The 2015 Cover Controversy!

Vaughn Hardacker here. Last month my publisher, Skyhorse Publishing, forwarded me the proposed cover for my novel THE BLACK ORCHID, slated for release on March 1, 2016. My first impression was: “Wow, what a great cover!” Then I wondered if the story included enough sex to warrant the cover. Nevertheless, I rushed out to post the cover for the world to see on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. In no time the comments came rolling in–every one positive. My agent thought it was quite risqué and possibly it indicated more sexual content than was in the novel (see my reservation above), but it was reminiscent of the noir covers popular in the 1950s and 1960s. We both agreed that if nothing else it would be eye-catching.

Then I got a comment from our own Kate Flora: “Nice cover…I think I’ve seen those legs before.” I assumed Kate was making a joke and didn’t think about it again. Then I got an email from Kate saying “…check out the following link” followed by a link to I followed the link and here’s what I saw!


Kates Book

I immediately spoke with my agency (Talcott Notch Literary Services) and Gina Panetteiri, President and founder, explained that publishers often purchase the rights to artwork from agencies, they then obtain the right to change it to suit their needs. She went on to say that it is not uncommon for this situation to arise.

I then contacted the publisher and sent them a copy of the link and they informed me that they would redo the cover. The irony of this situation is that Kate and I are represented by the same agent and she recently signed a publication contract with the very same publisher for her book, A Good Man with a Dog. While similar covers may not be a major issue, I wondered what the effect might be if the two authors were with the same publishing house (although the books are with different houses and Kate’s book was released in 2011 as the fifth of her Thea Kozak series).

I think this must be one of those psychic events we often hear about. If Kate and I were not personal friends (both in life and online) and  if we were not colleagues this might have gone unnoticed. But what is the probability that two authors in the same publishing house and represented by the same agent would have books utilizing the same cover artwork!

So, now I’m waiting for the publisher to redo the cover so I can send out a correction post along with the new cover.

You will never guess what’s on Amazon though–yup the duplicated cover!



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9 Responses to The 2015 Cover Controversy!

  1. Barb Ross says:

    I know that publishers frequently purchase the right to use artwork however, but the scope of the coincidence here is breathtaking–that you and Kate not only know one another, but share an agent and are both Mainers. If you put it in a book, no one would believe it!

    • Vaughn Hardacker says:


      In the words of the great American philosopher, Yogi Berra: “It was Deja vous, all over again…” But, I too thought that the series of coincidences was unique!


  2. Brian Thiem says:

    And all this time I was thinking those were Kate’s legs on the cover of her book.

  3. David Edgar Cournoyer says:

    Wow, you both seem to be taking this calmly. I once heard Barry Eisler speak on the subject of what his agents and publishers did to his c0vers and he was less sanguine about carelessness. I hear a lot about the importance of branding in general and covers in particular. If that is true, it seems you both deserve more from your agent and publishers than recycled cover art. Am I wrong?

  4. Vaughn, you’re right, this is another one of the things that irks me about legacy publishing- they tell you about the great team that does everything well (which is why they demand you sign away all your rights), especially covers. Then they reuse a stock photo used on other books (10 minutes work), and don’t care that anyone notices. It was one thing that drove Barry Eisler away, when they gave his book a crappy cover and told him, after he protested, that they really didn’t care. How embarrassed would you be at a signing with Kate, to have those two nearly identical covers side by side?
    I prefer the control of determining what a browser first sees. So I’ve got the best cover artist in the biz, who gives me the covers I want, that reflect the content within (for those interested in bettering their cover design, contact me, and I’ll put you in touch).

  5. Linda Meadows says:

    Unfortunately, I often judge books by their covers and that cover doesn’t look at all like the Thea Kozak I’ve read. If I weren’t already familiar with the series, I would not buy that one. I get increasingly dissatisfied with the covers publishers are choosing. They either make every book look trite and cutesy, with bad pun titles, or they go all the way to noir when the book doesn’t. I wish writers could choose their own covers and titles that actually fit the content.

  6. John Clark says:

    Yogi’s comment was the first thing that came to mind when I read this. Bet he’s leaning on a bat somewhere right now with a big grin on his face.

  7. Even as a indie author, getting the right cover is no mean trick. I have paid to get a cover and re-done one myself. Of the two, I think I got the one I did myself right – although the paid cover really pops, even if it isn’t historically accurate. Sigh.

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