I have a tenure-track assistant professor interview coming up. I am proposing a monograph and wanted to include a visual to go with it. Is it too much to include a fake book cover to show interest/determination? Or do you think it would look good?

  • A side question: are you sure that a monograph is an appropriate project for your level / field / position? In some fields / places, a monograph wouldn't "count" toward tenure as strongly as papers would, and wouldn't be a good use of research time for a tenure-track faculty member. In which case, proposing to write one could work against you. It's a fair question in the interview to ask how projects like monographs are evaluated in a tenure case, but it might not be wise to include the proposal until you know the answer. Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 18:07
  • Are you in a field where monographs have elaborate covers? In my experience, academic monographs tend to have rather bland covers, and a cover image doesn't really convey any additional information over and above just listing the title.
    – R.M.
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 19:49
  • I might do this a little tongue in cheek if I had already written at least a complete draft of the manuscript. Otherwise I would just say that this is something that's on my to do list. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 18:56

4 Answers 4


In your question, you say that you are "proposing" a monograph. This suggests that you don't actually have a contract signed with a publisher yet. If that is the case, I think it is a little bit dangerous to prepare a cover by yourself.

The people who review your application want to see concrete results, achievements that have already taken place. If you already have a book contract signed, then at least the faculty can understand that there is a very strong likelihood of the book getting published, and therefore that is still acceptable for them.

But, if you present a fake cover for a book that you are still planning to propose in the future, this might give a misleading impression that the publication of your book is already fully decided. And if the reviewers realize after doing a closer examination that in fact you don't have a contract signed, then they might become very suspicious about your whole application. They might say "well, if this book is not guaranteed to happen, then there might be other things in the application that are presented in a misleading way."

If you already have a signed contract, then I think it's ok to have a mock cover, or you can use the logo of the publisher together with 2 or 3 example covers from other books published by the same publisher in the same book series.

Another important thing is whether you have good graphic design skills or not. A poorly-designed cover might show you in a bad light. If you still want to go with the idea of creating a cover, then you should make it clear that the cover is a mock cover. You could include a message clearly saying "mock cover" or something similar. In any case, you have to be upfront and honest about the actual status of your book so that it doesn't mislead anyone.

Personally, I think it would be better if, instead of a cover, you use 2 or 3 representative images of your research in order to give the reviewers an idea of what the book would look like and what its main theme is.

Edit: as pointed out by @JanusBahsJacquet in the comments section, having a signed contract does not guarantee in any way that the book will actually be published. Nevertheless, a signed contract is still interpreted by reviewers as a positive sign, because generally speaking, most signed contracts end up as published books.

  • 5
    Absolutely! One of the first things I ascertain from anyone I meet (official business or otherwise) is their ability to both grasp and faithfully and reliably articulate the difference between facts and everything else (aspirations, things one has read or hear "on the internet" or from a friend, etc.) If I even get a whiff of some conflation, deliberate or otherwise, explicit or implicit, they get an "unreliable source of information" mark in permanent marker in my "book". This is good advice - don't take any chances giving the wrong impression that you're representing fiction as facts.
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 3:16
  • Just to be clear: having a signed contract with a publisher by no means guarantees publication of the book. Publisher–author contracts are notoriously easy to get out of, for either party, and it’s not at all infrequent that they are rescinded even quite late in the process. Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 15:08
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yes, your comment is right on the mark, I should have made my answer clearer on that aspect. I will edit the answer at the bottom.
    – djohn
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 7:26

Honestly, if I received a manuscript with a fake cover on it, I would think it was a bit goofy. It would not make me angry or decide to reject the work out of hand. But it likely would not really affect my opinion on the broader work.

Having a formal cover page is a good thing. I would expect that. But a stylized cover would be a bit odd.

Now, of course if you are proposing a monograph in something like children's literature, this advice may not hold. But generally, just a simple cover page will suffice.

