We all know that covers matter. I’ve seen ones at the book store which have made me wrinkle my nose in disgust (too much pink, strange lettering, a photograph or a drawing that is just too much). And then there are the ones whose images promised such wonderful stories that I felt compelled to go right over and pick up the book. The real trick for a writer is to get the second kind of cover.
I was so relieved when I got my own cover for Posed for Murder from St. Martin’s Press. My first thought was that they understood the book completely. The photo was evocative, just the kind of thing that my main character might take. It reminded me of The Black Dahlia, a mystery classic by James Ellroy. I started marketing my book with renewed vigor. I was happy to have the image on my marketing materials, and got nice comments from people about the cover.
So what happens when the cover on your wonderful book that you spent so much time writing is terrible? I’d heard such horror stories from other authors. They got book covers that were inappropriate for their book. It was a nightmare, and they blamed it directly for their terrible sales.
Can you get a cover changed? I think it depends on who is publishing your book. I have a friend also at St. Martin’s who gave feedback on her cover when they asked. They listened to her comments and made the changes. But, unfortunately, not every publishing house is that responsive. And they have a different idea than you what genre your book is or what the tone should be.
I guess knowing what I do now about how covers are chosen, I should try out books no matter what the cover is like. I certainly did as a kid. But I also remember puzzling over the Nancy Drew book images, confused because her hair color was different in each book, but never seemed to match the cover either. And I was glad in the end that I read them anyway.