The Makings of a Cover

I’m so excited to announce that DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING has a cover. Here it is!


Artist Credit: Jen Wang; Design Credit: Liz Dresner

I thought it would be fun to talk about how the cover came to be, and I received permission from the good folks over at Feiwel and Friends to share some earlier versions.

I had no idea how long and complicated the process of creating and choosing a cover was until it was happening to my book. So many people have a say on the cover, such as the sales and marketing teams, design team, the publisher, etc. Surprisingly, the author is actually not one of the people who has a say on the cover. We may be asked for an initial idea of what styles we like or on our opinion between two different options. But the general direction the cover goes in? Not something we’re a part of, which makes sense if you think about it. Writers write. We’re not usually illustrators or design specialists, and we’re not as aware of the cover market as the professionals.

I’m so thankful for how hard the Feiwel and Friends team worked on this cover. It was an especially long process for my cover in particular, I’m told.

At first, they tried a cover more realistic with a photograph of a girl dressed as a pirate on a ship. Think of something reminiscent of Robin LaFevers’ GRAVE MERCY, but with pirates instead of assassins.

Grave Mercy

I believe it was decided that cover didn’t quite stand apart from other books on the shelves, (which isn’t to say LaFevers’ books don’t stand apart, just that they came first) which I’m sure is usually the reason why original covers are discarded. After this, they decided to try a title heavy cover. Something decorative. Like EVER THE HUNTED. I’m told all the attempts at this kind of cover (and I believe there were around twelve different mock ups) also weren’t working. (By the way, I love Erin’s cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?)

ever the hunted

After that, the team wanted to try an illustrated cover. There’s an illustrated trend happening with adult covers, and the team wanted to try fitting DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING in with those. (Such as the covers of UPROOTED or A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC.)

Uprooted_cover_pictureA Darker Shade of Magic

While these are decidedly dark, the team really wanted a light cover, something that would hopefully stand out among all the dark, grittier covers in YA (don’t get me wrong, though, I love dark and gritty covers). Now this whole process happened without me seeing a single cover option. There’s little point in showing the author anything when it could be shot down by the people in sales or marketing or design. So the very first time I saw a cover for my book was when these two images showed up in my inbox (there was a little confusion on whether or not “the” was in the title, but we got that fixed right away):


I was entirely surprised. I hadn’t pictured anything like this at all, and when I learned just how much work F&F had already put into the covers, I was blown away. It’s amazing to know that other people have worked so hard on your book. I expressed my preference for the blue color scheme rather than the purple and yellow. I also preferred the corset to the pirate coat.

F&F also wanted to try a more muted look so the illustration wouldn’t look too cutesy or lean toward middle grade. DotPK is an upper YA, and it’s an action adventure/fantasy/romance with pirates. Not exactly a cutesy book. So they altered it to this:


I loved the new color scheme, and the picture above is what got put on the ARCs (advance reader copies). The colors looked even better when they were printed, and it was incredible getting to hold an actual book in my hand.


Even so, the cover wasn’t final. They wanted to make some more changes. Yesterday, I was shown two new covers, the one below and another that looked exactly the same except without the blood. (If you look closely, you can see more texture was added. Particularly to the sword and Alosa’s pants.)


I like the addition of blood on the map in the background. This is, after all, a pirate book, and swashbuckling is a must. So this is the cover we went with!

I’m sure the journey is different for every author, but there’s a slight look into the makings of a cover. I’d love to hear thoughts and questions below!



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Life Update

I’ve been busy this month.

Unsurprisingly, most of it has been writing/reading related. I’ve been revising DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING’s sequel like crazy. It’s so close to being done! The goal was to get it sent off to my agent by the end of this month.

Yes, I said was the goal.

But then first pass pages came for DotPK. Since this is my first time selling a novel, I didn’t realize how much suddenly having a book published interrupts the writing process. I’m the type of writer who likes to work on one project at a time. I start a book, finish a book, edit the book, edit the book some more—until it’s just the way I want it and I send it on its way to the higher powers. Then I work on the next book. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But once you sell a book, there’s suddenly more you have to do. You edit the book some more based on your editor’s notes. Sometimes you can do up to three or more rounds of big edits. After you send in those edits, you can go back to writing another book. But then you’re interrupted again later to do copy edits. Pause your work in progress (WIP) because now that your first book is coming out, you have deadlines you have to meet for it, and you can no longer do whatever you want. When you finish copy edits and turn them in, you can get back to your WIP. Then first pass pages come! You have to read through that first manuscript yet again, even though you’d rather pull out your hair instead of read it. (First pass pages are basically the first time you see your novel in printed form. The fonts for the interior of the book have been chosen, the text has been formatted, the cutesy page break characters have been chosen, etc. In this read through, you’re mostly looking for typos and other small fixes.)


I’m happy to say first pass pages are done, and I am back to revising the sequel once more. Don’t get me wrong, I love the editing process, but it was hard to pause on the sequel and switch over to a different mindset to work on that first book some more. Because the characters are in different places. Their goals are different. Even if they have the same personalities, it’s hard to revert back to the way they were before. I dread to think of how difficult it will be when I have to work on two completely different series at the same time.

On top of all the writing and revising, I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading. I’ve had the pleasure to read several books before they’ll be published, and I’m so excited to talk about them.


First was Charlie N. Holmberg’s MAGIC BITTER, MAGIC SWEET. This book was not at all what I was expecting, but not in a bad way. It’s a mixture of a fascinating magic system, fractured fairy tales, and phenomenal cosmic powers (imagine Robin Williams’ voice there)! This book releases June 28th.


