Melissa Walker

Friday, April 18th, 2014 Melissa Walker

firstborn coverLorie Ann Grover, a co-founder of, is an idol of mine. Her spirit, her love of reading and her writing… Well, let’s just say I look up to her mucho. Her latest novel, Firstborn, already has a star from Kirkus. And she has this to say about it: “Firstborn originally sprang from an article I read on gendercide. Over 37 million girls are missing today due to China’s One Child Policy. Visit Global Gendercide Advocacy Alliance Project or All Girls Allowed to learn more and act.”

And now, her Cover Story:

“I’m so honored to be included in Melissa’s Cover Stories! I have to say, we authors usually sit at home holding our breath, waiting for our cover reveal from the publishing house. On rare cases we are able to interject a thought before the creation. In On Pointe I was able to ask for a specific type of toe shoe to be portrayed (read that epic Cover Story!). Even more unusual is the request for a correction after the image is designed. Upon seeing the cover for Loose Threads, I asked for embroidery needles to be replaced by knitting needles, in keeping with the story. My request was granted. But as I waited for the unveiling of the Firstborn cover, I prepared to give zero input. Zero. Like normal.

“What a delight to not have a speck of criticism. When I opened the cover file for Firstborn, I was blown away! I remember sitting in amazement that Mike Heath from Magnus Creative had caught the atmosphere, the character, the place with his art. The font itself conveyed the angst and aggressiveness I had hoped to convey within the story. There was my moment of awe, followed by chills, a prayer of thanks, a happy dance, and then a call to my family to see and share my first fantasy cover.

“When I’m working on a novel, at the start or shortly after, I’ll often create a vision board to help me capture those first impressions and hold onto them through the process to publication. I’ll tear out images of characters, the setting, and objects from magazines and books. Then I compose the pieces into a unified whole. This is the vision board I created for Firstborn:


I believe the essence of my board lies in the Blink cover, which was created before I shared this image with the team. The trailer was in keeping with the collage as well:

“I’m incredibly blessed to be working with such a talented team at Blink. I appreciate that they have visually brought my story to the cover. It’s a perfect bridge to the reader.”

Thanks, LA! Cannot WAIT to read this book (which is out tomorrow!).


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Meg Cabot says of Kristina Springer’s latest novel: “Irresistible as a fluffy kitten. I laughed out loud and so will you!” My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours was a Scholastic Book Club Bestseller and a YALSA Quick Pick. Kristina calls her cover “perfect,” and now the paperback is out, with not one single change. Here’s the cover again, and her original cover story.



KS is running a giveaway on her site through 1/15, and here’s what the winner will get:
• A $20 gift card (Starbucks or Amazon, your choice!),
• Autographed copy of My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours,
• Fake Boyfriend Emergency Kit, and a
• Variety of bookmarks/stickers from all of Kristina’s books

Check out the book here.

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In the Blood - Hantz[1] Sara Hantz was here in 2008 to share the original cherry cover of her debut, The Second Virginity of Suzy Green. She’s back with a very different book and a very different cover.

In the Blood is the story of Jed Franklin, who has a normal life until his 17th year, the year when his father is charged with the abuse and murder of four young boys… and normal becomes a nightmare.

Here’s Sara with thoughts on the cover:

“My publisher sends out a cover art form, though my input wasn’t very useful as I couldn’t think of anything other than I don’t like cartoon characters! I’m not a very visual person.

“When I first saw my cover, it brought tears to my eyes–it made me so happy. It was better than anything I could have imagined. I love the newspaper headlines on the body of the guy and also how dark and brooding he is.”

Thanks, Sara! The shadow of the newsprint is my favorite part–so cool.

Bonus: Enter the giveaway on Sara’s site to win a KINDLE loaded with a copy of In the Blood!

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UnSould_smBarry Lyga’s UNSOUL’D is about a mid-list author in his 30s who sells his soul to the devil for the promise of fame, fortune and fans. It’s actually my life story but Barry changed the main character to a guy. KIDDING! But, um, I can relate to the protagonist’s impulse.

The book is also published by Barry himself, so he had complete cover control. Here’s his tale:

“I tend to like very simple, stark covers. If you look at books like BOY TOY or I HUNT KILLERS, they really have single overriding images or big, potent type treatments. I love those covers. So for UNSOUL’D, I was always envisioning something incredibly simple: Just the title on a white background, to make you really think about that word. And then I screwed it up a LOT before I finally got it right.

