Like many authors before him, Terry Goodkind found himself in a media sh*t storm of his own making when he posted on his Facebook page that the cover to his latest release Shroud of Eternity is “laughably bad,” and urged his followers to “Tell us what you think of the cover.”
Of course, criticisms of his post and accusations of shaming the cover artist, Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme (such a cool name) soon followed. Naturally, Lecouffe-Deharme defended his work by stating that he created the artwork based on “exactly what I was told to do.”
Later, Goodkind did apologize to the artist and clarified that he was “poking fun at his own book.” Adding that, “The artist is obviously an exceptionally talented creative. The problem is with the publisher.” But by then, the damage had been done. Or maybe not, as I suspect this would hardly affect Goodkind’s book sales. If anything, this controversy may help him find more readers. After all, most readers like me like gossip about recognizable authors.
According to Goodkind, his publisher vetoed his concerns regarding the cover, and went ahead with the art work they commissioned. As a writer, I sympathize with Goodkind. Writers spend hours writing about their characters, trying to set the right tone, find the words to create the right imagery. So to be undermined and dismissed by your publisher who insists on using a cover that’s not representative of your work marginalizes the book you have worked so hard to create. It is not unusual for authors to disagree with their publishers on their book covers. What is unusual is for this frustration to spill into the public arena, and taking collateral victims, which in this case is the cover artist.
There are a few lessons to be learned here for aspiring authors, actions that can and should be avoided. Frustrations concerning specific issues with your publisher, whether it’s a cover, or editing, or storylines should stay behind close doors. If you must air your grievances on social media be careful who you take down with you. I genuinely believe that Goodkind didn’t specifically mean to blame the artist for his cover, rather his unhappiness is based on his publisher who dismissed his concerns and/or suggestions. Which brings me to a more important point: contract negotiations. I don’t know what the terms of Goodkind’s contract with his publisher are, but I’m assuming it didn’t include his right to veto or at least heavily influence his book cover. In this day and age of twenty-four-hour access to readers, and immediate feedback, writers cannot be trigger happy with the keyboard. Try to be more circumspect in what you say in public. Terry Goodkind’s actions are much less egregious than many authors before him but it highlights certain issues in how authors want to present themselves in public and how to engage readers.