Kes Trester On The Cover Process

I love talking to authors. Our experiences are so similar, yet so very different, that every one of us has a new story to share. Everyone says that the moment you get your cover it really hits you – you’re an author. The cover is your story – and you – packaged for the world. So the process of the cover reveal can be slightly panic inducing. Does it fit your story? Is it what you hoped? Will it sell? With this in mind I put together the CRAP (Cover Reveal Anxiety Phase) Interview.

Today’s guest for the CRAP is Kes Trester, a former feature film development executive, independent film producer, and television commercial producer. In an attempt to raise kids who could actually pick their mom out of a line up, Kes turned to writing full-time. Her contemporary novels for young adults are cinematic, fast-paced, and above all, fun.

Seventeen-year-old Riley Collins has grown up in some of the world’s most dangerous cities, learning political strategies from her ambassador dad and defensive skills from his security chief. The only thing they didn’t prepare her for: life as an American teenager.

After an incident forces her to leave her Pakistani home, Riley is recruited by the State Department to attend Harrington Academy, one of the most elite boarding schools in Connecticut. The catch: she must use her tactical skills to covertly keep an eye on Hayden Frasier, the daughter of a tech billionaire whose new code-breaking spyware has the international intelligence community in an uproar.

Disturbing signs begin to appear that Riley’s assignment wasn’t the walk in the park she’d been promised. Now, Riley must fight for her life and Hayden’s, as those around her reveal themselves to be true friends or the ultimate betrayers.

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

My book, A DANGEROUS YEAR, is fast-paced and action-packed (think “Alias” meets “Gossip Girl”) so the cover had to convey elements of action and romance. I also wanted colors and a font that were a bit playful, so readers would know this book is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

How far in advance from your pub date did you start talking covers with your house?

Just after I signed my contract, which was about eighteen months before publication, I sent my publisher ten book covers I liked. I listed what I liked about each one, and even sent headshots of actors/models as visual references for the main characters.

Did you have any input on your cover?

As it turned out, I had a tremendous amount of input. The first two sets of cover mockups were, in my opinion, targeted to the adult fiction market. The Riley Collins series has crossover potential, but Riley is a 17-year-old high school senior. I was concerned about being overlooked by YA readers, and conveyed my reservations to the publisher. To my surprise and delight, they tossed the covers and brought in a new designer.

By the time we settled on the final cover, my publisher had presented me with seven distinctly different choices. Once we decided on the general design, they allowed me to influence color and edit the objects pictured on the cover. It was a long, stressful process, but I’m tremendously happy with the final image. 

How was your cover revealed to you?

Designing the cover was a three-month process with mockups sent at intervals. The “reveal” was the moment I saw the cover revised with my suggestions and realized the designer had nailed it.

Was there an official “cover reveal” date for your art?

The cover turned out so well, offered to do an exclusive cover reveal! 

How far in advance of the reveal date were you aware of what your cover would look like?

The cover was finalized about three weeks prior to the reveal.

Was it hard to keep it to yourself before the official release?

I had shown it to a few trusted friends for input, but I was dying to send it out into the world. It would be the first impression people would get of my book, and it was hard to keep it under wraps!

What surprised you most about the process?

The generosity of my publisher, and the respect I have been shown as a writer. The CEO of the imprint personally communicated with me during the design phase to insure I was satisfied with the direction of the cover.

Any advice to other debut authors about how to handle cover art anxiety?

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Carrie Fisher got stuck with the Princess Leia hair buns because she was afraid to tell George Lucas what she really thought. Don’t get stuck with hair buns. Politely and respectfully communicate your opinions. You’ve got nothing to lose.