Evolution of the Perfect Cover

One of the most consistent comments/compliments I’ve received on Between Here and Gone is what a striking and lovely cover it has. And looking at it, you can’t imagine the book with any other cover, can you? It just so perfectly captures the essence of the story. BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGEWith one glance you know it’s a female-centric period piece, likely involving a journey, whether metaphorical or literal (or in the case of BHAG, both). One would think it was easy to arrive at this cover and yes, once we found the perfect image, it was. Getting there, however…

Lemme ‘splain.

As many of you are aware, Between Here and Gone began its publication life on Wattpad, the online publishing platform that allows writers of all stripes to post their work. At that time, BHAG had been out on the submission rounds, had received many rejections, some decent feedback, and I was absolutely convinced it was never going to see the light of traditional publishing day. But I didn’t want what I felt was a good story languishing on my hard drive so I decided to perform an experiment. I would revise, based on the notes I’d received in rejection letters, and post the story, a chapter a day, on Wattpad, and see what sort of response it could garner.

So I set up my profile, prepared the first chapter to load, and…well, I needed a cover, didn’t I? Something that would give readers a hint of what they were getting, yeah? I’m no graphic artist, but I figured I could throw something reasonably decent together with the tools at hand. I scoured the internet for appropriate pictures, played with layouts in, of all things, the iPhoto card program, and came up with this:

BH&G1

Pretty, innit? I loved the wistful expression on the model’s face and the dreaminess of the background. The title font I was less fond of, but given I was working with limited options, it was sufficient. It was elegant and readable and didn’t distract from the overall effect.

Flash forward almost three years later. Between Here and Gone had sold to Diversion Books and we needed a cover. Both Marketing and Design loved my Wattpad cover and wanted to know if they could use it as a springboard for the new cover. (I mean, really, it is a gorgeous image, isn’t it?)

One teeny, tiny problem, however.

The image I’d used, which I had thought was an out-of-copyright image from the annals of Look magazine, was in fact, not. Umm… whoops? And when I contacted the art gallery that owned the rights to the image about the cost to acquire usage, they never even responded to me.

Double whoops.

So we had to start from scratch.

No problem, right? I provided the Diversion team with a slew of images of the sort I could imagine working for the cover. I knew I wanted a female-centric cover and one that conveyed travel or adventure or movement. After all, Natalia and her journey are the absolute emotional center of this book, with the time period setting the background for the events.

Time passes—we get the first prototype.

Between Here and Gone_coverpreview

It was…not right. Mind you, I can see exactly what the designer was going for and I can’t say that it was a bad idea, but its execution was all wrong for the tone of the book. The bright colors and cartoon-like graphics suggested a light, classic-era Shopaholic-style chick lit, rather than a more dramatic women’s fiction/coming-of-age story. And certainly, nothing, other than perhaps the shape of the glasses, suggested the time period. Certainly not the font—and if you discount the importance of the correct font, just take a look at titles like Stewart O’Nan’s West of Sunset or Helen Simonson’s  The Summer Before the War. 51btTR4u4eL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_
51XIiJqwlmL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

One glance and you have an immediate sense of the when of the time period. Even if you can’t pin it exactly, you know it not to be contemporary. Of course, the graphics aid considerably, but the font supports the graphics. In the case of the first BHAG cover, the font didn’t do much to support the graphic or the story. It was serviceable enough, but like the cover itself, not right.

TL;DR It didn’t work. Armed with constructive critique that the colors and images needed to be a bit more period/locale specific, the cover designer returned to the drawing board.

And lo, we got Cover 2.0:

Between Here and Gone_preview2

Well, then. We were on the right track. I did love the color scheme. And the geometric graphics definitely had a mod 60s sort of vibe to them. I liked the idea of the NYC skyline although I was a bit disconcerted by the visual of One World Trade Center—but I knew that was something that could be dealt with in production.

Unfortunately, however, the legs threw me for a loop. I know the image was supposed to convey the sense of walking (the motion I had requested), but just having disembodied legs didn’t work for me (and the fashion hound in me felt that the shoes gave more of a 30s vibe than 60s). And while a period font might have made a strong argument to support of the cover, the one used was again, nice, but somewhat generic and unremarkable.

