Navigating Control over Book Cover Designs and Titles

An Overview of the Basics

Navigating Control over Book Cover Designs and Titles

This is a summary article that broadly covers a complex topic – for more specific advice, please ask inside the Colony.

The process of publishing a book involves not only the creative writing of it but also the visual representation that supports it.

The cover design and title of a book play a crucial role in attracting readers and conveying the essence of the story within. But how much control do authors really have over these aspects? Well, ‘control’ might be the wrong word here; ‘influence’ is probably a more realistic term. The fact is that titles and book covers must please a whole crowd of very important people, including sales and marketing teams, booksellers, librarians, readers and, last though not least, the author.

A Collaborative Process

Publishing a book is a collaborative effort that involves various professionals, including editors, printers, designers, and marketers. When it comes to cover designs and titles, publishers accept the significance of an author’s vision but also must create a title and cover design that inspire and resonate with their in-house experts as well as the target readership.

The publisher wants the author to be happy, but that isn’t all. They want your book to sell!

Control Over Cover Designs

An author should be able to articulate a few basic characteristics they think are important in a cover design for their book. For instance, is the lettering bold block style, or a fine cursive line? Is the imagery uplifting, scary or comical? Is there a color that associates strongly with the story?

If it is your book, state your ideas and then… back off!

The cover design of your book is important to everyone in the publishing house and each department team will have some influence over its final version. This is a Very Good Thing because it gives each one of them a sense of partial ‘ownership’ in the book. After all, they are investing their own creativity. It’s what they do. It is satisfying for them but also represents their commitment to you and your project.

If you are the author, it is important that you allow this collaboration! Very few authors are also professional graphic designers, brand management experts and marketing mavens. By all means, share your ideas and give feedback but try not to throttle the co-creation process.

Contrary to the popular saying, a book is judged by its cover! Collaboration can make it a very good cover indeed.

Publishing contracts generally stipulate that publishers do have ultimate control over the design of the book cover. However, most publishers willingly involve authors in discussions about cover concepts, color palettes, and overall aesthetics.

  • Bestselling author J.K. Rowling, known for the iconic Harry Potter series, has emphasized the importance of collaborating with the design team to create a cover that aligns with the essence of the story. Rowling stated that although she didn’t possess complete control, she worked closely with the artists to ensure the covers of her books accurately portrayed her vision.
  • Gillian Flynn, author of “Gone Girl,” collaborated closely with her publisher’s design team to create a cover that captured the book’s dark and mysterious nature. Flynn’s involvement in the process allowed her to ensure that the cover accurately reflected the story’s themes.
  • John Green, the author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” expressed his satisfaction with the cover design of his book, stating that he had significant input in the selection of imagery and typography. Green’s involvement played a pivotal role in creating a cover that appealed to readers and helped propel the book to immense success.

In recent years, book cover designs have also functioned to build the author or series brand. You might recall visiting a bookshop or library and – at a glance – recognizing the charming works of Alexander McCall Smith or one of M.C. Beaton’s rambunctious stories. Such is the power of cover design.

Control of Book Titles

Titles generally come to mind either at the beginning of the writing process, or right at the very end when the work is completed. Most authors write their book with a title in mind, even if it’s one they aren’t sure is perfect for the story. This is called a ‘working title’ and holds the space while they complete their manuscript. Sometimes this title is used when they submit the manuscript. Often, however, it can seem old and inappropriate by the time the writing is finished, so a new title must be created.

At this point, an author should expect to collaborate with their editor or the sales and marketing team within the publishing house.

Book titles obviously have an impact on how many sales a book achieves and publishers will rely on market research and consumer trends to ‘rubber stamp’ the final title. Prior to that, as with cover designs, a title suggestion will be passed around the publishing house and back and forth between author and editor. Authors are consulted and their opinions taken into account during this process.

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of “Americanah,” shared her experience of working with her publisher to choose the title for her novel. Adichie’s active participation in the titling process allowed her to convey the essence of her story and reach a wider audience.
  • Renowned author Stephen King frequently collaborates with his publishers to brainstorm titles that encapsulate the essence of his stories.

While the level of control authors have over cover designs and book titles will vary, and is governed by clauses in your publishing contract, the publishing industry generally recognizes the significance of authorial input. Collaborative efforts between authors and publishing professionals ensure that the final product aligns with the author’s vision while appealing to the target readership and the business goals of the publishing firm. Authors who actively participate in these vital aspects of a book’s production can enhance their book’s appeal, forge a stronger connection with readers, and ultimately increase their chances of success in the competitive world of publishing and book selling.

This is a broad overview of a dynamic topic: for specific help and encouragement at every stage of your writing life, join the Colony!