Here's Leila to tell the tale:
"I'm not a visual thinker, so I didn't have a specific vision for the cover. I told my editor that I like covers with a lot of white space and that I like covers with silhouettes (for example Maureen Johnson's THE KEY TO THE GOLDEN FIREBIRD or Natasha Friend's PERFECT). I also had an image in my mind of two girls running away from a school building together. But I had no real idea... There's a reason why I'm a writer and NOT a designer!
"I talked about what Violet and Katie would be wearing, if they were pictured on the cover. It was important to me that they not be wearing high heels because, as anyone at an all-girls school could tell you, students there just don't get that dressed up. Girls-school fashion is a lot of J.Crew jeans and Northface fleeces.
"So, actually, when S&S did the cover shoot, they used Kate Spade shoes with like three-inch heels--and then they photoshopped the heels out to make the shoes look like flats. I was going to buy a pair of to wear to book signings, but when I found out that a) they would cost me a few hundred dollars and b) I wouldn't be able to walk in them because I have no talent for heels, I decided against it.
"But I had seen earlier cover comps that I was less thrilled with. There was one that was supposed to be a crumpled-up piece of paper against a white background, which was a great idea, but it was hard to make it actually look like paper. There was another concept that showed a Coach purse against a white background, and I had absolutely no patience for that. It made MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS look like a book about shopping, or THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA for teens. [That's another early comp idea, right, with a different title, Wayward.]
"We all agreed that we wanted a central, memorable image against a clean background, like the PREP cover; it just took a while to figure out what that central image should be.
"They did a photo shoot with a model. Well, she's sort of a model. She works in Simon & Schuster's sales department, actually. I forget, but I think she sells to Borders? This happens regularly in publishing, that a cover designer will approach one of his colleagues and be like, 'Hey, you have great hair/hands/legs/whatever. Will you model for this cover?' No one has ever asked me to do this, but I am holding out hope.
"S&S featured a blow-up of MOSTLY GOOD GIRL's cover at BEA, and all day people were going over to take pictures of it. My friends wanted photos because, you know, I wrote it, while the S&S sales rep's friends wanted photos because her legs are on it. I met the cover model at a BEA cocktail party, actually. I asked her to cross her legs so I could see if it looked just like my book cover or what. She seemed maybe creeped out by this.
"People keep asking me if I'm the cover model, which I take as a huge compliment. I do like wearing tights. But no, my legs are not that skinny.
"I have seen a few commenters on the Internet saying they thought the cover made this book seem like it was going to be about a bunch of slutty, materialistic girls, which of course it's not. But by and large the response has been that the book looks fun, funny, and fashionable, and that was the goal all along.
"I don't think the girl on the cover is necessarily Violet, or Katie, or any other particular character in MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS. I think the cover image is more evoking the feeling of this competitive all-girls prep school, and it does that so well. So I'm honestly pleased with how it turned out. Especially when I see it on display in a bookstore, on a table filled with dark YA covers-- it just pops!"
Thanks, Leila! I am so, so glad everyone kept working to come up with this concept (and especially that the Coach purse did not fly). The final cover creates a record-scratch moment. By that I mean: You stop and stare. Right?
What do you guys think?