Finding the perfect title and cover: a peek behind the curtain

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I am thrilled to help celebrate the launch of BLAZE this week!
*** throws confetti ***
Join the party by leaving a comment below…
at the end of the week one lucky commenter will win a signed copy!

For Laurie Boyle Crompton, one of the more unusual developments in the path to debut publication was dealing with a delayed release date combined with a new title and cover—after they had all already been revealed to the public! Since my own debut still doesn’t have a title, this topic struck a chord with me, and I wanted to know the backstory. Laurie’s editor at Sourcebooks, Aubrey Poole, graciously agreed to let me ask her a slew of questions about the whole process.

Aubrey Poole

Aubrey Poole, Associate Editor, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky and Fire

LT: Hi Aubrey, Welcome to Emu’s Debuts, and thank you so much for agreeing to let us in one behind-the-scenes decision-making for BLAZE’s title and cover!

AP: Hi Laurie, It’s great to meet you! I’m happy to be a part of the Emu’s Debuts blog. I’m so excited about BLAZE!

LT: As you can tell, we are, too! So, how far into the process were things when you decided that a new title and cover were needed? Fans seemed pretty happy about the original title, FANGIRL, and its cover. Why did you decide to change them, and how hard was it to do?

AP: Well, it was nerve-racking! The decision to change the cover and title happened simultaneously. The funny thing about the first title and cover is that we all liked them. You know, if it’s a bad cover or a bad title, it’s actually easier, because everyone agrees that they need a change. But there was a lot of support for FANGIRL as the title.

Original title and cover

Original title and cover

What started to concern us about the title and cover – especially in combination – is that it was leaning too heavily on the comic book angle. Personally, I’m not much of a comic book reader, but I enjoyed reading Blaze’s story (obviously!). However, if I saw that original title/cover combo on a shelf at Barnes & Noble, I wouldn’t have picked it up, because it looked too “comic-booky.”

AP: So, first we started brainstorming title ideas. We loved Blaze’s status as a quirky outsider; we thought that was relatable to a lot of teens, so we started there. We actually used the movie Easy A as a comp (industry lingo for competitive or comparison). I looked at blogs and websites for gamer girls and geek girls. We had many ideas with “geek girl” in the title. We played on comic book words and characters; we tried using text-lingo to play up the online aspect of the book. We had pages of title alternatives — probably close to 100 different ideas. Then those got whittled down to our favorites, but there was still a lot of internal debate, so we turned to the fans for their input. And I have to give a big thank you to all those on Teen Fire for hearting “Love in the Time of Supervillains” as much as I did! Although, there were quite a few people who still liked FANGIRL better. And I get it – we liked it too. But we felt like the new title direction would appeal to a broader audience. It was actually my colleague, Leah Hultenschmidt, who came up with the idea of combining two of our favorite titles into one – and that’s how BLAZE (OR LOVE IN THE TIME OF SUPERVILLAINS) came about!

AP: Next came the cover. Everyone loved the colors and how fierce it was – but it was still too “comic booky.” We sent it back to the designer, Christian Fuenfhausen, with a new direction and the new title, and then it just clicked. Actually, here is an excerpt from the email I sent to the design team about the new “positioning” (some more publishing lingo):

“We think this new title is fun and quirky and expresses the tone of the book perfectly. It’s a character-driven story, so the title focuses in on the most important component – Blaze herself – and Love in the Time of Supervillains is intriguing and will make readers wonder about its meaning and want to pick up the book to find out more. While we want the cover to be quirky and fun, we don’t want to hang the packaging on the comic-book element. Tapping into the “geek chic” or “geeky is cool” counterculture trend is something to consider but we don’t want to narrow the audience to comic book fans. Drawing comics is what makes Blaze a quirky outsider, but it’s not what the book is about.”

New and improved title and cover!

New and improved title and cover!

AP: So, then we got back the cover with the pink hair blowing straight back like a blaze, and everyone just knew that we had nailed it! Now we just had to worry about replacing all of those images out there in cyberspace.

AP: Because of these changes (and because we decided to hire an illustrator to draw Blaze’s comic for the interior covers and to add a few illustrations throughout the book), we actually pushed back the release date on this book from August to February. We thought we had a good package, but we wanted to make it truly special. We’re sort of infamous (in our own minds at least) for the number of iterations our covers go through. We want to make beautiful books!

LT: Wow, Aubrey, that’s fascinating! Here’s a question that’s been on my mind all along… One thing that jumped out to me, personally, about the original title/cover combo is that it felt very middle-grade. When I later learned about some of the main very YA plot points in the book, I was more than a little surprised! Was steering the book toward an older, more appropriate teen audience at all part of the title/cover consideration?

AP: That’s a really interesting observation about the original cover/title feeling middle-grade. Maybe what I perceived as ‘comic-booky’ was coming off as cartoonish and young to you. But to be honest, I was more worried about the cover not appealing to a broad enough audience. There are definitely some sensitive topics in the book, though, so I’m glad the new cover is more appealing to an older audience.

LT: Okay, two more, just for fun… First, I know you must have been very excited about this book to acquire it in the first place, and I admire the decision to push back the release date to allow time for interior art as well as the new cover and title, but how did you stand it–knowing that you had this super book that no one would see until February 1st!? Didn’t it drive you crazy?

