I received the cover art (which I adore!) for my May release, What She Left Behind. I love the way the words hide behind the trees! The cover artist, Jessica Handelman, was kind enough to answer a few questions about this cover and her job.
Tracy: Could you tell us a little about the process you used to create the cover for What She Left Behind?
Jessica: The first step I took in designing What She Left Behind was to read a good chunk of your manuscript. I'd love to read every manuscript that I work on all the way through, but realistically, I get assigned all of my titles for each season at once and I don't have the luxury of time. In order to get moving as quickly as possible on all of the covers, I try to read about half of every book. This helps me get a sense of the voice and the story. After reading, I talked to the editor about my initial thoughts. She filled me in on the rest of the story/the ending. Once I had this information I did a lot of photo-research. I put together a bunch of covers with some rough type in place (we didn't have a final title at the time). Annette [the editor] and I really loved one of my comps but didn't love the exact look of the girl in the photo. I spent a few weeks looking for various stock shots of alternate girls, but none of the ones I found were quite right, nor did they fit well into the layout. From this point, I started my image search all over and put together a second round of new comps. Again, we really liked an image of one girl, but some other people in-house were iffy on the direction, so we scrapped it pretty quickly.
With the last round of comps, I decided to focus less on a girl and more on the mood of the story. Annette and I talked about pushing the cover in a more scary direction. I found an image of the trees on one stock site and a girl running on another and spent an afternoon photoshopping the two together. I put together a few type treatments. Immediately, Annette and I knew that this was the best direction for the cover, but some people in-house felt that the girl I had running looked a little too young. I quickly found a replacement (the girl on your cover) and the rest is history.
Tracy: What kind of background /training does it take to become a cover artist and /or what brought you to this field?
Jessica: In college I studied Visual Communications, with a focus on illustration and graphic design. In order to be a gooddesigner, you must know how to use Photoshop and Indesign. I spend 75% of my day on the computer, using these programs. The other 25% I spend on email/phone corresponding with illustrators and photographers.
Tracy: What is your typical day like?
Jessica: Each day varies depending on the projects I am currently working on. When I am working more on teen novels, I spend a lot of time photoshopping stock photography and/or organizing a photoshoot, going on the photoshoot, and then turning a few shots from the shoot into a cover. When I am working more on middle-grade, I spend more time art directing illustrators and then designing a cover around the art. Typically, my day involves emailing, going to brainstorming and production meetings, and working in photoshop and indesign on the layout of a jacket or cover.
In celebration of cover art, I thought I would share two other covers that I've enjoyed, ask you to share your favorites, and offer you the chance to win a copy of a book with a pretty cover (not that any of us judges books by their covers!)
Pretty cover #1: After reading the story behind the paperback cover of Carolyn Mackler's Tangled at Melissa Walker's blog (http://www.melissacwalker.com/cover-stories-tangled-carolyn-mackler), I have to admit, I was hooked. I mean, who doesn't love butterflies? So I got my very own beautiful copy of Tangled. I loved this story about four teen lives that intersect.
Pretty cover #2: When I saw the cover of Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs, I was fascinated by the mermaid's blue lips on the cover. I thoroughly enjoyed this fresh and fun take on mermaids.
In the comments, please tell us about a YA book that you think is the total package: and awesome cover AND an amazing story. One randomly selected commenter will WIN a SIGNED COPY of Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs (U.S. entrants only). Please be sure to include an e-mail address. Contest ends Saturday at noon (eastern time).