Lots of exciting news today! First, a note about SAPPHIRE SKIES (due out Fall 2015): Sometimes during the publication process, for various reasons, book titles get changed. After some discussion, my publisher and I have agreed to change the title of SAPPHIRE SKIES to DANGEROUS LIES. (I just realized they rhyme!) DANGEROUS LIES is a romantic suspense novel, and I think the new title strongly alludes to a threat of danger and a promise of love. I can't wait to introduce you to Stella Gordon and Chet Falconer, and take you to Thunder Basin, the small Nebraskan town where they live--a town hiding terrible secrets.
And now for the second half of my exciting news. The BLACK ICE paperback is getting a brand new cover! Below is the revised US cover for the BLACK ICE paperback, which inspired the UK's new look. I really love the urgency and danger conveyed in the revised cover. There's a sense of fear--that feeling of edge-of-your-seat suspense. I think the cover fits the story so well. The paperback is scheduled to go on sale this fall--I can't wait to see this cover in stores!
Now I'm going to turn this post over to my assistant, Jenn, who interviewed Lucy Ruth Cummins, the creative genius behind all my covers. If you've ever wondered what goes into the making of a cover (especially mine!) read on.
Hi all, Becca's assistant, Jenn, chiming in here. Can't wait to hear your thoughts on both the new title and new cover!! Seeing the new cover made me curious about the cover design process, especially how/why an existing book gets a new cover. I thought maybe you would be curious about this too. So I headed directly to the source, Simon & Schuster Art Director, Lucy Ruth Cummins. Lucy has designed all of Becca's book covers. Not only is she incredibly talented, but she's pretty darn cool! And she has graciously taken some time out to talk about the cover design (and re-design) process with me.
Hi Lucy! Can you tell us a little about yourself and what being a cover designer entails?
I've spent my entire career at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers designing everything from picture books on up to young adult novels. I have the best job. Basically as a cover designer, I get to read great YA books from their very early stages onward and my job is to make the ultimate image that captures the story and grabs reader's attention on store shelves and at libraries.
This can involve hunting down the perfect existing photograph, planning and executing a photoshoot, or hiring an awesome illustrator. At all stages, I'm in conversation with the author, the editor, and the rest of our team to make sure we make something that's unique, cool, and something that relates distinctly to the book.
Let’s talk about the typical process of designing a cover. Do you read an early copy of the book and then come up with an idea which you share with the publishing team or do they bring their ideas to you first? Do you talk to the authors about their vision?
When I start the process of making a book cover, the editor gives me a synopsis of the story, character descriptions, and the manuscript in whatever state it's in (first draft on up to near finished version).
Sometimes at this stage authors will have culled some imagery that inspired their writing, and this will be shared with me too. I often put that aside initially and try to do a "clean read" first and consider this after I've done my own brainstorming, but I definitely find it helpful. The writers I've had the privilege of working with are so evocative in their writing, I don't usually need to see the imagery to feel their vision come through in the words they've chosen!
When I read, I like to have a pad next to me and make notes about imagery that jumps out at me and is distinctive from other books I've read. I read a lot on the subway to and from work, too, so my phone is full of notes about books that would look crazy to a stranger (just long lists random phrases and objects). I also do a lot of doodles in pencil as ideas start to form in my head.
Once I have a good list of visuals I'll look over what I've noted and start to try to conceptualize covers that represent one or more of the most arresting parts of the story that called out to me when I read. At that point, I bring my ideas to the editor for discussion, often times with some early mock ups or inspiration image.
If there's something the editor feels would work perfectly, we share with the author and the rest of the staff to make sure they're all as pumped as we are before moving forward with the direction.
Once you have an early idea/draft what happens?
Once everyone is on board with the direction, I start figuring out if the best approach is to find a beautiful existing photograph, hire a cool photographer, or in some cases, get an illustrator who can bring the vision to life.
Do you usually use existing photos/art or have photo shoots for each cover?
It really varies from book to book! Becca's Hush, Hush series is a great example of when the only way to get the perfect image was to hire a crazily talented photographer—James Porto—who could capture an original image for us that would look like nothing else out there on the shelves. I love these covers endlessly, and couldn't have gotten just the right effect without James's talent and vision.
On the other hand, when I was reading Michelle Hodkin's first book in the Mara Dyer series, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, I came across the photo that became its cover, shot by Heather Landis, which I stumbled upon somewhat randomly and was instantly blown away by how gorgeously it synced with the novel and it's tone. It felt like magic to find it!
Do you get a set budget for each cover? Do you know that before you start preparing/brainstorming or is the budget set based on your request/vision?
