One Amazing Cover Artist And A Whole Lotta Angst

 What do I have in common with Jane Yolen, Linda Sue Park, and Kathi Appelt?

Well, let’s see…

1. We’re all women.

2. We all write books for children. (Although one of us has only written one book for publication. Hint: It’s not Jane, Linda Sue, or Kathi.)

3. We’re all award-winners. (You may not know that I took second place in the Race to Reading contest in first grade, the proud recipient of a 6-pack of Playdough.)

4. And now here’s the biggie….(drum roll, please)…..Jane, Linda Sue, Kathi and I all have books graced by the same cover artist!

Last month, on the very day before my birthday, my editor emailed to say how delighted she was that they’d chosen a cover artist for my book, FLYING THE DRAGON.  Her email included a link to the artist’s website.

I did not click on the link. Not at first, anyway. I called to my husband and kids, and we all gathered ‘round ye olde monitor.

I still didn’t click on the link.

What if I didn’t like the artist’s style? What if liked her style, but didn’t think it was a good fit for my book?

“Mommy?” said my 5-year-old. “Can I go back out and play?”

So before I lost my audience, I boldly moved the cursor over the link. And I clicked on this:

Go ahead, click. I’ll wait…


I KNOW, RIGHT????  Kelly Murphy’s art is amazing! We all clapped and oohed and ahhed and I did a happy cover artist dance right then and there. It was the best pre-birthday present ever.

I immediately recognized fellow agent-mate Robin LaFever’s NATHANIEL FLUDD series: 

I clicked some more and saw Jane Yolen’s newest picture book:


then Kathi Appelt’s new picture book:


and Linda Sue Park’s SEE SAW GIRL:

I’ve heard of authors who hated their covers on first sight, authors who said the style was all wrong, authors who gnashed their teeth and cried and ingested large quantities of chocolate in consolation. When I clicked on Kelly’s website, I knew I would not be one of those authors (except for the large quantities of chocolate, which, mind you, can also be ingested in celebration). I knew I’d be thrilled with whatever Kelly created for the cover of my book.

That’s when I started to get nervous.

I’ve heard that some bookstores won’t carry a book if they don’t like its cover. That’s not the author’s fault.

Some reviewers slam cover art even if they like what’s written on the pages. That’s not the author’s fault.

I’ve seen kids eschew books with unappealing covers , leaving them unopened on library shelves. To remedy this, one librarian in our school system actually puts stickers on some books that say, “Bad cover. Good book.”  

Again, not the author’s fault.

Whatever Kelly comes up with for my book, I know it will be eye-catching. I know it will tempt kids, parents, teachers and librarians to pick up the book and take a look.

And then, in tag-team fashion, it will be my turn. After Kelly’s art calls to a kid, it’ll then be up to me—to the words I wrote, and the story I created—to carry through and complete the connection. If a kid picks up my book, Kelly’s job is done. If the kid reads the first page then puts the book back on the shelf, thaaaaaaaaat’ll be my fault. If reviewers don’t like the book, they won’t be blaming it on the cover. They’ll blame it on me.

I know what you’re thinking: Cry me a river, Natalie.

And I hear you.

I love my editor and my publishing house. My book’s cover artist is fabulous. I don’t want to let any of them down, and I don’t want to let my readers (or potential readers) down. I just hope that my words will live up to the art that Kelly is creating for my book.


Please send any and all future consolation and/or celebratory chocolate to me in care of my agent, Erin Murphy. I know she will forward all chocolate to me. Unopened.



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15 responses to “One Amazing Cover Artist And A Whole Lotta Angst

  1. Oh my, it sure is hard to imagine Kelly Murphy taking any kind of misstep. Her art is fantastic and I can’t wait to see your cover!!

    I sent your chocolate weeks ago–you’ve received it by now, right? I sent some extra for that brilliant librarian with the stickers–because that would have definitely helped guide my own kids to some books I felt they HAD to read that they felt they just couldn’t because of the covers….

