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Getting Published


Other Getting Published Topics


1. Understanding Publishers


4.The Writing Life


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3. Contracts, Production, Promotion




As I said when talking about titles, covers are publisher’s business. Or more accurately, the business of the whole publishing house, involving the design people and the sales and marketing people.

You’ll be asked for your opinion and asked to write a blurb. Don’t be deluded by a sense of power! Be constructive and creative; come up with good ideas, original angles, effective phrasings, and your publisher will seize on them. But what you’re supplying is no more than raw material. You don’t make the decisions on the finished product.

Of course, you can say No and hope you’ll be listened to. But grumbling ‘I don’t like this’ and ‘I don’t like that’ conveys a bad impression. If there’s something you truly don’t like, try to come up with better suggestions and positive alternatives.

As for the cover art, you have even less influence there. And remember that what matters is a striking image to make the book stand out on the shelves and seduce the casual browser into taking a peek inside. It doesn’t matter if the cover conveys the central features of your story; it doesn’t matter if it correctly depicts every detail of a particular scene. So what if there ought to be a river in the background or an extra combatant with a club? The only correspondence to be considered is whether it reflects the feel of the story overall.

A huge amount of work goes into covers. I’ve heard it said that a book’s cover determines 50% of its sales—how scary is that? You can see why a publishing house tries to team a sellable cover with sellable content. A cover is no mere incidental extra tagged on to the story within.

Three Worldshaker covers - and I've been three times lucky! All great, all wonderfully steampunky! The Australian version on the right is by Oscar-nominated film director, Anthony Lucas.The UK version on the left is by famous SF/fantasy illustrator, Ian Miller. And the middle one is the US edition, from Simon & Schuster. It's a trifecta of great covers! The German and French covers were great too.

Here are some Liberator covers: Australian and French and UK.

Note the French cover! and the cover for the French Worldshaker was similarly out on its own. French books just have a different cover style - I checked out plenty when I was signing books at the Montreuil Book Fair, and now I believe it. More (American, French and German) covers for Worldshaker and for Liberator on my author website at

I don't yet have overseas covers for Song of the Slums, but I do have a story to tell about the Australian one. It went through so many versions! and I was the pain who asked for changes to the almost perfect last but one. Poor Cathy Larsen, the very talented cover designer, must have been pulling her hair out.


That last one is really brilliant, but I wasn't happy because the characters are too authentic, too Victorian! I wanted a spunkier Astor and a sexier (and definitely younger) Verrol. So Cathy had to go back to the studio with a new photographer, and create the final version -

I think it was all worthwhile in the end - hope you agree! For the full story, check out making the cover of Song of the Slums on I find it fascinating because it's my cover! - but it's also a really good example of all the things you don't see that go on behind the scenes!





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Copyright note: all material on this website is (c) Richard Harland, 2009-10