Winter 2017

Passing through walls with ease

James McConnachie, Editor

For three years I have been inviting a different book-jacket designer, every quarter, to create a cover for The Author. Beginning with the legendary Jon Gray, for the Winter 2014 issue, we have published the work of some of the leading designers in the business.

I have had my own, personal favourites. Among them were Seth Godin’s image of books on a shelf turned spine-side in, entitled ‘Authors Matter’ (Spring 2015), Suzanne Dean’s massed crowd of sharpened pencils (Spring 2016), and David Pearson’s purely typographical treatment (Summer 2015) – which put the words first. A selection from three years’ worth of covers is reproduced in this issue’s special feature on book jacket design, along with commentary from the designers themselves.

The covers that have most inspired me, I realise, have been those that communicated something essential about this journal, and about the Society of Authors – as well as riffing on a theme from each individual issue. This is why I love this issue’s cover – by Clare Skeats. As requested in the brief, she captures the central theme of this Winter 2017 issue, which is the wellbeing of the author.

On that subject, we offer a thoughtful essay by the poet Julia Copus on poetry that is presented as therapy, and Simon Brett’s funny, touching and strikingly honest account of his struggles with ‘97th book syndrome’. We also have a practical piece on using voice-recognition software by Anne Goodwin. (We will feature other articles on physical and mental wellbeing in future issues.)

Skeats’ cover does more than illustrate writerly wellbeing, though. She also manages to express the central thought of Ahmet Altan’s glowingly intense piece, specially written for us – under circumstances that I shrink from contemplating – from his prison cell in Turkey. ‘You can imprison me but you cannot keep me in prison,’ Altan writes. ‘Because, like all writers, I have magic. I can pass through walls with ease.’

That comment and our cover both capture something essential about authorship and books, I think – something at the heart of reading and writing. I don’t want to pin down what that thing is here. For once, I will do that difficult thing for any writer, which is to resist putting my thought into words – and just let the image speak.

James McConnachie | @j_mcconnachie


In this issue...


  • Scooped - Richard Smyth
  • Plagiarism v copyright infringement - Alex Hardy & Christine James
  • Cover design interview

The writer at work — and play

  • The world's shortest stories - David Williams
  • Authors all-sorts at ScotsWrite - Merryn Glover
  • A writers’ festival - Samantha Collett
  • Vinny T Fair - James Mayhew
  • Breaking the spell - Tony Grice


  • The consolation of poetry - Julia Copus
  • The writer’s paradox - Ahmet Altan translated by Yasemin Çongar
  • Ninety-seventh book syndrome - Simon Brett
  • Voice recognition software - Anne Goodwin


  • Need to know
  • Out and about - Katharine Quarmby
  • To the Editor
  • Booktrade news
  • Broadcasting
  • Notices
  • Grub Street - Andrew Taylor