What's in a Wrapper? by Nancy A. Lindley-Gauthier

Admit it, you write YA (young adult)  fiction, probably because  (now this would be admitting) you  also enjoy reading it?  Oh, stop squirreling away that ancient copy of “King of the Wind.”  Rowling made it ok for us adults to read kid stuff. I don’t even bother to rent a neighbor’s kid to go see a Disney movie anymore.So, you love this youth-oriented fiction. Perhaps it is some common theme; the emphasis on friendship, or loyalty, or some  other  hard to define essence. It’s the kind of thing you want to explore in your own writing too… its just… you also want to sell it. Although a novice on the YA writing scene, I’ve given a lot of thought to sales, promos, and where it all begins. 

That is where advertising comes in.  And, there are books and sites and chat-lines all to help you promote your works! Before you shoot off your first announcement though, back before you even finish the edits, consider the information you supply to your cover artist. 

Your title is the first thing to reach a reader, but how much can be conveyed in a word or two? I often think a title means more, after the story is read. 

It’s often the cover, the ‘wrapper’ that grabs the reader.  In many books, we find a sort of branding with cover appearance. Readers speedily identify a light-hearted mystery as such if there is a cartoon person on the cover and  if the title involves painful puns.   (ok, yes, far too generalized, but you get the idea.)  But far from being a bad thing, a book cover that fits into its genre well, is often our first, best selling point. ( All the while seeming quite original:  The poor cover artists must tear out a lot of their hair.)   Some readers often go looking for a very specific genre, or are very attached to a specific few authors. Getting them to try something new often involves just plain looking similar!  However, younger readers seem more willing to experiment.

A top-rated YA book at Long & Short reviews is: “Love Thy Sister, Guard Thy Man,” by Mendoza.    I took a look (following a tip) and sure enough, What A Cover! So that makes me want to read the review… and Bam! camping-surfing -hiking, all wrapped around an original looking romance: where do I order?  It’s a case of great packaging around a promising story. 

A leading YA seller  at The Wild Rose Press has been “Sophie’s Secret,” by  Tara West. The word “Secret” in the title is intriguing, so even though there isn’t anything overt on the cover to hint at the story, you are curious: then, we realize from the blurb that Sophie has a very unique secret.   Several teens I asked to select a E-read based on covers selected: Sophie’s Secret,  Dumped by Popular Demand, and Secret Life of the Teenage Siren.  (Hmmm, and of these, all feature an image of teen girls on the cover.) 

Take a look at a couple all -teen reading sites, and see what sort of book covers make you want to read  the  blurb. Then take a look at the list below; it is the result of  a very unofficial, far from scientific poll of actual kids!   Here is what a few told me, about favorite reads and how they select a book to purchase:

“Mostly when I pick out a book, a lot has to do with recognizing the author from a previous read, but if they don’t have anything new out, I usually just browse the books, until a cover catches my eye then I read the back of the book. But, then again I’ve had it where the authors I am already familiar with their covers don’t jump out at me, but I still will read the back of the book.”(Loralee) 

“I love horses, and a horse on the cover means I’ll at least read the description” (Kim) 

“If I understand the setting, like it’s a high school, I read the back cover, unless it looks scary.” Sierra. 

Lynn pointed out that she always selects books with her-age girls on the cover.And, here is a list of a few favorites from that another small group of teen readers (in no sort of order.)

‘Harry Potter’ (of course…)”  ‘Fear of the Darkness’ by Sherrilyn Keynon  ‘Sophie’s Secret” by West.  The old V.C. Andrews- ‘Flowers in the Attic’ book set. 

Other favorites are Wicked, Lovely by Melissa Marr, ‘Blue is for Nightmares’ by Laurie Stolaz ‘Prom Anonymou’s by Blake Nelson,   ‘Eleanor and Abel’ by Annette Sanford,  ‘Nancy Drew’  books, the ‘Charmed’ books, and  ‘Goosebumps.’Stephanie Myers’  “Twilight series” was the single author mentioned most often.

Of all of these, a glance at the cover almost always does suggest the story.

So, as you finish writing that YA book, before you fill out the information form for the cover artist, I recommend a perusal of some of the top teen reader sites. Consider the works out there, and what they say about what’s in there, if you know what I mean. And then, find that image idea that conveys some little glimpse of the work within  (and maybe, that main character, too.) 

  Happy Writing,  Nancy

4 Responses to What's in a Wrapper? by Nancy A. Lindley-Gauthier

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  2. Sentimente

    Your post was a timely one for me. I have been struggling with the notion that the Sci-Fi/Fantasy book I have started should be YA oriented. The story line just wants to jump right in and get comfy with the teen-to-early-adult crowd, though this was not my original intent. Should I follow my instincts on this and go YA, I have to ask: would the reader be more apt to buy my book because of an abstract, artsy cover, or should I stay with time-proven, traditional fantasy artwork – a la Frank Frazetta? From your post, this is obviously an important decision to make.

    Great post, Nancy. Thank you!

  3. Marianne

    I have to admit that covers figure in significantly when I buy a book–especially one from an unknown author. I hate the cheese “clinch” covers that were so popular in the 80s (and still live on in some publishers releases) and won’t buy the books.

    I still read YA — In fact, many of the best books I’ve read lately have been YA.

    Good post 🙂

  4. Jane Beckenham

    Hi Nancy,
    Very interesting post about covers. Although i don’t write YA (well i have one in the bottom drawer) I know that when i do cover info sheets for my publishers, i often look at other covers to get an idea of the sort of thing i’m looking for. So far I’ve been really happy with my covers.
    Your post about YA got me thinking about the first YA book i ever read, (well it wasn’t called YA in those days!) – Island of the Blue Dolphin. I loved it, read it about 3 times.
    Jane Beckenham

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