Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"I Hate My Book Cover!" 6

From Rosalie Siegel, International Literary Agent, Inc.:

The author should involve the agent when she is unhappy about cover art.

First and foremost, agents put a clause in every contract that gives the author, if not approval of the jacket design, consultation. So if there are problems in this regard, they are not only a matter of taste, they can become contractual issues.

Authors care more about the cover of their book than publishers sometimes realize. The most difficult situations I've encountered in thirty years of agenting have to do with persuading publishers to meet authors' requests for a different jacket.

I suggest to all my authors going into the publishing process that in the event they have an idea for their jacket--or possible illustration in mind, or in their top drawer, that they would like to see on the jacket--it should be taken up with the editor very quickly, at least by the time the manuscript is delivered. Worst-case scenarios are when an author loathes a jacket and the publisher has to go to print. This must all be discussed in a timely fashion.

Recently I find that publishers are intent on pleasing their sales reps for the chains. We sometimes hear that a particular cover design must be used to please the marketing people, or the stores.*

The important factor is the author. The book is the author's baby. It must be clothed in a manner that is pleasing to the author as well as the publisher and his sales reps. Agents are authors' advocates; so yes indeed, I get very involved in advocating for my authors when it comes to jacket art.

The late Laurie Colwin chose the cover art for her novels. She was deeply devoted and thankful to her publisher for this privilege. She often mentioned to me how much it meant to her to be able to do this.

It usually is not the publishing entity whose feathers are ruffled when an author doesn't like her cover, but rather the specific art director or "marketing" person who is behind the sample offered to the author.

One of my worst experiences was with a first novelist, who loved the sample cover she was shown. I loved it also. It was sheer perfection. Right before going to press, the art department realised that they had not cleared permission to use the artwork on the cover, and they took it off, and went with other artwork that was truly insipid. This was a catastrophe--to go from such a gorgeous jacket to such a mediocre one because nobody had thought to obtain permission for the illustration on the jacket. Since the art department had come up with this cover, it never crossed my mind that they hadn't cleared permission to use this exquisite drawing.

An author should involve her agent with a problem with the cover, because our function is to be problem solvers, and to negotiate tricky situations. From long experience I know how deeply authors feel about their jackets, and how they hate it when they feel the cover misrepresents them and what the book is all about. An agent will do her diplomatic best to get a cover changed for an author.

*The stories you've heard about "She Who Must Be Obeyed" at B&N are true. --Bella


Writer, Rejected said...

When my book came out in hard cover, the art was okay, but not great. The sad thing was the title. The marketing team changed it at the last minute, much to everyone's dismay, and chose a less good title. But agents are helpful; the cover art was really great for the soft cover, and my agent really went to bat to make sure it was going to be good. Nothing could be done about the title, though. What can you do? You really do get a quick picture about how little is in your control. In some ways, it's best to be zen about the entire process. Don't you think?

Bella Stander said...

Either Zen or 12 Steps:
With the serenity to accept the things you cannot change, the courage to change the things you can, and the wisdom to tell the difference.

Anonymous said...

This is an old post on your blog, but maybe you'll still see this...

I've heard that the only time an author can use his/her OWN art on the cover is if they self-publish. Is this true?

Bella Stander said...

No, but the publisher's art director has to think the author's artwork is appropriate to use.

I know of several commercially published authors who helped design their book covers and/or found the artwork used on them. However it doesn't happen all that frequently.