By this point, I was concerned the designer and the team in general wanted to strangle me, but I knew in my gut we needed the perfect cover for this book and moreover, that the perfect cover was out there waiting to be created.

Luckily, the Diversion team was exceedingly patient and tolerant with me and once again allowed me input into what I thought would make the perfect cover. So I set to work, searching out images and cover examples—finally, I stumbled across a stock photoset that seemed to capture everything I was looking for. On a wing and a prayer, I emailed off the links and…they loved them. A few weeks later, I received these:

Needless to say, I lost my tiny little mind with excitement. Here was the cover I’d been longing for—two of them, in fact! Now, to choose. While I loved the font on the all-turquoise cover and liked that you could see more of the car, it was the coral/turquoise ombré shaded cover that whispered, “Me. Pick me. I’m the right cover.”

And it was. I loved that the young woman was the focus of the cover. That she was staring off into the distance, whether it was looking back to where she’d been or looking forward to where she was going, who knew? It was up for interpretation. I loved that while her expression was wistful, there was still a focus and determination about her. And I loved that you got a distinct sense of the when of the piece. It didn’t have to be exact, but it was enough for the reader to be able to ascertain that yes, this is a mid-20th century set story.

It was perfect.

And judging by the reactions I’ve received since it was revealed back in October, you all think it’s perfect, too.

Let me just thank the Diversion Team and my wonderful, wonderful cover designer again for their patience and for allowing me to be such a big part of the process. Most authors, we’re never given that gift and to have had it, for a book that means so much to me, defies words, really.

 

Between Here and Gone is on sale now!

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An excerpt from BETWEEN HERE AND GONE!

So a long, long time ago (okay, three years), in a galaxy far, far away (well…Wattpad) I put up the first chapter of a manuscript I loved an awful lot, but which I thought had no chance in hell of being traditionally published.BetweenHereAndGone_coverLARGE

I had no real audience or platform, and the genre wasn’t one that lent itself well to self-publishing so that wasn’t a viable option. But I was tired of having stories I knew were good sitting under my metaphorical bed. I’d seen other already-published authors use Wattpad to share excerpts or stories they loved with their readers as well as just starting out authors use Wattpad as a sort of informal publishing platform, so I figured, “Why not?”

I also figured maybe about sixteen people would read it, but hey—that’s sixteen more people than who would have seen it had it stayed safely tucked away on my hard drive.

I posted a chapter a day for the next month. Slowly, readers started finding it. And by the time all was said and done, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE had nearly 300,000 views. Paltry by some genre standards, but for a sort of women’s fiction/coming-of-age/culturally specific/mid-century modern set story? Might as well have been an entire universe.

I’m pretty much of the opinion that having the story up on Wattpad and having all those views is what ultimately brought BH&G to the attention of Diversion Books. (Well, that and an agent who just will not give up, bless her stubborn heart.)

And now, on January 12th, 2016, BETWEEN HERE AND GONE will be published, with its beautiful new cover. But in the meantime, we’re going back to our roots as it were, and with my publisher’s blessings, I’ve posted the edited first chapter—which is now the Prologue and I can hear Jenny Crusie swearing at me from Ohio. (Sorry, Jenny—that was one edict that needed to be broken.)

To get to the Prologue, you can either click on the cover (SHINY!) or Right Here.

Quick Update on the Great Wattpad Experiment

Just a few random observations on Between Here & Gone noted this morning:

I’ve received more reviews and “votes” (1228) which, let’s equate them to ratings on amazon or Goodreads, and “comments” i.e. reviews (104)  than I’ve ever received on any of my traditionally published novels. Hell, I think on all three combined. Including the negative/lukewarm reviews because yanno, Goodreads—where not reading the back cover copy and realizing you’ve bought a book featuring a love triangle when you hate reading love triangles is cause to give the book a one-star review. (I’m so not kidding about that.)

Even if I only look at the stats for Chapter Thirty (89 votes & 27 comments) they amount to more than I’ve gotten on any single novel.

And this isn’t even taking into account the comments left on my profile, which generally tend to refer back to BH&G as well.

I’m not trying to make any specific point here, other than idle curiosity. But I do find it interesting that more people found the book once it was listed as a feature title—a little thing, really, but it was giving the book a little piece of spotlight that seemed to bring it to readers’ attention. Maybe a lesson there for traditional publishers?

