Disliking your own Cover via @cox_tom and @tribalscientist

Tom Cox discusses his experience of having to accept covers he doesn't think represent his work. One of the key quotes that struck me was:

Initially, Simon And Schuster had selected a cover I rather liked for the paperback version of Under The Paw: a picture of a tabby with some impressive cattitude sneering from in front of a duvet, between a man's poking-out stockinged feet. Yet they decide to change it. The reason? "Asda wouldn't take it. They need a very simple cover that won't confuse the one-book-per-year market. Something cute, like the one for Marley And Me."

My friend Mike McRae (@tribalscientist) had a similar experience with the cover of his first book, Tribal Science. I asked him to contribute his thoughts:

Tribal Science Cover"I always had a vision for what the cover of Tribal Science would look like. I'm no different to nearly every other published author, and also like nearly every other published author I had to recognise that the final product would look nothing like the one in my imagination.

So when I received the rough concept cover, I was prepared for anything. Disappointment, joy, surprise. Actually, no. Not the first one so much. I thought I would be, but seeing what would represent my book and have it hit home that it would be the first hint people have on its contents...the dissonance was jarring.

First of all, I hate Einstein iconography. That isn't the artist's fault, nor the marketing department's. I work in education and Einstein is everywhere. Books, inspirational posters, little cartoons of his fuzzy head telling you about the speed of light. So seeing him on the cover of a book that effectively says 'science is the product of tribes of people and not individual smart-heads' didn't make me smile. Secondly, I wasn't a fan of the UFO 'atom' over his head. Sure, elements of the book were about the conflation of science and the paranormal, but these were merely consequences of something more fundamental. What the marketing department were trying to say were 'UFOs and Einstein are in here', not 'this book is about social thinking and the progress of scientific thinking'. As an author, I want people to know the latter. Einstein's brain and UFOs were merely conduits to the deeper message, and were somewhat irrelevant to the core theme.

I expressed my view, which received sympathy and a promise to take it into account. And I slowly got used to it. Apart from the rear view of a standing ape in a top-hat on the back cover, which would have worked well as a cluster of similar simians as a cover image, I still don't think it represents the book well at all. But in the end, I'm a writer and not a marketer. We both have our roles to play in the machine that is the publishing industry. There are certainly positives to this machine. This is simply one of the pills I need to swallow in order to be published."

Selling your books is a marketing exercise, and your publisher isn't necessarily interested in whether you are feeling warm and fuzzy about the final design, but is there a point where a book is compromised too much just to compete with the lowest common denominator?  Tom says:

During the first week Under The Paw went into Asda, I hit the bestseller list for the first and only time in my life [...]. But Asda were selling Under The Paw for less than £4. Most magazines cost more than £4 these days. Surely that's wrong - and not just because it makes for piddling royalty figures? A book should cost more than that. A book should be more than that. It's not a soulless CD; it's something to be stroked, and to love on the outside, as well as the inside.

Read the entire article (including the valuable comments at the end) here: http://tomcoxblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/good-jacket-required-disliking-your-own.html