Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cover love and a CONTEST!

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 (, 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).


Sarah Skilton said...

I love reading the stories behind covers! What She Left Behind looks gorgeous. Congratulations on it!

I think Courtney Summers' covers are the whole package. They're eye-catching and establish a mood that perfectly fits the books.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I LOVE the cover Tracy and Jessica. And the title. It's so interesting to see how a cover is created for a YA book. I don't think I've heard an interview about it before.

I love the cover for The Shifter by Janice Hardy. I knew I had to have the book from it.

Can't wait for your release Tracy!

Aurora Smith said...

Yeah, that cover is fantastic!

Kristin Lenz said...

I'm with Natalie - I've never read an interview with a cover artist before. What a great idea, Tracy. Thanks to Jessica for giving us a glimpse behind the scenes!

The cover of Cleopatra's Moon is rich and exotic, just like the story. I love when it all comes together like that - such a beautiful package to hold.

Danielle H. said...

Ally Condie's book Matched meets your criteria for an awesome book and cover package. The cover caught my eye and I couldn't put the book down! Thank you for this interesting look behind the scenes!

perisquire30 said...

I agree. The cover of What She Left Behind is gorgeous---it really draws me in and makes me want to read the story that inspired it!

I liked the covers to Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series. There's tons more that I can many wonderful cover artists out there!

~Roni Lynne

Ren @ All By Myshelf said...

Interesting post. It's neat to see what goes into making a cover. :)

I really like the paperback cover of Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith. It fits the book really well. Looks awesome and creepy, which is perfect for the story.

ren.myshelf [at] gmail [dot] com

Lynne Kelly said...

Ok, I think I have to steal your idea and contact my cover artist about an interview.

Fascinating to read about the cover design process, and I love how yours turned out!

One of my favorite covers is for Across the Universe, and I thought it was brilliant to make it reversible.

Heather Smith Meloche said...

Great interview, and congrats on your cover, Tracy! I think one of my favorite covers is from Ally Condie's MATCHED. I love the girl in the green bubble. It sets the trapped, dystopian tone of the novel.

PJ Sharon said...

Great interview and beautiful cover. Being an indie-pubbed author and handling my own covers, I'm curious about the cost of hiring a cover artist. If Jessica wants to e-mail me off loop to discuss, that would be great.

My debut release Heaven Is For Heroes had a stock image of a girl and guy I thought really captured the story. The second cover, ON Thin Ice will be out in December and my husband is my cover guy. He works for free but it's hard to get him to work on deadline.LOL

jenehilt said...

Cover Art is so important but so rarely discussed! Thank you for a peek into that world.

I love the cover art from "The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" a fantastic MG read.

Thanks again for this interview,


kristina shields said...

tiger's curse series by colleen houck! amazing characters and storyline and a must read!

Colette Ballard said...

Love your cover, Tracy! i also love getting behind the scenes info. of a cover artist--very interesting!

Lisa Tapp said...

That's an intriguing cover, Tracy. Thanks for bringing us the cover process. (And thanks to Jessica, too!)

I had to search my shelves for my current favorite, and I'm going with "Amy and Roger's Epic Detour," by Morgan Matson. Love both the book and cover. (I have 'Matched' on my to be read pile. After these comments, I'm going to have to move it up!)

Lisa Tapp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kurt Hampe said...

Thanks for the post Tracy. I once heard a lecture about the cover creating process and I'm convinced you found a gem in Jessica Handelman.

I'm not thinking of an especially captivating YA cover at the moment, but I'll say Ship Breaker, because it doesn't have the traditional photo of a person.

Diana said...

I LOVE the cover for SEA CHANGE by Aimee Friedman. It's GORGEOUS <3 plus, the story it tells is beautiful. Great mythical tale, not to mention a hot mermaid, eh, merman. You should totally check it out! Thanks so much for doing this giveaway :D

Diana @ The Lovely Getaway

Kristina said...

The book that I think that has it all is... Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins! I loved Lola and Cricket. I myself want a Cricket. He was amazing. I loved all the caracters(? Is that how you spell it? I am having a huge mind blank.) I loved that Perkins incorporated two other characters from her first book, Anna and the French Kiss. Ahh, Perkins is perfect. The characters that she made did things differently than I would have hadthem do if I was writing that fabulous book. The cover is great. I live Lola's and Cricket's personal style. I personally love a cool nerd. <3 Ahh, Cricket...(sighs)


Amy @ bookgoonie said...

Those are both really pretty. I also love all Cassandra Clare's covers & the Hex Hall covers are really cool too.

Amy @
bookgoonie at yahoo