Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I debated whether or not to share my own cover as an Undercover post here on YA Confidential, but then I figured it’s a post about creativity, art, and a BOOK COVER. Who doesn’t love all of those things? So, excuse me for advertising my own book here, but my fellow operatives said it was okay, and I think it will be fun to show you the cover design process for TANGLED TIDES, so on we go.

First, let me give a big thanks to my publisher, Rhemalda, for providing me with my amazing cover artist, Melissa Williams. You can check out her blog and the other rockin' covers she has created at

Second, let me tell you how grateful I am to have a publisher who gave me A LOT of say in my cover design. And by a lot I mean I was involved through every step of the process. If I wasn’t happy with it, they weren’t happy with it. I’ve heard that many authors with big houses don’t get much input in their cover, and I understand why, but I have to say that I loved being so involved. It’s definitely one of the perks of being with a smaller press.

Now, onto the really fun stuff.

After discussing the feel and basic concept of what I wanted for my cover, Rhemalda did some searching and proposed this photo for the mermaid.
I loved her. I had originally written Yara with curly hair, but this girl's face was perfect and I loved the feel of the photo. I had told Rhemalda that I envisioned a mermaid bursting out of the water, and we all loved how this girl’s hair was in the “I JUST emerged from the ocean and I’m in shock, torment, or disbelief that I’m now a mermaid, but look how fabulous my hair looks!” pose.

As soon as I saw her I knew she was Yara. From here on out I will call the mermaid/cover model Yara because that’s my MC’s name and calling her “the mermaid” feels too impersonal.

So, then we discussed how the tail should be and what we could do with the tube top because, um, no, Yara could NOT be wearing a tube top on the cover, or a seashell bikini (sorry, Ariel, but this ain’t no Disney film), so I suggested splashing some water on her and making her exactly like she is in my story. Her skin needed to be covered in hallmarks. Hallmarks are sort of like tattoos, but they move and change color depending on a mermaid or merman’s emotions. (I’ll pause for a moment while you all let the coolness of that sink in.) *pause*

I sent Melissa examples of tattoos she could use for inspiration and she came back with this.Me, being the slightly OCD person that I am, asked to have the vines crawling up her neck removed. It was cool, but I didn’t want Yara looking strangled. Tangled Tides, not Strangled Tides. I also asked that the hallmarks be made more of a copper color because that’s how they are described in the book. Melissa worked her magic and voila!She even gave me options between different hallmark designs, but I chose the Koi fish because--well, just read the book and you’ll understand. Then Emmaline at Rhemalda weighed in and suggested the hallmarks be made rainbow-esque because of--well, again, read the book and you’ll understand.

We went back and forth (like 30 emails) with minor tweaks. I asked for stuff like more shimmer to her skin, and to add some scale texture on her neck and waist, and then we thought maybe it was done. This is where we were at. (Ignore the lettering. We hadn't discussed that yet. The title and my name was just a mockup.) Rhemalda asked for a Skype meeting to discuss it so I could give my final approval. During our meeting my facial expression must have given me away, because they knew I wasn’t completely in love with it. I tried to tell them I wasn’t feeling well and that I’d look at it again in the morning, but we all knew something was off.

So, I stared at it. And stared at it. Melissa had done everything I asked, so why wasn’t I happy? I called my mom and had her look at it. We talked about it, and she agreed, it was a nice cover, but it wasn’t quite right for my story.

Then it hit me. I don’t know why it wasn’t obvious right away, but the problem was the happy, pretty, this-story-is-probably-about-a-mermaid-princess, bubbly blue background. TANGLED TIDES has no princesses. The background was screwing everything up. I obsessively searched for the perfect background, and after I found it I emailed Rhemalda saying “THIS! I want this as the background. It’s perfect!” And they made it happen.I had asked for the clouds and lightning to be added, and Melissa had it done in a flash (pun intended). I also threw in some more of my OCD requests to add a tiny bit more rainbow color to Yara's fins and thin out some of the splashing water. Melissa fixed that stuff and suggested cutting out a few strands of her hair that mingled with the clouds and lightning too much. Two minds are better than one. ;)

I was ecstatic. I was in love. I may have cried happy tears. (Let it be known that I’m a total sap.)

Rhemalda then moved onto the title design meeting where we discussed fonts, shadows, sizing, and all kinds of other stuff. See? I told you I had lots of say. And don’t think I’m special, Rhemalda does this for ALL of their authors. (For those of you itching to submit to them now that you know how awesome they are, you can do so here:

We picked out a cool font for the title and I was happy with it. I then begged Rhemalda to let me release the cover early because Hurricane Irene was hitting the east coast, and my story opens with a hurricane so how perfect would that be? Rhemalda gave me the go-ahead and that made me ridiculously happy too. I rocked my cover like a hurricane.I thought all was finalized, and that the cover design storm had passed, but it was like a week later that I got a call from Rhemalda. Melissa saw the title and didn’t think it did the rest of the cover justice. Without being asked, and because she is made of awesome, she created a new and customized title. And, It. Was. Perfect.That’s how it all went down. The making of my mermaid cover. The transformation of Yara. Pretty cool, huh?

If you have any questions for me feel free to ask in the comments. AND, if there’s a cover out there in YA land that you would love to know more about, please leave the title and author in the comments below. I can’t promise anything, but over the next few months I’ll try to contact some authors and get the undercover scoop on their covers too.

Shameless plug info if you want to know more about the book. Yes, it's available to buy now (even though the release is Nov 25th.
Rhemalda Bookstore Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads


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