Being Proactive about Your Cover and Title
Oftentimes I hear that an author is frustrated because they don’t like the title or cover the publisher chose for their book. While you probably won’t ever have the final say over your title or cover (unless you’ve already sold millions), here are some ideas that may make the process less frustrating:
1. Don’t be married to your working title. I know this is harder to say when you’ve been working with the “perfect” title for months or even years, but simply being open to other ideas goes a long way toward coming up with the best title.
2. Keep your own list of possible titles. Whether this is an open document on your desktop or a legal pad on your nightstand, simply copying words, phrases, sentences, etc. as you write (whether or not they make the final cut) will often spark title ideas. This list could be presented to your editor when you sign your contract or when you submit your manuscript. It doesn’t guarantee that it will be used, but it may go a long way in helping your publisher understand where you’re coming from in the title process. While authors may intimately know their topic/content, the publisher knows the broader market and can often identify trends before they show up on the book shelves.
3. Keep your own list of cover ideas. Again, this can be a document where you copy Amazon cover images or a folder where you cut out images in magazines. Go to the bookstore (I know you’re looking for another excuse to go—“Hey, honey, it’s research!”) every so often to do two things specifically: look where your book will be shelved and see what the competition’s covers look like. Then simply browse around and take note at what jumps out at you. Are there colors or images that repeatedly stick out? What about an image-driven cover vs. all type? Present these to your editor at the appropriate time, but don’t expect anything. Remember, it’s ultimately not your call, but if you want a say in the process, present an organized list of ideas respectfully.
4. In both cover and title ideas, force yourself to get outside of how you’ve been envisioning your book. Authors typically get words and images stuck in their heads, and they’re so close to their own book that they don’t even see how other images and words might fit. Make it a point to sit down and list all the important themes in your book. Sometimes it’s hard because you’ve been thinking of your book one way for so long. Get some help from your critique partners if necessary. Identify themes, images, and lists of nouns, verbs, and adjectives that capture your book. This will help open you up to possibilities you might not have recognized before.
If you have an agent, he or she can be very helpful in this process. Rely on their expertise—they can help you convey your thoughts respectfully to the publisher, and they can also give you a reality check when the publisher is right or at least likely to prevail in a discussion. If you’re really upset and need to blow off steam, call your agent or your best friend, not your editor! Come back to the editor when you’ve calmed down and gathered your thoughts.
You can trust that our goal as a publisher is to present your book in the best possible light and to sell as many copies as possible. We are on the same side!