What can be done to avoid bad covers? What do you do?
I’m still in shock from the arrival, yesterday, of a box of the French edition of my novel, Mistress of the Sun. My heroine, Petite (based on the real-life and blonde Lousie de La Vallière), is portrayed as a woman with jet black hair.
Forget all the historical inaccuracies: that her head is uncovered and her hair loose over her shoulders; that she’s wearing what appears to be a ball gown on horseback. Forget that the ugly horse looks half-dead. Forget the fact that the cover screams: This is not a novel to be taken seriously! And that it seems to be aimed at young adults.
Forget the pages and the footnotes added.
Forget all that and just concentrate on her heroine’s glaring black hair!
What can one do? (In the contract I was given approval of the cover, but this was overlooked.)
Here are some thoughts for the future:
1) Ask to see the publisher’s catalogue before agreeing to sell the foreign rights.
2) Get some understanding of how this publisher “sees” my book, how they intend to position it.
3) Make a personal connection with the editor who will be seeing it through.
4) Provide a brief crib-sheet (in basic English) to the art department on possible approaches to a cover, including a basic description of the main character.
5) Ask when the cover will be ready. Remind them that you are to see it.
In short, get involved.
Not that there’s ever time! Does one just sign, let it go and pray for the best? This is not my first bad experience, but it’s a dilly.
Ginger, thank you. With respect to getting published, I think the ancient I Ching words apply: "Preserverence furthers." Good luck, and never give up.
My first novel is still a manuscript looking for an agent but reading your blog allows me to be prepared for the publishing process when it does happen.
I can imagine your shock at seeing a cover that communicates a totally different message about the story, but I appreciate your willingness to share the experience so other writers can learn and take note.
I agree, John. If only!
Lilian, the cover was supposed to have been shown to my agent and me before publication. An oversight. What a mess.
Oh I am sorry, Sandra. It's awful to feel that way about a cover. Could your agent act on your behalf to request cover designs for your review before being finalized? (Since it's in your contract and all!)
That is a distressing situation, but in my experience whereas the book industry may understand words, for the most part they do not understand design. I believe the author should work directly with the designer to create the right visual message for the cover(s) as well as the right layout for readability and impact for both print and electronic presentation.
Shauna, I think this will be a lesson for me to be more pro-active. I vetoed one cover for MISTRESS, but by that time it was so late in the process that there was only a week left for the art department to come up with something new. Not perfect!
That's awful about your U.S. publisher! But you're right: we work so hard and put so much heart into a work, it's a small death to see it represented dismally. I have three cases of books I'm considering pulping because I can't bear the covers. How can I even promote them well if I feel this way?
Thanks for the encouragement. x0x
My Canadian publishers have been wonderful about covers. Not my US publisher…had to fight, and I won. The editor retaliated by pulping 2500 hardcovers before the holidays — a mistake, she said. But never acted to reissue the book. Still, I have no regrets – if the novel had come out with her cover, I would have died.
Have caught many bloopers by requesting cover art graphic "options" be sent to me online EARLY in the game. Sometimes I need to request several times until I receive it.
I can't stand when foreign publishers use Google images or stock art. If you can google, so can I, and so can readers!
I have now seen several books with the same covers and I just hope their authors don't know. But how can you not, if you browse bookstores.
So far, I have been so lucky to have the best and most dedicated translators who have become friends. A translator knows your work in a very different, intimate way.
That seems wise, Jack, especially with respect to French (in my case). Note for the future.
Have you caught many bloopers this way?
my publishing agreements with foreign publishers include the clause (I insist on it in each case) that I must see the translated text before it gets pubd, and am entitled to corrections. Pays to know the language :)
cover art is out of my hands, though.