Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Cover Art Goes Bad—Guest Blogger Brenda Novak

STATUS: Woot! Only 128 emails in the inbox. Two contracts on the verge of being finished up. Two projects on the verge of being optioned for film. Not a bad week.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SAILING by Christopher Cross

As you know, publishers are doing a lot of cost-cutting measures and belt tightening in this tough economy. I certainly understand that. One casualty of all this though is the disappearing cover flat.

It used to be that before any original trade paperback or mass market edition pubbed, the publisher would send out to the author and agent at least 6 to 10 cover flats (sometimes more) so we could review the final cover. Generally admire it. And for the author, use them for promo.

Those were the days. In the last year, I’m lucky if I get one (1) cover flat to review before publication. More often than not, I’m only getting a copy of the book with the final cover, hot off the press, about two weeks before pub.

Now if everything is sailing smoothly, this is no big deal. However, if there is a large snafu as detailed in the cautionary tale below, we’ve got a problem, Houston.

Author and agents always see a jpg of the cover early but as you can tell by Brenda’s story, just seeing a jpg can’t substitute for seeing the final cover art in the flesh so to speak.

So my advice for you published authors (and agents) out there? Make sure you see a copy of the finished book or a cover flat in enough time before pub to problem solve if that becomes necessary.

So, from NYT Bestselling author Brenda Novak….

What’s an author to do….

You work hard to write the best story you possibly can. You polish that manuscript through three rounds of edits. You give cover art and back cover copy input. And you partner with your publisher to put a marketing plan in place that is costing you both a substantial amount of money. At this point, you think you’re finished--finally ready for the book to be released. And this isn’t just any book. This book is the fulfillment of your fondest dream, the first to have “New York Times Bestselling Author” emblazoned above your name.

And then you get your author copies and realize that there’s a serious problem.

This just happened to me. My author copies arrived less than four weeks before THE PERFECT COUPLE was due out. Eager to take a peek at the real thing, my husband got to the box first and opened it. Then he held my eagerly anticipated book in one hand—and frowned. “Um, honey? Aren’t they going to put your name on this one?” he asked.

I think he’s joking. He’s color-blind, for one thing. I laugh and nudge him to get him to hand it to me. “What are you talking—” I start to say, and then I see for myself. It’s not because he’s color blind that he can’t see my name. It’s because the turquoise foil is so dark there isn’t enough contrast against the black background. Held in the right light, it glimmers and shines and shows up just fine. But place it straight in front of you, and you can’t read “New York Times Bestselling Author” (which is a bit ironic, isn’t it?), my name (even though it’s in a huge font—which would also be exciting if you could see it), or part of the cleverly done title (the “Perfect” part, which is also ironic, since it is anything but perfect). To make matters worse, my agent is out for several days to celebrate the 4th of July, and this book is the first of three to be released in consecutive months. If it tanks, the others could go down like dominos.

At this point, I pictured my career dying a sudden death. LOL Without the help of my agent (thanks to her vacation and the timeliness of this issue), I was forced to do what I could to salvage the situation, but my publisher hadn’t yet seen a copy of the finished book and didn’t even know there was a problem. I dashed off an email to my editor and started the hive buzzing…and buzzing…as they, too, went into panic mode.

Fortunately, I write for a great house and their ultimate decision was to reprint and reship, but I’m sure that wasn’t an easy call to make. It will cost someone (either the publisher or the printer) a fortune. And the process doesn’t happen overnight. Some accounts will respond to the recall, others will ignore it, just as they often ignore street date (I’ve been hearing from fans who’ve read THE PERFECT COUPLE as long as two weeks ago, even though it wasn’t supposed to come out until yesterday).

But will this debacle ruin my career? I hope not. I’m choosing to look at the bright side. Initially, there will be many more of this title in print and, as those with the dark, unreadable foil are collected and destroyed, any that survive...will become collector’s items? Yeah, that’s it. That’s the way to spin it. Everyone wants a book where you can’t make out the author’s name!

The original jpg of The Perfect Couple:

A shot of the unreadable cover next to one of Brenda's previous books:

New York Times Bestselling Author Brenda Novak has three novels coming out this summer—THE PERFECT COUPLE (7/28), THE PERFECT LIAR (8/25) and THE PERFECT MURDER (9/29), all part of her popular Last Stand Series. She also runs an annual on-line auction for diabetes research every May at www.brendanovak.com. To date, her auctions have raised over $770,000. Brenda considers herself lucky to be a mother of five and married to the love of her life.