have read everything, so covers do play an important part in his choice, after big names and hot topics. He displayed examples of covers he particularly likes, and ones which have done well in his outlets. He also explained why he thinks some styles do better than others—and showed us some which don’t!

It's a fact

In 2012, sales of romantic fiction in the UK reached £112m. In 2013, this rose to £120m