Terra Elan McVoy will be teaching with me at Smith College this summer (yay!) and she’s back with a brand new book and a cover that somehow is both very in keeping with her past covers and also very different. Here she is to tell the tale:
“I know I’m like a broken record at this point, but the case of Criminal‘s cover, as with all of my other books (save the paperback edition of Pure), I didn’t have much to say when it came to the design, other than, ‘BAM! This is awesome!’
“Since Criminal is in so many ways a very different book for me though (edgier and darker, with a much less confident protagonist), I was curious how the design team would work to set this book apart from the beautiful sweetness of the others, and yet keep it in line enough so that they would all look good together. I knew I didn’t want anything that too strongly focused on the violence of the book (a gun, for example, or handcuffs or jail), though I did wonder about utilizing police CRIME SCENE tape or something like that.
“What makes the final cover so perfect to me, is that it is definitely different from the others (all black, notably different font), but it also blends with them. Like the rest (below), there’s the title, and my name, a solid background, and one stand-out visual that makes it pop. (In this case, the golden bullet.) Even though there is a hint of the violence on the cover, it feels perfect because it is so simple, and so symbolic. That the bullet is tearing through the title, shattering it into little bits, is perfect not just because it looks cool, but because this violent act of Dee’s completely shatters Nikki’s life.
“I will admit that when I saw that the cover was completely black, I did have a moment of, ‘Oh no! How is this going to stand out now?’ since my friends have had fun sending photos of Pure, especially, popping out on the shelf amidst a field of darkly-covered YA titles. I think the end result is so perfect and gorgeous, however, that I’ll be able to handle it. All in all, I’m very pleased with the whole jacket, and I hope it entices readers to pick it up and read what’s inside!”
Thanks, Terra! I really love your covers and the way that one symbol stands in as the full design. (See Terra’s past Cover Stories for Being Friends With Boys, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts, After the Kiss and Pure.)
What do you guys think?
Kate Brian, aka Kieran Scott, is here to share her perspective on the cover for her latest novel, Shadowlands.
“I’ve never had the privilege of being asked for input on my covers, so I’m always holding my breath a little bit, waiting to see what the designers come up with. Most of the time, when I see the final result, I breathe a sigh of relief, and that was definitely the case with Shadowlands. I love, love love this cover. Every time I look at it I think I love it a little bit more. I love the moodiness of the colors, the gold shimmer of the title, the way the clouds and the birds wrap around the letters. It seems to be in constant motion. But I especially love the reaction it inspires from readers when they first see it. At an event the other day, a girl picked up the novel and said, ‘Oooooh! Spooky!’ And then she gave it a little hug. You really can’t ask for more than that.
“All that being said, I think I loved the original cover even more (right). The proposal for Shadowlands was put together by the awesome folks at my packager, Alloy Entertainment, and then pitched to a couple of publishers. When they originally sent out the proposal, they included a mock-up of the cover so the first thing the editors at the publishing houses saw was a piece of art that set the mood. That cover included a stock photo of a girl, who faced away from the camera, and was looking up at a flock of hovering and diving crows. You couldn’t see her face, but you could tell she was running. She had this voluminous skirt she was holding up with both hands, and with her face tilted toward the sky, you got the feeling she was terrified of the crows, or of what they symbolized, and that she was running for her life. Once the trilogy pitch sold, the powers-that-be decided to hire models and have a shoot, which is great, but the girl on the cover of Shadowlands the novel, as opposed to Shadowlands the proposal, just doesn’t convey that fear. She looks almost like she’s daydreaming. She’s beautiful and I love the movement of her hair and that she’s still looking up at the dreary sky, but I do miss that fear I felt with the first cover. There’s definitely a terrifying element to the book (girl on the run from a serial killer), so it was nice to have that emotion conveyed. Still, I’m more than happy with the final product, and happier every time I hear that, ‘Oooooh!’
