The Book Cover Argument

It’s been a while since my last post, so I thought I would post a quick update regarding my own writing before I get into the main topic.  I’m currently busy writing a new paranormal murder-mystery entitled The Testament Stone, which should be ready to publish in about a month.  If you want to be notified when it comes out and get one of my books for free, simply sign up on my reader’s list here.  On the marketing front, I’ve recently joined Nick Stephenson’s dream team network, where authors can network with each other and run joint promotions.  I believe it is currently open exclusively to members of the first 10,000 readers program (another great Nick Stephenson program), which you can find out more about here if you are so inclined.

Now, on to the book cover argument!

One of the often overlooked arguments in favor of publishing your own work instead of going with a traditional publisher concerns book cover art.  In a traditional publishing arrangement, the standard contract stipulates that the publisher, NOT the author, has final control over what the cover looks like.  It would be a mistake to believe that the publisher’s main goal in selecting a cover for your work is to create a cover that best represents the spirit and content of your work, be it a novel, novella, or picture book.  I think it is safe to say that, in most cases, the goal of the publisher in selecting a cover for any book they publish, is to MAXIMIZE SALES.

Now, as a writer, you may be thinking – GREAT!  I want to maximize sales too, let them have at it!  But what happens when the cover design they select is something you consider to be a mis-representation of your work, or worse, a total betrayal of the spirit of your work?  I came across an example of this recently in an article published in Poets & Writers magazine by author Steve Almond.  In the article, he cites an experience he had recently concerning how his publisher handled his cover ideas for his recent book Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto (Melville House, 2014).  Steven had campaigned for a violent and combative image, but his publisher disagreed:

“My logic was that a dangerous book should have a dangerous cover.

The publisher disagreed. He expressed concerns that a violent image would turn off female readers and might prevent the book from being stocked in larger venues, such as Costco. A draft of the proposed cover he sent along some weeks later consisted of the title atop a stock photo of a shiny red football helmet sitting upside down.

In the end, our views of how the cover should function were entirely incompatible. Even worse, the process of trying to negotiate these differences eroded all sense of good faith.”

For good or bad, the first thing most people notice about your book is your cover.  Many people (including myself) often make a visceral decision over whether to investigate a book’s content further because of how they perceive and judge the cover art.   Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, your work is a work of art – that’s certainly how I see my own work.  The cover is also a work of art.  I personally want 100% creative control over the cover art of my books, and as an indie publisher of my own work, I do.

I’d love to hear what you think about this topic in the comment section below.

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