    As for the “don’t want to let them down” part of publishing–I think everyone you listed shares that sentiment–editor, publishing house, cover artist. Which is why I sent a truly epic amount of chocolate.


  2. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Thanks for the chocolate, Audrey, but, um…I haven’t received it. Erin just took a 2-week Reading Week, so I wonder if she needed an extra boost??

    I can’t wait to see my cover, either! Honestly, Kelly could put dumptrucks and unicorns on my cover, and I’d still be giddy.


  3. Natalie,
    I’m thrilled for you and your book (and for Kelly too!)

    Sending you chocolate & play dough for your celebration!!!



    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Thanks, Angela! I’ll be sure to keep the play dough and the chocolate separate. I say this because when the 6-year-old me won the playdough, my little sister ended up eating a great deal of it…:-P


  4. Natalie,

    This is extremely cool! I know that my reaction to my SAVING THE GRIFFIN cover was, “If readers judge my book by its cover, I’m a very lucky woman.”

    I’m sure you’re killing it with respect to execution.



    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Kristin, I still remember my kids’ reaction to SAVING THE GRIFFIN when it was on my bedside table a few years ago–that cover has oodles of reader appeal. The baby griffin in the bushes with the soccer ball sparked lots of questions!


  5. Cynthia

    A review for one of my friend Carol Dawson’s books was headlined something like ‘Ignore the cover. Read the book.’ Shown options for the cover photo for my book, I chose exactly the one everybody at the publishing house disliked the most. Shows what I know. (I asked my editor if it could be used inside instead; so far, no response. That’s how much they disliked it.) This debut process has been such a learning experience. And one of the things I’m learning is what I have little to no control over. I’ve learned to become grateful for my editor’s letting me keep text she’d like to delete, that I have no control over design, including the cover, and that I love the whole agonizing process.

    There is another aspect to the cover that isn’t often talked about: the back. I don’t have control over that either but I’m hoping for fun blurbs.


    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Good point about the back cover, Cynthia. I’ve always loved covers where you could open the book and discover that the two covers are halves of the same scene. I think this is mostly done with picture books, though. I also love to see a small design on the spine of a book.

      I hear you about the lack of control over many things, which is why I was beyond thrilled when I heard that Kelly would be illustrating my book’s cover. Keep us posted about the photo you chose–I’m curious to see where it will end up!


  6. :::wiping chocolate off face::: HUH?


  7. Sooo cool, Natalie! So much gorgeous art on Kelly Murphy’s website that I almost forgot to come back here! I mean, you can’t go wrong with someone named Murphy (take, for example, our agent.)

    I had the exciting thrill on Wednesday evening of getting a note from my editor which described, for the first time, the planned design for my cover–not the artist, but what it is going to look like. The exciting thing, is it is always what I have pictured in my day dreams for the cover!!!!

    The problem with these little blts of “sneak peak” info from our editors, though, is they really make me that much more impatient to see the real thing! You may have to share some of that chocolate with me while we wait….


  8. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    How exciting, Jeannie! And how amazing that the cover concept is just as you’ve always pictured it.

    My editor says we should be seeing preliminary cover sketches soon, so I’m really curious.

    I’d be happy to share my chocolate, but Erin tells me that no more packages arrived after Audrey’s…


  9. Congratulations, Natalie! Kelly is an aMaZiNG illustrator! I know you’ll be thrilled with her work! I sure have been. 🙂


  10. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Thanks, Robin! I adore the art in the NATHANIEL FLUDD series (and the text, for that matter 🙂 ). It seems that most of Kelly’s covers are for fantasy, folk tales or historical fiction, so I’m curious to see what she comes up with for my contemporary realistic fiction jacket. Whatever it is, I know I’ll love it. *swoon*


  11. Pingback: Covers: The Wisom Behind the Obsession | EMU's Debuts

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