Cover Talk with Megan Shepherd


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 Megan Shepherd, to talk about her awesome cover for THE MADMAN'S DAUGHTER, available from Balzer & Bray, January 29, 2013. Megan's got a few e-hangouts, find her on her site, Facebook and Twitter.

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

You would think a writer might also have a good eye for visual arts, but I don’t. A few cover ideas came to my head for The Madman’s Daughter but they were all pretty terrible, so I was delighted to leave it to the professionals! I actually designed a fake cover for The Madman’s Daughter as part of a blog dare, and this is the train wreck that I produced:

Though I do think it has a certain, I don’t know, sophistication. Ahem. As far as the real cover, I put all my trust in the HarperCollins designers. I just knew I wanted it to capture the creepy, beautiful, Gothic feel of the book. I also hoped it would appeal to a wide range of readers: boys, girls, adults, librarians. And I think they did a fantastic job with that.

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

I first heard whispers about the cover design a year before the pub date. My editor kept me up-to-date with the process, which was pretty exciting for a debut author. My publishing house, Balzer + Bray, hired a photographer to do the photo shoot complete with model and outdoor setting. I got to see the model’s headshots, which was an incredible moment—looking at your fictional main character as a real person!

Did you have any input on your cover?

The design team at HarperCollins handled everything, thankfully—I’d have just given them some awful advice like “put a shirtless man on the cover” (ie, see my terrible design above). My editor did a great job keeping me informed; she showed me their original design plan, which included color schemes, inspiring images, and sample fonts. Everything was absolutely 100% spot-on; I really felt like they understood the mood of the book. Then she showed me the tentative mock-up and the ARC cover and asked my opinion on each along the way. I just loved everything, right from the start.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Thinking of seeing my cover for the first time makes me smile! It was in late April, and I was on a week-long writing retreat in Bat Cave, North Carolina (what better place for a top-secret writers retreat than Bat Cave?) with eight other MG and YA writers: Alan Gratz, Megan Miranda, Tiffany Trent, Beth Revis, Carrie Ryan, Laurel Snyder, Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, and Gwenda Bond. I’m dropping their names because they are all so cool, and also inspirations of mine, and now I can tell you what they eat for breakfast ☺ Anyway, as we were winding down for the day, I got an email from my editor with the cover art! Immediately all the other writers crowded around, and there was lots of shrieking and happiness, followed by lots of wine.

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

Being a part of the Friday the Thirteeners blog, I’ve met some wonderful people. Ellen Oh (whose book Prophecy comes out in January 2013) and I are both with HarperCollins and both had a cover reveal date of June 18. So we thought it would be great to collaborate and have a joint reveal! Mandy at YA Book Central hosted an exclusive cover reveal, where we gave away ARCs and swag, and it was tons of fun.

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

My cover reveal was June 18, and I saw the tentative cover about six weeks before that. Then there were a few weeks of tweaking fonts and colors, but the basic feel of the cover remained the same.

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

It wasn’t just hard—it was impossible. Literally. I probably showed it to more people than I was supposed to, but I was just too excited! The “pre-cover-reveal” circle of trust mostly included my husband, the other writers at the Bat Cave retreat, my mom, and this waiter who accidentally saw it over dinner. 

I wanted to show it to everyone! To stick it on my website and make postcards of it and generally proclaim to the world that my book has a beautiful cover.

BBC: What surprised you most about the process?

MH: I had very few expectations about how the cover design process would go. The process itself wasn’t too surprising, but the feeling I got when looking at the finished cover was. It’s so strange and wonderful to put a real person’s face to the character in your head. I love the model they used, and the way she is peeking over her bare shoulder. There’s a hint of madness there, but also strength, and desire, and power. And I love that you only get a glimpse of the face, so readers can still use their imagination to picture Juliet Moreau.

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

MH: Long before I saw it, I was irrationally worried I would hate my cover art. But once I looked at other Balzer + Bray titles, I realized that there was no reason to be anxious. All their covers are great and do a wonderful job of capturing the spirit and feel of each individual book. Designers are designers for a reason—they are really talented at what they do! I’m so glad that my editor and the design team were able to capture how I felt about the book and convert it into such a perfect, intriguing cover.

Thanks for having me on the blog, Mindy!