Lately I’ve been singing the title song of Janet Jackson’s debut CD Control. Especially when someone asks me why I’ve launched some original ebooks after nineteen traditionally published books in a wide array of genres, from mystery to memoir.
It’s all about control. And as Miss Jackson says, “I’ve got lots of it.”
Few things are worse for us authors than being on the road with a book whose cover is disappointing, awful, or just drab. I’ve been lucky as an author in terms of my covers. Most of the time. Two of my publishers actually offered me a choice of cover designs, and one of them even put me in touch with the art director to talk about the cover. That’s pretty unusual. Even though contracts can stipulate “cover consultation,” that basically means they show it to you and you beg for them to make your name a little larger.
If you hate a cover, forget it, it becomes an albatross and you can only hope it’ll get changed in some way for the paperback. Disliking what the publisher shows you puts you in a very uncomfortable position. It’s a real challenge to offer constructive criticism when you’re appalled, and it’s even more challenging to keep your chin up when you’re ignored. I’ve only lost my temper once over twenty years and that was when an editor sent me flyers at a conference for my new book, and the flyers had a new, ugly cover I hadn’t even seen. I wasn’t consulted, I was insulted.
But even when I’ve had significant impact on cover design, a line often gets drawn. Remember that art director? She got very touchy when I suggested the title could be more legible. She gave me a long design explanation, invoking artistic principles I couldn’t follow, but it didn’t matter because she basically meant: No way.
With my two newest books, a Gilded Age historical and a Jane Austen mash-up, I found and bought the cover art, I picked the fonts, and I spent a lot of time on email with the designer adjusting each cover in various ways–down to the exact shade of rose pink used on the Rosedale in Love cover. It was a glorious experience, and it’s not over yet: I’ve started the process of getting my backlisted Nick Hoffman mysteries onto Kindle and Nook. The Edith Wharton Murders, The Death of a Constant Lover, and Little Miss Evil are now available, and two more are coming in 2012. Cue the video.