Yesterday a large box was waiting for me at my door. (Isn’t that an exciting thing to find, ripe with possibilities? What’s inside? Did I order something and forget? Did someone send me something?)
Yes, someone did send me something. It’s my advanced author copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: From Lemons to Lemonade. My story “A Turkey of a Thanksgiving” is on pages 284-288. It struck me that the cover was exceptionally pretty. Was it simply because I knew my own story was in it, or because it really is that pretty? Perhaps we’ll never know. 🙂
But it did get me thinking about book covers. My students will often ask me questions about the novels we read in class. If I say something like, “The dog in this story is white.” One of them will invariably point to the cover and say, “No, the dog is gray. See?” And then I have to explain that we pay attention to what’s in the story, not what’s on the cover.
This invariably leads to the question: “Then why did the author put a gray dog on the cover?”
Answer: The author didn’t. Someone in the publishing house chose that picture.
It’s true. Most of the time authors have little to no say in the cover design for their books. I remember being at my first writing conference and an author explaining how she and other women had put together a collection of stories that took place in Door County, Wisconsin. Some of the stories involved lighthouses, so the publisher had chosen a picture of a lighthouse from Maine for the cover. The women all protested because not all their stories involved lighthouses and (apparently) the lighthouses in Maine are quite different from those in Wisconsin. I believe they eventually convinced the publisher to change the picture to a different lighthouse, but it still wasn’t quite to their satisfaction.
I understand now when my writing friends get very excited over their covers when they turn out really nice. The first time I heard one gush about how beautiful the cover of her book was I thought, “It’s a cover. Who cares?” But then I began to see really bad covers, and now that my own work is in book form, I’m really glad the book looks pretty so I can proudly post pictures of it on my blog and Facebook page.
And let’s face it: whether we should or not, we often judge books by their covers. Just don’t blame the author if you don’t like the cover.