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Thread: What can you do with a mediocre cover?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin missteddy16's Avatar
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    What can you do with a mediocre cover?

    Hi, all.

    I joined a couple years back. I have stopped in throughout the long process of getting my book from a first draft to a soon-to-be-released series.

    I just had to vent, because I was sent the cover recently and . . . I feel so let down by my publisher. It just is a big slap in the face to spend years working on a project only to get a cover it looks like some highschooler Photoshopped, mashing together a romance novel cover and a paperback Babysitter's Club cover from the 1970s.

    What can you do when a publisher, for whatever reason, gets so set on a really mediocre idea? My book has a multitude of good locations and scenes to choose from, and the artist picked the most generic, boring concept. Overdone . . . and done better before.

    I feel like it is being doomed to never get the audience it deserves because it has been completely misrepresented. I really believe my book will never overcome its cover, no matter how hard I try to sell it. I'm so depressed.

  2. #2
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    Do you have any ability to discuss this with your publisher?

    (Also, I assume this is a YA book, but I'm moving it to Novels anyway)
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW Moon Daughter's Avatar
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    I have never been in that situation since I am not a published author, so my suggestions are based off of inexperience and may be completely inaccurate. However, if I were you, I'd simply talk to the publisher and/or your agent (if you have one that sold the novel to that publisher), and address your concerns. I know often times authors don't have much of a say, if at all, about what their covers look like, but I don't think a publisher would completely ignore their author's concern either. They may or may not change it if you were to voice your complaint, but you never know until you ask. Just make sure to be polite, clear, and professional. Good luck if you decide to pursue getting your cover art changed!
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    i luv you giant bear statue AW Moderator Kitty Pryde's Avatar
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    One thing to ponder is that the author is not in the best position to know what cover will sell copies. There are a lot of covers in every genre that I would classify as "Apallingly Fugly" and yet they draw in their intended audience. A cover isn't really supposed to capture the magic and wonder and uniqueness of the book, so much as persuade the people who will like it to purchase it.

  5. #5
    living in the past ishtar'sgate's Avatar
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    Definitely discuss this with your publisher. I didn't like mine either and although I didn't get things entirely my way it was an improvement over what they started out with.

  6. #6
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by missteddy16 View Post

    What can you do when a publisher, for whatever reason, gets so set on a really mediocre idea?

    assume their marketing dept. thinks it will sell best that way, and hope they're right.

    My book has a multitude of good locations and scenes to choose from, and the artist picked the most generic, boring concept.
    To a writer, the cover should represent the book, but this is NOT the cover's purpose. To a marketing specialist, the cover needs to entice potential readers, and part of that is giving them a cover that automatically tells them what sort of book they're looking at. (See all of the back-tats on Urban Fantasy girls or half naked people on romance titles.) It's not meant to be generic; it's sales strategy.

    Overdone . . . and done better before.

    See above.

    I feel like it is being doomed to never get the audience it deserves because it has been completely misrepresented. I really believe my book will never overcome its cover, no matter how hard I try to sell it. I'm so depressed.

    I would hope that you aren't trying to sell the book on cover alone. Isn't your publisher helping you at all?
    As others have said - talk to your publisher, if your contract allows for any sort of leeway with the cover. But remember, the cover isn't there for you; it's there for the readers who will buy your book.

    btw - is your publisher a large house or a smaller one? That can make a difference. Big houses have divisions and departments for everything.
    Last edited by Cyia; 04-25-2012 at 08:28 AM.
    <---- NEW BOOK (Snazzy new cover coming ASAP.)



  7. #7
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin missteddy16's Avatar
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    It's a big one. And my agent and I did pipe up when we saw the FIRST cover, which was like they hadn't read the book at all.

    I guess I am just realizing that they don't give a crap about my book at all. Otherwise, they would have tried harder to make it look upmarket. It isn't even up to par with most other books in its same genre. It looks like a children's book cover. It's a complete mess -- the wrong readers will buy it, and will be so annoyed when what they thought they were getting turns out to be something else entirely.

  8. #8
    Soldier, Storyteller Linda Adams's Avatar
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    Not sure if this will help, but Harlan Coben had to deal with a horrible book cover. It was a thriller, and the cover was of a football with blood around it on a football field. Ms. Snark talks about what he did to sell the book to book sellers.
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  9. #9
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by missteddy16 View Post
    It's a big one. And my agent and I did pipe up when we saw the FIRST cover, which was like they hadn't read the book at all.