“I know just enough Photoshop to be dangerous, so I sort of put together a quick mock-up of what I wanted. And I hated it. So, instead of text on white, I tried text on black. That looked a little better, so I tried adding some flames at the bottom. It still didn’t look right, though. I realized that my poor Photoshop kung fu wasn’t up to the task, so I talked to the woman who did the covers for I HUNT KILLERS and GAME, but we weren’t going to be able to coordinate things in time.

“Fortunately, I had just met Lisa Amowitz at a bookstore event. She’s a debut YA author, but also a professional cover designer. When I mentioned UNSOUL’D, she said she’d be happy to do the cover.

“I gave her my pathetic mock-up and said, ‘But, you know, GOOD.’ And she went to work.

“I was really stressed out. I’ve had input into covers before, but now, for the first time, I was 100% responsible. There was no editor to say, ‘Nah.’ No agent to tell me what worked or what didn’t. No marketing people to offer suggestions. It was exhilarating to be out there on my own, but also frightening. If I said, ‘That’s it,’ then that was it — no one would or could overrule me, and the book would rise or fall on my tastes alone.

“Lisa did a slew of different variations on that original mockup (see two below), and they were all perfectly fine, but there was just something gnawing at the back of my brain and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then Libba Bray looked at the eight or nine mockups Lisa had done and said, ‘You know, these are really dark. And your book is dark, but it’s FUNNY.’ And the proverbial light bulb went off.

Unsoul'dcompRound3.1  Unsoul'dcompRound4.1

“I called Lisa and said, ‘Look, you’ve done some cool covers here, but I want to try doing one in white instead of black.’ Which, you know was the original plan before I mucked things up by playing around in Photoshop. ‘Can you try one like the words are burned into paper or something?’

“Within less than twenty-four hours, she sent me the final cover. And it was just perfect. I could have saved her a lot of work and me a lot of stress if I’d just told her my original idea from the start!

“I love the cover! Absolutely love it. It harks back to my very first idea, but Lisa took it in a totally new direction, making it tactile, giving it heft and dimension as opposed to just flat text on a white backdrop. Now it’s simple and bold, but without being dull or generic.

“I don’t know if it’s my computer screen or my aging eyes, but for some reason the word ‘UNSOUL’D’ on the cover seems ever-so-slightly blurred to me. Just the tiniest bit less crisp than the rest of the cover. Which I actually think is cool for a book that’s all about the gray areas of morality. I imagine it’s just the way my eyes perceive the particular combination of colors and lines on the cover, but I’m a fan of it anyway.”

Thanks, Barry! I love hearing how an author who had complete control navigated the process!

You can get UNSOUL’D in any ebook format you like! Want to read a big excerpt first? You got it.

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MirrorMirror_CoverDiana Rodriguez Wallach was here to show off the cover for Reflecting Emmy, part one of her Mirror, Mirror trilogy (overall cover at left), and she’s back today with the covers for parts two and three! Take it away, D:

“I have two covers to share with you from my YA short-story trilogy, Mirror, Mirror. Part two in the series, Nara Gazing, is on sale now. And part three, Shattering Gigi, debuts in November 2013.

“The cover for Reflecting Emmythe first story in the trilogy that came out in September 2013, included a mirror and I really wanted to continue that theme. The entire series revolves around reflections. It’s a re-imagining of the myths of Narcissus and Nemesis, and as many people know, Narcissus famously died while gazing at his own reflection. So mirrors are a huge theme in my modern twist on this tale. Emmy is a paranormal secret agent who’s tasked with ridding the world of Narcissistic people by using a compact mirror to judge their reflections. So for Nara Gazing and Shattering GiGi, it was very important for me to continue the mirror theme.

“I know a lot of art departments don’t care about cover models looking exactly like the characters as they’re described within the book, but I feel otherwise. The character of Nara is being targeted by Emmy because she’s beautiful, vain and narcissistic. So Nara’s beauty is a key point in the story, and I felt strongly that it should be represented accurately. I pushed hard for a redheaded model. Nara is a strawberry blond goddess with pale skin and blue eyes and I’m glad we were able to find a cover image that reflected how I imagined her.

