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Monday, September 21, 2009

Cover Stories: The Del Rio Bay Series by Paula Chase

The lovely Paula Chase, a co-founder of the awesome Brown Bookshelf, is here to talk about the covers for her five Del Rio Bay novels... the latest of which is Flipping the Script. Read on for her story, and a chance to win a full set of the books!

"What a great and timely period to be talking cover art!! I’m sinking my teeth into this topic like it’s a big ol’ juicy steak. When the first book in my series was acquired I had soooo many ideas for the cover, but the most important thing was I wanted it to be inclusive. My main character is African American with a White best friend and their c
ircle of friends is also diverse, so I wanted a cover that complemented the cast. Even before the book was acquired, it’s all I thought about. "My editor at the time asked for my thoughts and I regurgitated all the ideas and feelings and vibes and messages that had lived in my head for the two years before the book sold. I said things like "funky fonts, teen friendly, colorful, inclusive." And somehow the cover of So Not The Drama came back with the perfect vibe (left). How the art department was able to turn my ramblings into an actual cover, I’ll never know! But here’s where the story changes course…the covers for the first two books were graphic covers. But by book three my current editor broke the news to me that they wanted to go with photo covers because the graphic covers were not reaching the primary audience – African American teens.

"My last three covers were all photo covers, shot with models. I was still allowed input regarding the look of
the models and the type of clothing they’d wear. I was glad to have the input…but, honestly, by the time we got to this point I was pretty disappointed that my grand experiment to be inclusive had basically failed when it came to sales. It’s sort of ironic that the furor over Liar was that a brown face wouldn’t sell books when the flip side of that argument is many brown readers pass by books without brown faces.

"Although I wrote my books to appeal to a broad teen reader base, in the end a book has to have at least one particular audience and the reality when marketing to African American readers – publishers want the reader to know the book features a Black protagonist. So my books were in a weird limbo because of the marketing dynamic of publishing.

"When I first saw my graphic covers, I loved them! When I first saw my photo covers I didn’t hate them. How’s that for honesty? It’s nothing personal, but I’ve never been a fan of photo covers. I’m the type of reader who wants to imagine what the character looks like. I don’t want to be force fed an image via a model/photograph. I’ve had people come up to me and say (about the photo cover) 'Oh my goodness, this is exactly how I pictured Mina.'Funny, because none of the models on my covers look like the characters in my head.

"I actually really like the covers for That’s What’s Up! and Who You Wit’? because they evoke a level of teen sassiness that my characters embody. However, the cover for Flipping The Script, the final book in the series, is far too generic. It’s of three smiling girls. Well, first of all, the book focuses primarily on the male characters of the cast and two, ***spoiler alert*** the ending isn’t all that happy. At first, it really bothered me that the cover didn’t match the inside. But no readers have complained. So if they like it, I love it!"

It's so interesting how they changed from graphic to photo covers. I think I'm more into the graphic ones, as well, but finding readers is definitely important! What do you guys think?

One lucky commenter who shares an opinion will win a full set of Paula's series, courtesy of Kensington. Good luck!


Steph Bowe said...

I have to say, I totally agree with Paula -- I like to imagine what the characters look like in my head (and they hardly ever look that perfect and shiny!) but i think those covers are still really attractive and appealing. That said, I haven't read those books, so I can't say whether or not the covers match the stories. But I think they are realling appealing, and I think as long as that means it gets into the hands of the right readers, it doesn't matter if the story inside doesn't match (you do judge a book by it's cover, but you ultimately fall in love with the story).

Steph Bowe said...

Ah! My spelling mistakes! Sorry. I invented a new word there: realling

LaurieA-B said...

I'm glad you shared this Cover Story, because I added the Del Rio Bay series to my school library this year and now I can explain to students why they have different cover styles. While the graphic covers are attractive, they don't look as much teen/YA to me; I associate that style more with adult chick lit. And my students LOVE the photo covers. It's a pleasure to see books like Del Rio Bay and Drama High get snapped up when the covers are displayed.

jpetroroy said...

I think I like the graphic covers less: they look more juvenile. Yet many readers may like not seeing a 'real' person so they can project their image of a character onto the text.


holly cupala said...

