The Write Way: How Much Control Does an Author Have Over Covers?

The Unmasking Collage

Recently I received several emails in response to my last newsletter complaining that my newly reissued romance, The Unmasking, was only available as an e-book and wasn’t in paper–unless a reader can find the original paperback, which is almost a collector’s item.

While I sympathize, and wish I could magically produce books in all formats, this seems like an excellent time to talk about what authors can and can’t do.  We write the books, but quite frankly, if we sign a contract with a publisher there are many parts of the process over which we have no control. When we sign, we give them many rights to do as they see fit. 

Today’s blog is about covers.  Next Tuesday I’ll talk about control over content and production, including new choices now available to authors.

The graphic above is a collage of the two covers to grace The Unmasking. The one of the left is the original, one of my favorite traditional romance covers. Both models actually looked like the characters in my book, and a great deal of attention was paid to making the “feel” of the cover fit the story. Plus the hero of this book was well, gorgeous.  This never hurts.

The cover on the right is the new cover, which I also love. I want to distinguish my older romances from my newer women’s fiction books by using a single graphic with a small heart that says “Classic”, which we did here and on my Tales of the Pacific books.  The Unmasking has been a lucky book for covers.  I’ve had a few that were so bad I hated to admit the books were mine.

So how much control does an author have over what appears on a cover?

  1. We may or may not have the right to give input into the way our story will be portrayed or the general cover style.
  2. We may or may not have the right to refuse a cover we despise
  3. We may or may not be allowed to rewrite cover copy, or give suggestions
  4. We may or may not have a right to approve a title or even, sometimes, the author’s name that will appear on the cover. Some publishers require pen names, although this is less and less common.

What do I mean by “may or may not?” These decisions are usually spelled out in the publishing contract. A writer with “clout” will have more say in his/her cover than a new writer or a midlist author with little support at the publishing house.

And what about me? I’m glad to say I am always asked for input, and my contract says I have the right to refuse a cover and a title. I am always consulted about copy and frequently rewrite it. Finally I have always written as Emilie Richards, which is the honest-to-goodness-name-I-was-born-with.

How much difference does a cover make? Let’s not pretend otherwise. It’s huge!

Have you ever picked up a book just because you loved the cover? Have you ever passed up a wonderful book at first because you disliked the cover?Any favorites? Anything you don’t like to see?

I’m interested in your thoughts, so please feel free to comment. My opinion counts, but let’s face it, yours counts most of all.


  1. Andi Blume on March 18, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I want control over my cover, my style, all of it! That’s why I am self-publishing through CreateSpace.

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