Cover Talk with Angelina R. Jackson

I love talking to debut authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you - you're an author. The cover is your story - and you - packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.


Today's guest is Angelica R. Jackson, a writer, photographer, and avid naturalist living in the Sierra foothills of California. Her debut novel, CROW'S REST, a darkly funny young adult urban fantasy, is coming from Spencer Hill Press in May 2015.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

It was more like I had notions about what I didn’t want Crow’s Rest’s cover to look like—in the author form that Spencer Hill Press sends, I made sure to mention I didn’t want “Girls in ball gowns or drowning (because neither has anything to do with my story). Would actually prefer not to show main character’s faces, but I know it’s pretty common for YA books so it’s not a dealbreaker.”

Also, I said the most important thing to me is “to have some tension in the image, and for it to have relevance to the story (whether symbolic or literal)” and I feel like we definitely accomplished that!

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

I signed in April 2014, and my projected release date of Fall 2015 was almost immediately moved up to May 2015—so I got my author form pretty quickly after signing. I turned it in within a week, since I already had stuff like back copy ready to go, but then didn’t hear anything for a while. (And you know how good we authors are at waiting, lol) Then we got word that we’d need to do a cover reveal in a very short timeframe, and that got the gears moving again.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Absolutely—and the fact that SHP gives authors say in the cover was one reason I signed with them. If that hadn’t been the case, I would likely have moved ahead with self-publishing.

After I got one preliminary cover image (which I liked, but I felt like it didn’t stand out enough from other YA UF covers) we talked some more, and I actually got permission to take a test shoot with some models for a custom cover (I’m also a photographer). So I turned those in and put the Final Jeopardy song on loop.

While I was waiting, just for fun I started assembling a lightbox on Shutterstock with images for teasers down the line—and in the process, I stumbled across some artwork by Natalia Maroz. It was absolutely perfect for the feel of the story! So I inserted a model and made a mockup cover, and turned that in too. That’s the one that the Editor-in-Chief ended up liking, and I have to admit that I love it so much that the sting of having my test shots rejected was considerably lessened, haha.

I wanted to do the actual cover design, too, but Photoshop played a nasty trick on me and took away a lot of the tools I had learned for masking and other tasks in the latest version—and at that point we only had ten days before the scheduled release date. So I nominated Kelley York of X-Potions Design to do the design, because she has a fast turnaround and I knew she would do a fantastic job.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Since I worked pretty closely with Kelley, there wasn’t really a reveal moment for me—although seeing how Kelley realized my vision was pretty exciting. There was one funny thing, though—when we got the hi-res version of the artwork with the flying bird, it turned out to be a vulture rather than a crow or raven! But Kelley fixed that seamlessly.

Was there an official "cover reveal" date for your art?

It was August 18, and my publicist sent out an email blast so bloggers could sign up. The full-cover reveal was a little more casual, and I just posted it in my slot on Operation Awesome and Facebook, and people shared from there.

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

I realize my situation is a bit unusual since I was so heavily involved in the design, but I have to say that even knowing what the artwork looks like, it was still love at first sight to see the cover on a real-life, printed book! I wanted to walk around with it in my bra so it would be closer to my heart.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

It really was! And I loved the front cover by itself, but once I saw the full cover, I really wanted to, um, crow it to the world. Kelley did such a good job blending the front and back artwork (the back image is also Natalia Maroz), and with the lovely font.

What surprised you most about the process?

What surprised me was my reaction to the first, preliminary image from the publisher. I went into it with a genuine curiosity and excitement about how another artist would interpret my story and characters. But when I saw that image, it was pretty much 80% what I’d said I didn’t want (but I did end up with a girl in a dress, lol) and I got very territorial. That may have ended up making me look like a diva at times, but it also made me define what I did want.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

Try to hold onto that “genuine curiosity and excitement about how another artist would interpret (your) story and characters” as long as you can, lol. But failing that, if you truly don’t like your cover, you’re better off offering some alternatives. I sent stock images of models that I thought would fit better than the one they used, stock images of landscapes that fit the story, etc, in that first email response. Offering to arrange a custom model shoot at a reasonable price also went over well (and those photos weren’t wasted, since I later used them in my book trailer). But backing up your reasons for why you think that cover doesn’t fit with hard data or alternatives will get you further than sobbing into the phone.

That said, you may still not have any say at all, and if you’re unhappy—keep it off the internet! Cry on your agent’s shoulder, make your dog’s fur soggy with tears, but don’t bash an artist or publisher online! Keep things professional, and it will pay off in the long run.