AP: Sure! Well, yes and no. As editors we’re working on books a year or more in advance, so I’m pretty used to being excited about a book that no one else will see for a while. So pushing back the date wasn’t too hard. But when I got the final art it and the I saw the final cover – that’s when I started to get antsy. Lucky for me, I was able to show off the ARCs to friends and family, and I could get a fix by eagerly scanning the Waiting on Wednesdays blogs that have been so supportive and enthusiastic for the book. The toughest and most gratifying have been the last couple of months as the release date crept closer. I’m dying to finally see it in the hands of readers, but there’s also been some fantastic pre-pub buzz that’s elevated the book’s profile. The marketing and PR team have gotten very excited by the general enthusiasm and are planning some additional fun promos like a book trailer.

LT: And last but not least: I’ve seen the ARC, but I can’t wait to see what the final released version looks like. I know you must be SUPER excited that launch day is almost here. How does it feel to finally be at this point? Is it any different than other books you’ve edited?

AP: For me, this year is particularly exciting. I’ve been acquiring books for a while now but only two have been released so far – an adult romance and another YA called SEND by Patty Blount. SEND was a Junior Library Guild pick and has been doing really well. So, it was a very gratifying moment for me to realize that other people liked the book, but it also set the bar kinda high. But the majority of the books I’ve acquired are coming out this year: BLAZE in February followed by three middle grade books in each successive month, including MY EPIC FAIRY TALE FAIL by Anna Staniszewski [Ed. note: a fellow EMu!], THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, and WONDER LIGHT by R.R. Russell. (The last two are even debuts!) So, it’s going to be a bit of a roller coaster Spring. I feel like I’ve climbed to the top of that first epic hill, and now I’m waiting in my car, teetering at brink, about to have my stomach float up into my chest… I can’t wait!

LT: As debut authors, I think we can all relate to that feeling! Fantastic interview, Aubrey, and best of luck with your upcoming releases. Thank you again for giving us an insider’s peek into the process!

AP: My pleasure. Thank you!

Remember, if you’d like a chance to win a signed copy of BLAZE, please leave a comment on this or any other post this week!

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23 Comments

Filed under Celebrations, cover art, Editor, Interviews

23 responses to “Finding the perfect title and cover: a peek behind the curtain

  1. Such an interesting process … I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

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  2. What a fascinating peek behind the curtain! Thanks for sharing it with us. Love the new title and cover and can’t wait to read what’s inside! 🙂

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  3. Maddy

    Never really thought about the importance of getting the cover and title just right. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Hi Aubrey! *waves* Great interview! I love seeing how covers/titles evolve.

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  5. I love this! *waves to Aubrey* I wasn’t aware of all the debate and discussion around Fangirl — I was one of the legions who loved the original title, but yes, I now see your points. The new Blaze cover is ramped up, a bit more mature, plus still true to the story’s premise. Great job. I can’t wait to see the interior artwork. Congrats to Laurie!

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    • Aubrey

      Hey Patty! Ha – I remember when you commented on the title on our website — but I think Love in the Time of Supervillains was your second choice, right? So you have good taste 🙂

      Like

  6. Joshua McCune

    Fascinating interview. I do dig that first cover, though the girl reminds me of Alicia Silverstone, which kind of makes me think of that Schumacher Batman movie, which seems in direct opposition to Marvel priorities 🙂

    And, yeah, that second cover is kick-ass.

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  7. That was fascinating. It’s a great reminder that as books move toward the publication path, authors have to been flexible — and that just because the first iteration of something is awesome doesn’t mean that you won’t also love the last iteration.

    Congratulations Laurie!!

    And yes, it sure would be nice to get my mitts on that gorgeous book! 🙂

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  8. This book looks fascinating. I’m curious how the comic art ties into the narrative, and whether it’s used as a storytelling device.

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    • Aubrey

      Hi Jim,

      Well, Blaze (named after Johnny Blaze) has a crush on Mark the soccer stud. When he dates and dumps her she gets back by drawing a comic about him, dubbing him Mark the Shark. She posts it online, which starts an online battle of the sexes. So, we had an illustration create that Mark the Shark comic and printed it on the end papers!

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  9. I was at ALA and got a sneak peek at the final hardcover and interior art. GORGEOUS! Congrats to Laurie and Aubrey!

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  10. Amy

    Great interview! I can’t wait to read the book!

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  11. I found this interview SO illuminating! As someone who is not into comics at all but loved this book, I have to say that I prefer the final cover (and title). And I think that having the word “supervillains” in the title is just enough of a hint that comics will be involved. Excellent job overall, and I can’t wait to see the final version with the interior art!

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  12. Thanks for the fascinating behind-the-scenes peek. Can’t wait to see the final product!

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  13. Great interview! The new cover is definitely amazing! Can’t wait to read it!

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  14. Laurie Boyle Crompton

    Thanks so much for the great post Laurie and Aubrey and for all the Blaze love!! I’m beyond thrilled with the new cover and title and seriously feel so lucky! Sourcebooks has been ah-mazing and I’m so excited to see Blaze take flight this week! (And haaa on the Batgirl resemblance, Joshua. Never noticed it before.)

    Like

  15. This is a great interview! I didn’t know about the title and cover change. Laurie, you must have been a wreck. But, they’re come up with a powerhouse–to match your novel, I’m sure.

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  16. Pingback: Wednesday Interview: 3 Questions for Laurie Boyle Crompton

  17. Hi, Aubrey! Great interview! As far as I’m concerned, you’re the cover queen – always holding out for the best one – the one that will be absolutely perfect. I LOVE Ratchet’s cover and have already heard nothing but wonderful comments from everyone who has seen it!
    Nancy J. Cavanaugh

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  18. Pingback: The Swoonworthy Debut | EMU's Debuts

  19. Doreen Thornberry

    Fantastic job Aubrey ! This is my niece everyone !! So proud !

    Like

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