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.


6 Responses

  1. Lev, good for you, and my, how things have changed in a few years. Good luck with your Kindle books. LITTLE MISS EVIL, as I say every so often, is one of my favorite books.
    All the best,
    Pat Browning

  2. I’m with you! After years in traditional publishing, I’m enjoying the control of indie. For me it’s not so much cover design, though that is fun, as controlling the pacing of my career. I’m getting my second romantic suspense book out this week, whereas with traditional publishing I’d still be submitting the first one, trying to break into a new market after years at a children’s book writer.

    (PS –Hi from DorothyL. I’ve enjoyed your posts.)

    Chris Eboch, writing romantic suspense as Kris Bock

    • That’s great it’s working for you! Cover design was just one example, pacing your career is certainly an even better one! I did two original ebooks in a few months as opposed to waiting who knows how long to get them traditionally published.

  3. I know the problem, Lev, of covers that don’t work. St Martin’s once allowed a cover on my Vt (hardscrabble) farm series novel that showed a cow grazing in front of a house that resembled a southern plantation. And for another book in the series, a friend, seeing the cover in a bookstore, asked if I’d written a cookbook–when the book was titled Poison Apples. But like you, I picked my own covers when I turned the whole backlist into ebooks.
    Happily for Perseverance Press, though, I’ve loved both covers so far.

  4. Yes, Perseverance did lovely covers for me, too, but it’s even more delightful to choose one’s own art work. 🙂

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