1. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    On Covers

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Anders Backlund, Jul 13, 2009.

    Just something I've been wondering about for a while: when a book gets accepted for publishing, does the author have any influence on what goes on the front cover? (Illustration, title font, etc.)
     
  2. morningside
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    morningside Member

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    I'm wondering this, as well, as I've already designed the front and back cover of my finished manuscript (and I have previous background with graphic design)...
     
  3. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know that with Twilight, the covers were designed by the publishing company and not by S. Meyer. Different covers were designed for books sold in other countries. Not sure why they do that.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    With smaller publishers you might. I can't speak for most, but the publisher I am currently working with did ask me what I like. With the bigger publishers, I doubt it.
     
  5. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    You'd think that, if nothing else, they'd appreciate not having to hire a cover artist.
     
  6. morningside
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    morningside Member

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    Exactly! And if the design were marketable enough, I can't see why they'd turn it down.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The cover is the packaging, and is primarily a marketing tool. The publisher may accept suggestions about the cover art, layout, etc, but in the end, their interests are to package the book for the best sales potential.
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's why you sometimes end up with covers that don't match the tone of the book at all. I'm not interested in Meg Cabot's books, but a librarian told me that the silly pinks and crowns gave the impression of something very different from what the book was actually like.
     
  9. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've had a lot of input on the cover of my forthcoming novel. But like Rei indicated, small presses are different from larger houses.

    I know one author with Bantam/Dell and another with St. Martin's press that with their first novels, had no input at all. They saw the cover art when it was finished.

    With some small presses, you can design your own cover art (or hire an artist to do the cover art), but the contract normally stipulates the publisher has final approval of the work.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as you can see from the above comments, it ranges from complete control to none at all... and it all depends on the individual publisher and how well-known [or unknown] the author is...
     
  11. OrdinaryJoe
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    OrdinaryJoe Member

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    Makes me wonder if an author has ever really despised the cover art of their book? I would think that control over the cover art of a book could be written into any contract, if your really concerned over it. Of course, I would rather have the publisher have control over it then lose the chance of being published.
     
  12. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, I know a couple of authors that have been more than a bit disappointed in the cover art of at least one of their novels. Sometimes in interviews, authors will comment on the cover art for various novels they've had published, and it isn't always positive, for various reasons.

    Just like titles, marketing consideration is often a factor in a publisher's decision.

    Terry
     
  13. daturaonfire
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    daturaonfire Senior Member

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    Reminds me of something Orson Scott Card said. He'd deliberately left out a description of his MC in one of his novels, because he wanted the reader to use their imagination. But his publishers had the artist draw the character for the cover....
     
  14. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I think this is the key point. The publisher, in the end, is out to make as much money as they can from your book, and the cover is a marketing aspect. You might think you know better, but they will have experts who know exactly what appeals to the target demographics a lot better than you do. I can understand how a potential author might want control over the cover as well, and I expect that a fair publisher would probably give the author some input on the cover, but my opinion is that it's foremost an advertising aspect, and you wouldn't argue with the publisher in regards to other advertising elements, would you?
     
  15. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    I honestly have no problem with someone else coming up with the cover for me (I can't think of any good cover for my novel, at all. It's possible it might never have one, XD). However, even though I don't mind giving up control over that it's another thing entirely if someone tries to make the cover give an impression that isn't the correct one for my novel. My condition would be: Design the cover, don't mess with the story's mood.

    I fear losing control of my novel entirely, though, that's partly why main publishers scare me a little. I have no way of knowing if they'll work with me or if they'll rip the story from my hands and make it something it wasn't meant to be.

    But, I do have to agree with Cog a bit. Everytime I'm in the bookstore it's usually the novels that have the most eye-catching cover that attract my attention (and then it's the synopsis, or sometimes it's the title first and THEN the cover then the story). But then that creates some problems because what's eye-catching for some might not be for others, and the ones whose attention isn't grabbed by the cover might be the majority of the target audience.
     
  16. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    I wouldn't mind giving the publishers the final word, them being the professionals and all, but I'd prefer if they were willing to at least leave it up for discussion.

    Even if I wasn't in position to make any demands, it would just be reassuring to me if I were allowed to suggest the motif, maybe recommend artists I like, or express dissatisfaction if I really don't think their choice would do my work justice.

    For the record, I've always like the idea of the covers on my hypothetical novels having kind of a Drew Struzan look.
     
  17. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    @Anders: Yeah, I know a few artists myself, but it would be nice if all publishers would work with writers. I understand that they're the professionals, but by calling all the shots and not letting the author have any say, to me, is kinda like art theft. Except in this case, the author can do very little about it, unlike the artist who got robbed.
     
  18. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    Weeeell, "art theft" is kind of a strong term to use. Of course our writing is important to us, but we need to remember that these are the people who make the actual economic investments.
     
  19. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a bimbo on the cover of my book
    There's a bimbo on the cover of my book
    She is blonde and she is sexy, she
    Is nowhere in the text, she
    Is the bimbo on the cover of my book
    — Mike Flynn
     
  20. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Once you've spent some time trying to get your novel published, and when you understand how difficult it really is to get a publisher to actually publish it, then I think you'll soften a bit in regards to the cover.

    After all, I do still believe that the publishers will have a better idea of how to manage the advertising, which is what the cover is all about it. The publishers' interest in your book is to make money from selling it- and they will have a lot more experience in what makes a book sell.

    I think describing it as art theft is a little too extreme, though I can see why you would have an interest in the cover. I just think that the focus maybe should be shifted a little more onto the manuscript, so the experts can worry about the cover.
     
  21. RomanticRose
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    RomanticRose Active Member

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    To the writer, the book is art, their baby, their masterpiece, a piece of their soul distilled into words. To the publisher, the very same book is a product -- and one in which they are investing a substantial amount of money. Most books don't even earn back the initial advance paid to the author. The publishers do try to tilt the odds in their favor by the choice of cover art and title.

    The author signs a contract that spells out who chooses the cover art; no one puts a gun to their head to sign said contract.
     
  22. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cover art is not about "art"; it's about economics. For that matter, everything about the layout of your book is about economics and marketing.

    Cost of cover art, choice of font style, selection of paper thickness, page size, binding quality...these issues determine the pricing of the book. Over-priced books don't sell. Books with interesting covers outsell other books in their genre. Books with small print do not sell well in senior markets. Books with lots of illustrations sell better in child markets. Point is, a publisher is motivated to make a profit and will balance all these issues to find the most cost effective cover for the intended audience. They're not interested in the author's "approval" (unless the author is a big name) and they ARE in business to make profits for both themselves and the author. They KNOW the intended market, and all decisions about producing the physical book will maximize possible sales...including the cover art.

    As far as cover art costs, I bid the cover for The Last Human War among the top graphic artists in the USA. Offers ranged from $1100 to $10,000. Ultimately, I found a young, highly talented graphic artist in Denmark who provided the art for my cover and website at a substantially lower price without sacrificing quality. His work has been complimented by many people and it clearly helps me sell books. As it is, my book is barely priced within the acceptable range for comparable sci-fi, so any of those other higher priced cover art graphics would have pushed the price of my book into an undesirable level and probably reduced sales. So, in answer to the OP, I was in charge of my own cover art and I quickly learned about the financial realities of designing and producing covers. I can also see why a publisher would not provide a run-of-the-mill author with control of that decision.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that puts a big 'amen!' to the whole debate, imo...
     

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