Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Book covers and titles...

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.


Kimber An said...

Wow, what a lot of incarnations! I don't think it will bother me unless the new titles or covers are misleading of what's actually in my story.

Therese said...

What a treat to see all of these! (the blue-yellow combination is one of my favorite color schemes too...)

It's fascinating how each publisher interprets the book and positions it for its market.

I have my UK cover art and am dying to see how similar or different my other covers will be! I'm going to try for your balanced attitude about it all--"like" IS good, but I do also hope for some "love."

ORION said...

Fun post holly. This is what I need to see. Do the foreign publishers just take the ARC and translate? Do they ask any questions about translating?
(I've been looking up what LOTTERY looks like in each language that has bought it!)
Have you seen your foreign covers for The Penny Tree?

kyla-dale said...

This is so kewl, seeing all theez diff covers. I myself would like to see any of my WIPS in book form instead of collated by my local KINKOS!!! I'd be soooo flexible about the cover and title. Just publish me.

Holly Kennedy said...

Pat, depending on their scheduled pub date, foreign publishers usually translate from either a copy edited ms or else the ARC. Some countries open up their lines of communication with the author (ie., my German publisher did and we chatted back and forth about translating. However, they did publish before it came out in English, so it was necessary to do so I guess).

I've also been in touch with France and Italy, but not Greece or Denmark, or the book clubs on any level. The books just magically show up one day and you take a deep breath and open the box!!

Holly Kennedy said...

Oooops. Sorry, Pat.
I have The Penny Tree in German already, but, again, they published it last August, so they're ahead of the curve. France is publishing The Penny Tree in late 07 or early 08 (can't remember) so I haven't seen that cover yet.

wordman17 said...

Hmmm, that's a lotta covers & titles & points of view on your story. I'd be tense over it. Good for you being so calm and cool.

Does each publisher incl the same dedication and acknowledgements page and author bio?

Holly Kennedy said...

Yup, the same dedication is included in each book as is the same acknowledgements page.

Your foreign rights agent asks for this info and it's passed along to the appropriate powers that be in each country. :)

Melissa Marsh said...

This was so informative and interesting. Working in the book publishing biz, I know how important a book's cover is to the buyers.

I think it would be awesome to see your book in so many different languages.