A Toddler's Dream... What Getting Your Debut Cover Is Like, With Renee April

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 for the CRAP is Renee April, author of Her Crown of Fire. In addition to being an avid reader and writer, she streams games badly on Twitch and acts as dungeon master for her D&D group. As a result, she spends far too much time in fantasy realms.

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

I did without meaning to. I’d see beautiful covers in the shops, or on Goodreads and I was like, oh man, I hope mine looks something like that. But I thought about it in very me terms, like ‘I hope it has fire’ or ‘are wind-swept dresses overdone?’ It’s like asking a toddler to describe a dream they’ve had.

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

Almost a year. Images were tossed back and forth, I took pictures of covers on my bookshelf that I liked (and my publisher was very patient throughout this). It all happened very fast considering, and I was blown away by the end result.

Did you have any input on your cover?

I was able to describe the general tone of it (see toddler dream description above), and chuck a couple of comparison covers in for consideration. Way more input than I thought I’d have.

How was your cover revealed to you?

I got an email at 2:03am with lots of exclamation marks and a file attachment. I opened it at 4:50am and couldn’t breathe until about 5am. It was terrifying and exhilarating and I think I’m (weirdly) addicted to book covers now.

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

There was! April 8th it was sprung to the world (it may have been April 7th for the rest of the world). I was on my laptop mashing refresh every few seconds. The love and compliments were pouring in and I was so happy. One of the best days ever.

_Have some comparison covers ready. If you don’t like something speak up early._ Renee April, On Cover design.png

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

I saw early drafts back in January this year, so again, almost a year before the book is due out. I held onto the cover itself for two months before the release.

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

YES. I had it saved as an image on my phone and I’d often sneak a peek at it, especially on days where it all seemed very hard and I needed a boost to remember why I was doing this. After the reveal I put it up as my desktop background.

What surprised you most about the process?

I honestly felt that, at any time, I could turn around and say ‘no, I don’t like this at all’ and I would be heard. I was also mega-impressed with how they managed to capture the essence of this book into an image. I always thought water over fire couldn’t be pulled off without it looking gaudy, but everything about it – the sparks, the colouring, the shape around the title – all speaks to the overall theme and feel of the novel inside.

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

It’s fine to have pre-conceived notions of what the cover should look like, but don’t get in the way of the artist doing their job. Have some comparison covers ready. If you don’t like something speak up early. Remember that what you’ve got in your head won’t necessarily end up on your cover – if it’s anything like mine, it’ll be way better than you’ve dared to hope.

How To Give Feedback On Your Cover With Nicole Maggi

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.

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Today's guest for the CRAP is Nicole Maggi, author of The Twin Willows trilogy, The Forgetting and What They Don't Know.

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

I’m not really a visual person, so I really didn’t. I was at first thinking along the lines of a bold graphic design, but in discussions with my editor I found out that for trade paperback originals (which this book will be) photographic covers sell better. Who knew? These are the kinds of things that authors just don’t really know about. Once I learned that I was on board with having a photographic layout for the design.

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

The book was originally set to release in Summer 2018, and I was shown a preliminary cover at the end of September. But unfortunately that cover just wasn’t right for the book. Due to many factors (the cover being one of them) the book was pushed back to October 2nd, and we finalized the cover in March. So there was a pretty long period of five months where we worked on getting the cover just right – definitely longer than any other book cover experience I’ve had.

Did you have any input on your cover?

I did. My contract grants me “cover consultation” so my publisher was in no way obligated to listen to my input, but they did, and I’m very grateful to them. When the initial cover was revealed to me, I just had a gut feeling that it sent the wrong message about the book. Together with my agent we discussed with the publisher why it wasn’t right. They listened and came back some weeks later with a complete redesign. From there it was a matter of fine-tuning things like font, tagline placement, color…all the little things that you don’t really think about when you first look at a cover, but when it’s your cover, and you’ve been staring at it for weeks, you become obsessed with. Haha! My publisher took all of my input into account, and I’m very happy with what we landed on.

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How was your cover revealed to you?