ShatteringGiGi_Cover“The first time I saw Shattering GiGi, I loved it! I had absolutely no changes. I loved that they gave the mirrored-image a ‘shatter’ effect, and I loved how the model reflected the overall look of both Emmy and her ageless grandmother, GiGi. I also loved the red dress. GiGi is a re-imagining the supreme Greek Goddess, Nyx, a powerful being believed to have been at the dawn of creation and to have given birth to many of the Gods (including Nemesis). Nyx is a bit mysterious and definitely dangerous, and I think the color red gives off that dangerous vibe.

“The first time I saw the cover options for Nara Gazing, however, I had a different reaction and thankfully my publisher took my opinions into account. Below are a couple photos that were initially suggested for the cover.

SpikyBlond WoodlandRedhead

“My publisher really liked the first image, featuring a model with the short spiky hair, but I had a number of concerns. While the photo itself is striking, as is the model’s expression, she looks nothing like any of the characters in my book. There isn’t a blond girl within this series, and there definitely isn’t anyone with a trendy pixy cut. Ultimately, I felt like the model looked too ‘punk rock’ for the characters in these stories, and thankfully, my publisher agreed to consider some more options.

“The second photo they sent was of a redhead, which for me was moving in the right direction, and it showed how generous the art department was being to accept my feedback. However, there was no mirror or mirrored-reflection in this image and that felt like too much of a departure from the other covers. I really wanted to the mirrored element to tie the series together. Additionally, I felt the flowers and butterflies in the model’s hair gave a woodland vibe that would have been more appropriate for a fairy character, and not really representative of my edgy Greek goddess tone.

NaraGazing“So we landed on the final cover, left. When they sent the image we ultimately chose for Nara Gazing, I loved it right away. She had red hair, she was gazing at her own reflection, she looked vain and popular, and it had a great high-school feel. It’s perfect.

“I’m thrilled with all of my covers, Reflecting Emmy, Nara Gazing, Shattering GiGi and the trilogy as a whole, Mirror, Mirror, I think if you look at them lined up, you can see how they tie together and I think each is striking in its own right. I also think they really reflect what’s within the pages, which is the ultimate goal, right? Thanks so much for letting me share my cover stories!”

Thank you, Diana! See all three covers together, below:


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coming clean_compressed Kimberly Rae Miller is here to share the story behind her simple, beautiful cover for Coming Clean, a memoir about growing up with parents who were a compulsive shopper (mom) and an intense hoarder (her dad). Their house was so cluttered that a squatter lived undetected in their attic for years. Here’s Kimberly to tell the story of her crisp, sparse cover:

“Waiting for the cover was perhaps the petrifying part of the process for me. My memoir is about hoarding, and I know what people think of when they think of hoarding. But, at its heart, it’s also a story of unconditional love. I was so afraid that I’d end up with the book cover equivalent to an episode of Hoarders; I had imagined all sorts of dark, dirty, ugly covers with little girls covered in garbage.

care of wooden floors“My editor asked me for input, and I was completely useless. The only suggestion I had was something similar to the cover of Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles (right), only instead of wood, the profile on the cover being comprised of random stuff. Ironically, I had the same cover artist, the amazing Lynn Buckley.

“When I first saw my cover, I started laughing, and then I started crying. Which is kind of embarrassing because I was at the gym at the time. It was just such a relief, I had been expecting the worst—dank, disorderly squalor. Pink paper hearts in various stages of unfurling—it was so perfect and so light and beautiful, but really encompassed everything I hoped to convey while writing the book. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect cover.

“The only thing that has changed from inception to printing was the shading of the hearts. The digital book has a slightly lighter pink hue than the hardcover.

“From what I’ve heard, secondhand so I can’t attest to the accuracy, the artist, Lynn Buckley, was totally stumped. She called my editor and was like, I only have one idea…I have these pink hearts. The rest is history.

“I absolutely adore my cover art. It so subtly sums up the entirety of my story; paper, love, opening up, acceptance. I won’t give away the plot…err, my life…but, it’s all there in these nine little hearts.

“Also, the digital version has a three-dimensional quality, which is kind of awesome.”

