Here’s a not-so-dirty little secret of publishing – most authors have absolutely NO say over their covers. That’s right, none. Unless you have much more famous initials than mine, you will mostly likely see a .jpg of your cover as soon as it is finished and not a minute before. Publishers hire design teams with experience in what will (hopefully) sell books and most of the time don’t welcome or even want the author’s input.
Here’s another not-so-secret – many, many people judge a book by its cover. I do. I’ll admit that I bought Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan because of its shiny, embossed, richly-colored cover wonderfulness. Of course, the shiny beautiful cover attracted my husband too and I haven’t had a chance to read it because he swiped it from me. Pretty covers matter most when you are in a bookstore, browsing the shelves looking for something interesting to read. I think that covers matter less for books with a strong word of mouth or that are being hand sold by booksellers. Of course, if you are ordering a book online, the cover doesn’t matter nearly as much- you are looking for that particular title and may not even know what it looks like.
The most palm-sweaty moment of my writing life to date was when I opened the attachment that contained the cover for Dirty Little Secrets. I’d imagined something spare and graphic like the cover for the Dark Divine or Ash. I actually sat staring at the email, my heart racing, knowing that the next few minutes would shape how I felt about the book forever. That is not an overstatement. I know authors who hate, hate, hate their covers and it totally affects the way they feel about their book. I opened the attachment and although it wasn’t what I’d expected, I didn’t hate it. The cover wasn’t spare and it wasn’t graphic, but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t figure out what they would have put on a cover like that. A stack of newspapers? A pile of garbage? The more I looked at the cover, the more I liked it until now, I can’t imagine DLS with any other image.
I got lucky with a good cover. Not all authors do. The next time you see a truly ugly cover, walk over, pick it up and read the flap. It might be something great.