The very cool and prolific Brent Hartinger is here to share the Cover Story for his new novel, PROJECT SWEET LIFE. It's the tale of three 15-year-old guys who are shocked when their fathers demand they get summer jobs. They spend the summer figuring out ways to avoid that fate, which involves crazy schemes and adventures that may take more energy than work itself--but "the sweet life" is way more fun.
"My favorite idea was one that was impossible due to copyright issues. A reoccurring image in the book is Mr. Moneybags, the character from the Monopoly game, but apparently the makers of the game are really vigilant about that particular image. Sad, really, because it's the perfect image for the cover.
"The publisher didn't ask for my suggestions. In 7 books with two publishers, I've never been asked. Still, I had several ideas that I thought were pretty cool, one of which was a close-up of a shiny vault. Another idea was a stack of money--I found several really great stock photos. But apparently cover ideas go through 'styles' just like any other, and my ideas where 'out of fashion.'
"I think it's a pretty good cover, not great. But it was soooooooooooooooooo much better than the cover that came before that I offered nothing but sky-high praise. [MW note: Sorry we don't have Brent's first cover to show here--this is the final!]
"My editor (who I loved dearly--she has since left) was really enthusiastic about the previous cover, but I just hated it. I mean, the font was illegible, and the little bit of art was obviously clip art. The editor said the designer had researched teen magazines and websites, but it seemed like they captured the 'cheap' part, but not the 'teen' part.
"I don't always trust my own judgment, so I showed the cover to five friends, without telling them what I thought. All five of them hated it. One of them said, 'Are you kidding? Is that a joke?'
"My editor still liked the other cover, and a few books ago, I might have said, 'Well, you guys are the experts.' But I've had some bad experiences with previous books -- a couple of covers I didn't like, and a title-change I hated. All those changes went strongly against my gut, and in every case, my fans and readers (and even the critics!) agreed with me and hated the changes I hadn't wanted to make. So this time I thought, 'You know, my gut has been right in the past, I think it's right now.'
"So I asked my editor, and even though she didn't agree with me, she went back to the art department and asked for another cover. And we were three weeks overdue for the cover! Now THAT is a great editor, trust me.
"The art department didn't take any of my suggestions, but they threw the old design out completely and came up with this new one. I'm not sure they captured the 'fun' of the book, but it's eye-catching and it's very teen-friendly, so I'm happy.
"It's a little like the cover for my first book, GEOGRAPHY CLUB, which is a great cover, but I really wish the kid was smiling a bit. It makes the book look so serious, and I tried so hard to make it NOT serious, you know? That cover set a tone for the book that I'm trying trying to fight off, but it's a great cover otherwise, so what can you do?
"The cover for my book THE LAST CHANCE TEXACO is probably the best cover I've ever had, which is ironic since they threw it together in, like, five minutes, after it turned out that the designer had not secured the rights to a photo that had been used. That cover is serious too, except that book is serious, so it's okay. People do tend to think it's a book about a haunted house, though. (That's probably worked to my advantage. I suspect more people want to read about haunted houses that group homes anyway!)"
I like the final cover--especially the graffiti of the font and the slant of the lettering on the concrete. Plus, I like how the oranges of the title and the character's shirt match. What do you guys think?