Site Loader

Yesterday I got a chance to gush a little about my love for Antony John’s Five Flavors of Dumb cover. Earlier this month as I was browsing Penguin’s site, I immediately took note of Dumb and went straight to Antony’s website and blog. I was happy to find a blog post on his reaction to the cover as well. Thanks so much for the interview, Antony!


What was your very first reaction when you saw this cover? Did an expletive fall out of your mouth? Tears? A girly scream?

Truly, my first response was an ecstatic OMG THAT IS FREAKIN’ AMAZING. My editor, Liz Waniewski, told me to keep the design under wraps (this was back in November 2009), but really, how do you keep a cover like that under wraps? So, I immediately forwarded it to my wife who called me about seven seconds later to say something along the lines of . . . well, OMG!!!

You’ve said before that you had no artistic input on the cover. Is there an extensive physical description of what Piper looks like in the novel? Is this how you envisioned Piper to look? Were you surprised in any way?

I had no artistic input on the cover, and that’s how I wanted it. I know nothing about cover design, other than that “I know what I like,” so I was pleased to be able to stay out of at least ONE aspect of the publication process. Yes, there is enough physical description of Piper to give the reader an accurate portrait. Does the girl on the cover look EXACTLY as I had imagined? No, but she is perfect all the same. Like you (it seems), I actually have a preference for covers that don’t show faces, but in this case, the hair and sunglasses obscure so much of her face that there is no jarring with the way I describe Piper in the book.


What I especially like is the girl’s pose and her attitude. Piper is often obstinate and defiant, but she needs to be to overcome what is thrown at her in the course of the book. I think the girl on the cover conveys that spirit perfectly. Oh, and everybody keeps writing to me to say that they love her boots.

(I concur, the boots are awesome)

This might just be my ignorance, but I have no idea whether designers even get to read the book before designing a cover. So please excuse this if it’s a dumb (hehe) question! Did Kristin get to read it before designing?

Yes, she did. In fact, it seems as though almost everyone at Penguin Books has read it, which is both very gratifying and possibly unusual. My understanding (from what other authors have told me) is that cover designers sometimes have to work from an excerpt and a synopsis. I can’t say whether this is totally accurate, though.


As your second novel, how do you feel Dumb’s cover compares to Busted’s cover? Do you feel as though one cover more accurately represents one novel versus the other?

I love both covers. I thought the cover for BUSTED did an exceptional job of conveying the spirit of the novel. Really, that cover tells you just about all you need to know about the book. What I especially like about the cover for DUMB is how attention grabbing it is. A lot of teen bloggers have made the same comment–it looks like a movie poster–and I think they’re spot on. And how many authors get to have a movie poster on the front of their book?

My favorite part of the novel is the photo. The color scheme, the kind-of weird pose. I can’t tell if she’s trying to “listen” to the band by feeling the earth or what. There can be a few interpretations. What’s your favorite part of the cover?

Um, I actually have three favorite parts:

1. There are two distinct halves to the cover, but Kristin blends them so seamlessly that you’re unaware of this. I think that’s an impossibly clever sleight-of-hand, and I wouldn’t know how to go about achieving that kind of effect. Maybe it’s something to do with the way her boots rest at a slightly lower level than the seam. Anyway, she’d be able to explain it better than me!

2. I love that she chose to emphasize the word DUMB. (That was completely her idea, by the way, but coincidentally, my editor and I had already started to call the book DUMB in our correspondence.) Not just that, but the treatment of the word is fantastic: those discordant, uneven letters; and graffiti-like, daubed-on red paint. How do you see this on a shelf and not pick it up?

3. Like you, I love the photo, too. I love the way Piper isn’t a part of the band behind her, but seems to be in control anyway. And the brightly colored stage lights just work so well against her no-nonsense, gray-and-black outfit. By the way, her T-shirt has what looks like a USA flag on the front and a UK flag on the back; if so, that’s a pretty cool coincidence (me being English but living in the US).


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

As much as I hate to admit it, when I’m browsing the shelves of my local bookstores, I AM drawn to covers I like. So the first thing I’d say a cover ought to attempt to do is grab the person browsing. However, if I pick a book up, I then invariably read the flap copy, so ideally the cover will also tie-in neatly to the tone and subject of the text. If it doesn’t, everything feels off-kilter. Finally, I’d say that you can always tell when a cover designer had a vision and really allowed it to evolve. I see too many covers with just a girl’s face, and they seem generic and uninspiring. By contrast, a cover like DUMB was very definitely conceived and developed, and is all the stronger for it. It’s just my good fortune that it happens to be my book!

Antony was kind to send me a paperback ARC of Dumb. I’ll definitely be purchasing this book when it’s released – it will be in hardback with a sandpaper feel and glossy debossing (woo, texture!). Also, after reading the novel, I have to say it’s very hard to not stare at the cover and really believe you’re looking at Piper Vaughan. She’s as layered as the book’s cover design is.

Tune in tomorrow for my interview with Penguin’s book designer Kristin Smith – the brains behind Dumb’s cover art.

Bryan Williams