I will say very quickly, before any of my readers totally freak out, this is not a new cover for one of my books. Not even a recent cover. But my last post led to a discussion on book covers and author input, so I thought I’d use this truly scary example as a jumping off point.
This cover was the Norwegian edition of my third (and perhaps my personal favorite) novel, Secret Lives. I hasten to add that Norway has improved greatly in its book covers since then as you can see by the cover for The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes, below. When I saw the Norwegian Secret Lives cover for the first time, the only thing I could figure out was that the art director wanted to give her three-year-old a chance at the big time. I wonder if a single copy of this book sold.
But back to the real world and 2009. The reality is that authors rarely have a say in what goes on their covers. Some big name authors do, but even they will often sit back and allow the publisher to make the final determination, because while writers may know what people love to read, they may not know what will draw people to a book’s cover. As with everything else in art, different things draw different people. Publishers sometimes get it right and sometimes they don’t. I have to say that I’ve had some hideously bad covers in the past, but I believe my publisher, Mira Books, has found the “right look” for me in recent years–evocative and thought provoking–and I’m very pleased.
So do I have any input at all? Absolutely. Early in the process, I fill out a form that very briefly summarizes the story, defines the “take-away” message, and describes the characters. Then the various departments–art, editorial and marketing–meet and come up with a cover concept. Once the cover is complete, the publisher seeks feedback on it from the various departments and their main accounts. And me, of course. Aside from tweaking, however, it is very difficult to make changes at this point unless there is something seriously amiss with the cover. As is the case with this early Norwegian cover. I’m glad someone finally kicked the three-year-old out of the art department!
Thank you for the feedback you provided on the new cover for The Lies We Told in my last blog post. It was very positive and lets me know what appeals to you and what doesn’t. What touches me most, though, is hearing that you’ll read my books no matter what’s on the cover. While I hope my covers won’t disappoint you, it’s the stories themselves that I want you to love and remember.