  • Thank you for your advice :) By cover page, do you mean just like a blank page with the title and my name?
    – ElleZi
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 17:12
  • (+1) While I don't share the views in this answer, it is a useful perspective that will represent the views of some academics, so you should be aware of it. (And now, by upvoting this answer without substantive agreement, I've messed up the polling opportunity for the contradictory answers on this page!)
    – Ben
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 22:16
  • " if you are proposing a monograph in something like children's literature," what's up with children literature?
    – EarlGrey
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 6:33
  • @ElleZi Yes, a simple title page would look fine in my opinion. Title, name, affiliation, date. Maybe something like that.
    – Vladhagen
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 3:51
  • @EarlGrey I do not write children's lit, so who knows what the actual standards are there. But I was just pondering that perhaps a field like children's lit might find value in the more flowery presentation of a manuscript. Who knows.
    – Vladhagen
    Commented Jun 29, 2023 at 3:53

Ceteris paribus, I like pretty things more than plain things

Personally, I see no problem with having a draft book cover including full visualisation --- it gives a draft impression of what the book might look like when it is finished. I would also find it reasonable for a draft book to include a draft edition notice page containing whatever relevant publication information is already known, plus placeholders for the rest. Just as you might reasonably have a draft of a book with a "working title", similarly you may have a draft of a book with a "working visualisation" and a "working edition notice". Both of these things contribute to making the book look "real" while it is still in draft form.

Now an important part: if you are going to use a draft visualisation, you should generally ensure that you are using visuals that you have permission to use under relevant copyright/IP law, and you should include a copyright statement to this effect in an appropriate place in your draft. If you are not publishing your draft (i.e., you are just circulating it internally for review) then you could probably get away with using a draft visualisation without permission, but you should still make clear the status of the relevant copyright/IP in an appropriate place in your draft. (And obviously, if you want to go ahead with using that visualisation when you publish then you will need to get permission to use it.)

If you end up with a professional publisher, they will of course use their own house templates for the cover pages, cover art, the edition notice page, copyright notices, and other relevant information pages. Nevertheless, having a draft placeholder for these during the writing and review stage can assist readers to see what the book might look like when it is finished. While others might disagree, my personal view is that I would prefer to see a draft that includes these elements, since it will tend to be prettier and seem more complete than a "plain" draft.

  • Not all publishers have or use house templates – many make each cover independently for each title (usually with the exception of series and journals), and some smaller publishers even use any typesetting and/or cover layouts provided by the author in some cases. Apart from those minor details, I agree wholeheartedly with this answer. (And of course, the part about securing reproduction rights applies not only to cover visualisations, but also to illustrations used in the text.) Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 15:15

Let’s say it takes you 2 hours to mock up a nice looking cover. You could have used those 2 hours instead to actually work on the content for your book. What does it say about you that you chose to spend them doing a cover for a book that hasn’t yet been written, instead of actually writing something?

To me, if I were interviewing you I would see this as a signal that you are a person who cares more about appearances than about substance, and who wants to get credit for things before doing them; the kind of person who, say, starts a PhD in 2023 and immediately adds the line “PhD Harvard, 2028 (expected)” on their CV, or fills their publication list with vaporware “in preparation” papers, many of which will never get written. Nope. Do the work first, then claim the credit for it. You won’t get any points from me for fake book covers — even if they are only presented as part of a proposal. On the contrary, I might well interpret it as a red (or at least yellow) flag.

  • 1
    The 2 hours towards mock up would not be done in a vacuum, it is proposed as part of an effort to prepare for an interview. "...create a book cover for a potential book for an interview?" The proposed mock up isn't a good idea, but your answer kind of mis-directs readers as to what the OP asks.
    – uhoh
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 6:37
  • 2
    I don't think mocking up a title page in conjunction with a book proposal is the same thing as listing unfinished papers. Even that might be okay if done right. Also, are you saying people shouldn't add in-progress degrees to their CV's?
    – sErISaNo
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 6:41
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    @sErISaNo adding degrees in progress can be okay if done right, as you say. And talking about a book proposal can also be okay if done right. Doing a book cover is not a case of doing it right, rather I see it as a classic example of counting your chickens before they hatched (or before the eggs were even laid). Btw I understand where OP is coming from, we all know how competitive academia is and how people are driven to seek credit for any shred of progress to their research program, no matter how embryonic. Nonetheless, the book cover idea goes way beyond that and is simply a bad idea.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Jun 23, 2023 at 15:18

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