The Quirky Ladies is a group of eclectic (and dare I say quirky?) ladies who are passionate about writing romantic fiction. All types of romantic fiction...paranormal, fantasy, historical, erotic and contemporary. Bring it on!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cover Wars

There's a discussion going on right now at the Amazon Romance Community about how irksome it is when the cover of a book does not reflect the actual story itself. Some examples....the hero is actually terribly disfigured and he looks like Brad Pitt on the cover, the hero and heroine are Caucasian but there are African-American models on the cover, the heroine is a petite blond pixie-like woman and there is a tall brunette Amazonian model on the cover....etc, etc, etc. Other potential cover issues: they are tacky, poorly executed, embarrassing for readers to show in public, creepy, etc. I have seen readers give books a lower rating at Goodreads, Amazon, etc because THEY DIDN'T LIKE THE COVER!!!!! Jiminy H. Cricket! Which brings me to the reason for this much as authors say, "I'm going to ignore my hideous cover and just know that my writing is good and can stand for itself"-- the truth is....a book is the sum total of all of its parts and that includes the cover.

I see absolutely no reason whatsoever why authors should not be pushing for cover control in their contracts. Why not? Why does the publisher have the ultimate decision about covers? Why can we not have some input, work with the cover artists and make sure the artwork is accurate? Why can't this be a team effort instead of the authors being forced to accept whatever the publisher decides? "This is how it's always been done" is not an acceptable response to this question. So what? The publishing world is in the midst of a huge adaptation due to the advent of ebooks. It is possible for "The Publishing World" to grow and change and's a necessity in order to survive in this new technologically changing world. I think authors need to step back and think outside of the box. Just because we have never had input re:covers in the past, does not mean this is something crazy or unattainable. I think discussions should be initiated with agents and publishers, and authors should be included in the "total package"---for goodness sake, that's our book. That's our name on the cover. Allowing us to be included in the final product makes a whole hell of a lot of sense to me.

But maybe I'm just crazy.


Sherri Browning Erwin said...

I don't have cover control, but I do have some input on my covers, in every contract I've had. If I have a real problem with one, I can say something and my publishers have listened. Fortunately, I have liked all my covers well enough- loved others. I did have a minor issue with one, and my agent offered my viewpoint, and my editor agreed and we worked it out. So it's not all dismal out there.

But to be honest, I trust marketing/cover artists to do their jobs. I wouldn't want them telling me how to write, and I believe the publisher has a shared desire to sell books-- so the goal is never to give a book a hideous cover that doesn't work, though sometimes it happens, I guess. And there's so much more I'd rather fight for when I'm looking at a new contract, considering we all want to sell books. I'm not going to be adamant about cover control when I'd much rather negotiate a better royalty rate or retain certain rights, and you have to pick your battles. I'm not going to strain goodwill over something, cover art, that usually works out in my favor anyway.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Sherri! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. You are very lucky that you had some input when there was an issue with one of your covers. And you're very lucky that your covers have all been good. I personally think this issue should not be a big deal. The author should be allowed input so the cover is accurate. I also don't think this is an issue that is only applicable to romantic fiction. It should be true for all publications. Authors should be allowed input if they so desire.

Sherri Browning Erwin said...

Penny, sometimes we find ways to turn negatives into positives, too. Christina Dodd got a lot of publicity out of her infamous three armed woman cover. But generally, it would be pretty horrible to have a bad cover and now I'm afraid I've tempted the bad cover gods to look my way. LOL. Should I knock wood, or keep the faith?

Penny Watson said...

Sherri, it sounds like you have an agent who goes to bat for you when it's necessary, which is a great thing. I'll bet your good luck will continue!

Raven Corinn Carluk said...

Penny, you're not crazy. I wish authors had a little more control over their covers. Because the cover is part of the book as well.

I don't judge books entirely by their cover, but it does leave an impression on me. Like, if the cover is all action and dark, with big bold letters, I expect something to match. When it's instead a character driven fluffy memoir, I'm disappointed.

