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  1. MustWrite
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    MustWrite Member

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    Why Authors should get to choose the covers for their books

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by MustWrite, May 7, 2014.

    I hope this doesn't come across as a rant but I think it's unfair that a major part of peoples first perception of a book, and therefore a big part of why they choose to buy it, (or do not!), is out of the writers control. Along with the title the cover design is one of the first things to catch the eye of a potential reader, and I believe the Writer should have some say in its design.
    Sure, the Publisher wants to sell the book, and they have the experience of what sells and have a big investment in the work. But a book is a very complex, personal thing. There are plenty of writers who are unhappy with the cover of the book they sweated over, but they have little or no input into how it will appear to the public.
    What say you?
     
  2. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I agree to the extent that an author should be able to veto a cover (within reason) if they really hate it or feel it misrepresents their work.

    However, authors aren't always designers, nor are they necessarily on top of what will sell to the market a publisher has targeted for their book. They need to be willing to give and take. As long as the book cover does reflect what the author actually wrote—both in tone and subject matter—I think the author should defer to the publisher on this one.

    I'd say cover selection should be a collaboration between author and publisher.

    If the author wants TOTAL control, they can go for the self-publishing option.
     
  3. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with @jannert. I have a hard time coming up with an example of cover art that I, had I been the author, would have found objectionable.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Mind you, if a publisher tried to market your serious historical novel as a steamy bodice-ripper there might be grounds for objecting... but then again, maybe not... :)
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I am reminded of this article - why an author should *not* have a say (or at least total say) on the book cover and a collection of the worst of those in the self-pubbed market: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-shumate/selfpublishings-worst-cov_b_2457689.html

    I mean, it's a pretty fine line to tread and in the end, one party must make the final decision, and I think it's reasonable it should be the publisher. I think a truly good publisher - one you'd like to work with - would want your feedback anyway. They might not do it exactly the way you want, but I don't think they would force a cover you absolutely hated on the book.

    A book is indeed a complex and very personal thing - that does not qualify you, the author, in cover design, unfortunately, nor marketing. It is a book - a product to be priced and sold. It is not personal, it is just business, and by virtue of handing it over to the publisher you're letting go of the fact that the book is only yours. It isn't anymore. It is something for the public.
     
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  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Without repeating what others above have said, a thing to remember: While writing a novel is a 'personal thing', publishing is also a business venture.

    Maybe check out covers of recently released works by a publisher. If the cover art and layout, and even titles, appear disappointing, then bypass that publisher, and suggest the same to the agent representing the work (which might end up being an interesting discussion).
     
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  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    (light bulb going on over head)
     
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  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    dinggg...
     
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  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I might ask @TWErvin2 here ...publishers often create a cover 'style' for a particular author, don't they? That's so that author's subsequent books will appear similar on the shelves? I've certainly seen this with genre books, but also with literary books as well. Even collections of poetry.

    @Mckk - those examples are hilarious. I especially liked the Irish one. And the one with the dog.
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I was disappointed once when I read what was supposed to be historical fiction and it did turn out to be a bodice-incest-S&Ming thing.

    Anyway, I'm not sure how the publisher portrays it matters sometimes. Look at Wolf Hall - apparently it got tonnes and tonnes of negative reviews because the readers were "disappointed" at the lack of bodice rippers, because Wolf Hall is actually a serious, historically-accurate (or so I'd heard) novel.

    Anyway, when a publisher does what you suggested up there, I think it's time to move on! Clearly their marketing department knows nothing.
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Writers have to remember that once that very personal writing is done, it's now business - impersonal and not individual. Not to pick on self-publishers, but look at some of the cover art done by non-professional designers. "Neat", "Cool", or "Pretty" doesn't always translate into sales. Let the professionals do their job. Yes, they fail sometimes, but not usually.
     
  12. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, often that is the case. It's a form of branding.

    For example, the covers of my First Civilization's Legacy Series, (Flank Hawk and Blood Sword) have a certain style/layout. Soul Forge, which is to be released in June, will also have a similar/consistent appearance.

