Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Covers!

I haven't posted much from a combination Jewish internet-less holidays/illness, but that'll be over in a week (the holiday part and hopefully the other part). Please know that if you post a comment past 6:15 pm EST tonight, it might not be approved until Saturday night.

Every once in a while, we get someone who's made their own cover. Either they've self-published already and are sending a copy or a copy of the cover, or they just designed a cover for what they hope will be their published novel. Let me say this: We love it. Why? Because they're so hilariously bad that we get a chuckle before moving on to the query, which is the only thing that concerns us anyway.

No, you do not get to design your own cover. I remember long before I worked in publishing and was submitting manuscripts (none of which were accepted), and I had wild dreams of designing my own cover. I even went into Photoshop, but at the time I wasn't very good at it and didn't come up with anything. I thought I could do a better job than those awful people who make covers using stock images (i.e. public domain) and something to make the author's name look shiny. Well, I was wrong. Unless the author has a master's in artistic design, with a speciality in commercial design for the book market, the cover will suck. So hard.

Oh man do I love them. There's the memoir covers made using a personal picture with the title written over it using Microsoft Paint. There's the self-drawn fantasy covers with the woman with impossibly large breasts standing beside the hero. There's the person who thinks a photograph of an empty building would look nice as long as they went a little nuts with the bevel/emboss function of Photoshop. And, last but not least, the person who pasted some photographs and newspaper clippings and drawings to a piece of paper and did a color photocopy, so it looks like some kind of collage.

Yes, you can not like professionally-done book covers. Many authors and readers don't. But you probably couldn't do better.

21 comments:

Deb said...

At least the women on the covers didn't have three arms, as happened with one mainstream NYC publisher some years back...

Pity. The cover image was of an otherwise nice looking blond woman, although she could be very appealing if the reader is a three-armed alien.

Anonymous said...

I'd love you to talk about when authors hate their covers. Nothing they can do about it, right?

AC said...

I'm interested to find out if the author has any say in the artist who does their cover? Is it possible to suggest an artist to the publishing company? Or do publishing companies work from closed pools of artists?

Zany Mom said...

I agree. I don't think I've ever seen a self-published book with a catchy cover design.

OTOH I've sure seen a few in the bookstores that leave me scratching my head (ie they do not appeal to me in the least).

But then, I'm likely not their target audience, either.

Chumplet said...

I helped design my own cover, working with the assigned artist. It's a small press, so I was allowed to offer my input. I was one of the lucky ones. Comments have been nothing but positive.

The publisher may not allow such freedom for much longer, so I consider myself lucky. It helps that I'm a graphic artist by trade.

I really get a kick out of some of the awful covers, though. Especially the badly photoshopped ones.

Anonymous said...

It's true. Graphic design is hard. I went to college for it for a quarter and a half and decided it wasn't for me, and even with the limited amount of knowledge I gained there, I realize how tough it is. Becoming a good designer takes as much study and practice as it does to become a good writer, and I am quite happy to leave my cover to the professionals.

Quidrides said...

One of my mom's best friends is a bestselling author whose latest book just came out like last month. We got to hear about many parts of the process, including picking a cover... The publisher gave her a ton of images to choose from. She narrowed it down to two or three, then they completely ignored her choice and came up with something new. She liked the concept but pooh-poohed the actual image this time, so they sent her a second one to which she acquiesced, but she still doesn't really love it.
And she's a national bestseller, so she has at least some pull with the publisher, but she still didn't get to directly pick.
...
What would you, as the Rejecter, do if you liked the book proposal AND you liked the proffered cover? Die of shock? Or actually consider using the cover?

ORION said...

I will say that two days after Putnam bought my book they asked for my ideas for the cover of LOTTERY. I sent my ideas and they actually incorporated them into what became the actual cover. The artist Amy King did a FABULOUS job.
So there are times the author is asked.
For my UK cover I was asked if I liked it and they also took my suggestions seriously.
I think it depends on the publisher.

BuffySquirrel said...

My friends and I sometimes play around with covers. It's fun. But we don't submit them anywhere.

I remember a writer being really pleased about his publishers buying his art for his cover. It made me sad, though, because what it said to me was that the publishers either didn't care about his book, or had no idea what they were doing.