Next was Ilima Todd’s RESIST. For those of you who like your dystopia with a strong romantic element, I recommend checking out the first book in the series, REMAKE. RESIST releases July 5th.

ever the hunted

And the last book I read was Erin Summerill’s EVER THE HUNTED. Erin is a fellow YA historical fantasy author. Erin has a lovely writing style, and the book is a travelogue with a sweet romance spread throughout. This title releases December 27th.

and i darken

Now I’m currently reading Kiersten White’s AND I DARKEN, which is fabulously dark, as its title would suggest. It’s a retelling of Vlad the Impaler, if Vlad had been a girl. This one releases June 28th.

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I used to think all I had to do was sell a book, and then I’d be set. If I could just get a publisher to offer me a publishing deal, everything else would work out on its own. I have a publishing deal now. My first book is scheduled to release February 21, 2017—

And I find myself more stressed out than ever.

I’m contracted for a duology. I have to turn my second book into my editor by August first. I used to think it would be easier writing a book with the knowledge that it will be published (rather than writing a book, hoping to pick up an agent, and hoping that agent could sell my manuscript). But I’ve already sold the book I’m writing. That should make it easier.

Instead, it’s a hundred times harder. I stress over every word, worrying that those who read and enjoy the first book will be disappointed with the sequel. I worry my editor will wonder how my writing managed to start sucking majorly. I worry my agent will question why she signed me on in the first place.

And because I can’t seem to focus on the here and now, I worry about problems far into the future. Will anyone buy my first book? Will I earn out my advance? Will the book flop and the publisher decide it’s not worth the cost of printing the second?

And after I’ve finished this series, will I be able to sell another? Will I have to write four more books before one sells, just like the first time around? Will my ideas get increasingly worse?

With all these thoughts swimming for dominance in my head, it’s easy to question why I do this whole writing thing at all. But a wise man by the name of Rick Walton once said, “If you had the knowledge that none of your books would ever be published, would you still write them? If the answer is yes, then publishing is for you.”

That is what it feels like most of the time. Nothing will ever come of it, but it would be even more painful to stop writing altogether. And the truth is I need writing in my life. I can’t remember who I was before it. Publishing is beyond rewarding, and I’ve barely begun to reap the rewards.

Think of how it will feel to see a cover with your name on it. Imagine holding a hardbound book that you wrote. Imagine inspiring and touching others through the words you’ve written. Think of the book events you will attend. The signings!

I can’t speak to these yet. I’m still in the early stages. But I can share how wonderful it has been being a part of a debut group (the Swanky Seventeens are a vastly entertaining bunch). How the friendships I’ve made with other authors have already touched my life. Finding an agent and editor who are as enthusiastic about my work as I am has been magical. Connecting with eager, would-be readers and bloggers has been a blast. Receiving items as simple as copyedits and an ISBN have made more than one of my days.

And I’m not even to the really good part, where I can walk into a bookstore and see my book on the shelves. It’s so important to try and remember to be happy where we’re at. To remember how much we’ve achieved, whether we’ve just finished drafting our first ever novel, finally been offered representation after our 100th query rejection, or recently published our fifth novel. Be proud of the work you’ve done. Take your future goals at whatever pace necessary to stay sane and happy. And remember that there are so many writers out there like you. We’re here to uplift and help each other out.

Perserverance Quote

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Writer’s Block

There are often days when I don’t want to write. The scene I put into my outline months ago is too complicated. It’s smarter than I am. I can’t possibly write it.

And so the writing comes to a halt because I don’t know what happens next. I mean, I have a general idea of what happens, but I don’t know the specifics. I’m not a detailed outliner. I jot down a small paragraph of what’s going to happen in each chapter. Then I get to a particular chapter, read my outline, and think, I’m too stupid. How can I possibly pull this off?

Inevitably, the chapter will get written, but I have to remind myself what to do. You see, I’ve had to practice motivating myself for…all my life now. And I still forget what to do when I’m stuck. So now I’m making myself write it down.

First I ask myself what would make the scene fun to write. An epic battle, more kissing, something funny, more kissing, something dangerous, more kissing—whatever. Don’t forget what it is about writing that you love and work it into the scene. But sometimes you can’t do that. You have to write a serious scene or a death scene or something that prevents you from putting in what you love right away. Then what?

Often I run into the problem of forgetting to let my characters behave like themselves. I’m putting them through the motions of what needs to happen without coloring their actions with their personalities. Two characters are angry at each other. Let that get in the way of what they need to do. Another one is terrified. Let that hinder the process. A fourth needs to usher everyone on because she’s the responsible one. A fifth is the thrill seeker who is loving every moment of this difficult, complex scene I thought I could write. If a scene is painful to write, color it more with your characters. Let them help you push on. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in what needs to happen that I forget who’s involved in making it happen—and how they feel about the whole thing.

And then, if I’m still stuck, it’s important to get the creative juices flowing. If you don’t know what’s going to happen next, make a list of what could happen next. List all the ways you can think of for your characters to do what needs doing, no matter how clichéd. Put every idea onto the list. The more your mind comes up with, the more unique your ideas will get. Eventually the right one will come to you. Even if it takes days. Your mind is a muscle. It needs to be stretched. When you start forcing it to think a certain way, it will get stronger until you get the results you need.

And then when the answer finally comes to you and you get to move on to the next scene, you can be like Kermit.

Kermit Typing

Until the next difficult scene comes…

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