Sunday, January 18, 2009

What a Mess!

Lois Greiman

I think anyone in the writing community will agree that the book world is a strange universe. Although it’s often exhilarating and exciting and hopeful, it’s sometimes irritating and exasperating and nonsensical. But I’ve been in the book business a long time and thought I had kind of come to terms with the ups and downs. Recent developments have made me rethink that decision:

My last Chrissy McMullen mystery, Unmanned, was released in October 2007 with the idea that Unnerved would follow in the spring. But somewhere along the line the powers that be decided to take my mysterious career on a little detour. It seems my sales didn’t adequately reflect the “lovely” reviews and fan mail my little mysteries had garnered. In other words, Bantam Dell felt Chrissy could do better…if they gave her a whole new look. Out with the old, in with the new. Unnerved would be moved to the fall ‘08 lineup in order to give the marketing and art departments more time to consider the possibilities.

My agent was actually the genius who came up with the title, One Hot Mess, which I loved immediately. As for the cover, well, I eventually received a flat for the new look. You may have seen it before since it’s been posted on the sidebar for some time. I never really cared for it, thought it was a little busy, but when I asked around everyone else seemed to find it charming, and since there wasn’t much I could do about it anyway life went on.

Then, just a few months before Mess was it be released, the sales force trotted it off to the book buyers. But the Barnes and Noble folk declared they wouldn’t order my book with the current cover.

By the time I heard anything about this little roadblock, Bantam had already given my new look a NEW look. I have to admit I like it much better than the original. But what a weird turn of events. I didn’t know a book store had that kind of clout. Granted, Barnes and Noble is sort of a demigod in the industry, but I’m not sure what to think about the whole mess. (Huh, no pun intended.)

So tell me, have you ever heard of anything like this happening before? Do you have a weird publishing story to share? (Who doesn’t?) And what do you think of Mess’s new look? Do you prefer exhibit A or exhibit B?


Anonymous said...

How very interesting. I'll be reading for others' stories, but I have heard of a cover being nixed by booksellers before, just never by one particular one.

The chick in the original cover.. NOT crazy about the Sherlock Holmes hat and she's smoking. Not a good luck. I like the high-rises in the background.

Second cover has more of a "mystery" look to it

Good luck! I hope it does well

lois greiman said...

Thanks Cyndi. We'll see what happens.

Kylie said...

Whaaaaat?????? I've never heard of such a thing! Frankly, creature of habit that I am, I liked the looks of the first books' covers. Thought they were quite unique. But I guess I like the newest one all right, given that I'm never a fan of busy artwork.

But I've never heard of a bookseller pulling such a thing. Wow. That's a new one and really one more thing to obsess about, LOL. What was their problem with the old cover? Was it that she was smoking?

The only cover snafu I've ever had (other than hideous ones) was when I was doing a continuity once. The cover featured the hero and it was truly awful. The American spy with short cropped brown hair was depicted by a Latino with hair down to his shoulders, wearing some sort of police uniform. It was posted on Amazon and everything. There was much crying and gnashing of teeth, LOL.

Then when my copies of the books arrived, low and behold the cover had a picture of a young Pierce Brosnan holding a gun. It is, to date, one of my favorite covers. But what the heck happened?

I never heard a lot about it, other than the books that go out in direct mail had the original cover on them. But TPTB got a hold of it at some point and made them change it. Huh. And here I thought they really didn't know the difference between good and godawful ones.

The newest cover is growing on me. I like the text in the ribbon above. And I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Helen Brenna said...

This is bazaar, Lois. Bazaar.

I, too, liked the original concept of your "Un" covers. Honestly, I'm not sure which of the covers for One Hot Mess I prefer. Honestly. They're very different and I like them for different reasons.

This latest incarnation, though, doesn't seem to be all THAT different from the original Un covers.

Hope it sells very well!

Keri Ford said...

I like for my covers to be in a similar look and if most the titles of a series are one way, I think it's best to keep with the theme. It looks prettier on my bookshelf.

BUT, when they toss in something new like this, I think works for the author in terms of finding new readers. The reader likely won't realize that this book is part of a series and be more likely to pick it up. JMO. I have no stats to back me mouth up.

I do like all the covers, but I have to say, the one with the girl smoking on the front is a bit busy. I'm not sure where I should be looking. Instead of one focal point, there's five that I counted off hand.

Michele Hauf said...

Hmm, well I loved the girl pic for the bright colors. But you're right, it is very busy. And your name is bigger and bolder on the newest cover. Gotta love that. (We authors obsess about how big our names are on the covers.)

My very first book had a cover change, which was cool. That changed cover is my favorite, to this day.

lois greiman said...

Kylie, I'd take a young Brosnan any time. Isn't the weird though that they don't tell us what's going on?

I always wish commenters could post pics so we could see other people's covers. Some day we'll all have do a contest for worst cover.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Well, hmm. Okay, that's been said. I'm with the original crowd--thought UNMANNED was particularly clever and eye catching. When I saw the first ONE HOT MESS I thought the new cover was part of the new title direction. Busy, yes, but the colors were glorious, and the woman brings focus. I had a really busy hardcover cover once, but there was no human focus, and I think that's important. Mine was a landscape with a little house lost in the gorgeous prairie. They took elements of that and cleaned it up for the pb cover, which I thought was much better. Thing was, when I saw the original artwork, I loved it because it was so pretty. Pretty doesn't necessarily sell.

