Complete Lack of Control

One of the interesting (to me) aspects of the Writing Career is the contrast between the complete, autocratic control you have over your work when it’s private, sitting on your computer or in a notebook or, god help you, in your head, and the almost total lack of control you have over many aspects of it once you sell it. Since selling your work is usually a goal of most writers (though not all, of course), it’s interesting how unprepared most of us are for the transition from being a the god of your particular written universe to being a pawn in the game of life.

Well, it’s not that bad. My limited experience with publishers is that a) they don’t buy books they don’t like, so selling your novel and then being told it needs more teenaged vampires is a pretty rare occurrence and b) they genuinely love the books they buy. Some writers worry that they’ll sign the contract and their editor will suddenly sprout demon wings, grow three times in size, and with a burst of hellfire inform them that now they will revise the novel to include thinly-veiled Scientologist themes as they laugh manically. This almost never actually happens.

However, the aspects of the book publishing experience that the author usually indeed has no control over can be a little disconcerting. When I was a wee Somers, writing 30-page fantasy epics with titles like War of the Gem, I drew my own covers. Like this one:

The War of the Gem Book 3: The Dark Tower

The War of the Gem Book 3: The Dark Tower

Jealous? Yep, I bet you are. Bet you can’t believe I was nine when I drew that. I’m also surprised I didn’t go into cover design as a career.

Then you grow up, sell a novel for money, and suddenly you’re not allowed to make your own covers any more. I mean, I showed Orbit Books the above cover and thought, well, here we go: They’re going to ask me to do all of their covers now and I’ll have to turn them down gently. Instead, I never heard from them about it. It’s like they pretended not to have seen it. Bastards.

The author’s almost total lack of control over the cover of their book is disconcerting, at least until you see the awesome covers they actually design for you. Assuming you’re lucky like me and have awesome covers. Lauren Panepinto did her Cover Launch post for The Final Evolution over at the Orbit web site today. I know I’ve posted the cover here already, but go check it out and let Lauren know she’s amazing:


  1. Sarah W

    I like the contrasting lightning bolts and the shimmer around the Tower. In my opinion, Crayola crayons are a neglected medium.

    I’m still fond of the original trade cover for Electric Church, but the mass market covers are truly excellent.

    And now that I know Final Evolution is shiny silver, well . . .

  2. Nick Chrissis

    Argh I only just got Terminal State in the mail today and now I read in her post that Final Evolution will end the series…

    But then I suppose the title had a slight clue in it!

    Btw I looooove love your writing Jeff. Sorry had to let that out….

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