What I'd even like to see is authors and the artist working closer together. Not all of us are lucky enough to get Michael Whelan for the cover; our artist is probably not going to read the book and get a good feel for everything. Being able to talk with the artist, to give them ideas of what's going on, and what's important, and what the tone of the book is would help produce better covers.

EmilyBryan said...

My job as an author is to write. Period. Of course, in today's market I'm also expected to promote the book, but I have zero experience in cover design. I have to rely on my publisher's expertise for that.

To be honest, I was a little concerned about my newest release Stroke of Genius. It's a beautiful cover with a garden and classical statues, but it's so different from the headless torsos and clinches out there, I was concerned it wouldn't say "romance" to a prospective reader. I needn't have worried. The cover has already been nominated for an award at COVER CAFE.

Shows what I know.

And even a bad cover can be turned into a win. Anybody else remember how Christian Dodd rode her three handed heroine to bestsellerdom? Anything that gets people to pick up the book is a win.

Penny Watson said...

Hi Raven...I totally agree with you about author and cover artist working together. And, about the cover generating a first impression that may or may not sell the book. The readers have spoken, and I sure hope the publishing industry is listening!

Penny Watson said...

Hi Emily! Some authors are just not interested in cover design, and trust their publisher to do the right thing. That's okay, too, but I think Raven's point is well taken. If you write a light, fluffy book and the cover is dark and sensual, the readers may feel as though they are being misled by the cover. Even if you have no art background, it's a good idea for writers to have some let the cover artist know the book is a light-hearted historical or a dark, bloody paranormal, that the cover has the right "feel" to it.

Ashlyn Chase said...

I couldn't agree with you more, Penny! I can answer one of your questions. Why? Because publishers think only in terms of money. What is going to sell this book? The only thing they see when they look at a cover is an advertisement.

I've had a couple of very upsetting experiences when it comes to covers. I won't bite the hand that feed me by naming names, but lets just say I will try to get "cover copy approval by author" incorporated into future contracts. My agent said that's 'never done' but you know me...I don't mind being a trailblazer when it benefits the whole.


Penny Watson said...

Hi Ashlyn! But if publishers are only interested in money, then why are they producing covers that turn off readers? It doesn't make any sense to me. Good for you about working on your contract....I'll bet if you have good sales, then the publishers will be willing to negotiate that! (By the way, the cover of your latest book is absolutely adorable!)

Kama Spice said...

Hi, Penny! Thank you so much for this post. I think authors having more say in their covers might actually help boost sales. If the cover reflects the author's vision more closely, while still giving cover artists and designers control over the artistic elements, it could be a terrific combination.

My first book cover, for KESSA'S PRIDE, completely got my main female character wrong. She is written as "brown-skinned" and is depicted on the cover as white-skinned. I did my best in my descriptions to the art department, but clearly there was a miscommunication somewhere, either on my part or on theirs, or both. I'm sure these kinds of miscommunications are quite common and can't be avoided. But, perhaps with closer contact between author and art department there would be less ...?

I do love the feel of the cover and the very hunky, hot male cover model (VERY HOT), but I wish the female model more closely depicted the character I wrote. ::shrug::

The second cover for my book written in the same world, SEHRA'S HONOR, however, is AMAZING! Both models reflect the characters I wrote and the whole feel of the cover is sizzling. So, I'm thrilled with this one :D.

Dalton Diaz said...

I had an interesting cover experience. Illegal Moves had an ebook cover that I wasn't crazy about. It did, however, depict the book and the scene I requested. I just didn't think the guys were attractive, and the use of the mirror looked strange (again, used at my request). Everyone agreed, yet it is by far my best seller to date.
Bottom line - I find that I can get over a cover if it correctly dipicts the content. I'm not talking about physical aspects, but genre aspects.

Penelope said...

Hi Kama! I think having skin color wrong on the cover is a big no-no. It really irritates readers and is very misleading. I'm glad you love your new sounds great!

Penelope said...

Hi Dalton! I think it's great that many e-publishers allow writers input about their covers, but I don't think they take it far enough. There should be some give and take until it feels "just right"!