Monday, January 17, 2011

Judging a Book By Its Cover

We must preface this blog post with two primary truths (and it's not even Tuesday!).

1. We're kinda, sorta dramatic.
2. We're really appreciative of all the people who put up with our drama, including but not limited to: agents, editors, husbands, and most of all, YOU dear blog readers.

Now. For the juicy truth.

We cried when we first saw the cover of The Liar Society. And they weren't tears of joy.

Okay, let's back up. The Liar Society cover has been in the works for many, many months. The designers working on the project were focused on creating a brand for the series--something that would hopefully set our book apart from the thousands of other private school books out there. It needed to combine the element of mystery with the element of fun, which may not sound that hard, but as it turns out is borderline IMPOSSIBLE. We're sure the designers can attest to that.

Along the way, we were shown many, many comps. There were silhouettes, legs, profiles, girls with pearls, girls with purses, girls in uniforms, black backgrounds, pink backgrounds, teal backgrounds. You name it, we probably saw it. And we fell in love a few times. Had our hearts broken a few times. Cried a few times.

We were asked to describe Kate. What did she wear? Hello Polyvore! What did she look like? We're looking at you young Minka Kelly. What was her life like? Hilfigers on holiday, whut whut! We were absolutely positively sure we knew how Kate should be portrayed on the cover of the book.

Or not.

Our agent sent us the dreaded, "Can you talk?" email. Laura took the call, which in hindsight is a good thing. As our agent explained that the team had decided to go in the pink hair direction, all Laura could think about was, "What am I going to tell Lisa?" Turns out, she would have to repeat herself many, many times before Lisa believed her. And this is where the crying comes in. Well, technically sobbing. (Please see Truth #1 listed above.)

"But...but...but Kate doesn't have pink hair!" she wailed.

It was like the book we had worked so hard on had disappeared before our eyes. This was not our Kate, not our vision, not our book.

But here's the thing. We needed to cry. We needed to threaten to quit (at least to each other). We needed to take out our anger on one another and our loved ones (sorry!). Because only then could we begin to pick ourselves up. And admit that we were wrong. Did you hear that?

We were so wrong.

After we'd dried our tears and swore up and down that we'd NEVER write again we took a step back and tried really hard to be objective. We went back to the long list of over 300 votes in the cover contest and began analyzing the results.
  • Our 12-year-old cousin who read The Liar Society just over a year ago and fell in love? Voted pink. 
  • The adorable 14-year-old book blogger who sent us an e-mail raving about Kate? Voted pink. 
  • Our 56-year-old mother who grounded us when we dyed our hair in high school? Did NOT vote pink.
Wait a second. Hold the phone. Was it possible that all the old people (ourselves included) voted for the pretty brown haired girl and all the actual verified young adults voted for the smexy pink gal?

Um, yes. Yes it was.

And that's when we realized two things:

1. We are OLD.
2. We are NOT the target market for this book.

Our readers had spoken. The girls who we hope will love Kate, the ones we are so excited to get e-mails from and meet at school visits and book signings? Apparently they love pink hair. (Who knew?! Oh wait, Sourcebooks did.)

So, we blew our noses, wiped our eyes and begged to get our hands back on the manuscript. For the record, Kristin Zelazko, our production editor, is a saint. A SAINT!

When we went back in, we realized a little something. It was super-easy to change Kate's hair to pink. Not only did she have every reason in the world to dye her hair (her BFF died under mysterious circumstances and she's pretty sasstastic in general) but it was a great way for us to characterize her transformation. Before Grace died, Kate's hair is brown and after she dies, she rocks the pink. Add in the pearls she already wore and you have just the twist Sourcebooks was looking for--something that makes Kate unique and maybe even a little iconic.

So, we're thankful.

Thankful we're not in charge of designing book covers because we would have outfitted Kate in the same-old, same-old private school fare, totally expected and completely forgettable. Thankful the design team helped us add another layer to Kate's character, one that makes her infinitely more bad ass. And thankful our publisher cared enough to get it right, to give The Liar Society the best chance of success.

Because, let's face it. The bookshelves are crowded out there.

But maybe, just maybe, there's room for a pink-haired, pearl-rocking, private school sleuth.

PS: Tracey Neithercott is the winner of a brand-spanking-new copy of Beth Revis' Across the Universe! Congratulations! Tracey, email us with your address and we'll place the order straight away!

51 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

This is awesome. Sounds like you went through a transformation somewhat akin to Kate's. Very interesting. I know my 14 year old loves all things hardcore and punk. So while she does not rock pink hair herself, she would totally respect Kate for doing it.

Now, I am curious, is the re-write with the hair dying there in the ARC with the old cover? If not that is going to be kind of cool to see both versions.

Happy Monday LiLa!

Anonymous said...

I'd guess whoever did that photo watched one too many screenings of Kick Ass. The pink hair and the pose look like a take off of Hit Girl.