Antony said...

Really? They're never good?

After I got enough positive feedback on my last novel, but no sale, I decided to set up a website and put it online. As one of the formats I offer is a pdf, I decided to create a cover.

I'm rather pleased with it too. But then I'm a professional Photoshopper, and I know enough to not include it in a submission to a publisher or agent. I'll concentrate on the writing.

That said, are they ALL bad? Have you ever seen a good author-submitted cover?

Anonymous said...

Funny... I don't know what you look like in person, but when I read you, I hear Mary Louise Parker.

Marissa Doyle said...

A little computer literacy can be a dangerous thing, I guess.

I'm on pins and needles right now awaiting the cover for my upcoming book. I do know it will be photo-based, not illustrated...so have no idea about author input on artists.

I was asked if I had any ideas for it, and I politely communicated them...but I don't much care if they use them. Honestly, my publisher knows a heck of a lot more about what covers will sell a book than I do. So long as there aren't any three-armed people on my historical YA novel...

Anonymous said...

AC,

Generally, no, you don't get to choose the artist either. Unless you're working with a small press, and most of the times not even then. You and your agent MAY get to give suggestions, usually after the cover art is already complete.

I wonder what in the world makes authors do this. Do they have to control every aspect of their projects. Which makes me wonder if they're difficult to work with, thinking their words are gold.

joan said...

I designed my own POD cover. I've got a degree in Computer Animation -- an Associate's, though, not a Master's, so my book cover is only somewhat laughable, rather than hilarious.

I do tutor in Photoshop, though, and I always advise my tutees to steer clear of the "artistic" effects. That way lies madness.

Anonymous said...

What if your manuscript had been initially accepted at a publishing house that created a cover for it, even if the house decided to not print the book after all?

Could something like that be suggested to a new publisher, especially if the author liked the very artistic, professional cover?

donroc said...

Big name writers need only name and title on the covers, it seems. The last Harry Potter cover falls into the category of dreque, and no unknown writer would have been happy with it. The less known one is, the better the cover must be. That my new and small independent publisher is a graphic artist who either desogns or supervises all covers, and she did a great one for my horror novel coming out 1 november and another for my historical coming out in 2008.

Heather said...

Like AC, I'm curious about author-suggested artists.

I have a professional artist friend. She's done interior work for several roleplaying games (she did a lot of the work in the Serenity RPG) and some stuff for some major publishers. She's good... very good.

I'd love for her to do a cover... she's good enough to get commissioned stuff for professional publications like White Wolf.

If I couldn't get permission to use her as a cover artist, what are the odds of including interior illustrations in a first-time book? Even just one or two?

let's get real said...

Hey, I'm an artist, and I have all these great pictures I did. They could illustrate a story. And I've got a friend who writes stories for her kids. Even though she's never been published, she writes really good. So, maybe, like, I should send my pictures to an art director, and if he likes them, I can say, "Hey, my friend is really good and she can write the story to go with the pictures!" Doesn't it work that way?

Anonymous said...

Yep. I've done the whole create-your-own-cover thing, but I wouldn't dream of sending it anywhere. I realize that it's horribly bad. I did it just for fun and, well, I was procrastinating actually writing the story. :-)

Hmm. But maybe I should take them down off my website. I don't want anyone to think I'm actually serious abou them.

Sandy

Anonymous said...

How long does a YES!!! take? It's been two months since I've sent a revised manuscript to an agent who suggested changes. She really likes the changes so far, thinks my writing style superb, likes the fact that I'm open to change, but still no "yes" or mention of exclusivity. Though she did mention some more tweaking...

Linda said...

I do presentation design at work, which requires a lot of graphic work. Not just anyone can pick up PhotoShop and a clip art library and make graphics magic happen. I'm continually shocked how many poor graphic choices people make in their presentation; images that are goofy, silly, unprofessional, or just plain ugly. Worse, until the boss objects to the graphics and sends them my way, they think they made great choices!

I've always thought POD covers were horrible and amateurish looking. Whenever I run across an author's site, I can instantly tell if the author is POD published just from covers. Even for the better covers, there's a certain quality that's missing.