Cover Stories: Heiress, P.I.

Amanda Mahan is the author of Heiress, P.I., which she describes as "Veronica Mars meets Gossip Girl." She self-published this debut, so I was interested to find out how the cover design went. Here she is to share: 

"I started by going to the bookstore and seeing what jumped out at me. Obviously dystopian future and vampire books are very hot in YA now -- so there were a ton of moody, black covers. I looked for other books that were similar (contemporary or set in L.A. or had some comedic elements to them) and really liked the covers by Ally Carter and Lauren Conrad. I felt like thematically, that's where Heiress, P.I. fit. 

"To create the cover, I worked with a designer friend who lives in France and all of our communication was done online. Since I couldn't walk the aisles of the book store with Lucie (the designer, as opposed to my heroine Lucy), I created a secret Pinterest board for her with all the book covers that inspired me. Some, like Mindy Kaling's book, weren't even YA. This was a great exercise because I could start to see common elements, moods, fonts, textural bits, and imagery. I also added other pins -- movie posters (like Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette), pictures of young stars like Amanda Seyfried who I imagined looked similar to Lucy. Oh and Kelly Osborne's purple hair. There was just something about it that I liked.

"I realized that I wanted the cover to reflect the sense of humor in the book -- and also to help it stand out from all the moody, black, dystopian stuff. And I wanted one strong, unmessy, uncluttered visual because I knew it was going to be an e-book initially and seen in a rather small size on the web or mobile. There were a few elements of the story that I thought could be fun to play with. One is that Lucy goes to a costume party dressed as Marie Antoinette which seemed like an interesting territory to explore. 

"We didn't have money for a photo shoot, so we had to use stock. Stock images with Marie Antoinette themes were... strange. Lucie tried some illustration styles as well (see right). But ultimately we decided a photograph captured the modern story better. In one exploration we had a fan (which plays an important part in the story) covering part of Lucy's face. We both liked that because it underscored the idea of secrets and the mystery that Lucy was investigating. We also both liked having her hair in a Marie Antoinette-style bun, even though we had pretty much abandoned the costume party idea.

"One day I was searching through images and inspiration struck. I saw my favorite mug shot -- the one of Steve McQueen doing a peace sign. It's irreverent and has a sense of humor but communicates trouble. There is a scene in the book where Lucy gets arrested -- it felt like the right tone and concept. I found a mug shot background on iStock and Lucie made a few mock ups with different fonts, colors, placements and finishing touches. I was really into a rhinestone tiara for a while. Too froufrou! Same with feathers, fans, flowers and candy. We kept trying different things but in the end we both liked it a bit 'roughed up' because it had to appeal to older teens and women.

"I sent the mockups to a friend who has teen daughters and a few younger cousins for informal focus groups. The feedback was invaluable. They loved the star in the title text, for example, because they thought it made the book seem like it would be fun. They loved the pink color. They liked certain hairstyles over others. They liked certain girls over others who seemed 'nicer' or 'prettier' or had better hair. One crucial bit of feedback was that the girl on the cover was blond but the write-up I sent (which would be akin to the book jacket copy) talked about Lucy's frizzy brown hair. Total disconnect! I realized I needed a tagline and that's where 'madeover and undercover' came in. 

"In the end, we made a few more tweaks like adding black nails to show rebellion and the pop of pink nail color and hair streak to be more trendy. The cover is so important because it has to convey the trashy, tabloid, celebutante, pop culture, fun beach read feel - all while intriguing you to dive in. In the end, I'm super happy with it and all credit goes to the fabulous Lucie!"

Thanks, Amanda! Check out the book!