Pub Rants

Discussing Covers: DRESS REHEARSAL

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STATUS: It’s Friday! I’m not sure why I’m excited about this when I plan to catch up on all my reading this weekend so work, work, work for me. It would also be a better Friday if the overnighted FedEx would actually arrive. Label was done on Tuesday (May 30th). Package still missing.

What song is playing on the iPod right now? WHEN YOU’RE FALLING by Afro Celts (Sara is getting in the game; it’s her iPod in the stereo.)

Before I jump in and talk about this cover, there are a few other things that you should know.

1. Changing a cover is expensive. The designer/artist is paid for all the time invested—not just for the final cover design. It’s one reason why the publisher can be reluctant. Books have certain budgets. Redesign is a budget curveball.

2. If the B&N buyer loves the cover, nothing in the world will change the Publisher’s mind about changing it.

I’m actually being a little facetious on that last point but there is some truth in it (and covers change suddenly when B&N dislikes it and plans to reduce copy orders).

But back to DRESS REHEARSAL. Neither Jennifer or I liked the cover (and most of you latched on to the reasons why).

1. The man was at the center, which didn’t make sense.
2. Cover implies three women vying for a man
3. Tag line suggested a different type of story
4. The novel isn’t actually about a wedding

Hence, we didn’t like it. So what? Publisher is not going to foot the bill for a redesign based on the four reasons above. They aren’t valid arguments. (Quit shaking your head if you’re thinking that the four reasons above would merit a cover change. They don’t, and I’m being honest here. They really don’t.)

So what does?

Basically, we won the Publisher over based on the concept of branding and how we were positioning Jennifer in the chick lit market. With BACHELORETTE #1, Jennifer established herself as a contemporary writer who deftly handles pertinent issues facing modern women (such as losing one’s identity in marriage and especially after having a kid). Not sure if we want to call that feminism—too many definitions and associations circling around that term–but Jennifer’s books definitely encapsulate the theme of women discovering themselves and being empowered.

The original cover for DRESS REHEARSAL didn’t convey that—especially not at a glance.

Simple. It doesn’t fit with how we plan to position Jennifer in the market for the long term. The publisher agreed and changed the cover.

Now we can get into a debate about whether the final cover embodies the theme of woman empowerment but I’m not interested in doing that. You have to remember that the book is in the chick lit genre and when it was released, the light, campy cartoon-style covers were the “in” thing.

32 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Your publisher needs a new cover designer. In-things. Gimmicks. Do not equal “long-term” but “dated” as in “out-dated.” Tired and Abused and over-used.

  2. Kalen Hughes said:

    Yeah, thanks for the insight . . . I just had the title for my first book changed and it was pretty much the same story: No argument or logic could sway marketing away from their idea of what the book was about (and what would SELL).

    I guess if I loathe my cover I’ll email the book buyer for Borders/WaldenBooks and see what she thinks (she is known to have some sway . . . and I’ve heard her say twice that she’s open to this kind of contact, and happy to help if she agrees that it’s a bad cover).

  3. Diana Peterfreund said:

    Hey, anonymous, I’ve heard that sentence fragments are out as well. 🙂 Design is ALWAYS a “dated” thing, because you are looking for somethign that stands out on teh shelves NOW.

    My cover was also changed when it was determined that the original cover did not sufficiently clue the reader into the tone of the novel. It read more literary and retro than comedic, mysterious, and fun.

  4. Glenda Larke said:

    I winced at the words “Tag-line suggested a different type of story” and that NOT being considered a reason to change it. Why would anyone want to disappoint a buyer looking for something else, or have the right readership pass it by because they thought it was something else?

    For one of my books, every single reviewer remarked something along the lines of “don’t take any notice of the awful cover; the book is not like this”. My publisher loved the cover. I thought it was fine – but for a totally different sort of story, not mine. It suggested raunchy action; my book was a more edgy, gritty, thoughtful story (at least I thought so).

    People bought it, but didn’t go on to buy the second book in the trilogy. My feeling is that the people who bought it were disappointed because they were looking for something else – especially as the whole trilogy sold well in a different country with different covers.

    Boy, this is a weird business! Thanks for interesting insights.

  5. mb said:

    Thanks for the “this is how it works” approach. While design (of any sort) doesn’t ever happen in a void, beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder when the subject is cover art.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Glenda –

    You’ve hit on a sore spot for me, so I’ve come out of lurk-dom to air my views as a reader who was burned too many times by false packaging.