Fascinating. I like both styles - though I think the first is still my favorite - but I agree, there is a different feel to each. Thank you, Paula and Melissa, for the cover story!

Unknown said...

I have to agree with Paula. I like the graphic covers better, though I've never really paid much attention to the covers. If anything, the art attracts me, and then I don't pay attention to it again until (maybe) when I've finished it. Then I might look at it again and decide if it matches the story inside.

Personally, I think the latest three seem more juvenile than teen, unlike the graphic covers. But, though I'm not crazy (aesthetically) about mixed graphic and photo covers in the same series, it would attract more teens to the series - those who like each style. So, in that way, I think the designers "did good."

Paula said...

I find the comments about which covers look more juvenile, especially interesting. I always thought that the photo covers looked as if it were for a younger audience - which is ironic because it's those books that deal with the more complex issues. Enjoying the comments. I was only going to lurk but... I love these Cover features because I'm always fascinated by covers and love hearing the behind the scenes scoop!

Marjolein Reads said...

I just like all the covers, they really made me want to read the books because they look fun!

Sara said...

Kind of interesting the way the covers changed from graphic covers to photo covers..I would never have guessed that those books were in the same series!

sosarora_11 AT hotmail DOT com

Paradox said...

I personally like the graphic covers better, except for the font. I don't care for the font on the other covers either, but I'm sure the books are great!

paradoxrevealed (at) aim (dot) com

Alyssa F said...

What an interesting story. Personally, the graphic covers look more suited to the African American audience to me, but perhaps that's because I first picked up that cover knowing that's who the audience was.

Another thing to consider about the switching styles and reader number is what about brand recognition. To tell the truth, I am familiar with the first two books, but although I had seen one of the other three I totally didn't associate it with the same series. I thought it was a completely different book.

Normally I like photo covers more than graphic ones, but I have to say that books 1 and 2 take the cake in my book here.

Anonymous said...

It was very interesting to read the author's side of things when it comes to original creative vision and the eventual output on cover art.

I share the dislike for photo covers because it leaves out the need for an imagination (and taints the "reader's world" when she imagines the book's characters and events). Daniel Radcliff is and forever will be the Face of Harry Potter, which saddens me because I can't remember how I used to imagine Harry and his friends looked. But photo covers are not as devastating as the Hollywoodization (now I'm making up words) of books, since really shove your imagination out of the way.

Back to the covers at hand. Given my dislike for photo covers I admit that if I saw any of Chase's books on the shelf I would most likely pass them by as too juvenile (this from someone who still reads The Boxcar Children).

I like the graphic covers, more, because they are colorful (pull at the eye) and very much fit my idea of the Young Adult cover. Still, I am not a fan of "artsy" font and the character's ipods and poses seem to pull the cover down a target audience level.

I like hand drawn cover art the best because it can be goofy, groovy, serious (but not too obvious or cheesy like photo covers), and/or a combination of such vibes. (e.g. illustrations of harry potter in the books didn't bother me because their cartoon-like format was wacky enough to not infringe on my "reader's world"). It seems like the cover could have a sketch or hand drawn illustration of an african american character and still be effective to attract the target audience rather than opting for the deeply unappealing photo covers.

susan said...

Allysa wrote:
"Personally, the graphic covers look more suited to the African American audience to me, but perhaps that's because I first picked up that cover knowing that's who the audience was."

Your statement implies these books are intended for AA readers only. Why? And what makes the graphics more suitable to AA readers?

My daughter and I both prefer the graphics because the photos more narrowly define the characters. I don't think Paula's books appeal only to AA readers. I know they have broader appeal and Paula has said as much.

MissA said...

I agree wtih Paula too. I like the graphic covers, especially because none of the characters on the cover look like how I imagined (except Jessica in That's What's Up and I think Mari Beth that's next to her).
I do think though that having a photo cover help sell better, because if I hadn't seen the other photos covers in the series (I started the series way late) and seen poc faces I may not have picked it up.

Nancye said...

I like the graphic covers better too, they are more creatvive and imaginative.

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

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