1. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Extent of Author Involvement Beyond Writing

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Void, Jan 4, 2015.

    I'm not entirely sure whether there is a thread about this already, since I checked the forums but couldn't really think of how to phase the question to find it if has been asked before. But anyway, this is something I have been wondering.

    To what extent do authors typically get to influence things like cover designs, typesetting, font etc. I'm obviously not talking about the big name writers who could just about demand the entire book be written in 24pt, triple spaced, center aligned, cyan comic sans and they would still have publisher tripping over each other to oblige. I mean just the average authors or first timers.

    Of course I'm not asking about whether people have complete control over such matters, but do authors typically get to make reasonable suggestions about stuff like typeface or cover art? Or is that the type of thing you get absolutely no say in?
     
  2. Amanda_Geisler
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    Amanda_Geisler Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Now I may be wrong, since I've never been through the process myself, but from what I've read, authors don't have complete control, they make suggestions or can flat out refuse something, sometime it can cause issues, but most authors are happy to oblige, especially new authors as long as they don't have to change their book and the cover at least somewhat represents their work.

    I am sure that some of the published authors here will be able to give you a definitive answer. But then it will probably vary from publisher to publisher, country to country. It was also vary depending on whether you have an agent or not too.
     
  3. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    Pretty much what Amanda says. I would add that it depends on the editor. Some editors will allow you to have some say on the cover design (giving you a choice of covers or asking for ideas), some may ask you for a blurb and if it's crucial for the book, they may ask about font choices or internal illustrations. This applies to first time authors as it does to best selling ones.

    And then there are editors who will control the whole show and the author just does the odd tweak to the text. That's just something you get used to in traditional publishing, but at least it leaves you time to concentrate on writing the next book.
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    My understanding from other authors is that cover design is typically the only place authors get any real input - typesetting and font, no. It doesn't bother me (or most authors, from what I can tell) because it's not my bailiwick. If I really hated a cover, or if I were doing some artsy-fartsy font thing in my book, then I'd probably speak up, but otherwise, I'd let the experts do their thing.
     
  5. SwampDog
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    SwampDog Contributing Member

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    Looking at several paperbacks, fonts are much of a muchness. My latest is in Plantin, an old style serif. I think readers expect a certain style - nothing outrageous. And who's best to know what readers prefer or what sells?

    A published friend of mine chose her jacket cover (hardback) designed independently - the publishers decided all else.

    I think it's never mind who wants what, but rather what is marketable.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on the size of the publisher you're working with.

    I work mostly with smaller publishers (Samhain, etc. - they're pretty big in the e-first world, but certainly not Big 5). With these smaller houses, there tends to be quite a bit of room for author input. It still has to make sense, but they're very responsive to requests about cover art, and I imagine they'd listen to me about typesetting issues, if there was a reason for me to get involved. They generally want quite a bit of input on the cover blurb, as well, which is actually a pain for me since I hate blurbs and want someone else to just take care of them for me!

    I'm working through my first Big 5 contract now, and things have still been pretty friendly, but without nearly as much input as I had with the smaller pubs. I think the larger publishers have better marketing machines (that's the reason we want to publish with them, right?) and the cover choice tends to be much more centered on that then on author choice. When it was cover-making time for my first book, they sent me a file with maybe twenty covers from other books they'd put out in a similar niche to mine and asked me which ones I preferred. That was about all my input. And I can't imagine asking them to change the typesetting unless there was a real reason for it - like, if I'd written a book with some artistic, creative use of fonts that needed to be represented in the finished version.

    Overall, for me, I'm happy to leave these details to the professionals. Even when they were asking me which covers I wanted, my first answer was "Which book sold the most? I want a cover like that one!"

    I think smaller pubs are more used to dealing with hobbyists, people who don't necessarily want to make a living from their writing and are therefore more focused on ensuring that the final version of their book is exactly what they want, rather than what the market wants. The bigger publishers? Again, authors go with them because of their marketing/distribution, so it wouldn't make much sense to ignore their professional judgement on how to best do those tasks.
     
  7. cutecat22
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    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Unless you self-publish. Then everything is under the author's control. But that doesn't mean that the author will get it right or be successful! Simply take a look at lousybookcovers.com for a bit of a 'what-not-to-do' lesson in cover design.

    Although, like most things, one man's crap is another man's cracker!
     
  8. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Oh god, save us from this madness!
    Those are truly horrible. People really need to learn to use Photoshop before they go messing around with that type of thing.

    As for the rest, thanks for the replies. It seems things are more or less what I expected (depends on the publisher, but most give decent say on cover design and negligible input on anything to do with type).
    I really not too worried about type, since I do trust them to do their jobs on that regard. As for cover design, I already have a cover that I intend to use (although if some professional comes up with a better one I guess that's fine to).
    At least I can say fairly confidently that if it's bad, it won't be the type of "so bad it's hilarious" that gets it put on those blogs (although that might count as publicity I guess).
     
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  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just don't get too upset if they give it a glance and move on. There's nice artwork and there's marketing artwork, and not typically the same thing, since they're serving two different purposes. :)
     
  10. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    Can't say I would be too bothered by it, since the cover isn't really anything special. Those abominations on the previously mentioned website are a good indication as to why people with meagre Photoshop skills should not under any circumstances attempt those kinds of ... I'm not really sure what you would call it. Photographic art?

    No, the cover I went for was a vector design of just a black background with the major faction's sigil above what I would deem some tastefully simple text underneath. Think something similar to ...
    [​IMG]
     
  11. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    You can negotiate things like cover design permissions during the contract signing phase (read your contract carefully before signing it, and make sure you are happy with all the clauses it contains!). Some houses are more lenient than others on this sort of thing. Typeface is something the designer (or whoever does the formatting) will control, though they will likely have to follow the strict guidelines as set out by the house, too. You see, many houses want all their books to have a similar "feel" to their design---part of their trademark. This is not always true, but it is one reason why authors are not able to choose their typeface.

    There are other crazy things, too, like permission to use certain typefaces that may be under copyright vs. those that are in the public domain. Eh, lots of things go in to a book's design, and this is not my area of expertise, but I do know that it's not just a simple matter of someone being a stickler.
     
  12. Void
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    Void Contributing Member

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    This is actually an interesting point I had not considered. But it does make sense and it sounds like the kind of thing large corporations would be likely to do.

    Either way, I'm not too fussed about typeface.
     

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