    I guess I am just realizing that they don't give a crap about my book at all. Otherwise, they would have tried harder to make it look upmarket. It isn't even up to par with most other books in its same genre. It looks like a children's book cover. It's a complete mess -- the wrong readers will buy it, and will be so annoyed when what they thought they were getting turns out to be something else entirely.

    Seriously, you DON'T know why the marketing department chose the cover they did, but it's not because they didn't care about your book. If they didn't think it would sell at least enough to warrant whatever advance you were given, they wouldn't have bought it, and they're not going to throw their investment away by giving you an intentionally lackluster cover. Whatever's on the cover is something they think will sell books. If you disagree, speak to your agent and your editor, but don't phrase it like you did above (and be careful phrasing it like that here, where several agents and editors hang out and read, even if they don't post. No one is quite as anonymous as they think they are.

    Of course, this being a second cover, you may not have much recourse; they've tried to give you something that made you happier, and it didn't work. I know of at least one book recently where this happened - a YA steampunk - that the author hated several of the samples and the publisher finally had to tell her the final one was "it." But when they did the cover reveal, the response was so negative they went back and redid the cover one, last time. So there's still hope.

    The fact that they gave you a second cover should tell you they DO care about your book. I, of course, don't know what your advance was, but books are prioritized by how much the publisher pays for them (generally; there are always additional factors). I'm not sure how accurate the figure is, or if it only applies to the UK (as the poster here who mentioned it is from the UK) but he said that publishers generally spend $0.5 on the dollar, per dollar paid of an advance for marketing the book. If you got a decent, or more, advance then there's no way your publisher is going to let your book out into the world with a cover that will sink it.
    <---- NEW BOOK (Snazzy new cover coming ASAP.)



  10. #10
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by missteddy16 View Post
    It's a big one. And my agent and I did pipe up when we saw the FIRST cover, which was like they hadn't read the book at all.
    Have you discussed this latest cover with your agent?

  11. #11
    Knight Templar richcapo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ishtar'sgate View Post
    Definitely discuss this with your publisher. I didn't like mine either and although I didn't get things entirely my way it was an improvement over what they started out with.
    Off topic: I just saw the cover to your novel -- the painting is fantastic in my opinion. I'm not a fan of the black strip with your title running across the top or the strip at the bottom with your name, but the painting works for me still.
    Last edited by richcapo; 04-25-2012 at 06:21 PM.
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  12. #12
    At the computer, opening a vein GFanthome's Avatar
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    I agree with another poster who mentioned that you and your agent should discuss this with your publisher but be very careful in how you word your discussion. Try to keep emotion out of it.

    While I have not yet had a novel published, I do admit that as an reader, the cover of a book plays a part in affecting whether or not I'll buy the book. That said, I also read the inside cover to see what the story's about, and to get a feel for the author's writing, I usually open the book to whatever page and read a couple of pages.

    It's always worth your while to plead your case, but if the publisher won't budge, try to make the best of the situation by promoting the heck out of your novel. If it's well-written and a good story, your readers will find you.

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  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW Debeucci's Avatar
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    I would get several second opinions first tbh. Not saying you are, but you **could** hypersensitive to your book. I know I am.

    Also, how large is your publisher? It matters because many small publishers don't have the resources for a top grade artist. You have to manage expectations based on that.

    However, if it is really as tragic as you say it is, and you've cried wet fat tears over it, definitely talk to your agent, and if possible discuss with your editor contact at the publishing house.

  14. #14
    OUTCAST is out now!!!! Toothpaste's Avatar
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    If you feel it misrepresents your book, then you and your agent have every right to say so. I would also recommend you offer ways that the cover art they have chosen could be improved upon without just tossing the whole thing away. Also compile a series of links to covers you think would be akin to what you want.

    Covers are a big thing for me, and I have encouraged others into fighting for them in the past, pm me about this. Can you send me the cover itself?

  15. #15
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    Generic covers clearly signal the genre and can actually help sales. I would suggest showing the cover to some experienced authors in your genre before deciding it is terrible. It is nice if you like your cover, but more important that it promote sales.

  16. #16
    Not a new kid folkchick's Avatar
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    it looks like some highschooler Photoshopped, mashing together a romance novel cover and a paperback Babysitter's Club cover from the 1970s.
    Sounds like my cover. But I did it on purpose because I love anything 70's and that's my book's setting. My publisher was going to provide one, but being into art I went ahead and made one myself, submitted it, and they approved. The back cover is really cool--very Paul Jenkins.

    Anyway, not trying to convince you to love yours. I'm just saying it might be a new trend to break away from the thousands of covers out there that, while very professional and clean looking, are all starting to look similar.
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  17. #17
    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    If you want to do something about this, you have to prepare.

