How to make a book look good enough to read

Ruth HartleyBook Publishing, Bookbinding, Promotion, Reading, The Shaping of Water, The Tin Heart Gold Mine, The White and Black Blues3 Comments

How to be your own publisher

In the foreground is a half-full cup of black coffee, in the middle is a tray with coffeed pot and milk bottle, behind is a man reading a French newspaper

Ruth in need of coffee at a board meeting with John!

I don’t know what I’m doing! I’m learning on the job and wondering if what I do is make mistakes and then recover from them. The learning curve I’m riding gets steeper and deeper and the pressure to do it all at once keeps on mounting. Yesterday I was sent a cover design and a typeset sample of my next book. They are linked, of course. The font on the cover is used for the chapter headings inside. This is critical. Do I really like it? My designer, Spiffing Covers, tells me that he wants to brand all my books in a similar way. What does this mean? What do you – my readers- think of this idea?


Branding Ruth Hartley

What is being branded? Is it me the writer or Ruth Hartley’s books, or both? When I sold art in Zambia I discovered that art patrons often felt they had bought a large chunk of the artist too. Do readers feel this way about writers? I’m always curious about the writers I read but then I know that writers write about what matters most to them. It’s true that any really good book can stand on its own but in the present world of social media mash-up everything gets whizzed into the mix. If it’s me, I hope I don’t come out as gloop! Well – if you want to know who I am – see if my books can tell you that! Once you become famous your readers want to know what you eat and what films you like plus more intimate details – then you get trolled too!

Fame is not fun! Put that on your bathroom mirror! Not something that worries me yet!

That indefinable, ridiculous, categorisation – “genre”

Ruth stands behind a display of her published books with her new novel and imprint on display

Ruth at the Salon du Livre in Vic en Bigorre among the writers in English

The writers I love can’t be categorised. They are writers like Angela Carter, Ursula Le Guin, Doris Lessing, Salman Rushdie and Jeannette Winterson who write literature and refuse genre labelling. They are, of course, so well-known that all their books need to do to sell is to sit on a book shelf under the writer’s name. Unknown writers like me have to be put into a genre to be marketed and we have to make that genre obvious on our book covers.


This is my new imprint –

A large lower case a is coloured with a rusty orange and textured with bare branches. The words underneath say atypical books and the dots are rusty orange .

The logo of Ruth’s new imprint

What do you think of it? I will be publishing my books under this logo in future. I think the logo hints at what it means but in the end what matters, is what you think it means so your comments will be appreciated. Please do tell me what you think. Does it reflect the writer I am and give you an idea about the  genre I write

The cover shows the book title The Love and Wisdom Crimes with the author's name. Behind 2 stands of barbed wire is a thoughtful young woman and behind her lies District Six houses, a mosque, and Table Mountain.

The Love and Wisdom Crimes

Here, too, is the cover of my new book, The Love and Wisdom Crimes which will be out before the end of the year and which will be published at the same time as the poems from The Spiral Bound Notebooks that inspired it.

Book covers are important as Emma Darwin writes in her blog.

3 Comments on “How to make a book look good enough to read”

  1. Tia Azulay

    I love the imprint design for atypical books!

    The cover of The Love and Wisdom Crimes is also intriguing. I like all the elements and the composition… but with the dark text on brown background, I don’t know what the spine would look like; it might not stand out on a bookshelf. Do they show you the spine as well?

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