From the desk of Ms. Sally Spitfire
Since I began working in publishing, Suzie m'dear, I've learned many surprising things. I hope, over the course of these letters, to share many of them with you. But of everything I've learned, I think I have been most surprised by the amount of work (meetings and emails and mock-ups) that goes into designing the cover of a book.
Now don't get me wrong--there are certainly some lucky books out there that are handed over to the care of a designer who puts together a perfectly appropriate and attractive cover which promptly gets approved by the editor, publisher and sales dept. with a few minor changes to font size or background color and---hurrah!--off to the printing press it goes.
More often than not, the cover design for a book ends up being a long and tremendously taxing process. Remember the phrase "don't judge a book by it's cover"? Well, apparently no one in publishing has ever heard this phrase; you wouldn't believe how many arguments take place about which picture, font and color on the cover of a book will best represent the book's subject and attract the correct audience.
Perhaps I'm being too vague. Imagine you're designing the cover for a fiction novel about a girl who meets her first boyfriend who turns out to be the love of her life. Picture in your head what the cover looks like. (Got something in mind?) Now, imagine that I tell you this book is actually a women's erotica novel? (Has the cover changed?) What if I tell you that this is a non-fiction memoir about a women who survived a domestically abusive first marriage? (Cover changed again, correct?) What about a scathingly, sarcastic yet humorous graphic novel for young men? What about a perfect book club book for city women? Southern women? African Americans?
I'm sure you're beginning to get the idea.
And as if it isn't confusing enough to charter the rolling seas of fonts, photos, clip-art, colors, and placement of author's name and subtitles... the cover often has to be approved not once, not twice, but as many as 8 times. In a best-case scenario, the art designer designs a perfect cover, the editor loves it and runs it by the agent and author, both of whom love it as well, and the book (ahem, cover) is in business.
In worst case scenarios (and often when a potentially best-selling book is involved), not only the editor, agent, and author but also the publisher, the sales team and the marketing staff get involved. There are weekly "cover" meetings in which the art dept, editorial staff and publishers meet solely to discuss, discard and discover disastrous and delightful cover designs. There are private phone conversations. There are frantic emails. Of course, more often than not when so many people get involved, it's impossible to make everyone happy. The cover that the publisher and sales dept. love is hated by the agent and the cover that the agent loves is detested by the editor.
It's time to call in the big guns.
That's right. Borders, Barnes & Noble, Wal-mart... whichever major account (book chain) the sales dept. is hoping will place a large order of the book is given a copy of the book jacket. Because here's the thing: if Borders loves a jacket, they may place an order for 10,000 and if they hate it, well... it's back to the drawing board so as not to lose that order.
Between the agent/author team, the publishing house (sales, publisher and editor), and the major booksellers (Borders, B&N, Amazon, etc.), sometimes it amazes me that any cover gets chosen at all! But it's all worth it when a cover comes out so spectacularly that you simply have to pull it off the shelf.
Can you think of any books that you picked up--or even bought--simply because you craved the cover? Please, please do share! I'll tell you the first book I ever bought just for the cover: Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville. Ah. I loved that book.
Oh my! Look at the time! I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date! (More on that next letter, Suzie!)
Your luvin' cuzin,
(Ms.) Sally S.
Question: How much does a book cover affect your book purchase? Do you have any favorite book covers?