Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Debut Author Talks About Covers: Michelle Falkoff & PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD

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 Michelle Falkoff, author of PLAYLIST FOR THE DEAD, available January 27th from HarperTeen.


Here's what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, his best friend, Hayden, was dead. And all he left Sam was a playlist of songs, and a suicide note: For Sam—listen and you'll understand.

As he listens to song after song, Sam tries to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it's only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him that he will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story. And maybe have a chance to change his own.

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

I actually didn’t—I had some vague ideas about what I might not want (I tend to like abstract covers better than realistic ones, for example), but I’m not super visually oriented, so I hadn’t really imagined what it could be.

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

My editor sent me the first iteration of the cover in February of 2014, so the first conversations happened nearly a year before the book’s scheduled publication date.

Did you have any input on your cover?

I did, though I didn’t need very much—I was thrilled with it from the first time I saw it.  I definitely got the sense that if I had concerns the house would address them, but it didn’t come up, which was great.

How was your cover revealed to you?

My editor emailed a picture around to everyone involved in the book up to that point.

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

There was no official date, but I did a “cover reveal” post for YA Highway, which was posted on the site on September 9th.  It was a really fun way to get the cover out there.

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

I got the final version of the cover on March 24—it went through some tweaks before it became official, though the ARC has the earlier version of the cover art.

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

That presumes that I was able to keep it to myself, which I wasn’t! I showed pictures of it to pretty much everyone I knew, but I didn’t arrange for an official reveal until I realized that pictures of it were popping up on places like Amazon and Goodreads.

What surprised you most about the process?

There were a couple of things, some more surprising than others. I wasn’t exactly surprised by the level of thoughtfulness that went into it at HarperCollins, since they’d been fabulous about everything else, but I was pleasantly surprised that they decided to use an outside artist who does posters for some of the bands featured in the book. It was a wonderfully creative decision, and the cover has a really appropriate feel to it as a result. The more surprising thing was the fact that Barnes and Noble was part of the process—someone over there had opinions about some aspects of the cover that the artist took into account in revision. I’m pleased that B&N was interested in how the book would be presented there, but I hadn’t realized that was something that happens on what seems like a fairly routine basis.

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

I suspect it very much depends on the author’s relationship with the publishing house. If your relationship is good, then I’d be inclined to be trusting—your editor knows the book well and knows the market much better than we do, and everyone has the goal of making the book as striking and beautiful as possible. That said, I do think it’s appropriate to speak up early if you’re not happy with the direction things are going. You’re going to spend a lot of time with the physical object of the book itself, and you want looking at the cover to make you happy and to remind you of everything good about the process, which sometimes involves work on our part.

One more thing I know some people have been concerned about is what happens when the publisher reveals the cover unofficially before they’ve had a chance to do a formal reveal. I know this is a big deal for some people, but I’d suggest not getting too worried about it—doing the reveal on YA Highway was a great experience even though the cover was already around, and I suspect no one pays as much attention to these kinds of details as we do.

2 comments:

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Love this - "...you want looking at the cover to make you happy and to remind you of everything good about the process, which sometimes involves work on our part." And the part about someone at BN being involved was interesting.

Already have PLAYLIST on my TBR list. :)

Mindy McGinnis said...

Awesome!

Thanks for stopping by, Madeline!