Choosing a book cover

Tonight Brian Eno gave a brilliant talk at the BBC 6 Music annual John Peel lecture. His theme was the importance of art and culture and that it wasn’t just about contributing to GDP or getting a job. Early on he came up with a very telling phrase: “Art is everything you don’t have to do”. It’s the extra mile we go as human beings, beyond the necessary.

How true that is, and it justifies all the time I spend on this blog – and my music book, “I Was There – A Musical Journey”, which I have now finished. Just have to compile some kind of index, design a cover and find a printer. Then it will be ready to give to friends, though it’s still a way from any commercial publication.

I’ve been playing around with photos for the front and back covers. The front I’m quite set on. In 2014, I saw Fat White Family at Latitude, in the i-Arena. I took a few snaps on my iPhone which were completely distorted by the flashing lights. But they gave me a subject – the lead guitarist. I love the pose, the big hair, the rawness. I’ve distorted it further, with room at the top for the book title.

Here’s the sequence from the original…




For the back cover I thought about nicking the sort of thing Bob Dylan did on “Bringing it all Back Home” and Oasis did on “Definitely Maybe”. Other than themselves, a few iconic objects spread about the place. Albums to the fore. And my guitars, of course. So I tried some variations. Then I thought, what about me playing guitar? A bit pseudy, but why not?  I got Kath to take a few snaps on the iPhone.

So here are a few options. I’ve numbered them and would be interested in any views you have on what you think would work best.

1 and 2 – a bit of trim and fade.


3 and 4. Books, West Ham scarf and trainers make an appearance. Too much information, possibly.


5 – spot the cameraman


6 – Keeping it simple. But with whole of guitars and photo of Kieran at young age sneaking in. And Daddy’s little monkey, which Isabelle gave me one Father’s day.


7 and 8 – focusing in.


9 – Bowie plectrum on Radiohead box set cover. Sums up quite a lot.


10 – just the symbolic records.


11 – me! With beer.


12, 13, 14  – Me x 3! Without beer. I kind of like this and the original (12) is now on my Facebook and WordPress photos, instead of some crappy iMac shot I took in haste back when I started. Having said that, I make no claims about my guitar playing. I strum a few chords – that’s it.


I think I’m favouring 1 or 2 and 12-14 right now…

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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10 Responses to Choosing a book cover

  1. tonystower says:

    The Bowie plectrum is brilliant. I love that photo, but it might imply that you’re only writing about Bowie and Radiohead!

    Number 13 is great. Moody B&W and it gives a sense of being an auteur. Locked away, writing and strumming the chords to the tracks of your years. Either way, I can’t wait to read it!

  2. dc says:

    No to 11-14 -it’s a bit too “free love on the free love highway”. You’ll be taking your guitar to the office next!!!

  3. Dood says:

    Haven’t seen that magnificent Gervais clip for years. Gareth’s interjection “She’s dead” always cracks me up.

    Slightly distracted by that intervention. Maybe some thoughts on the cover to come.

  4. Aha! So that’s you.

    Congratulations on completing the book! I quite like the Bowie/Radiohead combo for the back cover.

    • John S says:

      Indeed it is me! Finished first draft of the book back in January. Three edits later almost ready to roll! Then, if I want to try and sell it, lots of quotes to clear. Going to see if I can get someone to do that for me.

  5. Resa says:

    If the back cover is “about the book” then I like 10 the best so far. Are there any legal issues about using photos of someone else’s image or their intellectual property?
    A spoof could be good, and keep you lawsuit free!
    I like the B&W pic of you for “About the Author”. This could be on an inside flap, or on the back of the book.

    • John S says:

      Absolutely right about the copyright issue Resa. I’m hoping the first step of just printing the book and giving it to friends, with no commercial transactions, won’t be regarded as any different to me just sharing a draft and saying what do you think? I will be checking that with a lawyer who specialises in copyright. I may go for something different for the front cover anyway. Changing my mind all the time!

      The bigger issue will be when I try to sell it, especially if I just do it myself. Clearly then I will have to clear all quotes and pictures, or edit them out. And that will beg the question, is it worth it? But for now, I’m ploughing on. I’ve finished it and it’s there to be read. And I’m rather pleased with it, no matter what anyone else thinks!

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