Archive for May, 2013

authorthoughts: tanita s. davis & mare’s war |

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If you didn’t get a chance to read the Cover Love post yesterday, you missed me gushing about the bold and iconic paperback cover for Mare’s War. Today, the lovely Tanita S. Davis weighs in about the cover’s design, and adds a few other Authorthoughts of her own.


TCG: How much anticipation did you have towards the design of your cover? Did you ever have any ideas about what you thought Mare’s War’s cover should look like? Did you provide any concept input to Erin Clarke and Kate Gartner?

TD: For Mare’s War, I was just excited to be done with the last revisions of the book – I hadn’t thought too much about the cover! When I did get around to thinking of it, I figured that there would need to be some kind of WWII focus – maybe sepia tones, some actual Library of Congress snapshots in the background with a more modern foreground – maybe road signs or a map with the title in an interesting font. (Yes, we can see that I am NOT a graphic designer.)

TCG: This is my first Authorthoughts interview for a paperback cover of a novel, so first things first — how did you react to the original hardback cover? And later, how did you feel about the paperback cover?

TD: I was able to see the concept stages with the paperback cover, but the hardback was simply presented with a “ta-dah!”


I liked the original hardback cover. I am a fan of Jody Hewgill’s illustrations (and can I just squeal that Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels and Sylvia Louise Engdahl’s The Far Side of Evil were also drawn by Ms. Hewgill? Seriously. Exalted. Company.) and I thought the hardback was really neat. The paperback cover blew me away – so, SO different, such an entirely new vibe! I was shocked.

TCG: I’m pretty sure the first time I heard of this novel was when I saw the cover on The Story Siren’s blog. It sat in a group of a few other YA novels, and two other covers that actually caught my eye as well (Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen and Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray). And while I’ve been bombarded by various Girls’ Faces on Covers here lately, there’s something particularly striking about Mare’s War, and I easily separated it from the other two covers. It’s Mare’s stance. It’s the silhouette profile. It’s the title itself. It’s the fact that I don’t recall seeing anything quite like it in the YA realm.

How does this imagery relate to Mare’s story? What’s your favorite part about the cover?

TD: This imagery is symbolism rather than fact – while Mare does indeed splurge on lipstick at one point in the novel, at no time does she put it on whilst wearing her helmet! The novel is in large part about a search for identity for Mare and her cohorts in the 6888th Postal Battalion. They want to be women – feminine and strong, as well as American women, and African American women, while at the same time serving their country – thus you get lipstick, brown skin, and a helmet.

Now, I have to say, I love the lipstick. Technically, it’s the wrong color for an African American woman of that time period. While many women in the 50’s wore the iconic Tangee lipstick, which appeared orange-ish, but changed colors by lip temperature, my grandmother, who lived during that time, wore something called Blue Flame, which was so dark red it bordered on black. But – that wouldn’t have looked nearly as arresting with a dark silhouette, would it? And you know there were some women who were darker who wore the Tangee anyway. So, I love that bright color, it just pops out of the color, and makes a statement all its own.

TCG: As an author, what do you think is the most important message that a cover should relay? Should a cover be succinct to the novel’s message? Allude to something? Or should it just catch someone’s attention, no matter what it looks like?

TD: Book covers are so tricky – I have to say I’ve read too many novels wherein the hero or heroine is described as curly-haired and brown-eyed, and the cover has a straight-haired blonde on it – which just annoys my soul. (Don’t even get me started on novels wherein the character is pudgy or supposed to have acne or something – do we ever see that? I believe not. Apparently, readers can’t handle reality?) There has to be SOME kind of relevance to the story with the cover, to my mind! But, I think symbolism and hints of the plot are okay – everyone will come away with something different from a novel, and there’s no way a cover can capture everyone’s two cents, so if it’s attention-grabbing and doesn’t actively opposed what the author stated, it could be perfectly reasonable.

TCG: What are some of your favorite YA covers — and why?

TD: There are so many – too many! I’ll offer three: First, the 2003 U.S. cover of Australian author James Moloney’s Black Taxi is just fabulous. It’s a mystery with a lot of fast-paced action and tension, and the driver with her head out of the window, the movement of the stripes in the background, as well as the silhouette cut-out of the passenger in the back of the taxi give such a feeling of mystery and mood. Its stylish digital artwork was designed by Greg Paprocki, who is just amazing.


Next, I also really love the UK paperback covers of Malcolm Rose’s mystery series Traces. They remind me of neon lights on a black background, and there are clues to the mystery offered tantalizingly on the cover. Finally, I also like the UK version of Australian author Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician trilogy. (What is it with me and Australia today?)


