Before I forget to mention this, I’ll be presenting a session on “Unboxed Platform” at Grub Street’s The Muse & The Marketplace conference in Boston  this coming weekend. If you’re there, stop by and say hey. Also, WU friend Erika Liodice has posted a Q&A with me today on her site, Beyond the Gray –all about working toward goals and pushing through doubts. Swing by if you can. Finally, rumor has it that WU has made the Writer’s Digest Best Websites for Writers list  for the 4th year in a row. W00t!
Today I want to talk about covers. “Did you have any influence on your cover?” is one of the most asked questions whenever I do a presentation with book clubs or writing groups. (I’ve done ten since The Last Will of Moira Leahy was published, if you can believe it.)
The short answer is yes. But it’s way more complicated than that, so let me take you through the steps–or at least explain how it worked for me.
The Cover Concept Meeting
Almost a year before the book was released, I was told that a cover concept meeting would soon be taking place to discuss Last Will–a meeting when lots of ideas are thrown around by the editor, possibly the publisher, and others involved in the book. This is when the author’s voice may be presented to the art department. I was invited to submit any ideas I had, including any jpgs of images that I felt spoke to the work.
Of course I took them up on their offer, and submitted about a page of description about twins, the book’s water themes, and magical realism, and named some setting possibilities–Castine, Maine and Rome, Italy. I also sent 36 pictures along in a Word document, which now feels over the top, but at the time felt just right. (You know how I love a good picture.) Of those 36 shots, 24 were of twins or included water imagery, and many featured saturated colors–great for pop, to attract attention on a bookshelf. One of them even contained a picture of a woman with red hair covered in bubbly, magical looking water. I included jpgs of a few book covers I’d liked, too, including Amy MacKinnon’s Tethered  and Kate Brallier’s The Boundless Deep . (Erm, you think I was subtle about what I wanted? Oh, lunacy, thy name is debut author.)
Everything is shared with the cover designer–the memo and the photos–before the designer sits with all of those thoughts, digesting before the real design work begins. And then it does begin. Take a look at this great video showcasing the birth of the cover Blameless, a novel by Gail Carringer .
Cool, isn’t it?
The Jacket Meeting
At some later date–three months in our case–the potential covers are unveiled at a jacket meeting. Hopefully at least one of them captures the collective imagination of the Important People in the room, including the publisher, and makes them confident the book will shine on a shelf next to other books. In the case of Last Will, the chosen cover did resonate with everyone.
The Author Email
That’s when it was presented to me. The first time I opened the PDF file and saw the cover of Last Will, I literally got teary eyed. Yes, I was curious about the other possible covers, but I didn’t ask to see them (and probably wouldn’t have been shown them even if I had); I was happy. “Have I ever seen a prettier cover?” I wrote right immediately after seeing it. “I think not! The saturated colors are blowing my mind. I love the illumination around the lettering, too. Hug the designer for me!”
Even though we all loved it, I was cautioned not to fall too hard yet. If a top buyer (at Borders, Barnes and Noble, etc…) decided they hated it, that would very likely be the end of the cover. Luckily for us, that wasn’t the case. And, let’s play devil’s advocate for a sec: What would’ve happened if I’d hated it? Would it have made any difference? Yes, I was told that they would’ve presented something else.
Foreign editions of Last Will have yet to be published, but when they are, it’ll be with new covers (I have editions coming out in Brazil and Germany–later this year, I think, and next). And a large-print edition of the book is already available, which features a slightly different cover  showing more of the cover model’s face.
Random House has also been gearing up for the trade paperback release of Last Will and–you guessed it–we’re going to have a new cover. Want to see?
Twins. Water. Saturated colors that’ll still jive with my website  (phew). This isn’t the final version of the cover, by the way, but it’s close enough for show-and-tell.
Why change a cover that so many loved? I’ve heard that question quite a lot lately. The reason: Because sometimes it’s smart to woo a particular audience with a particular look. In this case–with the Library Journal quote and the image of twin girls–the cover should appeal to the contemporary women’s fiction crowd.
So that’s what it takes to put a cover together and how an author can impact it.
Have a cover story to share? Any questions or comments? The floor is yours.