Q06: Covers and Titles

(This question is part of a larger subseries called Perpetual WIPs: Published Authors. For the remaining questions, see here.)

How did your cover come about, and did it live up to your expectations? Have you gone through title changes?

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Covers and titles are something that you have to expect to have little control over, and also expect them to change, then roll with the punches. If things turn out well, take it as a blessing and move on. Covers and titles can be a lesson in masterfully negotiating from a position of little power. Sometimes you can change things just enough if you focus on one or two things the publisher is most open to tweaking.

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I loved the cover for my second book in particular. And I absolutely loved the covers on my picture books the moment I saw them – opening the images on my computer was nerve-wracking, then so thrilling! Yes, I’ve been through title changes, and have always liked the end results. It’s all a collaboration, and everyone brings something unique and fresh to the project.

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Well, I’ve had several covers. Most came from suggestions I put on my cover sheet. I’ve been able to give my input on each one, and they’ve exceeded my expectations, so I’m super lucky. I did have to change one title, because right as I was selling it, there were about a dozen books in my genre with the same word in the title.

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Early in on the editorial process, my editor asked me if I had any ideas about what my cover should be. I’m not really a visual writer, so I said not really. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have opinions about the state of Covers Today — specifically covers in YA, which is what I write. I ended up compiling a list of covers I love and covers I hate, along with reasons why. I don’t know how many people saw that list, or what they did with it — but I will say that my cover ended up incorporating plenty of Things I Love, and none of the Things I Hate. So there’s that. I started seeing cover comps pretty early on in the process, and it was really fun to watch them narrow down the idea-pool into one solid image that really, truly captured what my book was about. Needless to say, I’m very happy with the final product. But I just found out they’re going to redesign it for the paperback, so here’s hoping I love the new one just as much!

And yes, there was a title change. My book originally sold under a title that was pretty okay, but didn’t really roll off the tongue. My editor and I brainstormed until we came up with a title that both of us liked a whole lot more.

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My publisher used a photograph by a brilliant young French photographer for my original hardback, which I was utterly in love with. I was disappointed when they decided to change up the look of the series – but now I love the paperback cover, too! For the new look, they held a photo shoot, and the new cover does more accurately reflect my protagonist and the genre. As for titles, my editor came up with the title for book 1 because my original title was deemed too religious and not sexy enough. I titled book 2 myself, which was exciting.

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I have loved many of my covers, and found all of them at least tolerable.  I worry that the cover for HOUSE OF SHADOWS, though I love it, may lead too many buyers to think the story is a romance.  Romance is only a slender thread running through that story, so I worry that some readers have been disappointed on that account.  I know that the cover of ISLANDS has been an asset; almost everyone loves that cover, including me.  Titles have sometimes been very difficult to come up with.

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I’ve had books that have had 4 different covers and none “fit” and books where the first cover hit it out of the ballpark. I have books where I look at them and go “yeesh” to this day. About half of my books have gone through title changes, mostly before sale. I’ve always come up with the own titles to my books, even if they are replacement titles. This varies by genre, I’m told. People don’t think a good title matters before sale, but I think it makes a real difference. If a good title can make a reader pick it up, it can make an editor or agent interested, too. Titles are also as trendy as covers. Some of my books have titles that were perfect for their time but now sound dated.

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Love my covers. I trusted the art director implicitly because she’s a genius and I was lucky to get her. My title was changed from my working title. Kind of a headache, but it happens!

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