Book Covers and Wodehouse Steampunk

In between writing – I’ve just finished the first draft of my 41k Wodehouse Steampunk novella, Something Rummy This Way Comes – I’ve been working on book covers this month. I’ve got 5 to do in the next four months and every one of them is in a different genre. As luck would have it there’s been a fascinating discussion about book covers on the SFNovelists mailing list and how a cover should communicate the nature of the book to the reader.

When I was looking for ideas for What Ho! Automaton, my Wodehouse Steampunk anthology, I trawled the internet looking at images and book covers. The first image that caught my eye was this one by euclase at deviantArt.

It’s a drawing of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie as a steampunk Jeeves and Wooster. It seems ideal but… my alternate 1903 is not so full-on steampunk. Reeves would not wear clothes like that. In fact he’d spend the entire book scheming to remove such clothes from the young master’s wardrobe.

So, reluctantly, I moved on. One of the things I noticed about Wodehouse covers, and comedy in general, is that if you want a cover to say humour, make it a cartoon. You notice this with Urban Fantasy – stick a photograph of a woman on the cover with a tramp stamp and a weapon and the ‘kick-ass heroine’ box is ticked. But if it’s more a chick-lit urban fantasy then the photo becomes a cartoon. She’s a fun witch – more Samantha from Bewitched than a Xena, warrior princess type.

So, I thought I’d go with a cartoon and looked at all the various Jeeves book covers for inspiration. I don’t know about you but I didn’t find any of the representations of Jeeves or Bertie to be that inspiring. So I turned to the superb ITV adaptation of the Jeeves and Wooster books and watched the award-winning intro. This was more like it.

I then asked fellow BVC author, Brenda Clough, if she could do a line drawing of a Jeeves and Wooster type pair in a Zeppelin. She came up with the art, scanned it, and sent it to me. I then, using the wondrous GIMP tool, set about cleaning the image up – making the pencil lines bolder, removing smudges, changing the chauffeur into a gentleman’s personal gentleman, adding colour and finally an Art Nouveau font. The result is at the top of this post (click on the picture for the full size version).

What do you think?

Originally I was going to put author name on the Zeppelin but it didn’t fit well. One of things you have to consider when designing an ebook cover is how it’ll look as a thumbnail, as often that’s going to be the way a reader will first see the book and you don’t want a cluttered confusing image. But there’s still room to put something smaller in there.

I was thinking of ‘Reeves & Worcester’ – as they’re the protagonists. Or something to advertise their business like ‘gentleman’s consulting detectives.’ Or maybe ‘Wodehouse Steampunk’.

Or maybe leave it blank.

Chris Dolley is an English author living in France with a frightening number of animals. His novel – Resonance (Baen) – can be downloaded for free here. More information about his other work can be found on his BVC bookshelf .

Recently released from Book View Press: French Fried true crime, animals behaving badly and other people’s misfortunes. Imagine A Year in Provence with Miss Marple and Gerald Durrell.

International Kittens of Mystery. If you like a laugh and looking at cute kitten pictures this is the book for you. It’s a glance inside the International Kittens of Mystery – the only organisation on the planet with a plan to deal with a giant ball of wool on a collision course with Earth. Forget Bruce Willis and his team of miners. Send for the kitties!




Book Covers and Wodehouse Steampunk — 7 Comments

  1. I do NOT find Gimp an intuitive piece of software to use and quite often I’m pressing and clicking and nothing happens, but then, occasionally, I make a breakthrough.

    I think I’m using about 1% of what it can do. But I’m determined to master it.

  2. Hi Chris,

    I think that’s a wonderful cover — both humorous and appropriate to the story.

    The airship side does look a little blank. How about a coat of arms or a trademark or a favicon? A favicon would be perfect and then if you had your own What ho! website (or section of your own website) you could use it as a favicon.

    And if you figure out GIMP, please clue the rest of us in. I find it completely baffling, which is embarrassing. Word generally cowers at my feet, but wrapping my brain around graphics software is something else entirely.


  3. As a big fan of the Jeeves & Wooster series on ITV I know the look you’re after. Those title credits are seriously stylish.
    Perhaps the whole image needs a tiny byline along the bottom (or the top) saying something like “A Reeves & Worcester Adventure”. And I’d have the title as “What Ho, Automaton!” – slight difference in punctuation, but then I’m a punctuation pedant…
    Your typeface is spot on and the cartoon elegantly simple, I wouldn’t fiddle with it except to break up the big expanse of yellow, maybe with stitching or a window (not historically accurate, I know, but it IS a cartoon…).

  4. Perhaps you need a “Reeves & Worcester” monogram or logo of some sort. If it were the right shape and size it would fit nicely on the belly of the balloon!

  5. Lee: I think you’re right about the punctuation though I’m not totally sure as the BBC had a radio series called “What ho! Jeeves” and the BBC are usually pretty hot on grammar and punctuation.

    And, as punctuation goes, exclamation marks are a rule unto themselves:)