This box of paperbacks showed up at my house the other day:
I don’t have human children, but I imagine it would be a shock to wake up one day and find that the face of your child had been replaced. Her personality, her insides, her soul all remained the same, but outside, she had a brand new look. It’d be pretty strange, right?
I suppose the comparison isn’t exactly the same, but getting a new paperback cover---quite literally a new face in this case---for my novel, Hand Me Down, took some getting used to.
I fell in love with my original hardcover image. It was the first one the publisher presented to me, and my agent and editor and I all loved it. And suddenly, it was like my book was real. This image was the first face of my faceless word document, the first visual representation of my labor of love, and very quickly, it was the image I pictured when I thought of my book. Especially after I held a physical copy with its bound pages and felt the thick matte texture of the jacket, the weight of it in my hands, it was hard to imagine a new face for my baby. But I knew it was coming.
I hated the first proposed paperback design. It felt so wrong for the book—pink and flowery and fluffy and so very, very wrong. Luckily my agent agreed and we asked to see another design. For a while nothing came, and I grew even more attached to the girls on my cover since we spent so much time on the road together, but after a few months I got a new design. It didn’t grab me right away, but I didn't hate it, and I was mulling over its pros and cons when another new design showed up with a note that encouraged me to decide between these two covers relatively quickly. I burst into tears. Neither seemed right, neither seemed like it held a candle to the original cover, and I wished we could just keep it. Why did my beautiful baby need a new look anyway? She looked great the way she was.
I felt pressured by time, was emotionally and physically drained from months of book tour traveling, and was so used to my hardcover that I’m not sure anything would have looked good enough to me in that moment and in that mind set, but my agent LOVED the last image. She thought it was perfect, and even through my pouting I had the good sense to listen to her advice.
She said that this girl on the new cover was watching, just like Liz does, and then I noticed the moon in her eye, the dusting of downy blonde hair at the top, and I thought maybe my agent was right: that this could be the perfect cover for the book’s new form. And boy, was she right.
I now think this close-up black and white face is a striking image that also really represents Liz’s story. The colors pop and the composition makes you want to pick it up and investigate. If Hand Me Down had to get a new face, this a pretty good replacement. And it’s not like the other image will disappear, at least not from my mind. It’s more like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, a metamorphosis, and the two images live together in my head, both faces equally special.
The hardcover image really focused on two girls: Liz and Jaime, the sisters in the book, who are definitely the core relationship of the story. But I have to admit how much I like that in the long term, in the life that she will live forever, Hand Me Down’s main image is a single girl, who is tough but vulnerable, watching, cautious, but still with the moon in her eyes.