By my editor, via email. That’s how I’ve always seen my covers. I love that scene in that Sex & The City episode where Carrie actually has a meeting with her editor and publisher in their office and they show her a poster-board mock-up of her book cover. That never happens!

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

Yes, there was, though I set it up myself. I’ve done both, where the publisher sets it up and where I’ve set it up, and this time we decided to have me set it up with a Booktuber I know well, Caden Sage of A Thousand Books To Read. She revealed it on Instagram on April 7th.

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

Probably about a month. I received the final full cover layout for the Advanced Reader Copy of the book, and then once we had the reveal set up I was sent a high-res photo of the cover.

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

Not really…also I’d been showing a lot of people on my phone for weeks what it was going to look like so I guess I spoiled the surprise anyway, hahaha!

What surprised you most about the process?

Honestly, I think I was most surprised by how receptive my publisher was to my ideas. I’d heard a lot of horror stories about other authors with other publishers just being steamrolled over on their covers, and I was scared that would happen when I pushed back on the initial cover design. I’m very grateful to the Sourcebooks team for listening and taking into account my thoughts and ideas. I think the design team did a wonderful job capturing the tone of the book, and there are some details on the cover that I just love, like the pages falling out of Mellie’s journal, and the handwritten DON’T to reflect the journal-entry format of the book.

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

Keep calm and use your voice. If you don’t like your cover, speak up immediately, and get your agent involved right away. List real, concrete and reasonable reasons why it’s the wrong cover; just saying “I don’t like it” isn’t enough. Back up your argument, and do it strongly but diplomatically. And once it’s done, celebrate it! Your beautiful book has a cover! That’s a BIG step. Take a deep breath and enjoy it.

Meg Kassel On The Cover Art Process

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.

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Today's guest for the WHAT is Meg Kassel, author of fantasy and speculative books for young adults. A graduate of Parson’s School of Design, she’s always been creating stories, whether with visuals or words. She is the 2016 winner of the RWA Golden Heart® contest in YA and a 2018 RITA® Award finalist. Her YA Debut, Black Bird of the Gallows, is available now.

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

I did not! And this is remarkable because I come from an art/graphic design background. I think when you’re so close to a project—like the book you wrote—perspective can be compromised. In other words, all my professional training and experience flew out the window. I knew it should have something to do with crows, and it should look creepy. My five-year-old could probably have described the book in more articulate terms during that time.

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

We stared a few weeks after the contracts were signed with a form from my publisher. They asked for all sorts of info, like different lengths of bios, author photos, stuff like that, and a questionnaire about my cover.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Yes! But I didn’t offer much insight! I just wanted it to look good, and I was worried that if I started in on ,“I want this...I don’t want that...” that I could wind up limiting the designer from creating something amazing. This book endured a long and harrowing journey to publication (two publishers, two agents, several years of limbo), and I had a lot of jumbled thoughts about it by the time cover decisions came up.

How was your cover revealed to you?

My agent emailed it to me (she loved it).

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

Yes! Young Adult Books Central hosted a cover reveal eight months before release day.

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

I saw my cover about a month prior to the reveal.

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

Keep it to myself? Ha! I whipped out my phone and showed that thing to my family, close friends, hair dressers—pretty much anyone I wound up in conversation with. I didn’t post it online until the “reveal,” but I wasn’t shy about showing it off.

What surprised you most about the process?

I was surprised by how amazing my cover turned out. I remember staring it at and feeling a whole lot of emotions. Like I said, this book took a difficult route to publication. Seeing the cover made it all suddenly, very real. The designer, L.J. Anderson at Mayhem Cover Creations, brought the vibe of my book alive. I was very fortunate to get a gorgeous cover, and couldn’t have imagined a better one.

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

The biggest worry is that you’ll get a bad cover, right? Plenty of authors get covers they don’t love, and sometimes publishers are willing to make changes if an author has strong objections. If that happens to be you, take a deep breath and talk to your agent. But ultimately, traditionally published authors have limited input on their covers, so the best thing you can do is try to give yourself space from it and put your energy into the things you can control, like all those words that go between the covers.