Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Look Blog Tour: Sophia Bennett's Cover Story!

Sophie Bennett is the lovely author of the Threads series and her new book The Look, which was published on March 1st in the UK. Here's what it's all about:

When Ted is spotted by a model agency, she can't believe it. At the same time her gorgeous sister, Ava, is diagnosed with cancer. With her world turned upside down, Ted has a lot of growing up to do, some of it in five-inch platforms. Can she be a supermodel and a super sister? Or will she have to choose between fame and family?

Sophia has written a really brilliant piece about The Look cover for me, as we all know I love book covers and their conception stories/US and UK differences. Thanks to Sophia for such a fantastic post, and don't forget to see the end of this page for details of the other blog tour stops!


Sophia Bennett's Cover Story
I'm thrilled to be writing this post on the evolution of the cover for The Look for Wondrous Reads. It was on this blog that I first really noticed how important covers are, as Jenny made one of her famous comparisons between UK and US versions of the same book. In fact, I often end up preferring the US version. I'll be fascinated to see what they do with the cover of this one. I love the UK version, but they say the US one next year will be edgier. Watch this space ...

When it came to marketing The Look it was clear early on that the cover was going to be as much part of the package as the story. I handed the first draft in in February of last year, and already Chicken House were starting to think about how it would look. The fact is, people do judge a book by its cover - very much, all the time. And people in the book trade do it more than anyone. An author friend of mine once had her book completely rejacketed because bookbuyers didn't like the original version (I loved it!). It matters.

Normally, I have a very minor say in the cover. For foreign editions, I usually only see it once the book is published. For Threads, I was allowed to suggest minor tweaks about which dresses were used, but that's about it. When I tell you I originally wanted a tailor's dummy, a spotlight, a laptop and a machine gun for that book ...

Anyway, this time Chicken House very kindly asked for my thoughts at the beginning, and I told them I had this vision of it looking like the cover of a magazine, with a close-up of a girl's face, staring strongly into the camera, and text that looked reminiscent of Elle or Vogue, maybe. Based on experience, I didn't expect my suggestions to go very far. I don't know whether it was luck, or coincidence, or whether my cover illustrator, Steve Wells (who also did the last of the Threads books and rejacketed the series for me), actually liked my idea, but to my surprise, while I was still in the early rewrites of the second draft, he came up with this:

Result! Note the book already had its fabulous pink page edges. I love those edges. They're quite expensive to produce, apparently, so I felt very honoured to have them. I still get a bit of a thrill every time I turn them. Anyway - back to the cover. There it was: the closeup on the face of a girl. She was staring directly into the camera. It was a strong image ...

I liked it. But.

To me, it looked like a great cover for a paranormal romance. There was something a bit creepy about the girl's eye-makeup, and the black and white photo looked dark and sinister. The person picking up this book would not, I thought, expect the opening scene to be about two crazy sisters busking for sweet wrappers in Carnaby Street.

I wanted a bit more colour - not too much. A bit of a lighter tone - but nothing too smiley, because Ted and Ava, my main characters, go through a lot of stress and heartache. I suggested all of this to Steve - again not expecting him to take any notice of me, because he is a design professional and I last drew a decent picture in about 1974. However, to illustrate my point I sent him two Vogue covers, just to show him what I meant. (Also, to be honest, researching Vogue covers online is occasionally more fun than doing rewrites.)

Straight away, Steve hunted around a bit and suggested using this picture:

Instantly, we all loved it. The girl was pretty, but still strong. A bit mysterious but not positively paranormal. Steve mocked up a cover that looked like this:

It was great! Really close to what I'd imagined. More cropped than I'd pictured, but that was a minor detail. I didn't really get the font, but apparently it's supposed to look a bit like the Louis Vuitton graffiti print, which I guess it does. Also, some people think it looks like it's handwritten in lipstick, which is good too.

Note the strapline/blurb thing on the cover has disappeared. We never could find one we were really happy with, and in the end we all agreed it looked stronger without one at all. I'll be interested to know if you agree.

Again assuming that Steve wouldn't be interested in my further opinion - what do I know? - I nevertheless mentioned that I particularly loved the Aggy Deyn Vogue cover, (second one above,) because of the way they'd washed out the skin and brought out the blue of her eyes. And the way they'd matched the text with her lipstick. Steve, bless him, very quickly produced an image with bluer eyes, paler skin, matching text/lipstick and basically everything I'd suggested. Again, it could have been coincidence but whatever it was, I was very happy.

This time, the cover was a quick and remarkably painless process. It was ready before the final draft. The result looks a bit chick-lity, but I'm happy with that. I try and write accessible fiction for girls that highlights deeper issues in an enjoyable way, and that pretty much defines good chick-lit for me.

So this is my main character. Or the girl she could have been, if she hadn't ... But now you'll have to read the book to find out.



Jesse @ Books 4 Teens said...

A really fascinating post - really good to see you got so much input into the design :)

caroline.taylor078 said...

Great post, I do love book cover reveals and finding out about the concepts of covers, I saw this book at the weekend in WH Smiths and the pink pages are very striking! I'll definitely get it at some point!

Cliona said...

Interesting post! This is one of my favourite cover, I LOVE the pink edges! And I think your ideas were fabulous Sophia!

Ria- The Beaucoup Review. said...

Brilliant! I think the model on the Vogue cover [not Aggy, the other one] looks like the girl on the front of The Look. I love this cover, so thanks to you and Sophia for posting and Sophia and Steve for creating it!

Cecilia83 said...

Thanks for the opportunity, and make it international.

Beverley said...

Great guest post! It was really intriguing to find out about the process behind the cover design of the book! I really enjoyed reading The Look and I loved the pink page edges!

New follower :)

Siobhán @ Totally Bookalicious said...

I love the cover for this book. It's soooo pretty in person and the pink edges are amazing. I personally usually prefer the UK covers for books. So I no doubt I will still prefer this one. Great post. Always interesting to a better insight into covers.