Monday, November 25, 2013

Covering Up

I always find it really interesting to learn about book covers that got away and the design process that goes into creating and selecting book covers. That's why I interviewed The F-It List's talented designer, April Ward! Below is the interview, and afterward is a selection of F-It List covers that didn't happen. I'm glad I don't have to design my own book covers. I have a feeling they'd all have something to do with cupcakes and Swedish Fish (of which I just ate both). Thank you, April, for the great interview and the gorgeous cover!

What is your job title, and what are your job responsibilities? How did you come to this position?

I am an Associate Art Director for Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. I design children's books, chapter books, and young adult novels for three imprints: Henry Holt, Feiwel & Friends, and Square Fish. I moved to NY after high school and studied illustration at Pratt Institute with a focus on children's publishing. I was taking some design and type classes as well but I thought graphic designers only worked on magazines and websites, which didn't interest me. My junior year I had an internship with an amazingly talented illustrator and designer, Kris Waldherr. At the time she was designing her book The Lover's Path which is an incredibly beautiful illustrated novel. Watching her process of illustration and design made me see book design in a totally different way. She also introduced me to some people in the industry which helped me land my first job as a design assistant at Harper Collins. I knew immediately that designing books was a good fit for me.

What is your process for designing a book cover? Do you always read the entire book first? Do you take notes along the way? Do images come into your head as you read? How do you take notes?
I like to read the entire book before designing it, though sometimes if we need a rush cover I will have to start on comps before I finish reading the whole book. I do read every book I design, I think that's one of the best parts of my job. While I'm reading I will write down little bits of the story that pop out to me visually like atmospheres, character details, moments…then I do little thumbnail drawings to get an idea of compositions that could work. Once I start in on photo research the concepts will change and morph into different directions based on what images are available. I have a little sketchpad with the original thumbnail drawings (now also covered in my daughter's scribbles) and I like to look back at those when the book is printed. It's interesting to see if an early concept stuck through to the final, or if the end result is something totally different.
How many cover design options are expected of you?
I try to to come up with 5-7 initial concepts, sometimes more depending on how many images I have that could work. Then based on feedback from the creative director and editor I'll do some revisions before presenting 2-3 covers at an art meeting.
Who has final say?
There are so many people involved in the process that I wouldn't say there is one person with final say. The final cover is chosen by a committee of sales, marketing, the editor, the publisher, the author, and even big book store buyers. Everyone's opinion holds weight and if one person has a negative reaction it generally means the cover will be reworked or at least discussed again, even if the comment comes after a point where the cover is considered final. We have to be really  flexible, which can be especially challenging when you're attached to a design.
Did you ever design a cover that you loved but everyone else hated? Has an author ever written to you and told you they hated the cover?
I've definitely done covers that I love that don't make it past the first round and you just have to accept it and let it go.  I've never had an author tell me that they hate a cover, that would kill me. 
Have you ever had the opportunity to redesign a cover after the book has been out? Say, for a paperback version of a book? Has the cover changed completely, and, if so, why?
Yes this happens pretty frequently, it's a good opportunity to rethink an existing concept or try to make the hardcover jacket punchier with a new direction. If a hardcover package is successful it doesn't necessarily need to be redesigned in paperback but I don't think it's a bad thing to give the book a new look for a new format. 
Are there any other questions you want me to ask you?
Sure! What was your daughter for Halloween?
A clown!

What are you doing this weekend?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We have a winner!

I'm having one of those moments where I can't have a single uninterrupted thought. Oh, wait, I'm having one of those YEARS. My children are trying to drive me mad. And they are very good at what they do. All I have to talk about these days is my kids, and all it is is complainy, tired bullshit. So here's a happy: congratulations to Ronni who wins the signed copy of The F-It List! I'll send you an email, too. Thank you to all who entered!