    Work out exactly why you don't like your cover; and work out how it could be better. Find half a dozen books with covers which work in the way you want your book cover to work, so you've got something to back yourself up with. Find a couple of images which you think might work too, so you can show your publisher some specific examples of what you'd prefer. Write down, as briefly as possible, what you don't like about your cover, why you don't like it (big hint: you think it'll reduce sales) and how you'd like it changed; and use your examples to illustrate your feelings.

    Make it clear that you understand the publisher knows more about this than you, and that you don't intend to be a nuisance, but that you are concerned.

    Ask your agent to check that you've not been inflammatory or rude, and that your passion to get this exactly right comes across as positive and good.

    And then ask your agent to forward your email to your publisher, with her own note supporting you.

  18. #18
    resident curmudgeon
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    Writers are almost always the worst possible people to decide what cover goes on their own book. At this point, you may be able to do nothing. Next time, talk to the publisher in advance, but realize the cover they choose will probably be better than the cover you want.

    It's best to let the marketing department do its thing, which is finding a cover that will sell the book, even if you think it's ugly. You do what you do best, which is make what's between the covers as good a sit can possible be.

  19. #19
    Untold stories inside Ralyks's Avatar
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    I was unhappy with my first cover for my first novel but didn’t seem to have much choice. I actually received reviews that said something to the effect of “never judge a book by its cover…” The publisher realized the cover was deterring sales and replaced it in the next printing with a better cover. I wish I could say the same for the back cover blurb…

    I had a small publisher. If you have a big house, I presume they know a lot about marketing? Maybe it's not as bad as you think? At least try the discussion, I'd say. Good luck.
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  20. #20
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    I don't know if it's any comfort, but this site

    http://www.goodshowsir.co.uk/

    shows what good company you're in, and how many really good books have had really bad covers. There's a good bit of sympathy for the authors, too.

  21. #21
    practical experience, FTW Al Stevens's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    Find half a dozen books with covers which work in the way you want your book cover to work...
    Preferably ones that have sold well, because that's what gets the publisher's attention.

  22. #22
    Travel biologist, piss-poor fluffer quicklime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jamesaritchie View Post
    Writers are almost always the worst possible people to decide what cover goes on their own book. At this point, you may be able to do nothing. Next time, talk to the publisher in advance, but realize the cover they choose will probably be better than the cover you want.

    It's best to let the marketing department do its thing, which is finding a cover that will sell the book, even if you think it's ugly. You do what you do best, which is make what's between the covers as good a sit can possible be.

    1. this.....that's why they pay Merketing in the first place--haven't seen your cover, but in general I'm inclined to side w/ Marketing

    2. barring a pair of books by Stephen Brust I bought at age 12 or so, with a cool-assed dragon, I have yet to purchase a book based on cover. Reviews, yes. Blurb? yes. Word of mouth (including here)? yes. Cover? no.
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  23. #23
    I'm already a real writer. Katrina S. Forest's Avatar
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    Speaking as someone who would be pleased as punch to have a book with almost any sort of cover coming out from a big publisher...

    You signed a contract with this publisher and put the marketing of your novel in their hands. To some extent, you've got to trust them to do their job. If they didn't like your book, they would've handed you a rejection letter. They didn't. They handed you a check. They asked you to write a series. They clearly expect to make money from this.

    Give your publisher a little credit -- they don't have the time or resources to buy up manuscripts they don't care about.
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  24. #24
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quicklime View Post
    1. this.....that's why they pay Merketing in the first place--haven't seen your cover, but in general I'm inclined to side w/ Marketing

    2. barring a pair of books by Stephen Brust I bought at age 12 or so, with a cool-assed dragon, I have yet to purchase a book based on cover. Reviews, yes. Blurb? yes. Word of mouth (including here)? yes. Cover? no.
    http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n1/n5591.jpg

    and

    http://www.isfdb.org/wiki/images/8/8f/BKTG22151.jpg

    I'm betting?

    'Cause I did, too. The books were pretty good, as I recall.

    But yeah, basically, I will squirm with sympathy over a bad cover, but it won't stop me from looking at a book.

  25. #25
    Makes useful distinctions Lady Ice's Avatar
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    I agree with previous posters. If it really bothers you could raise the issue with the marketing department- in a tactful and professional way. You don't want to come across as arrogant or spoilt- just imagine if the marketing department had given you advice on how to write your book. You would probably be a bit pissed off.

    It doesn't do any harm to ask or inquire, if you are polite about it. Perhaps you could ask them why they chose this cover? It might be that they have a good reason for doing so.

    I'd be interested to see the cover as well
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