Last week, after posting a German book cover, I received a lot of email from readers asking questions about covers and titles. Hopefully, today's post will clear those up.
First, no, you don't get to choose the cover for your book, unless you're a bestselling author with a huge readership and therefore have clout with your publisher. Usually, the marketing dept comes up with a cover and presents it to your editor, who in turn presents it to you. However, if you absolutely hated it, most publishers would probably make an effort to change or adjust it. (I'm talking about North American or UK publishers, not foreign publishers, as they typically choose a cover and publish it without asking your opinion).
Here are three for The Tin Box. The one on your top left was the first cover ever proposed, but my agent hated it, as did the buyers at Barnes & Noble. Given that, the one to the right of it became my first published book cover in English. Following that, it was changed to the one on the left when the book came out in paperback in October of 2006.
That said, though, when it comes to foreign publishers, depending how they decide to package and promote you, your book is often re-titled. For example, my debut novel, The Tin Box, was re-titled The Box of Secrets in French. My publisher (Belfond) chose one cover, and France Loisirs, the French book club, chose another.
In Germany, The Tin Box was re-titled In A Single Moment, referencing Pearl S. Buck's quote in the prologue. Now, keep in mind that Germany published my debut novel in 2003 before any other country, so when I received it, I cried for half an hour, holding (with pride) my first-ever published novel, even though I couldn't read a word of it.
My favorite colors are blue and yellow and by sheer coincidence they had combined them in the cover (shown on your left). It wasn't until days later that I finally worked up the nerve to ask my agent if maybe marketing wasn't a bit confused between "tree house" and "light house" given the lighthouse on the cover and the lack of one in the story.
Oh no, my German publisher assured us. We're simply reaching for a deep, reflective tone when it comes to the title. "Sounds good to me," I said, shrugging it off. Later, the German book club published another edition with the cover shown on the right above (sans lighthouse, but with a lake scene).
Moving along, in Italy The Tin Box was re-titled The House in the Trees, referencing the importance of the tree house in the story (see green cover below left).
And when it comes to Greece and Denmark, although I can't read either language, I assume they didn't re-title it given the book covers they ultimately chose.
People have asked if this bothers me, a foreign publisher re-titling my book, or having little, if any, say in choosing a cover. And my reply? It actually matters less all the time. Of course, I want to love both, but like works fine, too. I personally find the different takes on covers and titles fascinating, but I don't waste time obsessing over them, because, to me, what's at issue here is so much bigger than the cover or title of one book; it's a career. And right now, I fully recognize how fortunate I am to have all of these publishers helping build mine.