I was about to blog some more, but the five month-old is harassing me with his whines. God forbid I put him down and have access to BOTH of my hands. Thank you, ladies and gentleman, I'll be here all night. Two drink minimum. No hecklers, please.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Last Day to Win The F-It List! Plus Jewish Stuff

You should absolutely go to this post RIGHT NOW and enter to win a signed copy of The F-It List. If not for you, it would make a great gift for someone for the holidays! Hanukkah is next week! Speaking of, I still have not ordered this shirt, which I need.

I hope I'm not too late. I think I'll ask Matt to order it for me today as my Hanukkah gift. Maybe. I can't decide. But the time is nigh!

Also, I really want to order these:
'Tis a kitschy time to be a Jew!

Now for another lost F-It List cover:
I'm not mad at this cover, but I can't help but zero in on the shavings and think they look like fruit leather.

Alright. You have until midnight to enter the contest. I'll announce the winner tomorrow!

Friday, November 15, 2013

F-It List Friday: The First Week

I am in a no-sleep foggy glaze of stupor (?), so this is going to be short and rambly, if that's possible. The F-It List finally arrived in stores! I have visited two, one biggy and one indie, and they both had the book. That's not always the case, so I'm happy! Don't forget to enter to win your own copy. All of the fun and rules and such are explained here. You have a one in three chance of winning at this point. Either no one reads my blog, or no one enters my contests. Or maybe everyone is just being nice and wants to buy the book? Um. Also, there's the Get Well Soon Readathon on Twitter. Happy book stuff! Holy balls I'm tired. Howsabout some funny book cover action? April Ward, the fantabulous book designer [not actual job title] designed the gorgeous cover of The F-It List, and she was gracious enough to share some of the cover bloopers. I will post more of them next week and an interview with April (if she's game) about how she came to design the cover, but for now here's one of the covers that didn't happen.
Whoa! Pretty sexy, eh? Underboob! I think I would have been embarrassed to give this book to my aunts with this cover.

I love cover bloopers, don't you? I don't think they're technically called cover bloopers, but I like the sound of the word. Blooper. I feel kind of like a blooper today. Shut up, Julie. YOU shut up, you blooper! Sleeeeeeeeepppppyyyyy.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Let the Readathon Commence!

Today is the first day of the Get Well Soon Readathon! I love the idea of people reading one of my books together and tweeting about it, so I hope people will join in the discussion. I can't decide if I will read along (most authors will report that they don't particularly like to re-read their own works), but I will definitely chime in with the chat. Get all of the details here:  Don't have a copy? Check your local library, or download it for only $2.99 for a limited time!

Also, I've updated my webpage. It's nothing huge, but I added a few things to the homepage (an F-It List button and links to my social media pages) as well as updating my other pages a bit. I streamlined the process by removing the line of links on the bottom of every page with a basic "Home" button. I hope it doesn't look cheap, but since I'm the one who built and maintains the site I'm trying to make it as easy as possible to update it. Coming soon to The F-It List's page will be a list of all of the horror movies mentioned within the book. I'll let you know when that's up. And speaking of The F-It List, it comes out tomorrow! Don't forget the contest to win a signed copy here. I'll be tumbling and tweeting and twerking (or not) all over the place, so be on the lookout.


Friday, November 08, 2013

F-It List Friday: Coming Tuesday! Contest TODAY!

Holy turkeyballs! It's almost here! The F-It List comes out this Tuesday, 11/12/13! I still haven't put a page on my website, but in the meantime you can read all about it here. I plan on posting a list of all of the horror movie suggestions from the book and hopefully some other good stuff, but first I have to, you know, build the page. And looky what I have:

A big ol' box of F-Its! So it's time for another contest. But first, I have to announce the winner of the paperback of Have a Nice Day! I used my trusty bag of D&D dice for the occasion.

