Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
You’ve waited for years and envisioned a variety of potential covers for your “baby” book, the book you’ve been creating, modifying, rewriting, revising, and fussing over for years. At last, the email comes with the attachment that will unveil the cover. Ta-dah!
Oh, no! It’s awful! It’s unfaithful to every delicate intricacy you’ve woven into the manuscript. It’s, it’s, well, as one of my clients said when he saw the cover for his first book, “I want to kill it with a hammer.”
I thought he might be exaggerating. Then I looked at the cover and thought, “Could I kill it with a SLEDGEHAMMER?
Before we look at some covers that had to go through a bit of a metamorphosis to arrive at the final design, let me say that no publisher sets out to make 1) an ugly cover; 2) a cover that would hurt sales; 3) a cover that doesn’t convey the right message for a book. Most of the time publishers are uncanny in their ability to appeal to the market with just the right message in a cover. But every once in a while publishers miss the mark, and sometimes they miss badly.
What should you do if you are presented with a cover that’s shocking in its lack of accurate depiction of your book, that you want to “kill with a hammer”? First, find some samples from Amazon of what you had in mind. Send them on to your publisher with the suggestion that “We need to do some more work.” Second, don’t whine. Be professional and explain why the current version won’t work (besides that you don’t like it). Be specific. Third, invite the publisher to join you in a conversation to find a cover that works more adeptly with the content.
The first three covers below are part of a series. I’m showing them because I think it’s instructive to see how the look for the series evolved.
I adore the first book’s cover. It’s simple, clean and clever. Using the Let Them Eat Cake title, the designer chose to show petit fours rather than a cake. (Since the novel is about a woman who opens a French pastry shop, the darling French-named cakes are all the more appropriate.)
For the second cover in the series, the design veered in a new direction. Apparently the sales and marketing staff thought the cover needed people and to suggest more of a location (Paris, which admittedly is a pretty attractive setting for a novel). So they made a grand leap from the Let Them Eat Cake cover to arrive at Bon Appetit‘s cover.
I gotta say Bon Appetit’s cover disappointed me as soon as I saw it. The photo of the stack of pastries makes the cover seem jumbled to me. The colors of the pastries, their shapes, everything lacks artfulness. This would not appear in a cookbook or a foodie’s magazine. And with the cover divided in half, my eye can’t figure out where to go. Fortunately they still used the curly-cue font for the author’s name, but unfortunately the letters in Bon Appetit didn’t show the font’s best side.
For the third cover in the series, the better qualities of the designs on book 1 and book 2 were blended to create a banquet for the eyes. The top half of Piece de Resistance suggests love has been found–in Seattle, hence the Space Needle. The bottom half depicts a creative and yummy-looking wedding cake.
Okay, I want to dive into the feast that this cover suggests I’ll find in the book’s pages. And because of the way the colors carry over from the top half and the bottom half, my eyes easily move from one to the other.
Below are two cover options for the same book. Rather than spilling the beans about my thoughts, why don’t you tell me: Does either appeal to you?