This is not my character! Has it happened to you too?

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Elenitsa

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This is the final cover the publisher chose for my short stories collection:

BKuvWO.jpg


I am angry on this choice, because I think it misrepresents my character, and I know I can't openly complain (or I can, but it won't change). While I appreciate that the publisher took care to find a Spanish-looking character of the appropriate period, this is not my character. Chago "El Moreno" was a swordsman, not a rifleman, and he was described so in all the stories. Besides, this is a man in his fourties, while my mercenary was executed when in his early thirties.

BKuBlm.jpg


The image in the cover on red, which was shown first to me, was provided by me and it is a painting in the public domain, The Cavalier by Alex de Andreis (1871-1939). This represents a young swordsman in his late 20s or early 30s. The closest approximation to my character I could find.


1) Which of the covers do you like more and why? (My friend said she liked more the publisher's choice, because the cover looks more modern.)

2) Has it ever happened to any of you too, that looking on the cover the publisher chose for your book, you want to exclaim: "It might be beautiful or at least OK, but it is from another book - this on the cover is definitely NOT my character!" ?
 

Maryn

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I have never been given cover art that conformed to the book's content. Nor have I had the chops to complain.

In the end, it's part of commercial publication. The publisher knows what makes a reader pick up or click through, and accuracy isn't on the short list.
 

Barbara R.

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It happened to me. I wrote a book called SAVING GRACE about a politician who starts out as a poor idealist and ends up as a rich hack, and the effect this has on his family. They decided to market it as women's fiction (Why? Not a clue) and slapped a photo of a rose on the pink cover. My contract gave me the right to "consult on," not to determine, the cover. (Yours doesn't?) I consulted loudly and often, and they changed a few details; but we couldn't agree, and in the end, it's a marketing decision.

You should speak up to your publisher. It might be too late, but there's always a second edition...
 

EMaree

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Giving your thoughts on cover design is a standard part of the process, it's not complaining. You shouldn't feel afraid to let the publisher know your feelings on the matter, though as Barbara said, it's a right to consult and not to determine.

You don't get final say, but you can certainly have *a* say, and you might regret it if you don't speak up before the readers do.

Our books and their representation is a big emotional topic, however, so definitely get a few trusted published writer friends to check your communications before you send them. You want to present your thoughts professionally, not defensively, which is tough when feeling angry.
 
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lizmonster

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You should speak up to your publisher. It might be too late, but there's always a second edition...

Absolutely this. The worst they can do is say no.

For my first book, the original model for the MMC was in his 20s. I had to point out that the MMC was established in the first chapter as being in his late 50s. (His age is actually a plot point.) They made the change.
 

Coddiwomple

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BKuvWO.jpg



BKuBlm.jpg


1) Which of the covers do you like more and why? (My friend said she liked more the publisher's choice, because the cover looks more modern.)

If it helps at all, I can give you an opinion based on my background in graphic design.

I expect that the publisher is more concerned with getting someone to pick up the book than nailing character portrayal. Next most important would be capturing the feel of your book. If someone reads your book, likes it, and then says, "hey, he was actually a swordsman!" Well, they already bought the book, right?

From that perspective, the publisher's choice of cover is better. Faces attract more attention than distant full-figure portraits. I'm not familiar with the painting for the red cover, but I'm pretty sure the original is much larger than a book cover! What works on a 3-foot tall painting doesn’t necessarily translate to smaller dimensions.

And check out the difference in eye direction. That’s an effect achieved by the visual lines in the image guiding the eye through the image. Engaging design provides an interesting pathway for the eye. Look at the image on the publisher's cover. See how the lines in the clothing lead up into the title and the type ends at the angle of the weapon, leading back to the seam and up again. The eye directors make a unit of the title and image.

Now look at the red cover. See how there’s nothing visually connecting the title and image, and the lines of the image don’t connect to the words in the same way. There’s no organic flow for the eye to follow. (The font is too casual and not a good choice for readability, IMO, especially in all caps, but that’s a different issue.)

I hope this helps a little. Remember that if no one picks up your book, no one will read it. I think the publisher's choice of image is much better, even if it’s not a perfect match for your character.
 

Chris P

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I'm sorry this happened to you. I agree, talk with the publisher and see what can be done.

The first cover for my novel had a character who was much too young for the MC. They listened, and changed to someone closer to the age of the character.

For what it's worth, in the future I will not even suggest covers, and leave it completely to the publisher. For the book above, I provided some suggestions for the cover, they followed them more or less, and it flopped. The developmental/copy editor hated the cover when she saw it, even emailing me privately to express her disgust ("Well, I hope you like it, anyway."). I completely fail at anything visual artsy. I can't even pick art for my walls or match a tie to a shirt. Seriously. The reception to my cover was so bad anything they would have come up with was better than anything I could have.
 

Curlz

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This is normal and has to do with marketing. It happens but even big names don't have a final say in what or who goes on the cover. Everything else is a matter of good will on behalf of the publisher, which means nothing stops you from talking to them, again and again and again... As for this cover in particular, I like the first one, that would be much more interesting for me as a reader to pick up. In the end, it's all about attracting the reader's attention and making them pick up the book. The cover is their first impression. With the two covers in the above example, the second one makes me think of an old-fashioned and boring book. So even if that cover does represent the character image better, it wouldn't do well to sell me the book.
 

Elenitsa

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I have never been given cover art that conformed to the book's content. Nor have I had the chops to complain.

In the end, it's part of commercial publication. The publisher knows what makes a reader pick up or click through, and accuracy isn't on the short list.

I don't have the chops to complain, either, because it is nothing to be done for this round. The two of us laureates whose works were chosen to be published by this publishing house were told that these are our final covers, ie no more discussion about it (and the launching is on 23-rd anyway). I told MY PUBLISHER that I liked more the red cover (the one his graphician made), but it doesn't count, since the one who publishes this particular book is not my publisher, but a partner publishing house who chose us two among the five laureates who received as prize publishing a short stories book in x copies (mine 100 copies for first prize, others 75, respectively 50). I don't have direct contact with the publishing house which is actually publishing this book.

You should speak up to your publisher. It might be too late, but there's always a second edition...

This is what I am thinking too. About getting a second edition, later next year, with another publisher, who will use the painting I provided for the cover. And it will have, in addition to the present short stories, 3 new ones, and it will also have a foreword written by a reputable critic.

And my publishers (the three publishing houses which got the books in my signature) do ask me for covers suggestions, especially because usually I write historical fiction and I know better which classical art images show the spirit of my stories. :) Only for the debut book they didn't, because I was too fresh. If my suggestion doesn't work due to problems with the image (dimensions, etc.), then I am asked to provide 2 other alternatives. (Of course, I suggest the main image only. How the cover itself embeds it, is a thing I have no say about. This time it shocked me that I received first a cover with the main image I suggested, then, out of the blue, a definitely different one which doesn't match the character except the nationality).

If it helps at all, I can give you an opinion based on my background in graphic design.

Thank you. It helps, because I have no idea about graphic design and I can't say I am educated in art, except the self-education one gets with visiting museums. I didn't understand very much from your explanation, but I understood that for some readers, the publisher's choice might work better from the marketing point of view.
 
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Cobalt Jade

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As a graphic designer too, I have to agree with Coddiwomple, even though the rifle is deceiving as to the correct period. I'm sure that if the publisher puts a few more hours into it, they could find a similar portrait in the public domain that doesn't have a gun.
 

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