Cover Talk with Erin Bowman

I love talking to 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 my fellow Lucky13s and Friday the Thirteeners member Erin Bowman, to talk about her awesome cover for TAKEN, available from Harper Teen April 16, 2013.

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

I didn't know what I wanted TAKEN's cover to look like so much as I knew how I wanted it to feel--dark, mysterious, ominous. I think Harper really nailed it.

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

We started talking about cover art before I even had a pub month! Discussions began in November of 2011, and at the moment, TAKEN is slated to release in April of 2013. So that's a whopping 17 months in advance!

Did you have any input on your cover?

I did! My editor, Erica, asked me what I envisioned for the cover and I shared with her the moods I already listed out above. We also talked about how I’m personally not a big fan of faces that are front and center on a cover. I don't mind seeing people, it's just that when they fill 90% of the cover, I feel it takes away from the reader being able to visualize characters for themselves. I mentioned Robison Wells' VARIANT as being a great compromise on the people/faces debate, and also pointed out how well I thought it struck that dark/mysterious/ominous mood I envisioned for TAKEN. Erica took all this back to the design team and they handled things from there.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Good 'ol email. Erica sent me the initial comp just before Christmas of 2011. While some elements were placeholders at this stage, the overall concept remained the same from initial comps to final cover! (And I must add that while the artwork was not what I was expecting, it absolutely struck the moods I had hoped for. The designer did a fantastic job!)

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

Harper's winter catalog went live on June 25th, so I was instructed to "reveal" the cover the week prior (June 18-22). I ended up revealing it on Pub(lishing) Crawl on June 19th.

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

I saw the final version of the cover (with highres photography and updated models) in February, so that's four months before the reveal. (Then again, the cover didn't change drastically between the initial comp and the final, so it felt like I had to wait more like six months. I was so anxious to share the prettiness.)

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

It was near impossible! I was (and still am) so in love with my cover that I wanted to show it to the world the first day I first saw it.

What surprised you most about the process?

How little I was involved. Harper did ask me for my thoughts before they began designing, and I was allowed to weigh in on the initial comp, but they ultimately owned this process. This shouldn't have surprised me because we hear again and again that authors don't get to pick their covers, but it was still somewhat shocking once I was confronted with it. Being a designer in my past life (web design), it was very hard for me to sit back, relax, and let someone else man the creative process. But publishers know what they are doing. They get the audience and what will sell. They know what causes a person to pluck a book off the shelves. In the end, I'm so happy I didn't design my cover; I wouldn't have created the gorgeousness Harper did, and I’m so grateful for the cover they’ve given my story.

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

Remember that you’re the expert at writing the book and you publisher is the expert at getting people to pick it up. A cover is a piece of advertising. Yes you want it to accurately reflect your novel, but you also want as many people to pick it up as possible. If you're not in love with your cover art, try to pick one thing to focus on. What is the biggest thing you dislike or long to have changed? Have an honest conversation with your publisher about that element. They are more likely to tweak one element than a dozen, so pick your battles. And try to enjoy the whole process. It only happens once for each book, and it's quite a ride!