These are stark white covers with a single photographed individual on them, swathed in robes, simply holding a staff – but the movement of the robe gives such movement — a sort of swish! feeling – as if they’ve just turned and glowered at you threateningly through their face-obscuring hood. All that is exposed of them is their hands… which brings up questions! – Is the robed figure a girl? A boy? What’s this about? This series is part mystery, part Hero’s Journey tale – and entirely absorbing. Another excellent series with a vastly different, but just as striking set of covers.

TCG: Are there any trends in YA cover art that you’ve seen lately that you’ve noticed and loved? Or, have you noticed an evolution in YA cover design in the past few years?

TD: Well, now that we’ve gotten away from the Headless Girl trend I’m good. I’m not a huge fan of straight-on, face-front photographs of females on YA novel covers – and that – females and fancy clothes – seems to be the current trend. But, at least the females have heads, and not just torsos! We’ve definitely moved away from artistic renderings on YA jacket covers – for some reason, photography seems to be the sole YA trend, whereas illustrators are for middle grade and chapter books now. I don’t know why that is – I guess readers are trying so hard to see themselves in books that they feel good about a book with an attractive photograph of a person on it. I hope that we don’t lose illustrators, and that innovative book designers keep combining both the illustrated vibe with photographic and digital tricks – or else all books will continue to have a very strong resemblance to one another!

TCG: Anything else you’d like to share about cover design as a whole or in relation to Mare’s War?

TD: I have to laugh at how much random knowledge I now have about WWII – because of researching for the book. When Kate first bounced the cover off of Erin, who passed it to me, I immediately said, “Oops, helmet’s wrong. That’s a Pacific theater helmet, not a European theater helmet.” And then I wondered how the heck I knew that!! Random stuff in my head! I’ll be much better at Jeopardy! now.

Thank you so much for your insight, Tanita! I loved your thoughts on illustrations in cover design, the Headless Girl trend and now I’ve got new artists to stalk! Speaking of artists, be sure to stick around for tomorrow’s post, where I’ll be featuring Mare’s War’s cover designer, Kate Gartner of Random House.

cover love: homefree |

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Hey there, reader. Does this look like paranormal cover art to you?

wright_homefree-1159719While it’s not the norm for me to discuss book synopses here, I’ll tell you this much: Nina Wright’s Homefree is about a teenage girl who astral-projects. Yes, you read that right.

Now take a look again at Homefree’s cover art. When I first saw it on Flux’s website, I thought it looked like a cover for a contemporary YA novel. Perhaps there was some sort of road trip involved. I thought the type placement on the Little Tree air freshener was a nice touch. And while this cover art might seem a little too simple, it somehow struck a chord with me and made me pause long enough to want to learn more.

I’ve had my eyes on Flux’s website ever since I discovered Lisa Novak’s design work. But Homefree’s nod to a contempo-supernatural story surprised me when I saw its cover. Would I have ever guessed in a million years that it was a paranormal read? No. And even though this novel debuted in 2006, years before the current onslaught of Sad Girls on Paranormal Covers, I think I would’ve stopped to look at it on a bookshelf back then, too.

cover love: blankets |

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Okay, folks, confession time. I’m not exactly proud of this, but I’ve never read a graphic novel.* Please don’t judge me! Because as soon as I get my grabby hands on Craig Thompson’s Blankets, that’s all going to change, I promise.

This particular Cover Love post is interesting in the fact that the author is also the illustrator. Which I find mighty awesome, if I say so myself. I dare you to visit Craig Thompson’s blog and not get lost in all of its pages, clicking on post after post, ogling all of that artistry. And what’s more, he’s included a few pictures of the German production of Blankets.

Among a few texture-rific specialties, it’s got subtle spot varnish, one of my favorite things to fondle touch on a book.

Regarding the US cover, Blankets has a face that stills you with its emotional tone. To me, the two characters on the cover don’t seem to be holding each other in a romantic embrace – they’re out in the middle of nowhere, holding still in a forest of snow. They seem lost in each other, but…they seem so sad.

A sample from the inside:

Oh, and a few other people had some nice things to say about Blankets, too. And it’s won multiple awards in both visual and literary realms. No big deal.

Yep, I think I’m ready to cut my teeth.

*This is kind of a lie. I read half of Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 1. Long story.

cover love: you had me at halo |

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While I do realize that Amanda Ashby’s novel was originally published four years ago, it certainly didn’t keep me from letting out an LOL after seeing this cover for the first time. And while I can’t say much for its type choice or treatment, I have to say kudos to the adorable puffy heart-shaped cloud. (And hello cute shoes!)

I assume that a majority of titles are set prior to the cover design stage, and the design process manufactures a look set after a novel’s name. But you’ve gotta admit, there’s still a lot to be said about an attention-grabbing title. And You Had Me At Halo just makes me smile. =)

cell coverage: a love story starring my dead best friend |

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horner_alovestory-1824289I have to admit I’ve had my eye trained on this book for a few months. Every time I venture into a bookstore, it’s almost always outward-facing. I also can’t help but be attracted to shiny objects — y’know, like a squirrel or raccoon but without the whole rabies thing. But seriously, check out the gloss on that cover. Shiny!

