|Actual cover submitted for my approval.|
“Okay, first, as per the contract, I have already approved Charles’s final concept . . .”—Maya the Publisher
I’ve really struggled with writing this blog entry. The first and second ones were almost cathartic. All the drama that surrounded the cover is painful to remember. The cover art was one thing, but it wasn’t the only thing. As I’ve discussed in my previous two posts, there were a number of red flags. All of this wasn’t chronological—a single line of A to B to C. Rather, it came down like an avalanche of runaway evil on the slopes of increasing frustration.
This is especially difficult in the wake of the release of Tears of Heaven with a publisher I can trust to work with me and for me, rather than directly against me. It’s hard to go back and revisit the interactions that turned a once hopeful relationship decidedly sour.
That said, the cover was where the relationship with Maya took one it’s last, fateful turns down a dark alley in a dark Eastern European city and ran smack into a gang of thugs cleverly discussing their differences over firearms and meth-fueled rage.
The cover art was not good. The details don’t matter anymore. What’s important on this particular topic is that I hadn’t taken a good, hard look at Maya’s other covers before signing with her. That was a red flag that I missed entirely.
Do your homework.
|"Pretty, but boring." is what Maya called these covers.|
Traditionally published authors generally have little to no say in cover art. That may seem unfair, but in reality writers know writing. They may or may not know much about cover art composition, layout, and . . . other . . . art words. Even if they do, it remains the publishers job to handle the marketing, and cover art is the epitome of marketing.
Again, do your homework.
Bad art is bad.
So here’s your take away:
Research, research, research: If a publisher isn’t putting out decent cover art for other writers, that’s a bad sign. Walk away. Covers don’t have to be awesome and award-winning, but they should at least be within the range of expectations for readers. Even boring is ok, so long as the artwork isn’t bad. At the very least, the cover should not be an obstacle that keeps a reader from opening the book.
The cover art was not the final issue for Maya and me. It is, however, the place that I’m going to stop. Maya used a bad contract to abuse her relationship with me, and the end result was nearly two lost years of publishing, and a wholly evil experience. The best, the absolute only good that came from this is that I learned, painfully, how to look for a decent publisher, and avoid the pitfalls of my earlier mistakes.
Just to reiterate the five key take-aways:
1 - A too-quick response is not a good sign.
2 - Have an attorney read over your contract
3 - Small issues of the story shouldn’t be big problems to a publisher.
4 - Communication, communication, communication.
5 - Artwork is important.
It’s OK to walk away. It’s ok to run. If you see issues like these, nod, smile, and back-away from the deal as quickly as you can. If you're already in, consult your contract and your attorney and figure out a way to end the relationship.
There are other publishers than these, gunslinger, and you deserve better.