Hello Miss Snark,
I know this has been discussed more than once, but I have another question about cover art. (Hopefully I'm not a nitwit for bringing this up again.) I have recently met someone who does fantasy art and is familiar with book design. I know that being my first novel, I won't have any control over the cover art, but can I suggest using someone I know to do the art? Or, do the Publishers have certain artists they work closely with? I just worry I'll be stuck with a cliche cover with a woman and a sword. How much input do I actually have, or do they choose the artist, the design and show me after the fact?
You can certainly give your editor the name of an artist. Don't expect it will lead anywhere. Most publishers have their own art departments, or they have artists they work with on an ongoing basis.
Unless your agent can pull a rabbit out of the hat, cover design is entirely the publisher's decision. Most of the publishers I work with will show us designs but it's a courtesy. I don't use up my favor sticks on covers unless I have to.
And a bad cover design won't kill you (heresy I know). Anytime I see a bad cover I think of the wonderful and hilarious Harlan Coben who had to deal with a bleeding football on his first Myron book. Harlan is a smart guy and a savvy marketer. He called booksellers himself and said "it's a great book if you can just get past the bleeding football". They did, and a career was born. Booksellers STILL mention hearing from him about that first book...YEARS later. He was funny, and charming, but he got the job done.
Like damn near everything else in this world, you can get where you want if you don't give up.