There are several reasons why I’ve always stopped by to look at A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend. The marquee is attention grabbing. I mean, it’s signage for crying out loud. I think my advertising eyeballs are automatically trained to look at such things like quirky-looking marquees. All of the colors pop, from the orange on the motel to the red on the sign. And quite frankly I don’t notice the green-hoodied grinning girl until my eyes are almost completely done with soaking in the cover.

Something I’ve noticed lately on covers (in general, not necessarily YA) is the proportion of an author’s name to a novel’s title. I understand that an author’s name alone can sell a book. But I have so much appreciation for cover designers and art directors who know how to keep titles and author names proportionate to each other, especially when you throw blurbs and multiple quotes in the mix. I’ve mentioned before that I like it when my eyes know exactly where to go when looking at a cover for the first time.

Here’s an example using Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother:

doctorow_littlebrother-1976067I almost featured Little Brother for a Cover Love post, but I hesitated only because of the type proportion. Westerfeld and Gaiman’s praises about Cory Doctorow’s work are obviously important, but the slightly smaller author name had me confused as to whether it was part of the title or not. And overall, there was just way too much text all over that cover for my eyes to handle.

So back to A Love Story. In many ways, it’s a simple yet very put together cover. Factor in eye-catching elements, colors that pop, a familiar backdrop and a catchy title, and you’ve got yourself A Cover Love story. icon_wink-3729690

cover love: how i stole johnny depp’s alien girlfriend |

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As I’ve mentioned before, I believe that cover art is similar to a type of bait — art directors and marketing teams hope that it’ll hook you. But in some special cases, you don’t have to know anything about the novel’s subject matter. The cover itself simply makes you want to know more.

This same idea also holds true for a pretty fantastic title.

ghislain_hisjdag-2311683A few observations can be made from this retro-tastic cover even before seeings its artwork:

  1. Stealing is somehow involved.
  2. Johnny Depp is somehow involved.

Title aside, this cover felt like a throwback to the 1960′s and 70′s, and I felt the immediate need to watch Space Ghost when I saw this cover online. The color scheme is an odd yet perfect blend to accompany its sci-fi story, and this cover art will stand out in a sea of blues, purples and pinks, which seem to be the current trend in YA cover art. How I Stole Johnny Depp’s Alien Girlfriend is the perfect example of a distinct illustrative style, a fantastic title, and enough of a summary to make me demand, why can’t this book be published this week?

cover love: between two ends |

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Earlier this month I was browsing one of my new favorite cover art blogs, Caustic Cover Critic, and discovered the gorgeous cover art to David Ward’s Between Two Ends (out next week).

You guys. You guys. I promise you from the very bottom of my heart that Amulet Books is not paying me to pimp their cover art. Two covers in a row is pure Cover Lovin’ coincidence.


Okay, I’m not gonna lie, the first thought that came to my mind when I saw this book other than *gasp* it’s so alluring and magical! was OMG is that the Sultan’s castle from Aladdin??!!1!11! If you need to know one fact about me (besides my cover art snobby hobby), let it be the fact that I love the animated film Aladdin and can recite every song word for word. In each character’s voice.

On a serious and more professional note, to say that Between Two Ends’ cover is stunning is a complete understatement. In one look it has the ability to show me parallel worlds, fill me with complete wonder, and turn my slightly piqued curiosity into I-Must-Read-What-This-Novel-Is-About-Right-Now-ness. It’s like a complete story on the cover without being Photoshop overkill. The title is a part of the artwork, anchoring two different realms, and not slapped on as an afterthought.

The creative energy behind Between Two Ends’ cover art is the brilliant illustrator/painter Yuta Onoda. His illustrations and paintings are beautiful and mesmerizing, not unlike this cover. What’s more, the cover art for Between Two Ends is just scratching the surface of a story that sounds completely magical and full of adventure and totally up my alley. It also kind of makes me want to burst into song. “A Whole New World,” if you were to ask me which specific song.

Bravo, Onoda. Any work of cover art that beckons me to fall in love with its pages is doing right by its author, publication house, and most of all, its audience.

cover love: the faerie ring |

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I’m having a little difficulty on where I should start with this cover’s dissection, but first, let me show you why:


I know, right.