    My most recent example, was a book I bought that was supposed to be a historical mystery according to the cover art and the back blurb. But inside was a pretty typical (and badly written) regency romance.

    My response is two-fold, as I’ve been through this scenario too many times. First, I don’t ever pick up a book by the author again. They cheated me. I feel badly for authors who are hurt by this (as it appears you were, and it isn’t really your fault), but there isn’t any other way to make an impact. (Yes. Amazon. I do that too, but spending money speaks more than words.)

    Second, I almost never buy anything I haven’t checked out on Amazon, which means I’ve cut back my purchased by 9/10ths by cutting impulse buying. It means that I don’t read newer writers because they don’t have the positive feedback.

    I am tired of spending my money only to find that the book has been ‘packaged’ for marketing rather than ‘packaged’ as what it is.

    Anyways… That’s my rant. I’ve been worrying at this for months. -grin- And let’s be honest. There has never been truth in advertising.


  7. Linnea Sinclair said:

    First, commenting on something Kristin noted in her blog the day before (how she goes to bat for her clients when they get the cover from hell…): she does. Honest. We didn’t win the fight but she fought for me (and my character) and for that I’m grateful. I still ended up with Space Bimbo From Hell..but whachagonnado?

    Marketing was looking for (we were told) a ‘different angle’. Now, I write SFR. It would have made more sense (to me) if they stripped the shirt off the guy on the cover rather than the gal…but what do I know? 🙂

    At any rate, yes, I’ve rec’d emails from readers put off by that cover. But they ultimately enjoyed the book. To say, as Anon did, that s/he’d never buy another book by an author whose cover was misleading… boggles me. Isn’t it clear the author has little to no say? Is the cover more important than the writing? ::scratches very blonde head:: And please correct me if I’m wrong but how did the author cheat you?

    Point is, production of a novel is Birth By Committee. Covers are luck of the (pardon the pun) draw.

    Don’t blame the author. We fill out the requisite Cover Art Info Forms same as anyone else, sprinkle holy water over same and keeps our paws crossed that we don’t get the Space Bimbo in Red Spandex From Hell.

    I’m batting two for three right now. Good record, IMHO.

    Hugs to Kristin and La Chutney pooch, and YES I’M STILL WRITING, MOM! [snort] ~Linnea

  8. Kalen Hughes said:

    Why would anyone want to disappoint a buyer looking for something else, or have the right readership pass it by because they thought it was something else?

    This is my biggest fear. That the title and cover will say one thing, and attract readers who want that, but that the book inside, while good, won’t be what they were promised.

    At least I got to help draft the back blurb (did I mention that I LOVE me editor?).

  9. Bernita said:

    Glenda raises a question in my tiny mind.
    Have seen the terms “edgy” and “gritty” used frequently of late in the publishing world.
    Can any one tell me just what they include in terms of plot which is , apparently, outside the comfort zone?

  10. Jana DeLeon said:

    Linnea is so right. Please don’t punish the writer for the cover. We don’t get a say. I sent in three pages of suggestions, examples and ideas when I was asked to “consult” on my cover. They were all promptly ignored. 🙂

    Now, I really, REALLY lucked out in that my cover is absolutely fabulous for my book and the content and definitely conveys the tone of the book. But what if it hadn’t been.

    This is a serious thing for new writers. Our covers are the only thing marketing us to the reading audience because we don’t yet have a readership or name recognition.

    It really is a crap-shoot. I lucked out this time but next time, who knows.

  11. Glenda Larke said:

    Bernita: ‘gritty’ and ‘edgy’ mean, to me anyway, books which are not necessarily happy-ever-after. The fact that the heroine falls in love in Chap 3, doesn’t automatically mean that she’ll marry the guy at the end. People die. Nasty things happen, as it does in real life. The book is unpredictable because it doesn’t follow a format, just as life doesn’t. There’s more to the story that just hard and fast action; there are also awkward issues. Things – and characters – are not black and white.

    And I got covers that had half-clad Amazons wielding swords and looking beautiful.

  12. Anonymous said:

    About blaming the author…

    I realize that the author has little / no control. (although most readers won’t.) From the perspective of the buyer, I don’t think it matters.

