Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How NOT to publish a book: A nightmare in cover design

By Ad Hudler

My first novel, Househusband, was about a guy who decides to stay home to take care of his daughter (yeah, that's me), and he does it really well ... out-cooking, out-cleaning and out-parenting all the moms in the neighborhood. Well, the sequel and my most recent novel, Man of the House, is about this same guy, named Linc Menner, who after 15 years of doing the mom thing rebels in a huge way and goes on a tear to reclaim his inner male. (yeah, that's me, and yeah, it's a comedy. It's also the Pulpwood Queens' official pick for July)

So you can imagine how surprised I was when I got this for the book cover of Man of the House.

Ad to Editor: Okay, this is ALL WRONG! The book is about Linc Menner NOT doing the laundry anymore; it's about Linc Menner learning how to shoot guns and use a hammer drill. And I said, 'GUY', not 'GAY!' And what's with all the perfectly-folded pastel-colored clothes? No! They should be a MESS! Didn't the editors at Big New York Publishing House even read this book!? (Disclaimer: There has been huge turnover in publishing lately, and Man of the House has actually had four different editors...which means the editor who bought it left long ago, and the book got dumped on some other poor, overworked soul.)
So they tried it again, and came up with this:

Ad: WTF!? Linc is working construction now. This guy's hands haven't seen sunshine or dirt in their lives! And look at the typeface: It looks like it should say "Breakfast at Tiffany's," not "Man of the House."
So they tried again and came up with this:

Okay, SOME improvement here. At least this guy has hair on his legs, which they actually photoshopped in because I said he still looked too androgynous. But where are the tools? Where are the man toys? I finally talked with a senior-level editor, who asked me what I wanted. I told her: Toolbox. Darker, bolder, boy-like colors. "Oh, hell, just photo-shop a hammer hanging over the edge of the laundry basket." And they came up with this:

But the FONT, I whined. Look at that curly font. What's that all about? Why do you insist on making this look like marketing materials for a day spa? And, finally, after several weeks of Ad Torture, the art director finally agreed to change to this:

So that's what we have, folks. Not a perfect cover by any means, and it still really doesn't portray the content of the book, but it's better than what we started with. You can tell that they also punched up the palette a bit; the colors are bolder. And, I may be mistaken here, but I think they put more hair on his legs. (Ain't digital manipulation grand?) And I have to admit that I do like the Clint Eastwood-inspired line they added in the upper left-hand corner: "Go ahead, make my bed."

So ... as writers we do get a say in the covers ... but we have to choose our battles carefully.
Until next time, catch me on facebook or twitter or at my blog at AdHudler.com. Have a great summer. Enjoy your kids and the nice weather.


Anonymous said...

Too funny! I love that line on the cover: Go ahead. Make my bed

Laura S. said...

Thank goodness you stood your ground and made them change that cover!!! The final version is much better than the others (especially that first one, lol). Congrats on the Pulpwood Queens' official pick!

Karen Harrington said...

Wow, that is an evolution of covers! Thanks for sharing. That was fun to read.

Anonymous said...

It was interesting to see the process of change and what a difference each made to how one would perceive the book. Thanks for sharing that with us.

Brenda said...

Hahaha...LOVED it!

Unknown said...

Hey, my first book cover had three old hags, smoking under antique hair dryers gossiping with an orange background and tiger stripe border. Everybody knows that the Pulpwood Queens signature color is HOT PINK and our Signature Clothing Accent is all things LEOPARD! But your cover story just show that you cannot judge a book by it's cover, dang it, read all of Ad's books! And wait until you see what all we are doing for you when you come for our big Ta Do Tailgate Party in July. Press Release forthcoming!

LR said...

Haha this was funny! I just know that if I ever sell a novel I'm going to be a pain about the cover (assuming I'll have any kind of choice).