The lack of background is inexcusable with a professional photoshoot.

Laura Pauling said...

I can't imagine how hard it is to see a book cover for your own book that you initially don't love. And if you never love - can never share! I think the pink hair is adorable and does a lot to show her sass! I think it'll help sell. :)

Anna Staniszewski said...

So glad the rollercoaster ended on an up note! The cover looks great - you can't ignore pink hair, after all. :-)

T. Anne said...

I showed my 9 y.o. DD the cover last week and the only thing she said was she like the pink hair and the backwards R. This cover reminds me of something I would see in "Justice" my DD's favorite clothing store. I think it's great for your target market. And I meant what I said about buying copies for my DD and her friends. In fact if my DD starts talking about it, it wouldn't surprise me if her entire girl scout troop was brandishing a copy soon thereafter.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

I know exactly how you felt! Maggie Fox did not have red hair, nor did she dress like a circus performer -- yet, Sourcebook's cover for WHTD rocked.

For the record, I LIKE this cover, pink hair and all! She's got sass, and so does the cover. (Did you actually go into the book and make a change to her hair color?)

Congratulations on finally achieving COVERHOOD! Can't wait for the release!

Too bad that on my Kindle, her hair will be ... gray.

Leigh said...

I love this post. The story behind a story is always so interesting, and I love your cover. Congrats and here's to many more sassy pink-haired covers in your future!

Kim Harrington said...

Since I liked the pink hair, does that mean I'm young?

YES!!!!!! I'M YOUNG! I'M YOUNG!!!!!

(Don't correct me. Let me believe the lie. Thanks.)

lbdiamond said...

Awww, that's so hard to feel disappointment in something you had such great visions for. I'm glad you were able to adjust to it and finally come to love it. It's a GREAT cover!

Congrats to your success and thank you for sharing such an honest post! :D

Cheree said...

I absolutely love that pink hair. I'm glad your ordeal ended on a positive note. I'm sure the hair colour will definitely draw some attention whilst on the crowded shelves.

Jenn Stark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenn Stark said...

I didn't know the history, but just have seen the cover for the first time, and it absolutely rocks. Bravo!! (does this mean I'm young, too???) :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

When I vote, it was my older self who hit submit. Not the one who writes my books. It was later, while writing, that I realized I voted for the wrong one. When JG told me which cover was selected, I was thrilled the brilliant person who selected the cover went for the pink haired one.

K.D. Anderson said...

I have to say I LOVE this post. It literally made me tear up because I am capable of the same thing. I would have reacted the same way, and just last night was up at 3 a.m. stewing over my own book issues.

I needed to read this.

Thanks!

emily j. griffin said...

I would've panicked (read: sobbed) too. Thank you very much. Sometimes we have to learn to get out of our own way, apparently. For the record, I still haven't caught on ; )

B.E. Sanderson said...

I don't remember how I voted, but I think this new cover rocks. And I can't wait to see how you wrote it to work in the transformation.

I understand your tears, though. Even though I haven't had to go through it, I can imagine how seeing your creation tweaked by some stranger would hurt. :hugs: I'm glad it worked out.

Simon C. Larter said...

That, ladies, is the awesomest post about not getting the cover you thought you wanted...EVAR! I hearty heart heart how you thought that through and figured it out. Urawk.

And I got no snark to go with that today. Maybe tomorrow? ;)

Jonathon Arntson said...

Thanks for sharing your journey from objection to objective! I know it's hard and can be emotional, but in a year's time, you won't even be able to consider your book with any other cover.

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

The kids love the pink and that is what matters! I secretly wish I had pink hair or purple. You can tell what I voted for. Crud! I'm old, that sucks!I might have to get a kool-aid dye job to not feel old now lol.

salarsenッ said...

Of course there is!! Pink hair RAWKS! She's going to shine on the shelves...

Dara said...

Thanks for sharing the post about your true feelings. I'd probably be a upset too if I found out my book cover was completely different than I'd expected or wanted. But, this cover definitely has "iconic" written all over it :)

Christine Fonseca said...

The cover is awesome ladies...and you already know Fabi and my Teen Think Tank's reaction...they ALL said they'd pick it up to read the blurb, at the very least. And that is a great place to start.

beth said...

This is why I <3 you two so much.

~Jamie said...

AHEM!

You failed to mention: Our early thirties WriteOnCon partner in crime, that is apparently so cool and hip (read immature) she thinks like teenagers voted PINK!

Okay okay, so she is probably irrelevant to the entire demonstration--but still. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the pink and think it's officially the coolest book cover on the planet now, yo.

storyqueen said...

What Beth said!

the honesty and the fun....that is what I will always find on your blog.

Shelley

Sara B. Larson said...

What a journey! I'm so glad that you ended up loving her pink hair. It really is unique and fun. I love how honest you both are. THank you for sharing and congrats on your awesome rockin'-the-pink-hair heroine's new cover!