“As for the question that seems to be on every reader’s lips, the girl on the cover is supposed to be Darcy, and the girl on the back cover is Rory. This always confuses people because the book is from Rory’s POV and she’s a blond tomboy, so the cover doesn’t meet with their expectations. I have to admit, this was not the designer’s fault. Originally, the novel was from both sister’s POVs, something that changed during the editing process, but by the time the change was made the cover was already done. It was too late to replace Darcy with Rory. They both appear on the cover of the second novel, Here After (right), which is this awesome dark purple color and possibly even spookier than the first. The great thing about both covers is I think they’re intriguing enough to catch a browser’s eye and make them pick up the books, which is really all I want out of a cover! Reel ‘em in so they’ll read the flap. Keeping them there is my job.”
Thanks, Kieran! I got a Hitchcock vibe from this cover from the start, so I was spooked immediately. I like seeing the girl more on the final cover, but I do love the fear in that first cover. Tough call.
What do you guys think?
“A Song for Bijou is a multicultural middle-grade romance, so I knew I wanted Alex and Bijou, the protagonists who share narrator duties in the story, to each be featured prominently.
“I was consulted throughout the process. I didn’t have super-specific images of the characters in mind – except for Bijou’s hairstyle, which is described in detail in the opening paragraphs of Bijou, but I wanted them to likeable, approachable, and no more sophisticated than their tween selves would be in real life.
“It took us a couple of tries to get there – the designer tried a couple iterations of a collage concept, but we didn’t get any traction with it – but I absolutely loved the final version!
“As with most writers, my contract grants what is called ‘cover consultation,’ which means that editorial and marketing are encouraged to seek my input and to hear me out. (This is opposed to the much rarer ‘cover approval,’ which means that the author has to approve of the final version 100%.) My editor at Bloomsbury, Mary Kate Castellani, went to great lengths to include me in the design process. I have no idea how I compare to other authors in terms of the amount of input I give, but I love illustration and design, and it’s fun to be involved in making those decisions.
“I wouldn’t say that every single one of my suggestions was implemented, but that I was definitely treated with respect as a collaborator throughout the process, and the fact that I was but one of several people offering input was absolutely a good thing for the cover design. Whereas I’ve written just two books, my editor and designer have worked on dozens. They know what works, and what doesn’t.
“The cover began as a photo collage, and ended as an illustration somewhat influenced by the poster for the film, Moonrise Kingdom. When the second iteration of the photo collage failed to excite the overall team, we all kind of converged on the idea that an illustration was the next logical direction. My editor sent me examples of several illustrators whose work they thought was good, and I picked 2-3 of those as favorites.
“One of them, Erin McGuire, nailed the cover concept on the first try. In fact, the very first drawing she submitted (right) was quite close to final illustration. She understood instinctively what she needed to do.
“If a book has a plot of any originality, finding the perfect stock photo is like searching for the needle in the proverbial haystack. My first book, Rules to Rock By, was about a 12-year-old, half-Dominican girl in Providence, RI who plays the bass and wants to start a band. Try finding a 12-year-old, half-Latina girl playing a bass! It’s not easy, and the initial cover-design attempts weren’t cutting it. I was thrilled when my editor gave me the go-ahead to find my own model and photographer. My wife, Tayef, and I were already involved in shooting a book trailer for Rules, so we had a photographer come in and shoot a bunch of stills of the actress who played Annabelle, the main character. The people at Bloomsbury loved the photos, reimbursed the photographer, and used their favorite for the final book design.
“Not until I actually saw the cover on the final, bound book (above) did I realize how nicely the cover design complemented the novel. A Song for Bijou‘s narration is split between Alex and Bijou, the two characters depicted on the cover, and the designer did a very nice job of re-purposing the main illustration twice to reinforce the relationship between the cover art and the story told inside. On the back cover, the same illustration is shown, but only from the waist down. And below each character’s feet is a sample of the prose written from each character’s point of view. Finally, the spine of the cover shows only each character’s face, virtually gazing at one another from across the divide of the title. I thought this was a sweet visual metaphor for the distance Alex and Bijou must travel in order to find one another.”
Thanks, Josh! I love the colors on this jacket, and the emotion between the characters is spot-on. What do you guys think?
Jennifer A. Nielsen‘s bestselling series impressed me with its iconic cover style. Here’s Jennifer to tell the story of how it was created:
“We had the cover of Book 1 (The False Prince, below right), so I guessed that Scholastic would try to stick with the ‘broken’ theme, but since covers are the realm of the publisher, I don’t think much about them while I’m writing. Besides, I have the visual art abilities of a toothpick, so my instincts aren’t great for design.
