Cover Reveal Talk With Tara Sullivan, MG Author of GOLDEN BOY

Today’s guest for the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) is fellow Class of 2k13 member Tara Sullivan, author of GOLDEN BOY. Tara is a debut MG author, and I had the pleasure of meeting her (plus quite a few of my other 2k13 classmates!) this weekend at ALA! Check in tomorrow for a rundown of our ALA panel, which was hosted by Veronica Roth!

Thirteen-year-old Habo has always been different— light eyes, yellow hair and white skin. Not the good brown skin his family has and not the white skin of tourists. Habo is strange and alone. His father, unable to accept Habo, abandons the family; his mother can scarcely look at him. His brothers are cruel and the other children never invite him to play. Only his sister Asu loves him well. But even Asu can’t take the sting away when the family is forced from their small Tanzanian village, and Habo knows he is to blame.

Seeking refuge in Mwanza, Habo and his family journey across the Serengeti. His aunt is glad to open her home until she sees Habo for the first time, and then she is only afraid. Suddenly, Habo has a new word for himself: Albino. But they hunt Albinos in Mwanza because Albino body parts are thought to bring good luck. And soon Habo is being hunted by a fearsome man with a machete. 

To survive, Habo must not only run but find a way to love and accept himself.

Did you have any pre-conceived notions about what you wanted your cover to look like?

I had imagined a figure-based cover. Maybe Habo on the road, or sitting under an acacia tree… something that gave setting. Instead, I got a face-dominated cover which reveals character. SUCH a good call on the part of my art team!
How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

About 9 months before my release date.
Did you have any input on your cover?

Yes! More than I expected I would. Though I loved the concept from the start, the original sketches had Habo looking angrier and showed less detail of his face. I asked for his expression to be softened (he’s really not an angry kid) and for Jesse (that would be Jesse Joshua Watson, my amazing cover artist!) to include some more clues that Habo was a person with albinism. For the final version, Jesse added the sunspots under Habo’s eyes and his hair, and now Habo’s expression shows a wary vulnerability instead of aggression. I think it’s a stunning, powerful cover and I absolutely love it!
How was your cover revealed to you?

In an email, out of the blue! My heart was pounding when I opened that attachment, I can tell you.
I was also nervous because they had originally told me that they wanted me to change my title. But then, when I came back with some brainstormed second titles I was told they had come up with some art that might make my original title work. So when I opened that email it wasn’t just my cover on the line, it was my title too!
Was there an official “cover reveal” date for your art?

More or less. Once the art was finalized, my publisher told me when I could publicly share my cover. I had a cover reveal on on October 23rd, 2012.
How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

Probably a few weeks.
Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

Yes. 🙂

Like any huge news, you want to share it right away. Especially since I loved so much where the cover ended up, I wanted to share it with the world!

What surprised you most about the process?

I think, having braced myself for being completely ignored, I was most surprised by the fact that my opinions were taken into consideration. I had read, and been told, that authors have almost no say in what their covers look like, so I had been ready for the worst.
Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

Do not do your immediate-reaction-processing of your cover art out loud with anyone from your publishing house!

This was advice from my agent to me, and it was really good advice. Do your processing with your friends first, then, when you have a sense of what your feelings are, have a talk with your agent. You and s/he can then boil down all your squee or concerns into concise, professionally-worded points. These are what you should bring back to your publisher as feedback.

3 thoughts on “Cover Reveal Talk With Tara Sullivan, MG Author of GOLDEN BOY

  1. Loved seeing Tara's cover and learning about her book. It sounds awesome. Her agent's advice sounds really good. And it's so awesome you two met at ALA. I would have loved to have gone to meet all the debut authors there.

  2. It's so nice to hear that an author had some input into the cover! I, too, have heard the standard “you have no say in your cover” from published authors.

    I love this cover, and I love the title. Can't wait to read!

  3. Natalie – GOLDEN BOY is a great read!

    Daisy – It is nice when we have input. I have heard quite a few from both sides of the fence, some with a LOT of control, and some with very little. In the end we have to put our faith in the art and marketing dept. of our houses.

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