    When I buy/read a book I feel like there is a promise made from the writer to me. In situations where the book has blatantly been packaged to gain attention for being something it is not, (I’m not talking about a bad cover, an ugly cover, a silly cover. I’m talking about a purposefully lying cover. Another example: I purchased a book with a great, classy, romance cover. Book had blurbs from established chick-lit writers. Inside the author wrote an intro insinuating it was related to Bridget Jones. It wasn’t. No chick-lit. Almost no romance. All that chick-lit stuff was to attract my attention, it had nothing to do with the book itself. It was a marketing ploy!) I feel cheated. I feel like those behind the book cheated in order to get my money.

    I can’t blame the editor or agent. Unless the author acknowledged them, I don’t know who they are. I can blame the publisher. In truth, there are several imprints I avoid. (For full disclosure though, when I say I’ll never read another book from ‘ABC Imprint’, it’s usually because they’ve produced too much poor writing/poor editing for me to trust them any more. I have learned to be cautious of imprints that mislead. I won’t buy, but sometimes I’ll check at the library if it seems worth it.)

    When it comes down to it, the giant name on the book in glittering letters is the author’s. Perhaps it isn’t fair, but they are the one I feel I have a promise from, they are the one I’ll avoid because the promise was broken. (Again, not talking bad, ugly, etc.)

    Is that unfair to the author? Perhaps. But ‘fair’ is a bit of a myth where commercialism is involved anyway.


  13. clueless reader said:

    Linnea, I’ve been trying to find a way to get your books in my library — there are no forms to fill out, no request sheets…first off, is it better for the author if I just buy it in the store? Or do you want your books in the library?

  14. Linnea Sinclair said:

    When it comes down to it, the giant name on the book in glittering letters is the author’s. Perhaps it isn’t fair, but they are the one I feel I have a promise from, they are the one I’ll avoid because the promise was broken. Anon/Rachel, your answer breaks my heart. Do you realize there is NOTHING I as author can do? What WOULD you have me do about a ‘bad’ cover? Withdraw my book? Send back my advance? This is my only job. It feeds my family. What do you want us authors to do?

    If you choose to go to a theme park or on a picnic and it rains, do you damn the park and never go back because it rained on that day? Do you feel the park caused the rain? That makes as much logic as blaming the author for the covers.

    WE TRY. I write very persuasive letters. But we do not always succeed. To boycott an author because of the decision of the art director makes no bloody sense. To me. But then I’m short and blonde and have Polish heritage.

    I. Do. Not. Understand. You are penalizing an author for something totally out of his/her control. Why? Where do you see that as either mature or equitable?

    I’m not looking to alienate you. I’m asking you to THINK.

    BTW my flyleaf carries the name of my art director for the cover. Most books do. If not, it’s often on the publisher’s website. If it’s not, email the author AND ASK. S/he knows.

    I hope you’ll rethink your position. You have a greater chance of changing than we authors do of influencing our covers.

    Best regards,
    Om Shanti, ~Lninea

  15. Linnea Sinclair said:

    Linnea, I’ve been trying to find a way to get your books in my library — there are no forms to fill out, no request sheets…first off, is it better for the author if I just buy it in the store? Or do you want your books in the library?

    Hi Clueless,
    I have no clue. I don’t do distribution for Bantam. I’m in tons of libraries (from what readers tell me). Why yours in particular won’t stock me, I don’t know. I do have a dear friend who’s a librarian in Ohio. She’s on my Yahoo group (you can join through my website in my NEWS section). You can ask here there–she’s very helpful. 🙂

    ~Linnea (who will try to spell her name correctly this time–arthritis in the hands is such a pain–literally!)

  16. Elektra said:

    Linnea, I think the problem is that, while she realizes the author is not to blame, it’s the only way she has to keep from getting scammed again.

    Your analogy about the theme park is incorrect. In it, no one could have controlled the rain. Someone CAN control a decietful cover, however. Not the author, but someone.

    it may adversely affect the author, but the reader has no other way to proctect himself from being mislead in the future.

  17. NL Gassert said:

    Interesting comments. It surprises me that covers are such a vital part of the book package. I never look at covers. I don’t care what the cover looks like. If I browse the aisles for a book, I look at titles and simply grab books at random, reading the back cover (it’s the spine of the book that catches my eye). If the description I read interests me, I thumb through the book and read a few pages (never the first).

    If I’m looking for a new book by an author I’ve read before and liked a lot, then I simply grab the book and head towards the cash register.

    Covers never enter into this equation.

  18. china said:

    I really don’t understand the concept of penalizing an author for cover content. Maybe the cover copy is misleading, but can you not skim through a book in the store before buying it? If you’re ordering online, can you not read a review or check the author’s website for more information? They often have excerpts.

