August 6, 2012

A Writer's Life - Cover me up!

Sometimes I really do wonder. Mostly along the lines of ... what were they thinking!? As much as it's a matter of personal taste whether you like a book cover or not, some covers are bound to make anyone run away screaming. The sad thing about this is that often the actual novels are great, but the packaging they come in doesn't exactly make you want to pick up the book in the first place.

So, how much of a say do authors have when it comes to cover art? 

I guess with self-published authors it's a save bet that they are usually the ones to decide. Some might be quite crafty and skilfully photoshop their way to a decent cover, while others will rather pay a cover artist to bring their vision to life. Then, inevitably, there are those who may be great when it comes to writing, but horrible when it comes to creating their own covers.

On the other side we have authors whose books get published through a publishing house. Now here's where things get a bit blurry. I've read author interviews before and admittedly this has always been a topic of special interest to me, so if this question hasn't been answered in that interview, trust me to ask about it. So yes, there are publishers who will work real close with the author to bring that baby on the road. Cover artist and author will actually communicate with each other to get the cover just right. Author happy, publisher happy, reader happy. Something like that.

Yet I'm pretty certain that in a lot of cases the author will have little to no vote when it's time to slap on that cover. Sometimes this will work out just fine, then it doesn't. And what I personally find worst is when big publishing houses will buy stockphotography which, as has happened more than once, then ends up on several book covers and, adding insult to injury, also in the same genre. Better not buy a book without checking the title, folks!

One such example has been going around the blogosphere already - the slightly altered yet instantly recognizable girl on the Dark Angel and The Vespertine covers. Not shown here, but featuring that same gal, would be the Aussie cover of The Goddess Test. If anyone should have seen her on yet another cover, feel free to comment.

I'm afraid this isn't the only example out there. For anyone interested, there is a great post about this topic, featuring several such cover twins, to be found on Blackplume.

Yet another pair I've found is the one below. The zombie novel Flu and a German horror dime novel for teenagers show the same creepy eyed girl.

I really do wonder what authors think about this, especially when it concerns their own book. And that's not even mentioning what happens when your book goes global and publishing houses in other countries will customize covers to local taste (or at least to what they think will lure in more buyers).

Do you think authors should have more of a say when it comes to cover art? I certainly do. What's your opinion on cover twins like these? Forgivable or horrible? Let me know.


  1. I absolutely HATE it. I think every book should have its own cover. I have seen the same thing with the girl off 'Fallen' by Lauren Kate and a different book. It sucks :(

    1. Any now think about the poor authors must feel, yikes!

  2. I think authors should choose covers. I really love certain editions and hate others, mainly because of their covers...

    1. I think so too, but like I said, with publishing houses they usually don't have much of a say in this regard. Not to mention that some books get various different covers depending on the edition. Most of the time I buy the cheapest version of a book, unless the cover is REALLY ugly, then I'm willing to pay more for the pretty one *lol*.

  3. I always asks authors about the cover when I do interviews (not that often mind you) and so far they have had some say but have mostly had to leave it to the designers. Having seen what self-published authors do with the covers, I'm not sure they would do much better given more input... Mass market books will get covers that will sell to the right market and not cost a lot so it's understandable that the same stock photos get used again and again.

    I think some people would be shocked at the cost of setting up a photoshoot for a cover. The other option is a unqiue illustration which doesn't come cheap either.

    I get more annoyed when a self-pub copies the cover of an existing book. At least trad pubs try and make them look a bit different!

    1. Interesting point you make there, Ellie. I haven't given the phenomenon of self-published authors copying cover art of other books much thought before. Are there any particular examples? I'm curious now.