Thanks, Kimberly! This cover drew me in from the first–and I think a clean cover is the way to go, but the crumpled hearts convey so much. See the full jacket below:

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 11.39.43 AM

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cover1Susane Colasanti posted about her cover shoot over on her blog, and she told me I could snag an outtake and a quote, so I did!

“Authors usually have zero input in the planning process when it comes to cover design. Fortunately, my editor asked for input before this photo shoot took place. I told her I’d love to see the models in Vans and flip-flops. Just like Seth and Skye wear in the book. After trying them out, the photo shoot art director decided that barefoot was a better look. Which totally worked out for the best. I love the heart as a tool for hiding their faces. Faces are always hidden on my book covers so you can imagine what the characters look like yourself. The endless possibilities for hiding models’ faces is astounding.”

Check out her full story here. So cute.

The final cover:


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cover believeSarah Aronson’s Believe is out this month, and it has a simple, intriguing cover (with secret inside design). Here’s her Cover Story:

“In the beginning, I envisioned the word, BELIEVE, written across the palm of a disfigured hand. Now, when I think about that image, I am so glad they didn’t go with it. Once the sewing subplot found its way into the story, I hoped that it would find its way to the cover.

“When I saw the cover, I was on the El Train after having lunch with Esther Herschenhorn and I had just found a vintage Valentino dress on drastic markdown. So I was in a really great mood!  Once we were above ground, I checked my phone and saw the message. Of course, my phone is slow. We were passing Wrigley Field when I was finally able to download the image. The second I saw it, I started squealing. The only other people in the car were: two 20-somethings (making out) and a guy who had just asked me for spare change. So I asked him, ‘If you had spare change, would you buy this book??’ It was really funny! The others stopped kissing and we all looked at the cover and predicted great things!

“I love that the cover is gender neutral. And that it doesn’t overly reference the religious themes in the book. (Once in a bad dream, I pictured a pile of rubble with a hand reaching out of it.) The best part of the cover: the mood. It’s interesting. It doesn’t give away anything. It just creates a tone. (And I know this is silly, but I was happy that they chose the color red. Not just for what red symbolizes. It matches my other YA novel, Head Case. They look GREAT on the shelf next to each other!)

“I love the cover. And I love the secret cool design on the inside jacket (see below). Love that there’s a perk to buying the book!!! You can look on my Pinterest page for inspirational images: the hamsa. The hand. And images of Baby Jessica, who was the original inspiration for this book. (She was the baby who fell into the well.)

believe inside jacket

“Here’s a link to the story behind the story!”

Thanks, Sarah! Love all the layers to this tale!

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wherethestars_comp_003Trish Doller has a new book out this month with a gorgeous  cover. I loved her debut, Something Like Normal, and this one is on my fall must list. So, naturally, we talked:

the-sharp-time“While I was still working on the book, I fell in love with the image on the cover of The Sharp Time by Mary O’Connell (right), which was taken by a photographer named Metin Demiralay. I was browsing his gallery when I found an image of a girl standing against a barbed wire fence. Demiralay’s work is very color-saturated and edgy and I loved the symbolism of a girl being held back from a normal life by a painful past.

“Once I turned in the manuscript, one of the first emails I received from my editor had a photo attachment of an image she thought would be perfect for the book. We hadn’t talked cover and I hadn’t shown her the Demiralay yet, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The image was of a couple draped in fairy lights…and one I recognized as the cover for Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt (below, left). Obviously we couldn’t use it, but it was clear that the tone Bloomsbury was going for was much softer than a girl behind a barbed wire fence. So instead of showing my editor the Demiralay image, did a search for fairy lights, and discovered a UK-based photographer named Beth Retro who shot a whole set (Preview) of fairy lights. When I saw the green dress image, I promptly fell in love and sent it to my editor who had the same kind of ‘ooh!’ reaction that I did.

usesforboys“Having gone through a LOT of different cover comps with Something Like Normal, I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but every time I sent my editor a different idea–just in case–she’d say, ‘No, I think I like the first one better.’ So when I saw the cover treatment for the first time, I wasn’t exactly surprised by the image, but the font was more beautiful than I could have imagined. Being a bit of a design geek, I learned that the name of the font is Aphrodite. Even though designer Regina Flath didn’t choose the font because of the name, the fact that Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love and the characters in STARS are Greek-American made the font feel really special to me. Additionally, fairy lights play a small but significant role in Callie’s story, so I love that the cover is not only beautiful but representational.

