Thursday, 23 March 2017

Cover Me, I'm going in! Why is it so hard to give book cover artists credit? A ReadItTorial

Cover Artist Francis Tipton Hunter (Saturday Evening Post)
I know it's not a new thing, but lately it's been a particular bugbear of mine. Now we've started covering chapter books in greater detail, we're often hugely frustrated to see that the Author gets a deserving credit on the book (spine and cover, and internal plates) but quite often we have to hunt to find out who the cover artist was.

Championing Sarah McIntyre's brilliant "Pictures Mean Business" campaign (which you can read more about over on her blog), it feels like something we have to chirp up about on a regular basis, because there's still a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

Recently we've noticed that some publishers have definitely got the message. Oxford Children's Books now handily note who their cover artists are in press releases. If you're a book blogger who is quite often pushed for time, and covering a lot of books - having vital information like that in a handy-to-refer-to press release is a godsend, saving vital time scrabbling around for the information or fruitlessly googling / looking at publisher websites to try and find the answer (quite often if you're looking at an early draft of the book, the full credits aren't always included in the inside pages anywhere).

So what's the deal here? Why is this even a thing?

We'd hazard a guess that it's a mix of things. Publishers not wishing to detract from the author's hard work, perhaps even the assumption that once an artist is paid up for their cover work the deal is done. But as many artists will know, their cover art is a vital prod in the right direction for those folk who (like us) still browse bookshops in search of something new and cool to read.

There's no getting around the fact that cover impact is a huge part of a 'browsing' book buying decision and though there's a fair amount of snobbery about this particular method of making a book buying decision, it's absolutely the way a lot of kids will discover books (and particular authors) for the first time.

I remember overhearing a conversation in Waterstones once, where a boy was arguing with his brother that Terry Deary not only wrote the Horrible Histories books but also did all the illustrations and covers. It was quite hard not to chirp in and point out that Martin Brown's hard work is a huge part of the success of those books, but kids are kids and who the heck would want some grumpy adult correcting you when you're trying to score points over your brother?

I had a conversation recently with an artist who provided covers for a book we recently reviewed, who was told flatly by the publisher that they wouldn't be getting any kind of a cover credit. Again this struck me as more than a bit mean - this is, after all, a hugely valuable way of an artist getting more work - if their images are used on a book cover and in promo material, and they have no claim of proof of this (as I'm guessing once art is handed over, the sole rights then belong to the publisher) then how is that even fair? (I've chosen not to reveal the artist's name or the publisher but I'm quite frankly surprised that large publishers are worse for this sort of thing than smaller indies).

One line of credit text on a book cover is surely not that much to expect? Believe me, I would find it a massive help and who knows? The next generation of artists might be even more inspired as they come up through the ranks to know that they will actually get their name on a book. Surely it makes sense?