“I wasn’t asked about input for Book 1, but with Book 2 I got to see a rough draft and make suggestions to my editor. I know that one of Scholastic’s goals with this series is to create an image that was more iconic, something that didn’t look like any other book. And I think so far they’ve succeeded.
“I really love the emerald green with the silver text, and I think the sword on it is just wonderful. The sword reminds me of Narsil, the broken blade in Lord of the Rings. I think it’s going to look great next to that deep blue of Book 1.
“Book 1 went through several different versions – I think there was a lot of input throughout the company and they worked really hard to find a cover that met a wide approval. Book 2 has some slight variations from the original version, but nothing more than tweaking what was already really lovely art.
“The cover design was done by Chris Stengel, the same illustrator who also designed for Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver trilogy [read the Shiver Cover Story], and Ken Choi did the sword art. I feel indescribably fortunate to have both of them for artists.
“I love, love, love both of my covers! I think Book 1 does exactly what it should, which is to define itself as a medieval fantasy in which something has gone very wrong for the royals. The shattered crown is a wonderful symbol, and I think readers will come to appreciate its meaning.
“For The Runaway King, I think it’s wonderful that the broken image has been carried forward. Readers will find in Book 2 that Sage’s problems only get worse, and the cover definitely reinforces that.”
Mari Mancusi has shared Cover Stories here before, including one of the most popular Cover Stories ever for Gamer Girl! She’s back with a new cover, revealing this week for the first time, and a great story. Here’s Mari:
“With seventeen books under my belt, the Scorched cover consultation wasn’t exactly my first rodeo. But for some reason I was more nervous than ever about what they’d decide for the cover. I just felt a book like this really needed the right cover. But what would that right cover entail? For once I didn’t have a clear picture in mind.
“I knew I wanted a strong looking heroine. It was important to me that Trinity didn’t look like a damsel in distress in a pretty gown. I also knew I wanted the cover to appeal to both genders—as the book has points of view from both Trinity and the two boys—Connor and Caleb—sent from the future to stop the dragon apocalypse. And I liked the idea of an orange and red color palette—to really pop on bookstore shelves. I wanted it to be vivid. To be violent. To be on fire.
“And, you know, it couldn’t hurt to have an actual dragon on the cover…
“I was delighted when I found out they were hiring an artist to create the cover. Which, in hindsight, makes sense. I mean, casting call for dragons on Craigslist, anyone? I was even more delighted when I found out they chose Tony Sahara who did the beautiful Eon and Eona covers. This was an artist who knew his dragons.
“You can see some of the rough cover comps he sent as we tried to settle on an overall concept (below). The one with the dragon rampaging over the city feels very Godzilla-like to me. Which is kind of awesome, but perhaps not exactly right for this particular book. I also really liked the covers that showed the close-ups of Trinity and the dragon—with the title in the middle. They look a little softer—almost romancey.
“But nothing could come close to the design that was finally chosen. A cover literally on fire. A girl standing with her dragon—eyes defiant, challenging—as if to say, ‘You really want to mess with this?’ And the dragon—though fierce and awesome—looks down at her with affection in its eyes. You look at this cover and wonder—what is their connection? Why is she so protective of this monster? Is there something about this dragon that we don’t know about? Something worth saving?
“I love this cover with the passion of a thousand burning suns. Now that I’ve seen it, I couldn’t imagine anything more perfect for the book. And I cannot wait to see it on bookstore shelves in September.”
Thanks, Mari! Love this story. The cover screams DRAGON, and readers will know just what they’re in for!
What do you guys think?
Bridget Zinn‘s first novel, Poison, was released in March, more than a year after she lost her battle with cancer at age 33. I’ve read a lot about her. I started here. Her last tweet was “Sunshine and a brand new book. Perfect.” And with that, I wish I’d known her.
I have learned so many wonderful things about Bridget, and about her much-loved debut. (Want John Green’s thoughts? They’re here.)
I wanted to do a Cover Story, about the fantastical image, about the peeking pig. I asked Bridget’s husband if she ever saw her cover, and he told me she didn’t. But he offered a link to Novel Novice, who has an interview with her cover model (right), and he said, “I think we were extremely lucky to have such a fantastic cover.”
