I want everyone to read my next book. But I'll be plenty happy if the only people who read it are those who want a story exactly like the one I wrote. (Although, I do think the world would be a better place if everyone read it, which I feel morally obligated to say.)
The most important job of a cover is to grab the attention of someone looking for a story like the one behind that cover. A good title helps, too, which is why I'm glad we settled on What Light over my other ideas.
Until I publish something illustrated (just checked, and I can't say anything...yet), one of the most exciting parts of having a book in production is seeing the cover. With What Light, my publisher offered five potential designs. I went back and forth between two. When I showed all five to some people I trusted (friends, authors, librarians...), none of them agreed with me. What they kept landing on, whether they knew the premise or not (I wanted both perspectives) was this:
I liked that one, but didn't love it. When they told me what they liked about it, I understood, but imagined myself giving a presentation at a school or library, excitedly showing the covers of Thirteen Reasons Why and The Future of Us, and then casually putting up What Light.
So, how could I tweak that cover to become one I loved? Thankfully, it was winter, and as I was strolling downtown, I came across this poster in a store window:
I snapped a photo of it and emailed it to my publisher and editor. Based on their lukewarm reaction, I didn't do a good job describing how I thought the cover could be enhanced by adding light "flares" or "bursts" or "shimmers" (or whatever I called them). But I was determined to show them.
To repeat myself, it was winter. That meant I didn't have to climb into the attic to fetch a string of Christmas lights. I could simply remove them from our tree! Then I loaded the original design onto my laptop, plugged in the lights, and snapped a photo that included reflected light flares/bursts/shimmers.
I emailed them the following:
Now they understood! And they sent back this:
Thank you, Theresa Evangelista, for working on this beautiful cover! It looks and feels exactly like the story I wrote.