About Book Covers

July 23rd, 2009 • Kate

liar_coverThere’s been a lot of talk on the blogosphere lately about the US cover for Justine Larbalestier‘s Liar, which comes out from Bloomsbury this fall. Justine herself wrote a fantastic post about the issues of race in cover design, which has been picked up by Publishers Weekly and Jezebel, among others. While I do not debate her points about race (and they make for a fascinating conversation, which I invite you to join in on any of the posts linked above), I want to focus my post on something she writes early in her post:

Authors do not get final say on covers. Often they get no say at all.

Show of hands, here — how many of you writers envision a design meeting where you can share your ideas for the cover of your baby, your manuscript? Yeah, not going to happen. Maureen Johnson and I had an exceptional experience with Scholastic with the hardcover design for Suite Scarlett, including giving our opinions about the model being picked to portray Scarlett on the cover, and the cut of the dress she would wear, but that is the exception, not the rule.

The key phrase you’ll find in contracts is “consultation,” not “approval.” Most publishers do want to try to work with an author to find a cover that everyone likes, but if they can’t get everyone on board, the author’s opinion often weighs far below that of key sales accounts.

Because I’m all about positive reinforcement and optimism here at kt literary, what covers have you loved?

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15 Responses to “About Book Covers”

  1. Ashley Says:

    I absolutely love the illustrations on the Harry Potter covers. The way Harry basically grows up on the covers is pretty fantastic. I also loved how there were always little clues to the plot of the book that we tried to figure out before the book was even released. Hours and hours of fun and speculation among the Potter fans–all because of the cover!

    By the same token, I'm also a fan of the cover for Kaleb Nation's first book in the Bran Hambric series. Maybe that's just because it reminds me a little bit of Harry Potter, illustration wise.

    As for covers with photos, I'm fond of the way the re-releases for the Vampire Diares were set up. In case anyone who reads this hasn't seen them, there are two paperbacks (each has two books in the volume) and each book has half of the character's face on it. When you put them together, they line up. It's kind of creepy, but it's a neat effect. I've seen several books do it (I think it's a great marketing ploy for people who have OCD!), but none struck me like these did.

    I'll always like the way that the Uglies book covers wrap around onto the spine, the plain colored candles on the Blue is for Nightmares series, and the coloring of all of Sarah Dessen's books. The colors of the Mortal Instruments covers really interest me (as well as the progression of clothing. Anyone notice that? Shirtless on Book 1, tank top on Book 2, t-shirt on Book 3!).

    I think I've listed far too many books! Oops.

  2. Rebecca (Fie Eoin) Says:

    One of my favorites is Lady of the Light, by Donna Gillespie. The cover is a misty scene, with a woman on a horse and it caught my eye right away on the shelf.

    A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L'Engle, is another book that caught my attention because of the cover. It helps that there is a dolphin on it, because I used to be obsessed with dolphins ;P

    The only other one I can think of picking up purely for it's cover would be Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. Which is just an awesome book all around.

  3. Andy Brokaw Says:

    I like simple yet dramatic. With a dark twist. The Twilight books would be the most famous there. But Holly Black's YA covers, Melissa Marr's, and from your client list Alyson Noel (especially Evermore) are all top choices for me. To a lesser degree, the House of Night, the Faerie Wars, and Artemis Fowl spring to mind.

    I was torn on Tonya Hurley's Ghostgirl. The whole time I was reading the book and its sequel I was wondering how much money went into the presentation. Particularly as I was yanking those silver-lined pages apart.

    I'm noticing these examples are all YA. I read books aimed at my age group too! But I guess I don't like the covers as much… =)

    Oh! Terry Pratchett's American covers! There we go, a nice grown up example. =) Though the later ones I haven't liked as much as, say, the US cover of Small Gods. (Side note: If you want to see covers I don't like at all, see the UK covers of his early stuff. I actually owned copies of some of them for years before getting around to reading them because the covers were such a turnoff!)

  4. Michelle Says:

    I agree about the HP covers; those were great.

    I think the covers for FADE and WAKE by Lisa McMann are really classy. The cover for THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH is eerie and suits the book perfectly. And that cover you posted a few days ago for POWERLESS by Matthew Cody is absolutely adorable.

  5. Julia Says:

    book covers I love… (feels like an elementary school essay! lol)

    All HPs

    Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson (the one with the girl in the red dress)

    Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer

    A Recipe 4 Robbery by Marybeth Kelsey (MG)

    Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

    Swallow Me Whole by Nat Powell (graphic novel)

    A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C Bunce

    I could go on and on…

    When I was a kid, the novels that attracted me were…

    King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry

    all Black Stallion books by Walter Farley

    all Nancy Drew books (I wanted to BE Nancy!)

    I do like books that are, at the least, shorthand for what's inside.

  6. Carrie Harris Says:

    Sometimes I think about covers, and go all squealy fangirl figuring out what mine would look like, but I think that kind of dream goes into the same mental cupboard as the what-actors-would-I-cast-in-the-film-version-of-my-book conversation. It's super fun to think about, but I don't expect it to happen. I will be plenty happy with a cover that captures the spirit of the book even if it isn't my ideal.

    Covers that I like really capture the spirit of the book. Silver Phoenix is a great one, like Julia said. I also like MJ's Devilish; the girl with freaky eyes and cupcake totally worked for me. I'm less positive about the headless girl trend, because it just seems silly to me.

  7. Race and book covers: why is…. Read Alert » Race and Book…. | Total Info Says:

    […] The key phrase you’ll find in contracts is “consultation,” not “approval.” Most publishers do want to try to work with an author to find a cover that everyone likes, but if they can’Read more at http://ktliterary.com/2009/07/about-book-covers/ […]

  8. Karen Says:

    Like Andy, I loved the covers of Tithe, Ironside and Valiant by Holly Black. I thought the Wicked Lovely series (Melissa Marr) covers are just beautiful. I'm not a fan of people on the cover unless they are obscured by something like the Band Geek cover or they're not in focus like with Ink Exchange. And I really don't like silly cartoony covers. It's the reason why I never picked up the Southern Vampire series and now that I LOVE True Blood on HBO, I wish I had looked past the silly covers, and that the main character's name is Sookie-lol.

  9. Race and book covers: why is…. …. | Total Info Says:

    […] The key phrase you’ll find in contracts is “consultation,” not “approval.” Most publishers do want to try to work with an author to find a cover that everyone likes, but if they can’Read more at http://ktliterary.com/2009/07/about-book-covers/ […]

  10. Reviewer X: The LIAR Cover Thing…. Race and book covers: why is…. | Total Info Says:

    […] try to work with an author to find a cover that everyone likes, but if they can’Read more at http://ktliterary.com/2009/07/about-book-covers/ Tags: and, Ben, Book, Covers, Paul « basal ganglia >> Genetically profiling […]

  11. Kiersten White Says:

    I think the cover for If I Stay is perfect.

  12. Sara Raasch Says:

    I love the covers of the books in the Gemma Doyle trilogy. The style and poses were so simple yet so intense. Those books will always be some of my absolute favorites!

  13. Anna Says:

    An obscure one, but the book "Sulphuric Acid" by Amelie Nothomb has a wonderfully eye-catching cover, without which I probably would never have picked the book up.

  14. Shawna Says:

    I thought the cover for THE PRISONER by Carlos Cortes, one of the best I've seen in awhile.

  15. Trish Says:

    My favorites, of late, have been Elizabeth Scott's PERFECT YOU and SOMETHING, MAYBE. I also like the look of her upcoming THE UNWRITTEN RULE.