« Extraditing Steve Green? | Main | Institutional Indifference »

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Book covers and author consultation

When I published my first book, I was asked what I wanted on the cover.  I said, "What do I know about book covers?  As long as you don't make it an American flag and use red, white, and blue as the theme, I'm fine with whatever you decide."  What did they present to me a few months later as a fait accompli?

7441935

I think that litte red star in the corner is an unintended foreshadowing of my second book -- and a weird suggestion that my "Popular Branch" is a communist branch of sorts.

In any case, when it came to my second book, I tried to get wise.  I attempted to negotiate for pre-publication consultation rights on the cover design.  To my surprise, this was a sticking point for the publisher.  They effectively threatened to walk away if I insisted on contractual consultation rights on the cover design.  I wasn't willing to walk away for this matter -- and Palgrave has a good reputation for design, in any case.  Instead, my editor and I struck a non-binding gentlemen's agreement that I would get consulted.  Alas, this week, as I was correcting the proofs for the book, I was again presented with a fait accompli.  Now I've essentially got two flag books:

11417057

So what is it about cover designs that makes publishers unable to consult with their authors in a serious way?  Have others had similar experiences?  I realize the casebook doesn't really present many options for cover design.  But I'd be very interested in others' experiences with publishers and covers.  I understand that most of us have little design sensibility (hell, look at the webpage design here!), but why not give us a chance and an opportunity for discussion?

And if you are considering purchasing the second book (slated for publication in October 2006), Barnes and Noble is much cheaper for some reason.  If you think you might be well-suited to review the book, please get in touch so I can get you a review copy when they are ready.  There is more info at the publisher's page (table of contents, advance praise) here.

Posted by Ethan Leib on July 6, 2006 at 06:19 PM | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c6a7953ef00d83430b24453ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Book covers and author consultation:

» Shopping a Manuscript to a Book Publisher and Textbook Pricing: An Important Relationship from PropertyProf Blog
Some weeks ago I put together the reading assignments for my property history seminar for the fall. I take a lot of factors into consideration in selecting texts: what books will teach well is of primary importance; of course I'm [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 2, 2006 5:08:12 PM

» Shopping a Manuscript to a Book Publisher and Textbook Pricing: An Important Relationship from PropertyProf Blog
Some weeks ago I put together the reading assignments for my property history seminar for the fall. I take a lot of factors into consideration in selecting texts: what books will teach well is of primary importance; of course I'm [Read More]

Tracked on May 30, 2007 6:26:00 PM

Comments

So what is it about cover designs that makes publishers unable to consult with their authors in a serious way?

Guesses:

1. Even reasonable consultation costs a lot more money. If covers are done at a piece rate, having to do one or more revisions would hugely increase the cost. The original cost probably wasn't that high, but publishing probably isn't a high margin business. (This applies more to the walk in trade, not casebooks, but industry practices tend to be fixed.)

2. Unreasonable consultation with aggravating authors might greatly delay publication. And publishers need some decisions to make other than assigning copy editors.

Posted by: Dylan | Jul 6, 2006 6:31:44 PM

From a former scholarly book editor: It's not worth it for publishers of scholarly books to spend much time on jacket design, unless the book can also be promoted on the trade list. Many, if not most, of the buyers of scholarly books are libraries. Snazzy jacket designs don't sell books to libraries, which buy titles from catalogs and which ultimately discard the jacket in any event.

Posted by: Laura Heymann | Jul 6, 2006 10:29:23 PM

From a former scholarly and trade book editor:

Part of the problem is that the coverlegallyis advertising material. That gives the sales-and-marketing people a substantial say in what goes on the cover. (For an academic book, there isn't much of a budget for the cover design, either.) And because it's advertising material, it falls under a different part of the publisher's insurance picture, making compromise even less likely (even if the S&M force doesn't recognize that insurance is part of the cause of its standard policies).

In the end, the luck one needs is to get an art director who cares and has the time and budget to do something. It's really the art director who has the most influence, title by title, on the coversbut "the most" isn't the same as "controlling".

Posted by: C.E. Petit | Jul 7, 2006 10:01:02 AM

This is an interesting post, Ethan. That hasn't been my experience at all--on both of my books, I had a lot of input. Perhaps this practice varies according to who's in the art deparmtent? Not sure.

I do understand that a press doesn't want to put lots of stuff in the contract, though. They want to maintain maximum flexibility and non-standard provisons like control over cover art are a problem for them. A press of the size of Palgrave probably publishes what, 300-400 books a year, maybe more. I don't know. Take heart in this: libraries will take the cover off the hardback and throw it away. In fact, I believe that the University of North Carolina Press no longer provides dust jackets for hardback books that come out simultaneously in paperback. Dust jackets are an expense, which in this age of cost-cutting are being cut.

For what it's worth, I like both of your covers.

Posted by: Alfred L. Brophy | Jul 7, 2006 1:52:20 PM

Post a comment