The astoundingly talented Nova Ren Suma is here with an epic Cover Story! So without further ado, here she is:
“My first published novel, Dani Noir, is about a thirteen-year-old girl named Dani who is obsessed with old noir movies and femmes fatales like Rita Hayworth. In the story, Dani uncovers a noirish secret in her small mountain town and sets off chasing a mystery girl who’s spotted wearing a pair of polka-dot tights. This book was written for a tween audience, and the cover that Simon & Schuster / Aladdin came up with for the book perfectly captured the voice and the mood of the story—as well as the mystery girl’s polka-dot tights. I felt like the illustrator, Marcos Calo, truly ‘got’ the character of Dani, down to the way she’s creeping behind the wall on the back cover, tailing the girl you see on the front.
(To see the stages the illustrator went through in coming to this final image, visit his blog to take a look at his sketches.)
“I’d originally envisioned a black-and-white noir-style photograph, but when my editor brought me the final version of this image, which wrapped around to reveal Dani hiding on the back cover, I was excitedly surprised, especially that original art was commissioned. And it’s thanks to the illustrator’s vision, in fact—since the girl on the front cover is holding an umbrella—that I rewrote one of the fantasy sequences to take place in a rainstorm.
“Dani Noir came out in hardcover in 2009, and a paperback edition with the same cover was planned for the following year…
“…But then the paperback edition was canceled at the last minute. I was upset that the book wouldn’t make it to paperback, especially since readers kept asking me when the paperback edition would be out and saying they couldn’t find the hardcover in stores anymore. I was sad, but there wasn’t much I could do. One day I’d have a book that made it to paperback, I told myself.
“In fact, I would. Because the story of Dani Noir wasn’t over…
“Fast-forward about another year to the day I got a phone call from my agent. Now having moved on and working on books with a new publisher, this was a call I absolutely wasn’t expecting. My agent told me that an editor at a different imprint at Simon & Schuster wanted to publish Dani Noir in paperback. Only… the imprint was Simon Pulse, which publishes only YA books. They thought the book would translate well to a lower YA audience—and it turned out they would even let me make some line edits for the republication. But they wanted to give the book a new cover, and they even had a new title in mind: Fade Out.
“I was thrilled. A book I thought was over now had a second chance at life! And yet… it wasn’t until I hung up the phone that I realized how strange it was to lose what felt like the perfect title for the book. It’s words that mean something to we authors, after all.
“I did want to keep my original title because it was one of my favorite things about the book, but Simon Pulse wanted to distinguish this book from the first version, since the new edition would be on the YA shelves instead of with middle-grade. I came up with a list of other title options, but editorial and sales and marketing and everyone who counted liked Fade Out, so Fade Out it stayed.
“When I announced Fade Out, I was contacted by numerous other authors who were happy for me… but confused. How did this happen? Why was I losing my awesome original cover? Why was I letting them change my title? And wouldn’t readers be confused?
“Well, fellow writers, if you had the sudden chance to have the novel you thought would never make it to paperback come out as you’d hoped… but looking completely different and called something else, might you do it, too?
“I felt like this was a gift I couldn’t pass up, and making it to paperback so the book would hopefully find new readers was the most important thing.
“When the cover for Fade Out was first sent to me, I opened it excitedly on the street, on my phone. And stopped. It was beautiful, arresting even. It was mysterious. And yet it felt like a cover for a completely other book to me. Who was the girl? It couldn’t be Dani… she’s thirteen years old. Was it meant to be Dani’s fantasy image of herself? Could I explain it that way? Did this look like too sophisticated of a cover for this story… and would it be misleading to readers? Would they pick up this cover thinking it was a certain kind of book and be disappointed at what they found inside?
“I was flooded with questions. I remember saying something like I loved the cover image, but this cover made me want to write a whole different story to merit it.
“The photograph wasn’t black-and-white, but, ironically, it was more in keeping with what I thought the original cover of Dani Noir would be. (I think my desire for photographic covers, just in general, is related to how I think I was meant to be writing YA over middle-grade/tween, but that’s a whole other conversation.) I found out later that the image is by a photographer named Ilina Simeonova—and it’s a self-portrait. (She’s created quite a few book covers—check out her portfolio!)
“The new, beautiful cover image stayed, as did the new title, and Fade Out came out in paperback in 2012 and, if the emails I get are any indication, it’s thanks to this second chance at life that the book found readers it may not have found before.”
Thank you, Nova! This is an extraordinary story–I’m not sure I’ve heard of the title/cover/audience change before (anyone else?), but YAY for expanded readerships and paperback dreams come true.
What do you guys think of these covers? I think the original feels more unique to me, but the paperback YA is gorgeous, too, and I honestly like them both.
PS-Next week, Nova will be back to talk about Imaginary Girls, a book I adore.