    Some publishers, such as Baen books, if you check out their covers, have a consistent layout/cover art theme. They have a certain feel, with layout and colors and content, not only within a series, but even what they publish (to a certain extent) in SF for example.

    Many successful self-publishing authors with a series conform to this marketing strategy as well.
     
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  13. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Though they were all pretty bad, the cover for Immortyl Kisses was bad on many levels. Seriously, stop it with the y, people. That is the worst of Fantasy and Sword & Sorcery orthographic cliches. Spelling shit with a y doesn't make it more awesome; it just makes it more shytty. :rolleyes:
     
  14. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    It really depends.

    I've read something about McCaffrey and the pre-Whelan covers. Might've been something about her being happy once they started getting it right.

    I've also read something from an artist getting a really self-contradicting description and then giving up when she didn't get it the way the writer wanted.

    I would say that if the writer, publisher, and artist can get on the same page quickly, then they should try to work together. If it doesn't happen quickly, then sacrifice must be made.
     
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  15. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'd love to have a say but I don't agree that all writers should have a say. I'm pretty good at art. But a lot of people don't even have a smidgen of common sense about it. I come from a family of artists and the conversations I've overhead - with them talking with clients was a real eye opener. Generally people know what they like, but ask them to design it, assemble it or sum up what they want to convey and they're at a loss for words. People like that need to step back and let a team handle it.

    And someone whose a bit more artistic maybe of benefit but not always.

    I read somewhere Nabokov didn't want Lolita to be shown on the book cover. And since it was first published by Olympia Press that was kinda a given. When it was taken over by Putnam the cover is quite plain just some yellow graphics behind the title. I have no idea if he had any say in it. But over the years the covers ( even when he was still alive ) swung between plain & sexy. And eventually he started collecting them.

    Worry more about whether your book is going to be good enough for reprints - then you might you might just wind up with a cover you like.
     
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  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Marketing is in the publisher's sphere of responsibility, and they have the most at stake. The cover is a key component of marketing.
     
  17. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Considering how bad almost all of the covers are to self-published books, I think Authors should get off their high horse and let professionals in marketing take care of the marketing needs. Unless you're also a gifted artist with experience in publishing.
     
  18. MustWrite
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    MustWrite Member

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    Ok I admit I was wrong. Just because I happen to be an artist as well as a writer doesn't mean that other people have a clue. Lol I can't believe those covers- but perhaps the taste displayed on the cover actually matches the content?
     
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  19. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Sadly, that's often the case.
     
  20. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think the author should get to check for flat out inaccuracies. I read that Terry Pratchett wrote in the Colour of Magic that Twoflower had four eyes, (a common expression to indicate he wore glasses) but that the cover artist drew the character with literally four eyes.
    Except for things like that, the publisher and artist will probably know best.
     
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  21. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto all of that!
     
  22. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a difference between designing it yourself (like drawing it) and choosing cover art. I'd be all for me saying what I want for my cover and then having the publisher do that. There really (Within reason) wouldn't be much bad with that, if it works and is reasonable. But in no way should a publisher let the author draw the cover themselves. That's just a disaster waiting to happen (SEE: slideshow at end of the article posted).
     
  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's certainly the assumption. A tacky or amateurish cover will signal there is more of the same inside. That might not be true, but a lot of folks aren't going to bother finding out.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  24. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I think an Author should have a veto option, just to avoid mistakes by the publisher.
     
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  25. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    As an author you could always try to obtain a 'veto' option in the contract before signing--not likely it would happen unless you're an established author with a strong and growing readership.

    I am not sure what is meant by 'mistakes' but researching a publisher ahead of time, even obtaining a copy or two of their recently published works to look at the quality of the product (including the covers) should give a pretty good idea of what to expect. Remember, the publisher is in the business of earning a profit. If they don't they won't remain in business, so there's motivation to provide a solid cover. Well-established publishers that have been around for a while probably have a track record of not making mistakes when it comes to basic marketing, of which a cover is a major component.
     

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