Turns out the costume involved stitching 12 pieces together. The dagger is real. And there’s more fun stuff from behind the scenes at the shoot.
I’ll leave you with some words from Kirkus about the book. As for me and the cover? I’m enchanted.
“A frothy confection of a fairy tale featuring poisoners, princesses, perfumers and pigs, none of whom are exactly what they appear.” -Kirkus
PS-While lots the word-spreading was done in March, here’s how you can help Bridget’s novel reach more people. Go read her story–and then read her book.
Katie Quirk is here to share the story behind the cover of her Kirkus-starred novel, A Girl Called Problem. The notoriously tough Kirkus called the book “A mesmerizing read that expands young readers’ worldview even as the pages turn.” (Also? The cover is lovely.) Yes! Here’s Katie:
“I should start by saying I love the cover for A Girl Called Problem. It’s better than anything I imagined, and yet I did suffer from a few moments of panic along the way.
“You see, A Girl Called Problem is lucky to be housed at a small press–Eerdmans Book for Young Readers. They actually had two mentions in the most recent ALA awards, so they do their job well, but they’re certainly not wading in money. As a result, I tried to set my expectations low in terms of cover art.
“Last fall, I got an email from my editor saying they had a sketch for the cover. I knew enough to realize that authors have very little say in cover art, so I was grateful that she was including me in the conversation at all, but when I scrolled down to the image, I must admit I was disappointed.
“The figure looked awkward and older than the book’s main character, Shida, whom she was supposed to depict; and the whole thing looked low budget. I gave my editor some general feedback–zebras weren’t authentic to this setting and perhaps we could make Shida look younger–but I decided to keep my mouth shut and to avoid saying what I really felt, which was discouraged.
“What I didn’t realize was that this was truly just a sketch. The very talented artist, Richard Tuschman, who had also designed the beautiful cover for Moon Over Manifest, would hire a model, take some photos, and do some of his magical digital photo artistry, blending in a flamboyant tree and a vivid sky.
“A few weeks later, this is what they sent me (right). I was blown away. I loved it. The dirt road and vegetation and flamboyant tree looked like they were right out of East Africa. The colors were rich and vivid, just like I remembered Tanzania. The model was perfect–everything from her face, to her hair, to her dress, which looked worn, but stylish enough to appeal to modern readers. I was so pleased that it took me a couple of weeks to realize that something critical was missing: Shida wasn’t wearing her medicine pouch! My heart sunk–Shida always wore her medicine pouch, but how could I point this out now? I hadn’t thought to correct Richard or my editor when I should have–at the sketch stage. And though Richard is clearly a master of image manipulation, he would never be able to paint the pouch in over all those folds and wrinkles around Shida’s waist. Nevertheless, a week later this was the image they sent me (below left):
“Unbelievable. There was her pouch and it looked perfect.
“I really could not be happier with the cover. I’ve spoken with other authors who were only peripherally consulted about their book covers. In one case, the author was given the choice between two covers she wasn’t thrilled about, but she strongly recommended they choose the one with the girl with dark (rather than blond) hair, because she described that character’s dark hair in great detail. Not too much later, she learned that the publisher had decided on the model with blond hair! I’ve found that one benefit of working with a small press is that they have generously involved me in every step of the process–right up to the book’s stunning cover.”
Thanks, Katie! I love a happy ending like this and the cover is just beautiful. Read the story behind this book on Sara Crowe’s blog, and I dare you not to rush out and get it. So inspiring!
Jennifer E. Smith’s covers have a distinctive look that I love! (Remember her Cover Story for The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight?). She’s here to talk about her new cover for This is What Happy Looks Like — the book’s out April 1st!
“I loved the cover for my last book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, so I was hoping they might do something along the same lines, but I wasn’t sure exactly what that might be. My cover designer is a complete genius, though, and I’m so pleased she came up with something so brilliant!
“I loved this cover right from the start. It’s sweet and summery and romantic, and the fact that it goes well with the cover for Statistical Probability is a nice bonus.
