Your editor sends you the JPGs in an email. “Here is the cover design for your book. We all think it’s great!”
You eagerly open the file and . . .
Ugh. Your stomach thuds, you feel like maybe you are getting the flu.
Here is one of those difficult transition moments I’ve written about before. When you were writing your manuscript, you were the master of your universe.
Now, you are a member of the team and have far less control. The journey of taking a manuscript to become a published book is filled with these experiences.
The cover may not be what you’d envisioned. Take a deep breath and stay calm. Your initial reaction may not be the best.
Most publishers want to hear the author’s ideas for a cover design. After all, you are the expert on your book and you (should) know your market. But unless you are a bestselling author, your contract probably says you have cover “consultation,” rather than rights to “approval.”
Your best recourse is to act as collaborative partner. Remember that publishing professionals see the book cover as their expertise. Book cover designers spend their lives honing a visual language for connecting with readers. They also design with issues in mind that you probably have not considered—for example, that a cover should look good as a small thumbnail on a mobile screen.
That said, we’ve seen our share of disappointing covers. If this happens to you, here’s what I suggest.
First ask yourself a tough question: Do you object to the cover because it doesn’t fit your subjective aesthetic preference? If so, this argument alone will not leave you in a strong position. Instead, ask yourself Will this cover speak to the right market? If not, be prepared to explain, specifically, why.
- Call your agent. A good agent will be happy to give an objective, and experienced assessment and also to act as a buffer between you and your editor.
Ask your agent to arrange a conference call with your editor to express your reservations, politely, directly, and with respect.
Show some examples or provide specific suggestions for what you think would be a better direction. Use your best communications skills and begin by pointing out what you like about it. (Come on… there must be something good about this cover.)
If you do not prevail, move ahead and try to let go. It may truly be out of your hands (at least until you get a second chance with the paperback). Focus instead on what you can control. Move on to preparing a great website and publicity plan. There are so many things you can do to help sell your book.
For those of you who are self-publishing, by all means hire a professional designer with experience in book jacket design. The cover is too important to be an amateur job.
And by the way, many industry folks were quite taken by this bold book design in 2016. Yes, the cover print is upside down. The subtitle is on the back! What do you think?