    It just seems to me an exceedlingly lazy and illogical way to look at things.

    “There isn’t any other way to make an impact…spending money speaks more than words…”

    Money speaks louder than words for sure, but what you’re saying to the publisher has nothing to do with cover copy. You’re NOT making an impact at all to the publisher, because they know nothing about why you did not buy the book. They only know author X isn’t selling.

  19. Anonymous said:

    Well. I’m thinking I should drop out of this conversation. My goal here isn’t to offend everyone, and I’m starting to feel like I’m doing that.

    To end and bow out, I’ll repeat that I’m not talking about a bad cover or just the front picture of the cover. I’m talking about a book packaged to deceive the buyer into purchasing it by having pictures, blurbs, quotes, etc that claim it is something that it is not. (specifically genre hopping. That it is a mystery when it is really a romance, or claiming it is a romance when it is really a sci-fi, etc.)


  20. Ally Carter said:

    I think part of the problem is that genres themselves are hard to define. Cheating at Solitaire has been described as Chick Lit or Romantic Comedy or one house bidding on it probably would have made it more literary in the end. Genres are bent all the time and they vary by opinions.

    Have I bought books that the covers didn’t properly depict the story? Yes. All the time. In some cases I won’t buy further books by that author because the writing simply wasn’t as good as the cover or not the type of book the cover illuded to–i.e. not a type I favor.

    But in other cases I’ve been pleasantly surprised. For example, GIRLS’ POKER NIGHT has a cover and blurb that makes it sound like a good chick lit read–great, I’m all for those. But the quality of the writing was almost literary in places–really astounding stuff.

    Now, some people may not go for that or certainly not emphasize it which is no doubt why the publisher played up the chick lit angle as opposed to the literary angle. But boy was I glad to get that extra punch and as soon as the author has a new book I’ll be the first in line.

  21. china said:

    Anonymous: For my part, you haven’t offended me at all. I work as a bookseller and have heard some truly bizarre reasons from people for not buying certain books. I just wanted to point out that your actions maybe aren’t sending the message you think they are.

  22. Jana DeLeon said:

    I’m with Ally, my October release is a complete hybrid – some call it romance, some call it mystery, some call it what it is a romance/mystery hybrid.

    Guess I run the risk of offending two different sets of buyers with my cover since I have quotes from a romance critic, a chicklit/YA author and a mystery author???

  23. kis said:


    I think you only risk offense if your book is marketed as a mystery, and someone forgets to mention there’s a strong romantic component. I can understand this.

    I got the shock of my life–and while reading one of my favorite books, no less–which was described in one of the blurbs as a “charming fairy-tale for grown-ups.” Nowhere on the cover did anyone see fit to mention there was a great deal of gay romantic content. This was back in the mid-eighties–the height of the aids scare, when resentment toward the gay community was just awful. I think I was sixteen or seventeen, and boy was I surprised. In the end, I loved the book–it came down to the writing, which was excellent, but can you imagine how many people at the time would have slammed the book shut at the first kiss, and never bought anything by that author again?

    My guess is the marketing department chose to downplay the homosexual aspects of the novel, to attract a greater readership. I only hope it did not adversely affect the author’s career. She really is a great writer, but as far as I know, has only published two other books, so maybe the decision hurt her, as well.

  24. Jana DeLeon said:

    kis – I guess the problem is, my book has just as much mystery as any cozy you pick up. It just ALSO has a romance/complete with hot sex. In fact, I have far more mystery in my book/books than Evanovich has in hers and marketing certainly hasn’t hurt in that case.

    I think the problem is in this business you never know so you just do the best you can. I am marketing the book as both and plan to send promo material to indy mystery bookstores. They will all have the option of reading the book before buying/selling it at their store, so I guess I’ll just let them decide.

    As for chain bookstore placement, I’m fairly certain my publisher is pushing it as a romance.

  25. kis said:


    That’s probably the best thing. Romance readers don’t tend to mind a little mystery in there, but mystery readers might gasp at a lot of hot sex.

    My project also has its share of sex–not all of it explicit, but some of it a little on the kinky side. I just hope that if–big IF–my BFF ever gets published, they don’t try to market it to 14-year-olds. (Although I bet adolescent boys would get *quite* the education out of it!)

    Ack, just realized my son is almost twelve! Hiding manuscript in cleaning product cupboard–the one place he’ll never, ever look.