I'm often told that one reason for going with traditional publishers is that they at least provide good covers. On reflection I see that this is true. For example...
My second novel, published by Bloomsbury in 1991 (a mere two years after I sold it to them), is a grungy neo-noir about boxing, gang violence and sexual obsession set in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Bloomsbury came up with this cover, which shows that it's important that the name of the publisher be the biggest text, and that a world championship boxing match is best represented by an image of two men walking past the Heart of Midlothian on their way to a gay bar:
Can you believe this book didn't sell back in those days? And how did that cover not win the Lambda Award?
However, when I republished the book myself recently, I had to settle for the following cover design by Bart Lessard. As he doesn't work for traditional publishers, he apparently thought the cover should actually have something to do with the content and tone of the book:
And, weirdly, people started buying the book. Who could have known?
The next book of mine that Bloomsbury published was a collection of stories about alcoholism, child abuse, gang violence, drug addiction, murder, and sexual obsession (yes, I'm a little ray of sunshine), set in Glasgow and Edinburgh. So, naturally, they decided that the cover should be a fuzzy painting of a window in a castle:
Bloomsbury also failed to get it to bookshops that tried to order it, so even fewer people bought it than the previous one.
When I decided to republish that book myself, I turned to the French artist and writer Vince Larue for a cover image. He did this:
Clearly, I should run back to Bloomsbury, apologise for jumping ship, and beg them for another chance. Having people actually buy the book is just too weird. Even weirder is getting paid on time.
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