Bottom line, I'm no judge of covers. What this tells me is that Bantam believes in Lois. B&N is a big player, and Bantam went back to the drawing board to bring them on board. That's big, Lois. That's putting their money where your book is. Congratulations!

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- I've seen this happen a lot. If one of the bigs "skips" a title due to cover, then the cover is usually put back into production asap. There's too much money to be lost if the big publishers get skipped on a national buy. Especially if they are trying to build a series.

So this is a good thing. :)

The first cover did not read like a mystery at all. As a mystery fan, I would have passed it up and reached for a book that looked like it understood what I want in a mystery. The first cover is too women's romance. So the second iteration is much better to me.

Liza said...

I like the second cover better than the first cover. Looks more like a mystery book. Plus, I really don't like the woman smoking on the cover of the first cover.

lois greiman said...

Thanks Kathy, I hope you're right.

Really, Deb, you've seen this a lot? Huh.

So Liza, you're the second person who was bothered by the smoking. Interesting.

Betina Krahn said...

Lois, this is a good thing, believe me. I liked the first cover, but I did think it was busy and hard to categorize. Had a romance edge with the woman, but the hat and the LA cityscape and all the vibrant colors kind of competed. One Hot Mess - incarnation 2 - looks more like the kind of book that readers of Dave Barry and Carl Hiassen and Tim Dorsey might enjoy. (All BIG sellers!) It looks like something quirky but fun and with a tropical setting and "heat" of some kind in it. The banner is vital. . . the cover doesn't work without it. . . but the countebalance of your very noticeable name is lovely!

And yes, I've heard of publishers changing covers because of one account-- but usually it's Wal-Mart. If they object to a cover as being too explicit or racy, a publisher will go back to the drawing table immediately. Interesting that B&N insisted on it before taking the book-- since they sell everything these days.

Makes me think Bantam is buying placement for you as well as asking for the usual shelf space. . . which would be a fantastic thing for you!!!

Lois, babe, you're headed for the big time!

lois greiman said...

Betina, I love you more than peanut butter!! And I'll try to believe you're right.

catslady said...

I still would want to know why they wouldn't go with the original cover?? So basically the author has no real say on a cover but B&N does?

amy*skf said...

Yes, I liked the original "un" book covers, but I agree that they didn't scream mystery. But the fact that Bantam did all this really seems exciting to me.

The first One Hot Mess cover was kinda cool, but I always thought it looked like urban fantasy to me--and her one hot mess was with the devil...

I think the final cover is perfect for marketing, I think you'll get lots more men reading the books. You'll just get more people reading them. Period.

All I know is, I can hardly stand the wait.

Kathleen Eagle said...

I suspect Amy's hit a nail on the head with "men." They wouldn't pick up Sherlock girl. And I've always wondered why the cigarette. Turnoff for me, too.

The new cover says "big book." But I still like the Unmanned cover. The corpse outline says "mystery" to me, but with an Evanovich flavor. I'm not a big mystery reader, but I'll go for quirky. I like the bright colors, too.

On the new cover, the burning O is great. Little visual double entendre there.

Debra Dixon said...

Lois-- I'm with Betina. Bantam is investing some time, energy and quite possibly money to position you.

Publishers like to build series because the backlist potential is so high. :)

Playground Monitor said...

I remember back in the early 2000's, Walmart refused to buy Katherine Deauxville's book The Last Male Virgin. I'm guessing it was the title.

And right now there's a January Desire with a military guy on he cover. He's saluting -- backwards. OMG, what was the art department thinking?


lois greiman said...

Catslady, nope authors (at least at my level) have no say in the cover.

Jacinta said...

That is truly odd that a book store wont buy it because of the cover! I would have baught it with the first cover. It looks a bit plain and generic with the second but its still nice, and yes you name is bigger which is lovely! Im a classic buy a book for its cover kind of girl and a fun bright cover is a sure thing for me.

lois greiman said...

Jacinta, great, hope you like the bright little book inside.

Christie Ridgway said...

The new cover looks like a bestseller to me, Lois! It has that kind of vibe to it. Really.

And I have heard of covers being changed per buyer feedback (bookchain buyer, I mean). It would be interesting to know that they didn't like about the first cover. I really liked the UNMANNED cover and think the title is so clever. I like that UNNERVED followed it up, ONE HOT MESS is very evocative too. Are you going to use a number in the next title? (Like TWO CAN TANGO) or something like that a la Evanovich?

lois greiman said...

I'm thinking of something like One Cool Fix. Or Messing Around?? Don't know yet.

Kylie said...

Lois, I like the One Cool Fix idea. Think there are loads of title ideas to stick with the 'One' for a while.

I actually think the new cover is sort of Evanovich-y looking. I just hope the new look brings you the mega-sales you so richly deserve!

lois greiman said...

Thanks Kylie. I think B&N actually suggested making it look like Evanovich.

Cindy Gerard said...

Sorry I've been off the grid. LOVE the new cover Lois and I especially love that Bantam is going the extra mile to give you a unique look and that they listened to B&N.