Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Appeal of Book Covers

Alright published authors, this question is for you. It may take me a while to get to it so stick with me.

While I was browsing the many tables and isles at B&N this weekend (ahem, mainly the YA section) I couldn't fail to notice some amazing cover art. And, on the contrary, some not so amazing.

In my mind, before this thought formed, I always had it in my head that when I found my rock star agent and went through the wonderful stage of revisions, then acquired a rock star editor, and repeat, I'd have two awesome individuals in which I would have formed a bond with, trusting them to know the story and believing in editor/publishing house to have the right illustrator in mind to convey that one, all-important picture that is to, in some form, set the tone of the book for might-be readers who are examining the cover art. And wow, was that a long run-on...

And then the thought came. I admired an awesome piece of art that was a book and said to myself, "I'd read this just because of the cover." Then, as I glanced down the stack of books on the "Newly Released" table, see another one in which I said to myself, "I would definitely not buy that one because of the cover."

Referrals as the exception, I have to wonder how many other readers react the same way? Sure, everyone has their own specific taste. What I like, Jane down the way may think as poor taste. Which finally brings me to the question: what if the publisher (it is them, right?) has a different taste than I do? What if the cover art is totally not what I'd imagined, even close to it, what happens? I've heard authors don't get much say in the art, especially debut authors, but do they at least ask for suggestions or your ideas? Just wondering.


  1. You'd probably get to suggest what you'd like, but final rule belongs to the publishing machine.

    I'm drawn or repelled by the covers too, in a big way.

  2. I haven't seen my cover yet, but in my case my editor asked my opinion on whether or not middle graders would know what Camp David was. I knew most of them wouldn't, and my editor agreed, so she told me they were working to somehow get a presidential feel to the cover.

    I was sent my jacket flap copy and back cover copy to look over, and was very happy with it all, particularly the back cover copy, which will be part of the design. I would not have come up with the concept myself, so I can see why other eyes are often necessary.

    From what I have heard from other authors with cover art, their input comes in after they are sent an initial cover image. If they really hate it, they say so, and if they have specific suggestions, those are often incorporated.

    Sometimes it doesn't do any good though. One author hated that the main color of the cover was pink, but so far I think the pub. company is sticking with it.

    I've also heard a writer shouldn't let themselves play the diva more than one time in the publication process, and if they are going to have a diva moment, it's best to save it for cover art, because it's so important.

  3. I've heard the advice that it never hurts to keep a "portfolio" of covers we like, something we can pass over with non-chalance and say, "These are kinda my feel." They can take it into consideration, while still getting creative control and the final say.

  4. Thanks for your responses and wisdom, ladies. Janna, that's a great idea!

  5. It varies from publisher to publisher, so there's no standard advice to give. In my case, I didn't know anything about the cover until I saw it put up online. It so happened that I liked it, but it wasn't anything close to what I would have imagined. Part of the deal with being a writer is that, hard as it sounds, you have to be able to give up some control over your work. While you're in charge when it comes to the words you write, everything else is out of your hands.

    I do believe, however, that you have a bit more leeway in the decision if you are an artist, or know an artist who can create the cover on the cheap. It may not be exactly what the publisher wants, but if they're going to save money and still be happy, they won't be as afraid to give it a try.

  6. I think you could have some say in it -- I've heard of authors tell publishers to change hair color on MC's pictured on the cover, etc etc. I wouldn't expect too much say in it though. But if it's an editor who really "gets" your book, I don't think you'd have to worry about too much. Hopefully.

  7. I'm sure you'll have some say. I mean you can't be too picky about it, but I'm sure if you make a few suggestions they wont mind. I mean its your book you're going to have to stick by it cover and all...


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