Picking 'The Right' Cover
Adil Dara Kim is an insanely talented graphic designer and I've been extremely lucky to have him design all four of my Kindle Single covers. Picking a cover for my most recent, Baby Steps, was probably the most difficult because he gave me so many wonderful options.
This is how it works: About three weeks ago, Adil sent my editor and I a zip file with about 30 different cover options -- some of which were slight variations on the same idea. We scrutinize them, simultaneously looking for the cover that will be the most eye catching as well as evocative of the themes I'm trying to convey in the piece. In essence, we are looking for a simple cover -- one that is understood at first blink -- but also communicates a lot.
It was difficult to select one not only because they were all so great, but because I was also under the delusion that there must be one 'right' cover and that I must find that ONE, rather than the truth, which is that there are probably many right covers. In other words, I was freaking the f*ck out about this decision when I probably didn't have to be, but so it goes on the eve of releasing a little piece of yourself into the world. Here we go!
I really loved this cover. To me, it was very literary looking. I liked the subtle question marks as they represented my uncertainty about whether or not to have a baby. Adil explained that the dots, which gradually grow larger, were a play on the nine months of pregnancy. My concern was that it didn't communicate the playful nature of the piece. In addition, a woman, when she saw this cover said, "It makes me think of my period." Not exactly the reaction I was looking to create.
The baby as the brain is a wonderful concept (who knew a fetus looked so much like a brain?!) and the image is compelling. My fear with this one was that readers would think that it was about some baby-crazy chick who couldn't get baby off the brain. I also felt like the questioning-of-procreation theme in the book was missing in this image. That being said, I want a T-shirt and tote bag screen printed with this design.
I had so much fun at this shoot with the photographer Christopher Lane. We went completely bonkers. At one point I had about ten tiny plastic babies taped to my face, but that is a story for another post.
I was very uncertain about putting my face on the cover. I wanted to because I wanted the reader to be able to relate to me and feel a connection. In the piece, I express a lot of conflicting feelings, some of which are not societally acceptable, so I felt like putting my face on the book would also show that there is no shame (or should be no shame) in feeling these things. My concern was that people would call me narcissistic. We decided that if we were going to use my image on the cover, it had to be because it did something that the illustrations could not.
This cover was certainly not that image! Everyone I showed it to said that it looked like I had a GIGANTIC DILDO balancing on my head, which is kind of great because now I have a cover for the book about gigantic dildos that I will write.
I liked that this one was simple and that it exhibited the ambivalence aspect of the piece, but it also gave me the heebie-jeebies. It would have been the perfect cover if Steven King wrote Baby Steps.
This cover is gorgeous! I want to enlarge it, frame it and hang it in my room. It is like a kaleidoscope of germination and the colors are great (I'd buy jeans in each of those colors). We almost went with this cover, but there were two issues. One, I was concerned that readers would interpret it as being a piece about how to get pregnant rather than questioning getting pregnant. My editor was also concerned about a cover starring spermatozoa. He thought it might immediately turn off a more conservative portion of the population. So instead of a cover, it will live on as framed artwork in my bedroom.
Beautiful and eye catching, but it wasn't specific enough. This cover could be for a book about anything from an 85-year-old watercolor artist who is finally entering his artwork into the county fair to a baby who joined a marathon club. On the other hand, IT COULD HAVE BEEN PERFECT! Who knows!?
Those were just a few of Adil's many wonderful creations. Many of them would have worked, but we ultimately went with the above image. I had fears about this one, too. I was concerned that the nipple on the nose was too subtle and that therefore people would have to strain to understand the concept, but I liked it for the same reason: It is subtle. It is serious, but ridiculous. It shows ambivalence as well as humor (at least that's my hope) with a dollop of ineptitude on top. It also echoes the look of my other Kindle Single, Bearded Lady. Because both pieces are written in a similar style, I thought it would be neat to also link them by design. What really gripped it though was that when I showed this image to people, they immediately had a reaction -- everything from laughter to disturbing choking sounds. Involuntary bodily reactions - burping, shuddering, exclaiming, vomiting -- are great signs!
Voila! There you have it. Even though I almost had a self-inflicted aneurism over selecting the cover, I am more than satisfied with the image that represents my many months of hard work.
Thank you, Adil Dara Kim and Christopher Lane for sharing your creative genius.