Not long after I landed my publishing contract, I attended a YA book signing where the author talked about cover art. I had no idea how the process usually went down, and her experience sounded alarming. Debuts were usually given no say, she said. A cover story could truly be a horror story, and if your cover sucked, too bad.
Oh, eek. How bad could it be? Those in the art department have experience that I don’t, I reasoned, and surely knew their market. But I wanted to give some feedback. I prepared for the worst, and hoped for the best.
I needn’t have worried. During a first discussion with my editor, Michelle Poploff, she made it clear there was always a to-and-fro between her and her authors about cover art. I was relieved. At least I wouldn’t be in for a nasty release-day surprise.
Once my manuscript was at the copy editing stage, Michelle emailed that it was time to bat ideas around with the art department. How did I envision my cover? Even after our convo, I wasn’t expecting to be asked my opinion up front. Thrilled, I replied with my thoughts. Within a few weeks an email arrived, subject “Cover sketches”. My heart was in my throat as I clicked it open to meet my cover artist, ChrisRahn.
Three pencil drawings leapt onto the screen. I literally gasped; each was stunning! Though rough, the mood and motion they captured was way beyond what I’d envisioned, more wild and eerie. The one that grabbed me most portrayed my main character, Jemma, as she is in the finished artwork: a stoic presence looking ready for action and confrontation.
However, there was no Digby—Jemma’s friend and companion against evil—in that version. Michelle and I had already agreed his presence would widen the book’s boy appeal, and agreed now that he should be added.
Sooner than I expected, I received finished, full-color artwork. I adore its dramatic and classic feel. The predominant misty blues are fabulous—more kudos for Chris’s mood-capturing! And I love how Jemma is looking up at something—What? I don’t know. I don’t care. That small glance adds a layer of subtle threat which is fantastic, with the rats standing guard on her shoulders, and Digby behind her, having her back as ever. Perfect!
There were a couple of things, though, that weren’t quite right. The artwork having been presented to me as finished, I was nervous. Could it be changed? I had to at least ask. This was—is—my book, and if I didn’t say something, I knew I’d kick myself ever after. So I did. (Say something.) And I’m not. (Kicking myself.) The changes were made.
I’ve since discovered from a lot of fellow newbies that this isn’t unusual; editors do listen to their authors, and I felt my opinion was respected at every stage. So for me, far from a horror story, the experience was a breeze. I owe huge thanks to Chris for his fabulous artwork, to art director Melissa Greenberg for choosing him, and to my wonderful editor, Michelle, for tying the whole thing together. I can’t wait to finally see the end result actually on the shelves!
Not long now…
Kit Grindstaff was born near London, England. After a brief brush with pop stardom (under her maiden name, Hain), she moved to New York and became a song writer. Kit now lives with her husband in Pennsylvania. The Flame In The Mist which releases on April 9th, is her first novel.