Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Musings: How do you choose your book covers?

It's a very popular misconception that authors get to design our own book covers. Every publishing company has a design department full of artists whose job is to design the covers for other people's books.

How do I feel about this process, you might ask?

On the one hand, it's a little bit hard to give up control of something as important as the book cover. Even though people always say, "You shouldn't judge a book by its cover," it's impossible not to form an opinion about a book based on what you see when you look at it. Waiting to see the first book jacket samples is one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the publishing process for an author.

On the other hand, I think it's wonderful that my book covers are designed by expert artists. They know how to use graphic design programs that use cool fonts, add photo effects and all sorts of digital magic. Their skills make them much better equipped to design a book jacket than I would be. I'm only an expert with words, not with pictures!

Most of my book cover images so far have been "stock photographs." This means the book designer purchased from companies that collect photographs from many different sources, and collect them in a huge library of photos. (Getty Images is an example of a stock photography company.)

Camo Girl (hardcover)
Camo Girl (paperback)
Karin, my book designer for The Rock and the River and Fire in the Streets, chose close-up faces to feature the main characters. She also designed the hardcover jacket of Camo Girl, which is also a photograph of a girl's face, with digital photo treatments to make her face look a bit different.

When Camo Girl came out in paperback, the designers decided to try a different look for the book, and an illustrator named Yuta Onoda drew a cover that features all three main characters.

For my YA novel, 37 Things I Love, the book designer is named April. She could not find a stock photograph that matched the way she wanted the book cover to look. So she hired a photographer and models to create the picture she wanted. It was very exciting for me to learn that they did a special photo shoot for my book cover. Photo shoots are great because the cover photo is perfectly tailored to the book, but they don't happen very often because it can get expensive!

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