I've always been lucky enough to have publishers who consult with me on the covers of my books. Unfortunately, sometimes the consultation looked like this:
Editor: Hey! Here's your cover!
Me: Uhhhh...yeah. It's really...something. Could you maybe have the designer tweak X, Y and Z? And could we possibly try something other than A, B and C? Please?
Editor: I'll look into it.
[Six months pass. UPS leaves a box the size of a small coffin on the front porch.]
Wife: Hey! Here's your book!
[We open the box and find ourselves looking down at the cover that was really...something, exactly as I first saw it.]Me: Shit.
Fortunately, that hasn't happened in a while. One reason for that: I've been the editor on my last few books, and when it came to the covers I've agreed with the writer -- myself -- 100 percent. In addition, the designer wasn't some mysterious, shadow-shrouded figure I wasn't allowed to communicate with directly (or indirectly). It was a guy I hired: Rick Forgus of Atomic Werewolf Studio. I decided to try Rick because he's talented and I kept using him because he listens and responds and ultimately gives me exactly what I want -- only better! That's how I got this new cover for Naughty recently. I mean, just look at that thing, would you? It's a thing of frakkin' beauty!
And now the cover approval process isn't "Like it? No? Too bad." Instead, it goes like this:
I tell Rick the basic concept of my next project -- All the President's Men meets Shaun of the Dead -- and he sends me this.
"It's a start," I say, "but I'm picturing something that screams 'Politics!' even louder. Something that looks very 'I LIKE IKE' or 'HOPE.' You know -- like a campaign poster." And Rick sends me this.
"Right on!" I say. "Just slap in the title and my name and make the politican guy look more zombie-y. Cock his head at a weird angle and maybe lop off some of his fingers so the ones that are left do a kind of Nixon-style V-for-Victory." And Rick sends me this.
"Damn, we're getting close!" I say. "Only I don't think we need so much going on. How about a neater, tidier look? With bigger stars, maybe?" And Rick sends me this.
"Hmmm," I say. "Yeah. I dig it, but...I don't know. Have we drifted from the original concept? Are we losing that classic, streamlined campaign poster look?" And Rick sends me this.
"That's what I'm talkin' about!" I say. "Go, man, go!" And Rick sends me this.
At this point, there's only one thing left to do: Let Rick know he's created my favorite cover ever. And I do. Because he has.