All right then, carrying on.

 

 

The Great Wattpad Experiment

So, some of you may have noticed (probably more of you have not) that for the past two weeks, I’ve been Up To Something. That something being I’ve taken a manuscript of mine, Between Here & Gone that is complete and have been putting up, chapter by chapter on Wattpad. Why?

The easy answer is, why not?

The harder answer is, as you might guess, a bit more complicated. Let me see if I can bullet point this into something that makes some sense.

  1. As I said, the manuscript is complete. *waits to hear cries of “But Barb, don’t you want to sell it?* Well, d’uh, of course I’d love to sell the thing. But it’s one of Those Manuscripts. The kind that has no real definition in terms of genre. It’s not YA or New Adult or romance or literary or… I mean, the closest you could come to calling it is maybe a commercial women’s fiction, but it’s not contemporary. It’s set squarely in the 1960s and it’s a bit of a coming-of-age story and…Well… you see what I mean about undefinable? This is the sort of manuscript that’s difficult to sell, especially when you don’t have a track record in said undefinable genre. And aren’t Nicholas Sparks (not that I’m bitter or anything…). It’s the sort of thing that because I don’t have an established audience, I suspect would make it difficult to self-publish, especially with my self-admitted suckagetude at self-pimpery. Y’all know how very, very bad I am at promo. Even this blog post is taxing my ability to jump up and down and say, “Heeeeeeyyyyyyy!! Look at meeeeeeeeeee!!! Pay attention to meeeeeeeeeee!!!! Love meeeeeeeeeeee!!!
  2. Another reason is because among my work, not just the YA, but the adult stories—let’s call it eleven completed manuscripts and probably a half dozen more in various stages of completion—this manuscript stands alone as its own beast. By which I mean it’s completely unlike anything I’ve written before and it’s unlike anything on which I’m currently working. Something else that makes it a harder conventional sell.
  3. It’s a safe experiment. There are those who would say it’s a risk—what if the story’s not as good as I think it is or if I turn off readers or… Screw it. No risk, no reward, right? I’m tired of being a coward, y’all. I write. I want to show that I’m not just a one-trick pony. I can write something other than multicultural YA and if publishing won’t give me the opportunity to show that right now, then it’s up to me to show off what I’m capable of.
  4.  I like this damned story. A lot. I’d love to know if other people like it as well. And being one who lives in her writing cave most of the time, it’s a way by which to get some immediate feedback. Okay, admittedly, I haven’t gotten a lot yet, but still, it’s feedback I didn’t have before.
  5.  But perhaps most importantly, I’m doing this because I’m a storyteller. I had this story I wanted to tell and so I did and now I want to share it.

Is it the best novel I’ve ever written? I have no measure by which to decide, really. I certainly think there are elements that are among the best I’ve written. There are probably places it could be better, but I could say that about everything I’ve ever written, published or not. Maybe even especially the published works.

What it comes down to is I really, really like this story and I wanted to share it. I chose Wattpad as my “publishing” platform, even though I’m not necessarily the site’s target demographic or write in what’s considered a popular genre for the site, because it’s basically idiot-proof. It’s a glorified blog with the novelization formatting built in, which makes it an easy task for me to post the chapters so it doesn’t wind up feeling like a chore or obligation. It’s fun. The most work I did was putting together a cover which, if I do say so myself, I think I did a reasonably nice job on.

So there you have it. Complete story. A 100K word book up for free. There’s drama and adventure and self-actualization and romance and more drama all set around the turbulence of the mid-1960s.

Between Here & Gone

Between Here & Gone

In 1959 Cuba, seventeen-year-old Natalia San Martín was nothing short of a princess, sheltered, pampered, and courted by her very own prince, a childhood friend turned lifelong love. She and Nicolas made grand plans to study abroad and travel the world, secure in the knowledge their tropical paradise—the home they loved above all others—would always be there for them. All that changed on the fateful New Year’s Eve when Fidel Castro and his followers seized control of the island, with tragic consequences for not only the island, but for Natalia herself.

