Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Benevolent Dictator by Tom Trott + #GuestPost

The Benevolent Dictator by Tom Trott
Self published in the UK in July 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository (unavailable)
Wordery (unavailable)
Waterstones (unavailable)

Add The Benevolent Dictator to your Goodreads

Ben longs to be prime minister one day. But with no political connections, he is about to crash out of a Masters degree with no future ahead. So when by chance he becomes fast friends with a young Arab prince, and is offered a job in his government, he jumps at the chance to get on the political ladder.

Amal dreads the throne. And with Ben’s help he wants to reform his country, steering it onto a path towards democracy. But with the king’s health failing, revolutionaries in the streets, and terrorism threatening everyone, the country is ready to tear itself apart.

Alone in a hostile land, Ben must help Amal weigh what is best against what is right, making decisions that will risk his country, his family, and his life.

Meet the author:

Tom Trott was born in Brighton. He first started writing at Junior School, where he and a group of friends devised and performed comedy plays for school assemblies, much to the amusement of their fellow pupils. Since leaving school and growing up to be a big boy, he has written a short comedy play that was performed at the Theatre Royal Brighton in May 2014 as part of the Brighton Festival; he has written Daye's Work, a television pilot for the local Brighton channel, and he has won the Empire Award (thriller category) in the 2015 New York Screenplay Contest. He is the proverbial Brighton rock, and currently lives in the city with his wife.

Author links: 
Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

Guest Post: Tom Trott discusses book covers

It’s a phrase as well-worn as my copy of The Lady in the Lake, “Never judge a book by it’s cover”. It’s sound advice. Sound advice that absolutely nobody follows. (And when we’re not judging books by their covers we’re judging them by their titles. Or blurb. But anyway, back to covers.) It’s time to stop thinking of your cover as a chore, as a something to get out of the way.

When I made the first cover for my first book, You Can’t Make Old Friends, it looked terrible. I present it below for your delectation:

This is a cover that went on sale, I should point out. It was the cover for the book for about eight months. My approach to making this cover was simple: I wanted my book to look like every other detective thriller out there. Specifically I wanted it to be in line with Peter James’s Roy Grace novels (also set in Brighton) and Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. So, I asked a friend if I could use one of their atmospheric black and white photos of the novel’s location (a common rule set by James and Rankin) and found a suitably neon-ish colour for the main title. I had already Googled “common fonts for thriller books” and found a generic one to use. After that I made my name nice and big (so it would look like I was important) and voilà, a cover.

It was fine, or maybe it was terrible. (Somewhere in between?) The reason for this was my methodology: I wanted my book to look like every other detective thriller out there.

Then, a few months later I happened across a wonderful Viva Brighton cover. This cover captured so much of what I wanted, and when I looked up the designer and illustrator, Thomas Walker, I discovered that he did book covers!

We met to discuss what kind of thing I was looking for, what tone, what style; and this is when I realised something that I can since sum up in a simple piece of methodology: think of your cover as the first page of your book.

And what do you think of when you’re writing the first page of your book? Setting the right tone. Being distinctive. Getting the reader hooked. Giving the reader a sense of the characters as early as possible. Packing a punch.

So… we approached it this way. Tone: hard-boiled detective story, taking inspiration from the dime-novels of the twenties and thirties. Being distinctive: ignore what the big publishing houses are doing, throw in some colour and have nothing photographic. Getting the reader hooked: making the image unusual, worth studying, worth a closer look. Giving the reader a sense of the characters as early as possible: we used the dime novel-style banner for that. And what Thomas produced is one of the best damn covers I’ve ever seen (although of course I’m biased).

Suddenly it was being retweeted by other designers, and now my book had a distinctive voice. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from writing three books it’s never chase the market. If you do, people can tell, it feels cheap. And why should they bother reading a cheap version of something they can get a hundred of. Give them something unique, something personal, and immediately you’ve got their attention. Something you’re happy for them to judge your book by.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Tom Trott / Thrillers / Books from England


  1. The book cover is the first thing I notice. I've bought books just because I loved the cover and wanted it on my bookshelf.

    1. Same here and seeing the two examples Tom shows for his previous book really brought that home to me. I'd have ignored the first as just too generic for me, whereas I'm now keen to read the other covered one - even though it's the same book inside!

  2. Interesting post and what a great cover!

  3. I definitely think portraying the correct tone and genre is the most important job of a cover. Looking like all the other covers in a genre can be good because it makes the genre easily recognizable to fans, but I do like when books stand out because those same covers start to get boring and all blend together after a while!

    1. Exactly! I think a cover should set the tone, but also be distinctive