Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Debut Novelist Courtney Alameda Talks Cover Anxiety

I love talking to debut 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 Courtney Alameda, who holds a B.A. in English Literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Brigham Young University, spent seven years working for Barnes & Noble, and currently works as an Adult & Teen Services librarian at the Provo City Library. Her forthcoming novel, SHUTTER (winter 2015, Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan), is a tale spawned in part by Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, in part by her experiences both paranormal and not-so-paranormal, and features a cast of monsters inspired by everything from Japanese folklore to survival horror video games.


Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.


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

Surprisingly, no! When I heard Rich Deas would be designing the cover, I banished any thoughts of what “could be,” because I knew what “would be” was going to be so much more badass than any of my own ideas. Rich’s work is incredible, and he’s designed some of the most iconic covers in the YA world.

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

I started hearing tidbits about comps going to marketing in January. Since I knew Rich would be doing the design, and both he and my editor, Liz Szabla, are super savvy and über-creative, I didn’t worry. My cover was in the best hands!

Did you have any input on your cover?




How was your cover revealed to you?

I moonlight as a teen librarian, so I was working the reference desk when I got the email from Liz with “cover comp” in the subject line. I gasped, and when the librarian seated next to me asked me what was wrong, I managed to squeak out, “Cover!” to which she replied, “OPEN IT NOW!”

So I did . . . but upon seeing the ghost on the cover, I head-desked. Literally. (Horror projects of any ilk rarely feature the monster on their posters/covers/promotional materials.)

After some flailing, I emailed my agent. Macmillan was incredibly gracious while I threw my prima donna fit over the monster, and even tried designing several new concepts. In the end, no comp quite compared to the screaming, sonic-blue specter, so we compromised: They kept the artwork, and I got a sans-serif font for the title with cool, POLTERGEIST-y details; better placement for my name, and a nod to the novel’s photography elements. When Liz sent me the final, I sat back and thought, “Wow! Okay, I can work with that!”

Months later, I’m very grateful for the ghost on the cover, which I’ve come to think of as the book’s triple dog dare and warning label. It’s unique, beautifully executed, and very fierce, which I hope reflects the book’s contents, too.

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

Yes, and we had a fantastic reveal with Hypable in June, organized by my lovely publicist, Ksenia Winnicki. The reception bowled me over—I couldn’t believe how many people were sharing and retweeting the cover! I spent somewhere between eight and ten hours on social media that day, just watching the cover love unfold and thanking people for their kindness.

So you win, Macmillan—the monster on the cover is AWESOME!

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

Almost a full year; SHUTTER will be released in February 2015, and I saw comps in March of 2014.

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

No! Isn’t it obvious that I have the patience and composure of a Jedi master? (Kidding!) But I didn’t wait long—there was maybe two weeks between my seeing the final cover and the reveal.

What surprised you most about the process?

Definitely the reception on the cover reveal day! I thought a few friends would share the cover around a bit, but the hundreds of tweets and Facebook shares made my head spin. I still want to hug the internet for it all!

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

Just this: Your publisher wants to see your book succeed just as much as you do. You invested your time; they are investing their time and their money. Your publisher’s going to design a cover that they believe in, and hopefully you’ll love it, too!

2 comments:

Kel said...

The book sounds great and it was so much fun hearing about the process! Great interview! (And great Watson gif!)

Mindy McGinnis said...

Kel - I can't credit myself for the Watson gif -- that ws all Courtney!