Five years later, it’s the fall of 1964—the U.S. is a country hovering on a precipice of massive change. The halcyon days of the Kennedy Administration have begun fading into memory, as the ongoing Cold War, the escalating conflict in Vietnam, and racial unrest at home begin to erode the sense of purpose and innocence that had gripped the country for three short years.

None of which really matters much to Natalia. For her, purpose and innocence disappeared five years ago; these days, she merely suffers her new existence as Natalie Martin, firmly leaving her past where it belongs—until the moment it all catches up to her and forces her to face the choices she’s made.

 

 

Those of you who know me, know how difficult it is for me to pimp myself out, but here I am, donning the Purple Hat of Pimpitude: please, RT, share, babble, whatever floats your boat if you feel as if I’ve written something that maybe has/deserves an audience. I will forever love you (well, more than I already do) and if you’re really nice, I might even give you my firstborn.

Going to New York. Are you?

Sorry, the apathy in blogging continues, although shockingly, I have been posting to FB & Twitter more frequently. I guess if it’s not about full on creative writing, my mind is only good for short bursts these days.

Anyhow, I do have some updates– I’m going to NYC next week for no fewer than three events (plus my mother will be flying up to meet me for a couple of days, oy!). So, if you’re in the ‘hood and interested, I’d love to see you.

In order:

2011 Teen Author Carnival

Monday, May 23, 2011
Time: 4pm-7pm
Admission: FREE!

Location:
Mulberry Street Library
10 Jersey Street
(Between Lafayette & Mulberry Streets)
New York, NY 10012-3332

I’ll be on a panel called, Teenage Angst: Getting It Right – The Emotions, The Voice, The Drama and just check out the list of authors who are also part of the panel.

Seriously, y’all. I’m plotzing.

1. David Levithan
2. Susane Colasanti
3. Melissa Walker
4. Kody Keplinger
5. Hannah Moskowitz
6. Gayle Forman
7. Torrey Maldonado

On Thursday I’ll be at Book Expo America signing at the Romance Writers of America booth from 9:30-10:00 AM.

And then Friday I’m at the Backspace Conference presenting on a YA panel there.

Saturday I fly home, fall down, go boom.

Please come see meeeeee!

5-star review from San Francisco Book Review!

Easily one of my favorite reviews so far! As of right now, I’ve only seen it on amazon, but I’m hoping they add it to their website and even the print publication. If it does make it into the print publication, I’m going to be prevailing on some kind SF-ista to pick up a few copies for me!

I especially love the Carmen comparison line. It’s something that hasn’t been mentioned quite enough– maybe I was too subtle with it? But give that there’s a slew of Carmen books at the moment, I wouldn’t mind STARS getting a little more press from that standpoint.

Anyhow, the review:

5.0 out of 5 stars A riveting tale of talent, determination, and love, March 2, 2011

By San Francisco Book Review (San Francisco) – See all my reviews

This review is from: When the Stars Go Blue: A Novel (Paperback)

Soledad, a talented and strong-willed Miami teenager with a Cuban heritage, is about to graduate from a competitive high school for performing arts. She has a promising professional dance career in front of her, and while she is deciding on what to do after graduation, a male classmate makes her an offer she cannot resist.

Caridad Ferrer gives an honest and intense portrayal of the often mind-altering experience of first love, and she shows us how first love can make the most determined and dedicated young woman question herself. In //When the Stars Go Blue//, Ferrer invites us into the passionate world of professional dancing, a world where even the strongest dedication of talented dancers cannot always conquer the physical demands of the profession.

This is a riveting young adult novel that puts a new twist on the classical story of Carmen. It will keep you reading until the end, as it is full of suspense and unexpected surprises. The Spanish dialogue scattered throughout the novel gives it a very authentic feel of the multicultural life in South Florida, and it also gives the reader a peek into Soledad’s connection to the Cuban community.

Reviewed by J Rodney

You know a review is going to be different when…

The first paragraph includes both the phrase “rocked my face off,” and the word “DRRRRRTY.” In all caps. Five Rs.

That’s hardcore, y’all. Seriously. I’ve never read a review that literally had me laughing my ass off the entire time. The fact that it’s for STARS is a happy bonus. *beams*

Go check it out and tell me if that isn’t one of the best reviews you’ve ever read.

Good Books and Good Wine