adding images to novel, please weigh in


Last week, I showed some friends my novel Florid Eyes (very preliminary version) on iBooks in excitement. It makes me feel like I really am a novelist.

I know those friends are not gonna be my target audience of the book. They rarely read anything in English anyway, but some of them made a suggestion that I think may deserve some credits.

I get bored looking at blocks of words. Why don’t you add some illustrations?

At first I dismissed it right away, thinking it sounds ridiculous. I was like, If you don’t like blocks of words, you shouldn’t be reading. I’m writing a novel, not a comic for God’s sake!

How can I afford getting illustrators to draw for my book? If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t have to request for a deferral for my Ivy League admission. If you’ve been following this blog for the past month, you should already know I’m doing everything by myself except copyediting for this novel, from writing to cover design to typesetting.

A while later, though, I started thinking about adding photos in each chapter. I’ve been using several free stock photo websites when I look for photos to be used for my cover. Perhaps I could find something for each chapter. It is not technically impossible.

My question boils down to this:

As a competent writer, I’d like to think that my readers should be able to create imagining in their heads just by reading the words that I wrote. If I add any imagines, it may spoil the story for them because it strips away the chance for them to project what they want to see in their heads. I never needed a photo of Pemberley when I read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

I heard that in cover design, designers should avoid being too literal, like avoid putting a photo of the character on the cover because the reader will know what he/she looks like before reading even though it happens in romance novels all the time. I’m afraid if I add images into my book, I will risk being too literal as well.

But should I utilise what technology has given us? Perhaps Jane Austen did want to put a photo of Colin Firth in her first print, she just didn’t have the resources to do it in early 19th century? People do add photos to blogs (even I do!) to attract readers!

What do you think?


About Nicky

Nicky English is a journalist, an educator, a podcaster, a couch potato, a dreamer, and a child at heart. Learning is her passion, so is the English language, which she believes is the tool to unlock the door of knowledge. Born in Hong Kong, she received intensive writing training at The University of Iowa, where she double-majored in journalism and political science. Apart from the Hawkeye State, she’s lived in Chicago and Philadelphia. When she was a guest student at Georgetown University, she fell in love with Washington, D.C. She also has a Master of Arts in Communication. A little side note—she cannot imagine a world without her Mac and iDevices. Like many crazy ones, she hopes to change the world one day at a time.
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