readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cover Stories: Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

The amazing Sara Zarr told the Cover Story behind Story of a Girl on my blog last spring, and it's a great one. Had to share it with readergirlz. Here's Sara:

"I am not at all arty. In fact, I am a little challenged when it comes to visualizing the abstract in any way, shape, or form. All the furniture in my house is pushed up against the wall because I can't visualize any other way of doing it. I can barely read a map! So when it came to the cover my first book, Story of a Girl, I had literally no clue what to expect. I do remember saying to my agent, 'I'll be happy with anything, as long as it doesn't have a big giant photograph of the character's face on it.'

"My publisher didn't ask for ideas or give me any hints. I didn't even know the cover was coming when one day I got an image in my email. And, guess what? A big giant photograph of the main character's face! My gut reaction was pure disappointment, to the point of feeling queasy and like I was going to cry. I could see where the concept made sense but I didn't like the girl in the picture. To me, her face and expression were all wrong. Her hands were too small and delicate. She was too pretty. Just not Deanna. I talked to my agent on the phone and we commiserated. He showed it around his office and they all felt like it was a good cover, in terms of marketing and representing the story. I tried to be happy and reconciled to it, but, honestly, it was a big disappointment.

"A few weeks later I got another email. They'd decided not to use the photo. They were going to stick with the concept but do a shoot with a model, and I could give my input when it came to picking the model. Yay! Not long thereafter, I saw the cover for an adult novel---Janet Davey's FIRST AID. And there was the image for my original cover (left).

"On my original cover, this same photo was less zoomed---you could see more of the girl's face, including her eyes. You can see that there's something about the way she's holding her hands that feels a little bit like a model and not a real girl.
At least not the real girl in my story. I wish I could show you the original, but...oh, wait! Here it is on a recent YA book from the author of GO ASK ALICE (right).

"But back to Story of a Girl. The cover designer sent me head shots of the two models they were choosing from. The first attachment I opened was of a girl who looked normal enough, but to me she screamed 'East Coast.' She was tough-looking, like Deanna, but almost too tough, almost a little gangsta. I crossed my fingers, hoping that the next model would be better suited. When I opened up the picture files, I almost cried again, but this time they would have been tears of joy. The model, Linsday, was, to me, the embodiment of Deanna. And then she did an amazing job at the cover shoot capturing the emotion that is just right for the story. It's the kind of picture you can look at and think she's feeling hopeful, or you can look at and think she's feeling sad. Awesome. In addition, they used a printing process for the hardcover that made the majority of the cover matte while the title is glossy.

"The paperback cover is a little bit different, foregoing the glossy cover font for easier-to-read white and moving it around a bit to make more room for quotes and what have you. And of course, my favorite thing about the current incarnation of the cover is the sticker from the National Book Foundation. Yay!

"For my second book, SWEETHEARTS, once again I had no idea what the art department could possibly come up with. But in this case, it was total love at first sight."

I'm so glad Sara got to find the girl who really represented Deanna for Story of a Girl! And Sweethearts, well, what can I say? I want a frosted cookie.

Speaking of Sweethearts, it was the June readergirlz pick, so check out that issue and let us know what you think of Sara's covers.


Little Willow said...

Wonderful, wonderful book. Glad that it received a worthy cover.

Jackie said...

Great story! Thanks for sharing Sara & Melissa!

Melissa Walker said...

I love this cover evolution!

Lorie Ann Grover said...

Looks like the paperback is a little less hazy? Or fogged?

Melissa Walker said...

Yes, Lorie Ann. Not sure if that's the image or what... but you're right.

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