Choosing the cover for a self-help book

One of the pleasures of ‘indie’ publishing is having freedom to choose the cover image. I recently spent an hour or so browsing www.istockphoto.com in search of the best one for my new book Persons not diseases: a guide to mind-body-spirit medicine and holistic healing. With such a huge selection of titles now available online, it is often just a split-second glance at the cover which decides potential readers whether or not to ‘look inside’ a book, so it is important to choose a theme and colours which attract attention and convey the desired message.

But different people can interpret the same picture very differently depending on their emotional state, as I learned from a chastising experience some years ago when I worked in psycho-oncology at a hospital in England. I was giving a talk about coping with cancer and included a few art slides to represent different moods and attitudes of mind. My favourite was a colourful image of a trapeze artist high up in a circus tent. This was intended to symbolise positive qualities such as courage and joy, but one patient in the group thought it showed a woman hanging herself. When considering images for my new book I was careful to avoid anything which could lend itself to such a shocking interpretation, but on the other hand I did not want it to look too bland or sentimental.

I considered sunrises, seascapes, flowers and abstracts before deciding on a picture of a path winding up a green hillside, with blue sky above. I chose this picture mainly because I liked it, and I think it could also suggest taking ‘the illness journey’ through natural surroundings in a spirit of peace and hope. Talented designer Jeremy Taylor has now converted this photo into the cover image for Persons not diseases, which will be published as an e-book next month with a print version to follow later.

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