Budgets vary from project to project very widely. This often has to do with print run—if we think we're going to make a ton of books, we probably have a little bit more money to spend. If we think it's going to be a smaller print run, our budgets are smaller. The amount of money we have to spend never really inhibits me, though—it just makes me creative in getting what I want. I've never thought "boy, I'd like to make something beautiful . . . if only I had a few more bucks! Oh well." I always think "this has to be beautiful—how can I make that happen?" That said, my publisher Justin Chanda is very good about opening our wallet a little bit further if he thinks the vision is completely distinct and cool. I'm very lucky to work where I work!
Sometimes covers will be redesigned or a book will get a whole new cover. BLACK ICE is one of those books. The paperback version of BI has an entirely new cover. Can you talk about why this happens and the process you go through of coming up with a new look?
I always say that making a book covers is the best job because it means I'm always making art. A new cover, or "repackage" as we call it, is another opportunity for me to make more art. When it's decided that we should try a new look for a book I'm already in love with (like I am with Black Ice!), it's like getting another crack at hanging out in a world I'm already excited about, and getting another chance to make art that celebrates the author's work.
Basically the reason for giving a new look is basically to expand the audience for what we think is a great novel. We may have got you stoked with our first jacket, but maybe we can get more of you stoked with a new take!
When we decide to repackage, I take a fresh look at the novel (at this stage it's nice because I have a bound book to hold and read instead of a stack of messy papers). I try to empty my brain and take the work in fresh, and I basically start the process again the same way I would if I was just coming to the book the first time—reading, note taking, making little mock ups and sketches. One thing I do try to keep in mind is that what I do should be radically different than what I did the first time—why take a second crack at something if you're just going to repeat and tweak what you did before?
Do you ever initiate the discussion about a new cover or are you generally approached and asked to come up with a new idea?
The editor, publisher, and sales force are the folks that have the best sense of the audience our books receive when they debut, so they're often the first to have an inkling that it might be cool to change directions with a new package. All art directors are aware that this is a potential outcome, though, in packaging books, so we're always ready to roll if the conversation happens.
Is it hard to come up with a new vision, once you already have the existing one in your mind?
Nah—especially with the books I work on. Often my first cover is only one of one million great things I'd wanted to highlight about the story, so the options on a new cover are pretty limitless, mainly owing to the fact that our editors are pretty great about choosing authors and stories that are jam packed. The creative process is often tricky only because you do only get to go one route and you may have plenty of thoughts on other ways to make something cool for a particular book. I've rarely read something and thought "this is the only cover this book could ever had," more often I think "why can't all books have five different covers so I can have the fun of making them all??"
Can you tell us specifically about the design process for the BLACK ICE covers?
For the first cover, I really wanted to capture the cold, the mystery, the thrill, and—let's be honest—some of the . . . heat of the story for the cover. I really liked the idea of capturing the atmosphere of the story and the drama of hot breath in cold air. I freaking love this cover.
For our new cover, I wanted to really hone in on the danger in the story, and really create something iconic, stark, and different from any package I'd seen—something that would stand out on shelves and really convey to readers the intensity and drama of Becca's novel.
Do you if you like one of them more than the other?
I love them both! I really do. I'm actually super looking forward to having them both on my shelf. I'm very proud of both, and I can't wait to see what readers think, and also to find out from those who have read Black Ice which cover they feel connects best with the story. That's kind of the best thing about a new package—hearing from the readers and fans.
Do you have a favorite cover (that you have designed)?
Heh—that's way too easy. The very first Hush, Hush cover is by far my favorite—it's the cover that when I see it on a store shelf, I actually have that feeling of "that's beautiful, and I can't believe I had anything to do with it." :)
And I'm not gonna lie—it doesn't hurt that I got spend a whole day watching Patch jump shirtless on a trampoline . . .
Tell us about some of the other covers you have designed.
I've designed a ton! I've been at Simon & Schuster for 12 years now. Some of my faves are the Mara Dyer covers for author Michelle Hodkin, Winger and 100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith, all the covers I've done for Jenny Han, Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson, and recently We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach. There are so many, though. And I'm working on some super cool stuff right now, too. I've got one in the works right now that I think might be my most beautiful yet, and I wish I could say more . . . !
Becca has a new book coming out later this year. Have you been working on the cover? Can you share anything about it with us?
I have. And I'm stoked. And I can't say a PEEP. ;)
I can not wait to see the cover she comes up with for DANGEROUS LIES! Maybe it's the "most beautiful yet" that she mentioned above!! Comment below to let us know what you think of the new cover and new title or just leave a shout out to Lucy for all the awesome covers she gives us :-)