Monday, February 26, 2018

When an Author dislikes His or Her Cover Art

So, I was bemused by the news that a fantasy author (Terry Goodkind), whose work I've not read, expressed his dislike of the cover art for his most recent book. The artist responded, with dignity if a little testily, that he'd done the job as requested and a little professionalism wd be appreciated. The comments that I saw on this were interesting in that most seemed to have no sense of the near-total lack of contact between an author and his or her illustrator.

Unless things have changed greatly, and I don't think they have, the art is the responsibility of the art director, who usually sends to the artist a detailed description of what the piece should look like. The artist produces a rough sketch and sends it in; the art director either accepts it as is or requests various changes. The artist then does the finished piece and does the turnover. The art director may send the author an image of the cover as a courtesy, or then again he or she may not. If the author does see the art and objects to something in the picture, it raises a lot of ill will but doesn't affect the outcome unless the author is someone with a lot of pull, and sometimes not even then (as in the present case).

It's sometimes more complicated than this --e.g. Marketing tends to get involved at some point-- but roughly speaking the cover art is out of the author's hands. Still, it's considered bad form for an author to badmouth his or her book's artwork, or even to request a different artist next time: those decisions lie within the art director's purview. My suspicion is that Goodkind, having sold twenty-five million books, has decided to speak his mind. Luckily a lot of people have rallied round the artist, so it doesn't seem like there will be any practical fallout from the episode, just some lingering bad feeling.

Here's the link to the story, as it was told in THE GUARDIAN:

current viewing: old Philip Marlowe movies (mostly very bad).
current reading: DINOSAURS: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION (a quick check to see how much of what I was taught in school is now discredited),


N.E. Brigand said...

Sounds like Tolkien's privately expressed opinion on the Ballantine LOTR covers.

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear N.E.B.
Yes, except Tolkien played the game and didn't go public with his opinions.

--John R.

Paul W said...

I'm not sure I side with the artist here. It may seem 'polite' to just accept a nonsense cover but I HATE covers that have nothing to do with the book within. Or worse, seem like they might but really do not. I'm thinking of the original Thieves World covers, which confused the heck out of me when i first started reading that series. They gave the city a late medieval feel totally at odds with what was inside the books, and they seemed to illustrate specific characters (including a distinctive facial tattoo) but then get details wrong OR reveal something about a character that is not supposed to be known yet.

Dimitra Fimi said...

Btw, the story is very different with academic book covers. I was involved in the design of both of my monograph covers and I’ve blogged about it here: