One of our dear blog readers recently had her cover reveal for her upcoming book (it is really beautiful, seems to capture her story, and I love it). It made me think, though: covers are SO important. An embarrassing fact is that, way back when, I picked up the first Twilight book not because I'd heard about it but because of its intriguing cover. (There are actually a lot of embarrassing things about that sentence actually... moving along).
I DO judge a book based on its cover. I've heard other readers say the same thing on reviews (spanning genres). About a third of the books in B&N make me think, oof. Not something I'd want for mine, for sure.
I realize if you are commercial publishing, you ARE giving up some of these powers, I just don't know how much.
How much say does an author have on their cover? Can they give ideas to an artist or is this laughable and insulting to even think of such a thing? And then, is it ever appropriate to bring up the 'cover' issue when you are talking to a potential agent, esp. if all agents are different on these matters? I don't want to ever come across as insinuating that they (agent or artist) don't know how to do their job. But although a cover may seem like a ridiculous detail, it is so important to me.
The Twilight book cover is compelling, yes indeed.
Book covers are NOT something you talk about with an agent before signing unless you want to set yourself up for failure. If a potential client yakked on about how important "the right" cover was, I'd think not once, not twice, but three times about signing them.
I understand how much you care about your book, and how much you want it to have a good cover. I want that too. When you start talking about that before the manuscript is finished, before the book is on submission, before the book is sold, before the editor has done her edits, before the first marketing and publicity memos have been written, then what I hear is that you're obsessing about things before their time, and you're going to require a lot of education and handholding.
While this is not an asshat indicator, it's troubling. I prefer to work with clients who tackle the problems in front of them first and rely on their agent to advocate for them. Rest assured, I'm not going to say "make sure you put a godawful cover on that book."
More generally: Book covers are ENTIRELY the purview of the publisher. Most of my publishing contracts have cover clauses requiring "meaningful consultation" to "mutual agreement" but you'll notice that doesn't include "approval."
I'm sure if you sell eight gazillion copies a year you'd get cover approval if you want it but if you're selling eight gazillion copies a year, you've probably got a pretty good cover artist already.
Also: most authors have no clue what makes a good book cover. It's not just a pretty photo.
And forgive me for this skepticism: most authors who have strong ideas about what a book cover should look like also have no aesthetic taste whatsoever. To support this dire opinion just take a look at most of the self-published books you see.
While it's entirely true that some book covers from trade publishers are horrendous (and yes, I've had a few of those) generally you wait to see what you get before you start talking about what you want.
We all know book covers are important, crucial in fact.
But a smart author will know when to talk about that, and when to zip their lip.
Here's a terrific interview with a brilliant cover designer Chip Kidd.
(When I am Queen of the Known Universe and Absolute Monarch of All She Surveys, every contract I negotiate will mandate Chip Kidd as the cover designer.)