Writing Books/cover art


I am in the final stages of getting my first novel published and the editor has begun bringing up the cover art.  Years ago, when I first began writing this story, a good friend of mine who is an artist did some drawings and a few paintings of scenes and characters and I really like them.  I would like to ask/suggest if we could use his art, or at the very least get them to look at his art, but I don't want to seem unprofessional.  Is cover art something a newly published author should have a say in or should I just leave in the publishers hands?

Hi, Paul-Michael!

No, I'm afraid an author really has very little say in the cover art. It takes years (and a really good agent) to even get a "cover consultation" clause into a contract. And that clause only lets the author LOOK at the cover and comment. The publisher still keeps the right to do what they want.

And really---if the publisher is a good one, you wouldn't want to step in their way. Their art directors and marketing team often know the market better than you or I, as authors, can ever hope to. The goal of any cover is to make a casual reader (one who isn't there specifically to buy the book) pick it up. It might not seem like the cover has anything to do with the book, but sometimes it's the visual appeal that grabs the eye. Once the book is in the person's hand, THEN it's your writing that will seal the deal.

Now, if the publisher is a start-up or subsidy press that is only going to use free stock art, rather than having the cover specially commissioned, then it might be worthwhile to see what they're planning. If you really detest the art or think it will actually DETRACT on the shelf, then sure---you can suggest your friend's work.

The thing to be careful about is stepping on toes. It might well be that your editor at a small press is ALSO the art director. Saying the cover is cr*ppy won't win you a friend. Try to find a way to spin it in professional terms. Things like, "Well, I was thinking that a more blue background would grab the readers for this, since it's about airplanes." or some such, would work better. Really THINK about what might cause a reader to buy it. Go to the bookstore and think only in terms of striking covers---never mind the genre. What grabs your eye? A specific arrangement or color of lettering, flow of people, fuzzy filter?

Then talk to your friend and see if he thinks he could create something similar to what you like. If he thinks he can, then talk to your editor. But only AFTER you see the art they offer. It might be you like it better. Hard to say. I've found in our books that things I'd never considered on the cover really worked once I looked at it. And sometimes, not.

Don't know if that helps any, but hope it does. Let me know if you have any other questions. Good luck! :)


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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