Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Cover Conversation with Debut Author Vivi Barnes

Today's guest for the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) is Vivi Barnes, author of OLIVIA TWISTED (Entangled Teen), a contemporary re-imagining of Oliver Twist, debuting November 5.


Tossed from foster home to foster home, Olivia’s seen a lot in her sixteen years. She’s hardened, sure, though mostly just wants to fly under the radar until graduation. But her natural ability with computers catches the eye of Z, a mysterious guy at her new school. Soon, Z has brought Liv into his team of hacker elite—break into a few bank accounts, and voila, he drives a motorcycle. Follow his lead, and Olivia might even be able to escape from her oppressive foster parents. As Olivia and Z grow closer, though, so does the watchful eye of Bill Sykes, Z’s boss. And he’s got bigger plans for Liv…

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

Yes. I’m not exactly a graphic designer, though, so what I had in my head would probably make designers roll their eyes. My friend Jen suggested the binary code in the background, since the Monroe Street kids are hackers, and that kind of stuck with me (and ended up on the cover). I originally thought I wanted just to have the image of the girl on the front, maybe with the house on Monroe Street in the background or something. Maybe with a backpack next to her. And a set of school lockers. And a laptop. And a locket. And…

Okay, see? I don’t have the eye for this. At least I didn’t wish for Comic Sans font, so maybe there’s some hope for me.

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

As soon as I signed, I received a lovely welcome packet from the publisher, and part of that was a form for cover art. It was rather lengthy, asking not only what I envisioned, but other covers I admired, books I’d compare my book to, things I definitely didn’t want (I think I pretty much asked for no naked people). I was surprised at how lengthy the form was.

Did you have any input on your cover?

Definitely! One of the wonderful things about Entangled is that they ask for author input on the cover design. Besides the extensive cover art form I filled out, they sent me the draft of the cover from the designer. That was my opportunity to request changes or approve. And I loved it! It had the look and feel of Olivia Twisted. There was a change to the guy model on the cover (and believe me, the guy we landed on is totally Z), but Kelley York (multi-talented designer) completely exceeded my expectations.

How was your cover revealed to you?

Via e-mail. I was so nervous, and I had just finished lunch with a friend when I got the cover. I spent the next minutes on the phone with my agent discussing it. Then my agent gave mine and her feedback to the publisher. It was a pretty amazing, surreal experience.

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

Oh, yes! We had so many wonderful bloggers sign up to do the big reveal in March, and we did iTunes gift card giveaways, too.

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

I received my cover “draft” about a month before my reveal date. They went through tweaks and such, then set up the cover reveal with bloggers, so it took about a month. But they had it to me about nine months before the book debut, so I thought that was really fast.

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

Um…yes. A printout of my cover might’ve accidentally landed on my desk at work. You know, so I could stare at it all the time (which is kind of what I did). And my husband and closest friends had to endure me showing them over and over and over.
I hate keeping my own secrets!

What surprised you most about the process?

That they actually listened to what I wanted. I had heard horror stories about authors and their covers, but Entangled really works with their authors to give them covers that make them proud.

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

Sometimes you have in your head exactly what your cover is going to look like (whether you realize it or not), and when you first see the cover, your first thought might be to criticize (“This isn’t the guy in my book!” “The colors are too bright!” “I wanted red font instead of gray!”).

The best way to handle it is to look at it, then step back, wait a little while, open it up and look again, rinse and repeat. Let it soak in. Give yourself a day or two, then gather your thoughts and provide them to your agent/editor/cover designer. And trust that the publisher knows what kinds of covers sell.

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