Why is that editors get so testy when an author dares to tread upon their creative world and suggest a cover design or a title, but they drive their bulldozers all over the author's creative world like so much ado about nothing. I know. Covers are what they pay your for. Editing is what they pay you for. But for heaven's sakes, will there ever be an editor humble enough to recognize that an author just may have a good sense about a cover that will market their book well. Or that an author just may have a better title than the marketing guys across the hall. Probably not!
When I went back to the comments to copy and paste them, I discovered that Robison Wells had answered the question—and he is dead on. Here is Rob's reply.
Anonymous, I like to compare it to royalties. There's a reason that authors only get 5-15% of a book's cost: it's because the author is only one piece of a very large puzzle. It's a vital piece, certainly, but it's still only one piece.
If an author has as much good marketing sense as you stated--if they know that their title/cover/marketing ideas are great--then why not just self-publish? Richard Paul Evans is the perfect example: he was a professional marketer, and he's made gobs of money.
Besides, most publishers are very willing to discuss titles and covers (though they'll almost all maintain veto power), but they don't want to look at those ideas during the submission process. You, as the author, are asking them to make a very big investment in you; the least you could do is show a little professionalism and respect submission guidelines. There will be PLENTY of time to discuss titles and covers and illustrations once your book is accepted.
I would add a few things, based on my 26 years in the industry as a professional (I just love that word) editor and/or publisher:
- If you submit a good title, we will keep it! We kept the author's original titles on the last two books we published. Others titles I tweak by one or two words. Sometimes I'll reject the original title, but have the author send me a list of alternates. Usually I can blend that into something really good that the author is happy with. But creating titles that sell and writing a story are two entirely different skill sets and some are just really, really bad.
- I have never, in 26 years, seen a book cover created by an author and sent with the manuscript submission that was anywhere close to usable. They are usually way too dark, use clip art and dated fonts, and don't have an appropriate balance to the design. If you don't know what I'm talking about, or you don't know why these would be a problem, then don't try to make your own cover.
- I have, a couple of times, had an author who was also a graphic artist. After their books were accepted, they very professionally asked if I would take a look at their ideas. Of course I did. These two covers were wonderful. One we kept exactly as it was. The other we had to tweak a little to fit in the bar code. The point is, they approached me about it after acceptance.
- The publisher always retains veto rights. As Rob said, if I am going to invest thousands of dollars in you and your book, I need to control that investment in the way that my experience tells me works best. If title and cover art are deal breakers for you, then by all means, self-publish.
- You're assuming that the author will not like my title/cover art better than what they've created. Most of our authors love what we do with their books—even if we don't use any of their suggestions.
- I never, ever bulldoze my authors' creative world. I'm not investing in a one book deal. I want this to be an ongoing relationship. I want my authors to be happy. At the same time, I am not going to let an author sink a book due to personal preferences. We test our titles and book cover designs on our target market and run them past at least a dozen design, marketing and publishing professionals before we finalize something.
- And one last comment: You, as an author, have to invest a certain level of trust in your publisher. You have to believe they know what they're doing, that they will make decisions based on what is best for your book, that they are current on what is hot in the market, and that their years of experience are more valuable than yours. If you don't trust your publisher enough to title your book or design your cover, then you're with the wrong publisher.