Note this is not my original dice bag (my original was a Sesame Street pencil case). Somehow my daughter switched all of the dice from that bag to this purse. No biggie. They still work! So I picked out a lovely 8-sided (seriously, if you enter my contests you have a REALLY good chance of winning), rolled, and the winner is...
Rach! Who was excited because she was offered an internship (Yeah Rach!) Congratulations! I'll be sending you a shiny, signed copy of Have a Nice Day in paperback. Has anyone seen a copy of it yet in the wild? Take a picture! Speaking of pictures, here's the F-It List contest:
All you have to do to enter to win a signed copy is comment on today's blog post with your name, email address, and your favorite f-word (it doesn't have to be a swear, you know). BUT, if you want to be entered to win a brand, spankin' new, signed copy of The F-It List more than once, find a copy of it in a book store or library, take a picture, and email it to me ( Every picture you send will give you three entries into the contest! I'll give you until the following Tuesday to enter (11/19/13). And if you don't find The F-It List in a bookstore, tell them to order it! I'll give you an extra entry to win for doing that. Too complicated? Then just comment on this post. I made it so anyone, even anonymous posters, can comment on the blog (but, duh, if you want to win you have to include at least an email address). Good hunting!

P.S. Monday begins the Get Well Soon Readathon! Click here to learn about it. I'll have more info next week.

Monday, November 04, 2013


Over the weekend I found a bunch of people re-tweeting this website, and was blown away that it was all about me! (Imagine me spinning in a circle with my arms out and singing that last bit. You may recall this blog post of mine from a couple months back, all about my internship in 1995 on the Nickelodeon TV show "The Adventures of Pete and Pete." Somehow this got into the hands of a nice man named Brian Galindo at BuzzFeed (I'm calling him a nice man because he said my pictures were "Adorable." That word went a long way with tired, old-feeling me), and he re-blogged them (with his own delightful commentary). My mind is boggled by the fact that almost 50,000 people have now looked at these pictures. Wha??? That's rather rad. I think the thing I like best about that many people viewing the pictures is that there is no malice in the act. The internet can be so yucko and negative and dwelly that it's refreshing to see a whole bunch of people looking at something just because it's happy. So, yay to that! What's funny about the experience is that it made me look at my own pictures in a different light, and here is what I learned: I have a really long tongue. Why has no one ever mentioned this to me? Maybe I'm not always sticking it out, but you'd think someone would have noticed this in my thirty-eight years of life. You know what else is great about these pictures? They've put me back in touch with the Brothers Pete, at least in a pleasant, social media way. I wonder what it would be like if the three of us met up for a bagel or something. What happens when you see someone so after the fact but spent a concentrated amount of time with them way back when? Would we reminisce or just talk about grown-up us? Speaking of grown-up me, my baby just woke up from his nap (I swear that's all he does-- wake up. I barely recall the moments where he's actually sleeping). Don't forget to enter my contest to win a signed copy of the paperback of Have a Nice Day! I changed the settings on my blogger account, so now anyone can comment (but be sure to include your name and email, or I can't tell you if you've won). I am trying to think of a kicky way to end this post, but Dean is whining over the baby monitor. I'm whining, too, but no one if monitoring that. I don't think. For all I know, it will end up on BuzzFeed. (Um, please no.)

Friday, November 01, 2013

F-It List Friday: Win a Book!

This has nothing to do with The F-It List (again? So much for my theme posts), but today is my daughter's birthday so I'm celebrating with a contest. This Tuesday, November 5 is the release date for the paperback of Have a Nice Day! So all you have to do to win yourself a signed copy is comment on this post with an adjective describing the type of day you're having and your email address. If I were answering today, I would say exhausted. And it's only 7:30 am. But this is my nth night of five hours of interrupted sleep. I can barely see the computer screen through my puffy eyes. I wish my four and a half month-old slept like my five year-old! Anyway, happy November and have a nice (or better) day! I'll announce a winner next F-It List Friday. (Contest is open to readers in the US only. Sorry! I can usually only get to the PO after hours.) And stay tuned to win a signed copy of The F-It List, too! Out 11/12/13!