Falstaff Books purchased a novella from me back in early 2018. A few months ago they advised me that my work was with the copy-editor and I would be hearing from them at some time in the future. Last week they sent me a cover survey.
I’d never seen a cover survey before. I’d never heard of such a thing and when I googled “cover survey” of course I got a bunch of hits for surveys of effective cover letters for a variety of types. I did find a “cover design questionnaire” site which I think is the more familiar term.
The cover design site markets towards self-published writers. Falstaff is a small independent publisher and they do not have a standing art department as far as I know. Much of their cover work comes from stock images. Their survey to me said that. I don’t mind. I was delighted to even be asked.
The questionnaire is fairly in-depth, and reviewing it, I didn’t assume that it was going to be sent to anyone who had already read the story. It asks for a 250-word synopsis of the story; it asks for the genre and whether this is part of a series. If it is, what number in the series is it? I think this novella is part of a new line Falstaff is bringing out, but I don’t have any idea how many are in line before it. It asks for the subgenre, and whether there are key elements that should show on the cover.
They also asked about color preferences, and that the writer provide thumbnails of covers they like or think would be appropriate.
That sent me on a search of alternate world fantasy covers. Most of the covers I love are the fancy ones that some traditional publisher’s art department spent a lot of time on, and that’s right out. I ended up selecting one for an example of a font, one for the overall composition and one that had human figures composed in a way I liked relative to the background.
The novella is called “Aluminum Leaves,” and those leaves are not the leaves of a tree; they’re the leaves in a book. While I was filling it out, I realized that I actually had a picture in my head of a nearly-perfect cover and it’s from a Kate Wilhelm novel, Juniper Time. If we tweaked those 1970s colors a bit and added a buy wearing the same kind of hat, it’d be perfect.
I didn’t send that one, and I doubt that’s going to happen.
I also realized that in the final third of the story there is a parasitic creature pulling energy from people via copper skullcaps, which would probably make a great cover but would shift the story away from fantasy into a horror look. And that might be the direction Falstaff will choose; I don’t know.
I don’t assume that I’m going to get everything I want on the cover. Input isn’t influence, and input isn’t choice. Still, I was delighted to just have input. And I’m waiting, now, to see what happens next.