Nicole Zoltack said...

We don't always know what's best for our stories because we're too close to it. This is a perfect example of that. And I think this cover rocks! I totally love the pink hair. So sassy!

Susanne Winnacker said...

Great post and just at the perfect time because I'm still waiting for my cover and it's slowly driving me crazy. :D

Matthew Rush said...

Interesting to go anonymous with negative comments. I wonder why you didn't want to reveal who you were anon. There's nothing wrong with being honest if that's what you really think.

Matthew Rush said...

Also, I saw that movie, and Hit Girl was like 11 years old, with PURPLE hair, though, granted, she was pretty cool.

Danyelle said...

*hugs* That had to be hard. But something about this cover definitely reminds me of LiLa. I can't wait to read!

Angela Ackerman said...

I love the cover. The pink hair is full of attitude and makes a promise to the reader that she's a stand out, her own brand. I think that's a wonderful thing!

Hugs to both of you for getting through all these ups and downs. You gals are great!

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

K. M. Walton said...

As always, love your honesty and ability to make me laugh. I also lover your cover - pink hair and all.

Jessica Love said...

It's always a sad day when you realize you're old. It happened to me when I realized I just don't GET Justin Bieber. (Beiber?) I may not be a fan of the Jonas Bros, but at least I get them. I DON'T GET JUSTIN B AT ALL. So that's how I know I'm old.

I'm glad you came to love the cover. I think it's awesome.

Icy Roses said...

I mean, I am technically borderline, I guess. Probably not actually the target audience for YA, but I am so pink all the way. I adore pink hair. I would've went right past this book if the cover model had brown hair, but pink hair? How many books on the shelf do you see with pink haired girls? Your cover is gorgeous.

Stasia said...

Okay, I'm definitely old but I LOVE the pink. I've always wished I had the courage to dye my hair some kind of technicolor so I am instantly drawn to that sassy chick on the cover. And pink + pearls = one-of-a-kind girl :)

Shooting Stars Mag said...

i love it, makes me think of John Belushi is Dead (a favorite new book of mine). I'm glad it all worked out and you love it now, as you should. It's great! And having pink hair would rule. I always wanted to dye mine blue.

-Lauren

Stephanie said...

I do like the pink hair, but I would be upset too. It doesn't represent your character. I just read a historical romance...the guy on the cover had short hair...the hero in the book, long hair. It did bug me. But in the end, while the cover is what catches our eye, it's the story that pulls us in.

Kare said...

For the record I voted for brown haired Kate and I am not old! Just sayin.

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

What an important thing to remember: When you aren't in the target audience you write for, their opinions have to matter. Thanks for sharing these insights. And for the record, though I haven't yet read The Liar Society, I'm old *waaaaa!* and I LOVE the pink hair.

Marsha Sigman said...

So brave of you to post this admission of how wrong you were...and how old.lol

I love the pink hair but I think I would have reacted the same way at first. But I refuse to admit that I am old.

SOOO, please excuse me while I go apply my daily wrinkle cream and take my blood pressure pill before I dress in my new Twilight t-shirt and bedazzled jeans. Oh, yeah.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

i think its great that instead o pouting - you stepped up and became open to the possibility and potential.

I think its a great contrast to kate's character.

Larissa said...

Aw! I LOVE the cover, and I'm glad you do, too. Thanks for sharing this! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

I think you're right - the cover is going to be perfect!! :) So glad you've grown to love it! :)

Janet Gurtler said...

I LOVE that you went back in and added pink to her hair. That totally rocks!!! This book is going to do so WELL!!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Um, I'm old as dirt and I voted for the pink. It's a fun cover!

Robin Mellom said...

You bring up SUCH a good point...we need to remember who the target audience is. Teens! I get weird about covers because I want them to appeal to ME. But dang, I'm 40!!! I have to admit I'm starting to hag out! So I need to let the professionals do their thing of appealing to the teenagers.
Such a great post--thanks for writing it. And she really does ROCK the pink. Love it!!
R

Krispy said...

This is a super awesome post. :) It is a very eye-catching cover. Congrats again!

Hardygirl said...

Okay. So, whew.

I need a moment after that emotional roller coaster ...

Thanks.

Well said.

sf

Lisa Schroeder said...

Oh boy. I feel your pain. When I got the cover of my latest YA, I also got upset, partly because she didn't have red hair and partly because the book takes place at the beach and the cover did not say beach to me! She had black hair with a red streak IN it. But everyone I sent it to loved it.

So, I also went in and changed the description of her hair during first pass pages. It made me feel better. In the end, the cover is SO important, and I think we do have to trust that the publisher knows what they're doing more than we do.

I really do think the pink is awesome!

Beth said...

Well, I have to admit that I'm 43, and I loved the pink hair. (And pink is not one of my favorite colors.) Oh, well. Loved the cover.