“We went back and forth on the colors a bit, wondering if we should try pink instead of yellow, and there were a few minor tweaks to the general positioning of the boat and the shading of the water, but that was about it. They pretty much nailed it right away. I absolutely love everything about it – from the hand-lettered title to the rowboat to the bright yellow sun – and I think it perfectly captures the feel of the book. It seems to radiate happiness, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Yay! So there’s a positive story for your Monday. I love shadow and light and water-based covers, so you know how I feel about this one. (Also yay for yellow v. pink — I like that choice.)
PS-You can hear Jennifer read from this book tonight at 6pm, when she and I and Gayle Forman, Bennett Madison and Kristen-Page Madonia will be chatting with David Levithan to kick off the 2013 NYC Teen Author Festival (full schedule here)! Come!
Jessica Brody has been here before to talk about the covers for her previous novels (The Karma Club, My Life Undecided and 52 Reasons to Hate My Father — click to read). This time, she made a video to discuss her latest book, Unremembered. Take a gander (you get to see the UK cover and some font adjustments!) and then download the first five chapters of the book for free!
Nova Ren Suma was here last week talking about her cover and title changes for Dani Noir/Fade Out. This week she’s back to discuss the cover that made her cry: Imaginary Girls.
“Discovering what the cover of a book will be is always a magical moment—and one that, every single time, has revealed itself to be something I didn’t expect. Maybe it’s because I don’t let myself think too much in detail about what the cover should be when I’m writing. I don’t like to picture the cover—I leave that for the people at my publishing house. I like to keep an open space in my mind for where the cover will be, once my editor sends it to me. I like to be surprised.
“I thought that the covers for Dani Noir and Fade Out both captured different feelings the story was trying to portray, and I count myself as lucky to have had both editions published. But there’s only one cover in my short history as an author that felt like someone had slipped into my secret fantasies and awarded me the thing I didn’t even know to ask for.
“Here it is, the cover that made me burst into breathless, happy tears (left).
“Imaginary Girls was my second published book, but my debut YA novel. It’s the story of two sisters, their strong bond, and the dead body that threatens to break it—and the story begins at the local reservoir, when the younger sister, Chloe, is dared to swim across the water by her older sister, Ruby, in the middle of the night, and something shocking stops Chloe before she makes it across.
“The image that graced the hardcover edition of the book is a photograph by Elana Kalis, whose underwater photography is the stuff of legend. Truly—the images are so beautiful, I don’t even know how to contain myself. Here is the original image before it became my cover (right). And here is the exhilarated blog post I wrote when I first revealed this cover to the world.
“I really did cry when I first saw the cover. It was more beautiful than I’d ever imagined a cover for anything I wrote could be, and I felt like the image spoke to the voice of the novel, to the feeling I wanted to portray, even if it wasn’t a literal interpretation of Chloe swimming the murky reservoir in the deep night.
“Sometimes an author’s wildest cover dreams come true.
“…And dreams that come true don’t always last forever.
The New Face of Imaginary Girls
“Because when it came time to publish Imaginary Girls in paperback, I was told that this would involve a cover change.
“The paperback version of the Imaginary Girls cover is quite literal. The water is dark, as the reservoir at night would be. The girl’s eyes are green, as they would be. And there’s even the rowboat with the hand reaching out of it, just as Chloe found when she was trying to swim across. I also really like how pointed the back copy is:
“Ruby said I’d never drown. I didn’t. But someone else did.”
[Full jacket below.]
“Privately, behind closed doors, people have asked me how I could let this happen. Why change the perfect cover? But I’m sure many of you reading this post know that most authors don’t make these decisions. I have no idea what makes a book sell and what cover would draw in the right kind of reader. I do know that since the paperback of Imaginary Girls has come out in the summer of 2012, it seems that more readers have found the book, and this is what any author would hope for. Maybe the new cover tells a reader more of what to expect from this story. Either way, I feel like two sides of the book have been revealed by these covers, like it’s a story with two faces.
“And as I tell any passionate fan of the original version of Imaginary Girls, if you love the first cover as much as I do, you can still order the hardcover.”
Thanks, Nova! I actually think you have hit the cover jackpot again and again. While the hardcover of Imaginary Girls remains top in my heart (who can get over such beauty?), your other covers are all lovely and evocative.
What do you guys think? Favorites?