Saturday, 12 April 2014

What goes onto the back of the book?

One of the questions that we authors often face in interviews (or wherever) is "How long have you been a writer). For me, it's quite easy to answer. I actually have the evidence. Let me explain.

I started writing books when I was about five. I know, because I still have the books. Well, when I say "books" I mean pieces of paper stapled together, but for a five year old, I reckon that totally counts as a legitimate book.

I used to write books about everything. If I spent a day out at the park, I wrote a book about it. If I went on a family outing, I wrote a book about it. Whatever happened in my life would be the inspiration for a book (to be honest, I'm not sure things are any different now).

These books were generally scrawly drawn pictures (hey, I said I was a writer - I never said I was an artist) with a minimum of text (hey, I was five years old). However, there was one thing I always put a heap of effort into. The back covers.

Then (as now) I saw the back cover of my books as a wonderful marketing opportunity (not that I knew what marketing opportunities were back then). Inspired I think by Little Golden Books, I used to draw the covers of all my other books onto each back cover. Which ultimately led to a problems.

With every book that I wrote, I had more books I had to add to the back cover. But not only that. I also had to go back to every other book I'd written so I could add my new book to their back covers. This began to get pretty time-consuming. After a while, I think I was spending significantly more time updating back covers than I was writing new books. Some of the later books were barely more than two pages in length. I'm pretty sure this is what ultimately ended my first attempt at becoming a writer.

This came back to my recently, after I put out my last novella, Scrawling. Now being so aware of the potential for marketing in a book's back matter, I spent quite a bit of time not only placing information about my other books into it but also going back to the other books to add info about Scrawling. It gave me a very strange feeling of deja-vu.

Funny how the more things change, the more things stay the same. 


  1. I’ve read about writers like you, the ones who start churning out books not long after they’ve learned how to write. It bothers me a little that I was never like that. I wasn’t even a voracious reader of books. So how come I ended up being a writer? What I was growing up was a collector and that’s never changed. I love sets of things—comics, bubble gum cards, records, books—anything where I could hold the entirety of whatever it was in my hands. I remember paying £2 for a copy of Spider-Woman #2 (which is really not a very good comic at all) simply so I could have the complete run (the cover price was 35¢). When I look now at the kind of writer I’ve become you can see the collector underneath everything, a need for order, to make sense out of things. Of course my own personal collection won’t be complete until I die so I won’t be able to hold it in my hands or then again maybe I might. I suppose it all depends on if I dry up before the end. I’d like to think that the poetry if nothing else will still keep dribbling out—horrible image I know—right to the end.

    1. Hi Jim,

      I think I was a bit of a collector myself but not so much any more. Much more about quality rather than quantity for me now.