So as you know from a previous post, I had the awesome opportunity to work with Laura L. Smith on covers for her new book series. I wanted to give you some background on the whole experience and let Laura chime in as well. But first let me start off by saying, I was so excited when Laura reached out to me. I met Laura my Sophomore year of college when I was writing a story for my journalism class about body image. I saw that she was a local author who had not only written a book that dealt with the topic of body image, but had also graduated from good ole Miami. I want to say the rest is history: We kept in touch and soon became good friends. She and her family became my family away from home and have truly blessed my life. I was so happy to finally be able to give a little bit back to a woman who gave me so much.
Laura is going to start out by telling you about the cover process from where she sat [while I throw in some outtakes] and then I will wrap it all up.
Last year I received the exciting news that my new contemporary young adult book series, Status Updates, was being picked up by a brand new publisher, Playlist Fiction. As part of the process of getting the first two books in the series from my laptop to final product I needed book covers. I had several options and could let the publisher create something, but because the whole line was new, they gave me, the author, the option of creating my own covers. This is a rarity in the publishing industry, and for me, a visual kind of girl, an absolute thrill. For those of you who have never designed a book cover before, the process starts with the art. You can select photography, illustration or graphic design.
Knowing I wanted gorgeous photographs of the four main characters, college roommates Kat, Claire, Hannah and Palmer, I started cruising every stock photo site I could find on the web. I spent hours upon hours until my eyes felt like they were going to bleed from clicking on countless images posted by thousands of photographers, only to be disappointed time and time again. Searching Google Images with key words like roommates, college girls, college women, freshman, etc. pulled up cheesy picture after dorky photo of fourteen or twenty-four year olds posing and smiling over opened text books or laptops. Everyone was too old or too young. The models in the pictures did not dress like college girls. There never seemed to be four or them, and if there were I couldn't find the right mix of three brunettes and one blonde. I'd been writing about these characters for over two years and had them so firmly etched in my brain. I wanted them to be pretty, but real, approachable. I wanted them to look natural not so freaking posed. But after almost a week of flipping through photos I thought my head would explode, and I would never find what I was looking for. I was half tempted to troll Facebook and steal party pics of actual college girls, just kidding, sortof.
Then I remembered a good friend of mine, Kelci House, was a photographer. I thought she must know of some good sites, some better sites where I could find the type of photography I was looking for. Someone must have taken a decent snap of college girls, right? I emailed her pronto and waited by my laptop for her reply.
And then like an answer to a prayer, Kelci did not answer my email with links to great photo sites. Instead, she suggested I hire her to do a shoot. I'd seen Kelci's work before and was overwhelmed with relief and excitement about the prospect of actually getting to special order the shots by such a talent. Together we discussed what I was looking for. She asked for character descriptions of the girls and created story boards for each of them. She found young women she knew who fit the profiles I'd described and sent me pictures of them for approval to use as models. Then she assembled all of the girls together for a photo shoot on a college campus, and gave me literally hundreds of pictures to choose from. I'll let her tell the rest of the story, and all the parts I've left out from her point of view, but the result was the two gorgeous covers for It's Complicated and It's Over plus two more that are in the works.
I knew from doing enough photo research during my day job that stock photography is either hit or miss, and sometimes a little cheesy. And if it isn't cheesy, it can be really expensive to license if you don't have an account with an agency. When Laura gave me the descriptions of the four girls, I jumped in my seat a little because they almost perfectly described four of my best friends. I suggested her hiring me to do the photoshoot so she could get exactly what she was looking for. To my good fortune she said yes and I started making character boards. I ran it all by Laura and then my friends and in no time we had a shoot scheduled! It was so much fun to help my girlfriends pick out their outfits and scout locations. I basically got to spend a day doing my favorite thing [photographing] with my favorite people. When shooting I obviously had to keep in mind that this had to be a vertical shot and had to keep negative space for text. Laura and I mapped out what types of scenes she would like and we snapped away! I can't thank Laura more for such a fun opportunity. After the shoot I sent Laura some initial edits and after some back and forth she had picked two of her covers. We have another shoot coming up soon and I cannot wait to show you all what we come up with, it is going to be AMAZING. I have already read her first two books and can't wait until the next two come out. If you have any teen girls in your family and want a great book for them to read I would highly recommend this series. Laura writes books that you can't put down. This week only Laura's publisher is offering a free book sampler, showcasing the first several chapters of five young adult titles including Laura's
It's Complicated at www.playlistfiction.com. What a great way to try out some new authors for free!