“There has only been one minor change–the addition of the purple stripe near the bottom of the cover–so what readers will see on shelves is almost exactly what I saw that first day. I’ve spent a lot of time with this cover but I’m still head over heels for it. I love everything about it. It feels mature, yet still young adult, and I’m happy that it’s romantic without featuring a couple or kissing. It’s pretty rare that everyone–from the author to editorial to sales–shares the same vision when it comes to a book’s cover, so I’m thrilled it happened like this.”

Thanks, Trish! I love the blurry romance of this cover. What do you guys think?

PS-See below for first design vs. final (the byline stripe change Trish mentions). Subtle but important.

wherethestars_comp_002 (1)  wherethestars_comp_003 (1)

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odell finalJason Odell Williams is an Emmy-nominated producer, and his first novel was just optioned for a three-picture deal. Whee! Plus, Jason tells a good Cover Story. Here he is:

“I never had a cover in mind while writing Personal Statement. I never really picture a cover or poster for any of my work (books, plays, films) until the writing is at least mostly finished. So with Personal Statement, I never had a preconceived idea; I was so focused on just finishing the manuscript.

“So once I had a solid first draft, I sat around over dinner and drinks with my publishers Carey Albertine and Saira Rao and we started brainstorming cover ideas. We thought about something hurricane-related, like a trashed backyard that could look like either the morning after a storm or a wild party. But that didn’t really say enough about the ‘Personal Statement’-college application part of the book. Another idea we floated around was having a shot of the major players in some sort of pose like an album cover or action shot during the Hurricane prep, but again that felt too linear and only dealt with the volunteer aspect of the story.

odell 2“So we came up with the idea of crumpled up paper, all of these false starts when trying to write a personal statement and succinctly tell strangers at college ‘who you are.’ The one we had sort of settled on was the one with the can of Red Bull and the ‘cover’ page of a personal statement with a boot print and coffee stains on it (right). And we were pretty happy with it and were going to go with that. But Carey & Saira wanted to punch it up a little, so they asked Nick Guarracino, who had recently been brought on to do the illustrations for another book they were doing, to take a look at the cover and make it pop more.

“He read some of the book, looked at our cover, and instead of punching up the old one, he came up with 6 completely different options. My publishers looked at them all and knew right away it was the hand thrusting up from the pile of pages. They texted me the image and I took one look and was blown away. The last I knew, our cover was going to b the page with the coffee stain on it, so to then suddenly see this amazing, bright, dynamic, bold arresting cover, I was so excited and thrilled. I immediately texted back and said ‘YES that’s the one.’ (I may have used some profanity in my excitement… as in ‘Holy SH*TBALLS that’s amazing! I love it! Yes!’)

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 12.08.39 PM“And I actually never saw these other options (left) until this week. And while the girl’s face was a close contender, there is something sad and melancholy about it that’s not quite right for the book. Also, it’s hard to put a real face (even half of a face) on a book cover. And I never liked the idea of ‘casting’ a character before someone reads the book. (What if the Rani on the cover doesn’t match the Rani in your head?) So in the end, I know we made the right call with the hand thrusting up from the pile of balled up pages.

“Nick told me the photo was made by taking a picture of a friend’s hand and then using photo shop to add the balled up pages and the color in the background. Then he made the hand look more feminine and ethnically ambiguous. What I like about that is then the hand becomes like a mirror… you see what you want to see. When I first saw it, I thought it was a white guy’s hand. Others see a white girl or an Asian or Indian-American girl. And now when I look at it I can’t decide if it’s Emily Kim’s hand or Rani’s. So it’s cool that the hand has that ‘every-person’ quality to it.

“And now, the more I look at the cover, the more I see how right it is for this book. The hand at first seemed to be simply frustrated to me, but now I also see defiance and breaking free and standing out from the crowd. The hand is coming up for air after drowning in expectation for so long. Of course, I’m reading a lot into it and people looking at the cover for the first time might never see any of that, but I think what the cover does convey, even at first glance, is a sense of being bold and explosive and exciting. It would make me stop twice if I saw it on a shelf (even a ‘digital’ shelf!) And for all of those reasons, I love this cover couldn’t be happier!”

Thanks, Jason!

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