I’ve been a fan of a few YA covers that have been published by Tor, and The Faerie Ring just so happens to be the latest addition to my collection. It will forever sit among the likes of these covers:


And while my knee-jerk reaction towards The Fairie Ring may have been Oh my stars, look how gorgeous!, my fascination with this cover goes a bit deeper than that. This cover art tells a story just by looking at it, pure and simple. I love the perspective of the illustration — it makes you an active participant in what’s taking place on the cover. I feel like I’m in the same moment as Tiki, as if I’m discovering this ring at the same time she is. This is why I feel a fascination with this cover. All of its elements are purely magical — from Tiki’s half-hidden and obscured face to the glowing ring to the way elements of dark and light are balanced.

It seems to me that the team behind this cover had some pretty clear objectives when it came to its creation. I’d like to say that Seth Lerner (art director) and Susan Chang (editor) set out to create a cover that would hold its viewer captive long enough to make The Faerie Ring a “pick me up and hold me” type of book. And of course, this is pretty obvious to anyone who knows a lick about design and marketing. But then I learned from the author, Kiki Hamilton, that there were details beyond that beautifully intricate type treatment that were pulled directly from the story. Details I would have missed completely had she not pointed them out.

Luckily, she kindly agreed to let me harass her ask her a few questions pertaining to the cover design, and will be here on the blog tomorrow sharing those very details. Stay tuned for Authorthoughts in the morning!

cover love: struts & frets |

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I wonder about a variety of issues when it comes to marketing in the publishing industry. As someone who often works alongside ad agencies, I’d like to think that I can empathize with some of their woes — the red tape, the endless amount of revisions, the neutering of the artistic soul, properly defining an audience and demo, efficiently communicating a message (with never enough money), the list goes on and on.

It’s interesting to think about how the publishing industry wrangles with these same issues — whether there are less hoops to jump through, more people to please, and the same amount of nit-picky changes to the artistic craft, of course. One thing that’s always made me curious is the Hardcover to Paperback Makeover. Does the same amount of effort towards the hardcover cover art go into the paperback? Are they both planned at the same time? At what point is the hardcover successful enough to go into paperback publication? Why do publishers choose to repackage and republish Novel/Series X/Y/Z with new covers/titles?

I have a lot of questions, obviously. But it’s the Hardcover to Paperback Makeover that I’d like to address in today’s Cover Love post.

See Exhibit A: Jon Skovron’s 2009 debut, Struts & Frets, in all its hardcover glory.


Struts & Frets was designed by the very talented Chad Beckerman (I may or may not stalk follow him on Twitter as well). The combination of color, scrawl, doodles and photography has always made this cover design separate itself from the rest of the contemporary YA crowd. I haven’t seen the novel out in the wild, but I’d imagine that the back of the jacket includes more scrawl and nuances to music or to Sammy’s persona.

Now, behold — Exhibit B, the paperback that kinda gives the hardcover a run for its money:


I’m not sure if Beckerman also designed this beauty’s cover art, but there’s something to be said for taking the feel of the hardcover and then letting it simmer, boil, and then splash all over a completely new by-product in paperback form. And yeah, it literally did splash — check out those coffee stains.

Amulet’s marketing move to keep the same feel but different look is obviously intentional. I’d be interested in knowing if the idea of going a completely different artistic direction was anywhere on the table when they decided to publish it in paperback. Struts & Frets’ softcover cousin will definitely be getting my hard-earned cash-money, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Amulet dreams up for the e-book cover.

Jon Skovron has informed me that designer Meagan Bennett is responsible for the amazing paperback cover. High five, Meagan!

cover love: death benefits |

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Remember back when I featured The Kid Table for Cover Love? If so, this cover may not come as a surprise, then.


Let’s talk design elements, first. As I’ve mentioned approximately 4,538 times on this blog, I love it when a cover is simple, but different. You can’t just slap some Helvetica titles over some vintage stock photography, then put it on a cover and call it awesome. Sarah Harvey’s Death Benefits cover art was picked out from a crowd in an indie publishing article I read the other day. In the same vein that Andrea Seigel’s The Kid Table features an object, simple type, and high-contrast colors, Death Benefits takes it a step further to add a more pronounced circle gradient. The title’s font also makes it feel a little more whimsical.

And that car? I’m not exactly your die hard car enthusiast, but I can definitely appreciate a polished piece of automotive workmanship. (Also, I wouldn’t be sad if keys to a Maserati accidentally fell in my lap) When was the last time I saw a classic car on a YA novel? The only two covers I can think of that even have cars on them are Lauren Barnholdt’s Two-Way Street, and Pete Hautman’s How to Steal a Car. I’m not sure if this decision comes from a marketing team’s professional opinion that “cars shouldn’t be on books that teen girls primarily read.” Or in Death Benefits’ case, is the car featured because the novel’s MC is male? Perhaps a car on a cover will attract male readership?

Regardless, I’d definitely pick up and thumb through Death Benefits if I was browsing the shelves at the bookstore. Its blue spine would stick out amongst all of the dark paranormal and fantasy fare, for sure.