I am so happy to be hosting this guest post today! This middle grade author has a lot to say about book covers, and HER fabulous book with its marvelous cover releases today, March 6, 2018!
Guest post by Diane Magras ~ author of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter
A cover is a reader’s first impression of a book. We can’t help it; responding to visual imagery is hardwired into our brains. Cover art can make us eager to linger, or to swiftly open to a page. Depending on what we think of a cover, we decide to carry it facing out to share its imagery—or facing in to hide it.
For kids, imagine these impressions increased. A cover defines not just the book but also the reader: You are what you read. It can be the cause for admiration—or the target of something quite opposite. It’s also one of the most powerful introductions into an author’s world.
For all readers about to start a novel for the first time, the cover affects how they see the characters.
I’ve always seen Drest, the protagonist of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter, quite clearly: a girl with powerful arms, ragged brown hair, and distrust in her eyes. That’s how I pictured her looking out at the viewer from the cover of my book. And she had to have her sword.
The book is an adventure novel set in medieval Scotland, and so I also pictured her in a certain style: that of the classic adventure—with rich colors, shadows, and details. (And exquisite weaponry.)
But my cover also needed a certain warmth.
The talented artists who create classic adventure covers don’t always go for warmth, while artists who excel at warmth don’t necessarily have experience with realistic imagery or powerful swords.
And here we enter the problem of gendered covers. Covers aim for specific markets, of course, and covers make it clear what readers are getting. Covers aiming for a largely female audience often use brighter, softer colors, depicting girls with sweet features (many button noses), and usually smiling—and warmth. Covers aiming for a male audience often use darker colors, grittier imagery, depicting men or boys who are usually scowling—and action.
I wanted my cover to transcend these differences. My story takes place in a brutal, dark world, but it’s filled with the warmth of familial love and close friendships. The cover needed to reflect the epic nature, and have a touch of legend to it—and be both warm and active.
I wanted this book to appeal to girls and boys equally. I wanted all kids to feel they could carry this facing-out, and be proud to do so.
Here’s my cover. See what you think:
The art is by Antonio Javier Caparo, whose understanding of the book and the audience was spot-on. Working with Penguin Young Readers designer Maggie Edkins, he created a cover that conveys the fast-paced story, as well as its hope.
Note the realistic sword, please. And the warmth and brightness.
I was also pleased that Drest—who upends gender stereotypes in the book—does the same on the cover. Note her face with its narrowed eyes—and its dirt. She doesn’t look like the typical girl you find on book covers, but a real girl. She isn’t beautiful in the traditional sense, and she isn’t meant to be.
I hope that readers who see a real girl on this cover will feel a sense of connection. She’s like many girls I knew as a child and know today: girls who don’t look like princesses, and don’t want to.
I hope that the takeaway of the cover speaks strongly to both girls and boys: that it’s important to define yourself and be yourself, and be proud of who you are.
That’s a takeaway of the story too, and I’m delighted that my cover conveys it so clearly.
Diane Magras grew up on Mount Desert Island in Maine surrounded by woods, cliffs, and the sea. She works for the Maine Humanities Council, volunteers at her son’s school library, and is addicted to tea, toast, castles, legends, and most things medieval. Diane lives with her husband and son and thinks often of Scotland, where her books take place. The Mad Wolf’s Daughter is her debut novel.