Manuscript Monday: Teen Reads Week

Hi Friends!

It’s Teen Reads Week, and what a great week it is!  Reach out to the teens you know and encourage them to dive into a book.  I don’t know about you, but I was a huge book nerd growing up.  Was there ANYTHING Beverly Cleary couldn’t teach us? Well, anything before the days of Gossip Girl  that is…we thought she was a bold writer!

As you know from last week, we changed Peter Monn’s cover to The Before Now and After Then.  Covers are such a crucial part to a book, especially with the digital age.  We knew we hadn’t quite hit the mark but we were all under an insane publishing deadline and I think by the time we signed off, just tired.  We wanted to fit with the trend of hand drawn and simplistic covers, and Peter wanted a cartoon style feel to the elements.    We tried different hand written and brush fonts but in the end, wanted a very straight, strict, clean font.  That’s fine, but just slapping it on without any depth isn’t.

Live and learn, right?  Let’s remind you of the old cover:


And the new cover which still incorporates the hand drawn font, brightness, and tapes in a whimsical way:


And now, let’s talk about what DIDN’T make the cut.  We started under the direction of a comic oriented image.  We were stuck on a solid color background with a silhouette style face that was roughly hand drawn.  We wanted to use pool blue because it incorporated so many important scenes.  The first image has a silhouette of Danny, a shadow behind him in a concrete texture to symbolize Sam, and sweet little Griffin still watching out for them.  We moved to incorporate other elements and simplify the face to just bare emotions, made an extremely childlike feel with the balloons holding on to the clocks (the only thing Danny kept or had in his possession was an old Curious George clock) and then tried some more human feeling faces.  The Author, Peter Monn, brought up the idea of using green to reflect Rusty’s backpack and bring a piece of him into the cover, and since we weren’t quite sure on the blue, we said, “Okay, let’s do it.”

This is the first draft of covers that weren’t:

None of these ended up hitting our fancy and we talked about it for a few weeks, drew a few out, and then got the email saying, “What about a mixtape?”

Well, music is a large part to the book, so why not?  So we drew out a mixtape and played with a few different fonts (22), put some coloring behind some, stacked the font, tried different things, etc etc (you get the picture).  Don’t ask me why…but we even foiled the letters in one:

Then, I think it’s pretty self explanatory about which cover made it’s way out.  The cover was split.  Some liked the retro simple feel, others hated it with a passion.  On NetGalley, the title was viewed over 1500 times and had a 56% hate to 44% like on the cover.  It played in the back of our minds that it had to be changed but all of our images and branding material were haunted by this selection.  We talked it over for the last few months and consulted an outside designer to read the book and send back some ideas that were very simple, on trend,  and font driven with simple graphics.

That resulted in these:

Honestly, I really liked the first one and the third one. The first one caught my eye and stood out, I liked the watercolor paint splatters, but did it embrace the book?  Not really.  The third one caught my eye with the gradient in the font and the subtle texture laid over the top.  I would pick it up on a shelf but it also didn’t scream “YA” and I don’t think a younger person would pick it up.  So we moved on.

In a fit of rage and frustration after being told by Peter to just relax and sleep on it, the cover isn’t the worst thing in the world, I sat down and opened up Photoshop to create some even more boring pieces. I slept on it, and by this time I was bound and determined that it was and it was going to be changed for the launch of the soft cover (say what? Soft cover? Yup, just in time for Teen Reads Week – sales links come this week.)

Too 19080’s?  Too textbookish?  Too How-To Manual?  I don’t know but we all knew that even though they may be a bit more polished and have some direction, the cover we loved to hate to love was still better.

We found this beautiful image by photographer Claudio Divizia and really fell in love with his vintage inspired works.   And then came these:


And I think we all know where we are going now.  Just a little bit brighter to catch some eyes and with a big deep sigh of relief, VOILA! A new cover was born.

Part of being a new publishing house is trying and experimenting, working closely with our authors to give them exactly what they want (nothing ever goes out that they themselves have not signed off on and approved), and then chatting with our new found friends about the process and industry.

Covers are SO important.  We all know this, and in the rush of an 8 week edit to publish deadline, we kinda just let it go the way of whatever we finally settled on without a strong feeling of support behind it.

Today, for #ManuscriptMonday, let’s chat covers!  Leave us a comment about why you feel the cover is so important (past the obvious it sells), your favorite cover, your favorite cover trends, the biggest mistakes you see on covers, or even talk about some of the covers we passed.

In the end, we went in a completely different direction.  We dropped the hand drawn and cartoon feel, we added depth, we kept the green but complimented it by other colors, and we still kept true to Danny.  The tapes are a mix of colors and reflect on the constant change through Danny, through Cher, through Rusty, and Danny’s amazing post punk rock parents.  It keeps the smile inducing moment of “The boy with the cool hair,” and brings us all back to a piece of our youth, hopefully reminding us of what it meant to be young and in love.

Don’t forget, reach out to your favorite teen this week and wish them a happy Teen Reads Week with your favorite YA Book.

Might we suggest Peter Monn’s The Before Now and After Then?


3 thoughts on “Manuscript Monday: Teen Reads Week

  1. Ana Franco says:

    The new cover is really beautiful! But I really, really liked the original one more than any other :B but they’re all great, anyway!

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