This is the U.S. cover for Eleanor & Park, my second book, which comes out March 5, 2013. It was designed/art-directed by Olga Grlic at St. Martin’s Press and illustrated by Harriet Russell.
Isn’t it just just?
II. SOME BACKSTORY:
Have we met in real life? No?
Well, if it had happened some time in the last six months, it would have gone like this:
You: “Hi, Rainbow, how are you?”
Me: “. . .”
Me: “What? Oh. Sorry. Don’t mind me. I’m just obsessing about the book cover for Eleanor & Park. Venti decaf latte, whole milk. What? No? That’s not … Who are you again?”
I care A LOT about the covers for my books.
And it’s a potentially painful, stupid thing for me to care about because it’s mostly out of my control.
Selling a book to a publisher is something like an open adoption. (Hopefully this isn’t an offensive comparison.) You still get to see the kid. You might even get to be there on big days. But it’s not exactly, legally, really yours anymore.
What the book looks like, how it’s sold — that’s largely decided by the publishing team. Which MAKES SENSE because this is what these people do for a living. They know the market, they have professional designers and illustrators . . .
It makes sense. But it can be torture for someone like me.
I always care way too much about the way things look. Not people. I don’t much care what people look like. But things …
It hurts my brain to look at something ugly that could be beautiful. And everything designed by a human being has the potential to be beautiful. I once went five years without a couch because I couldn’t find one I could bear to look at every day. And a couch is just a couch; a book cover is personal.
You spend all this time on the book itself, and the cover is the face that it presents to the world. It’s painful to think about ending up with a cover that doesn’t represent you. (For me. For me, it’s painful.)
I also really believe that the ebook revolution has made cover design more important than ever. Buying a book — a real ink and paper book — is an aesthetic decision now. People see books and CDs and newspapers as clutter, as things they have to dust or dispose of, unless they’re beautiful.
If I like the cover, I buy the book. If I don’t, but I still want to read it, I buy the ebook.
So, if you’ve read this far, we’ve established that:
– Authors usually don’t get to choose their covers.
– I’m a little neurotic about this fact.
III. NOT “A LITTLE,” ACTUALLY …
As proud as I am of Attachments (super proud!), I don’t feel like I carved a piece of it out of my heart the way I did with Eleanor & Park.
I hope that I write better books someday, I hope that I grow as an author — but I’m not sure I’ll ever write anything that feels this personal again. If I were Joni Mitchell, Eleanor & Park would be my Blue. (I’m obviously not Joni Mitchell.) (But you get what I’m saying here, right?) (This is a great album; you should listen to it.) (The cover is just okay.)
My worst fear for the Eleanor & Park cover was that it would look like the sort of book Eleanor would never read.
I had the same concern for Attachments, and it drove my editor crazy. She’d say, “Lincoln is a twenty-eight-year-old IT guy; he is NOT our target audience.” And I would say, “I know, but it’s his book. I don’t want a book that he’d be embarrassed to be seen with.”
I ended up lucking out bigtime with the Attachments cover, which is beautiful and clean, and perfectly concepted. (It was designed by Jon Gray, who goes by gray318. You can see more of his covers here.)
Neither Lincoln nor I are even a little bit embarrassed by it.
Eleanor, unlike Lincoln, is the target market for her book. Or she could be. She’s a 16-year-old girl who reads a lot and really cares about books.
She’s also cynical and judgmental and a little weird. Eleanor is a misfit. By choice and not by choice. She’s chubbier than she knows what to do with, she dresses funny, and she has bright red, curly-curly hair.
I had this ongoing nightmare that the Eleanor & Park cover would end up with a beautiful red-headed model on it. Probably with her face cropped half off.
Have you noticed this about contemporary YA book? Lots of cropped faces. And legs. And backs.
I didn’t want a cover with girl parts on it.
And I didn’t want a cover with some effortlessly, conventionally, obviously beautiful girl, who is obviously not Eleanor.
IV. DO YOU WANT ME TO BLOW ON THOSE DICE FOR YOU?
First, Eleanor & Park came out in the UK, and it looked like this:
So sophisticated and gorgeous, and I wish that was my actual signature.
And then I started working with St. Martin’s Press on the U.S. cover.
AND THEY WERE GREAT!
Was it a difficult process? Yes. Maybe it always is.
But I felt like they cared so much about getting the cover right. And they really listened to me.
I mean, at some point, they probably would have thrown me off the back of the train, but it never got to that point. It got to THIS point:
Isn’t it LOVELY?
And also THE AMPERSAND!
And the colors . . . And the type . . . And the word balloon . . . And they’re in love! I feel like these drawings are in love. Also, it matches Attachments; I don’t even think that was intentional.
I am so happy and so proud of this cover.
Eleanor would totally read this book.