Monday, July 09, 2007

"I Hate My Book Cover!" 2

From agents who requested anonymity (#3 is my favorite, for obvious reasons):
  1. Authors lean on their agents differently. Some are by nature more self-sufficient than others. Different agents have different parameters. That said, I like to be in the loop as much as possible, both to keep tabs when things are going splendidly and to help course-correct as early as possible when there's a threat of author unhappiness--I'm there for the troubleshooting and for the celebrating. I hate having to catch up after a relationship starts to turn sour. I represent the author but don't automatically side with the author. If I agree with the publisher I do my best to argue the publisher's case. If I agree with the author, I'll argue on the author's behalf as energetically as possible, hoping in the end to maintain and manage overall harmony and a successful publication. I'd hope if an author wants the agent to be involved, the agent would step in. This applies to editorial or design disagreements.

  2. Usually, an editor will send the cover/jacket design to the author and agent at the same time. I will await the author's response before coming in with any opinion of my own. You can negotiate for cover/jacket consultation for the author in the Agreement with the publisher. Most publishers will not grant an author cover/jacket approval. There are exceptions, of course, for major authors.

    I think an author should involve her agent in any dispute with the publisher regarding cover/jacket design, publicity, or editorial issues, etc. That's the agent's job, really. The author should remain above those issues with the publisher. You want the author/editor/publishing house relationship to be a happy and healthy one. It's the agent's job to advocate on her client's behalf. It's okay if the publisher takes issue with the agent, not so much if the publisher takes issue with the author.

    Also, it's important to remember that sometimes the publisher knows best. They're the ones selling the book. They may think their cover works--and works well. So, it's always good to remember that. Authors are generally not cover designers.

  3. C'mon, you know the answer to that: Authors should always ask their agents if they have any question or problem with their publisher. It's our job to work with our clients throughout the process, not just to sell a proposal or manuscript.

    Who the f&#% cares about "ruffling feathers" at the publishing house? If the cover sucks, an author and his or her agent should do whatever it takes to get it improved.


John Elder Robison said...

Well, I'm both an author and a (non-publishing) business owner, so I have have a different view of things.

But to me, the cover is the thing that initially draws viewers across the store to your book. A good cover reaches out to people.

How many book writers have the artistic skills to make a cover, too? Not many. How many think they/we do? Lots and lots.

Now, publishers have whole staffs devoted to cover design. They know the importance of a good cover. Authors - they are on your side!

Publishers want more than anything to sell books. They know the importance of a good cover. For Look Me in the Eye, my publisher showed little focus groups all sorts of ideas before settling on the design we have now.

For an author, it's like your baby daughter bringing home this outlaw biker on a date. What!! No one's good enough!! Well, you may feel the same way about the cover.

But before you raise a big fuss, think it over for a few days, and then talk about your objections calmly.

Mister Mxyzptlk said...

I love that #3 started his/her sanitized expletive with a letter instead of the traditional exclamation point. Narrows the possible choices.

Joan Kelly said...

I think I had the most enjoyable bad experience with book cover issues, ever. When the publisher sent me the cover art, it made me scream in shock, and then laugh for a good ten solid minutes. It was so horrible - but God, I needed the release of a hard laugh during that time period. Bittersweet. Anyway, I talked to my agent and asked if he thought it would hurt the art people's feelings if I sent them a photo of the general "vibe" I thought would work for the cover, something that might inspire a different idea than the one they'd sent me. To my surprise, everybody - agent, editor, art department - loved the photo so much they asked if I would mind if IT became the book cover. (I'm in the picture, and naked, and it's related to the book's content, so the whole face-recognition thing isn't so relevant.)

I'm with #3, even though I didn't feel angry at the publishers - if the cover sucks, you have to do whatever you can to get it fixed. I'm relieved I didn't have to lose my good mood about the whole thing in order to get what I wanted, but a bad mood is way better than a bad cover.