Renaming and Revisioning–Titles and Covers

The City Baker's Guide to Country Living by Louise MillerI read a lot of blogs about publishing on my quest to learn as much as possible about what comes next. It was on a blog that I came across this important fact: Book covers and titles are marketing tools. Book covers and titles are marketing tools—I said this to myself like a mantra all though out the publishing process, so I would be prepared when the time came.

I had known from the beginning my title would change—it was something that my editor and I discussed before the sale went through. I was comfortable with this. While I really liked my original title, I understood that it didn’t evoke some of the key elements of the book—namely baking and Vermont. My editor brainstormed title ideas with her team while I brainstormed at home with my partner and a couple of close writing friends who had read the book. We put the lists together, tweaked our favorites, and ended up choosing one of my editor’s titles–THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING. It did take me a while to get used to it—it felt like renaming your child when she enters kindergarten—but now when I think of the book I think of it as THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE. The original title feels like another book in some ways.

The cover process for me was more challenging. I wasn’t surprised. I have a visual arts background, and strong opinions about design, and it was very important to me to have a cover I could hold up in front of an audience and feel excited about. I didn’t realize I had been imagining an illustration-based design until I was presented with a cover that used a photograph. And at the same time I was seeing my name on a book jacket for the first time. Pretty much all I could think was OH MY GOD THAT’S MY NAME ON A BOOK COVER. I felt like I couldn’t see anything clearly.

I had a meeting with my agent, where we discussed the things that we loved about the cover and the parts that we didn’t respond to. We then met with my editor, who gave me homework to do over that weekend—she asked me to look at contemporary book covers within my genre and to make a list of the ones that I liked best. A funny thing happened over that weekend—the more jackets I looked at, both with illustrations and photographs, the more I fell in love with the cover my editor had first shown me. It felt fresh. That Monday I asked for a few small changes to that original cover. Within weeks the cover was finished–and I was smitten. A dear friend said it best–your book has a FACE.

Working on both the title and the cover were wonderful experiences of how collaborative the publishing process can be. And they helped me start to let go of my book a little. It’s not just mine anymore—it also belongs to my editor, my art director, the marketing and publicity folks, all the people in my house who have contributed to transforming my story into a real book, with a cover and a title page and binding and a spine. How lucky I am to have all of these experienced people committed to making THE CITY BAKER’S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING the best it can be.

I know authors’ experiences with covers and titles can vary from house to house, editor to editor, book to book. I have heard many tough stories about authors having no say. But I have also heard many stories like my own. When it’s time for you to talk about covers and titles—your marketing tools—you do need to trust the expertise of your house. But don’t be afraid to ask to be a part of the process.

Get a peek at the development of book cover by watching this amazing video from Penguin Random House.

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Louise Miller

Louise Miller is the author of THE CITY BAKER'S GUIDE TO COUNTRY LIVING (Pamela Dorman Books/Viking/August 9, 2016), the story of a commitment-phobic pastry chef who discovers the meaning of belonging while competing in the cut-throat world of Vermont county fair baking contests. Find out more at louisemillerauthor.tumblr.com.

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