Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Guest post by Janet Gurtler  who has 3 published books and 3 more under contract from Sourcebooks Fire, all to be branded with same book cover look. 

Let’s face it. Most of us do judge books by their cover. A great cover can do wonderful things to help a book reach intended readers. Or just as wonderful, help a book reach new or unintended readers.
When people see the covers for my books, I often get nice comments. (This is good because I’m fond of hearing nice things about my books;) )  I hear, “I love the way your books all have the same look and the circle title”.  

I’d love to take credit for the covers (Ok. not really, designers deserve their praise) but I don’t have a huge role in the covers. Book cover designers work with the editing and marketing team to come up with a concept intended to reach target readers. The cover tells the reader a little bit about the book’s tone or even which genre it is. When you see the cover for WHO I KISSED, you know you’re not getting a dystopian novel or a paranormal time travel romp. I hope that readers are starting to know the “look’, the “Janet Gurtler style”. That’s the goal. That’s the term branding heard so often in the publishing world.

The covers for my books are designed to reach contemporary young adult readers.  If you look at authors who write books similar to mine,  Sarah Dessen, Sarah Ockler, Elizabeth Scott,  you should get a similar sensation from their books. Feminine colors. Wistful images. I hope that the books evoke an emotional response and an expectation from readers that they will become integrated into a fast-paced story.

When I say my books, that’s really not accurate at this stage. By the time a book reaches bookshelves, it has many fingerprints on it.  Agents, editors, copyeditors, marketing, publicity, sales people-- so many people behind the scenes help make a finished book what it is.
I feel incredibly fortunate to be publishing with Sourcebooks. They have truly gotten behind me as an author (and all their YA authors) and are using their marketing shrewdness to brand the books. Did I mention marketing? Did I mention BOOK TOUR??!! Yes, I am lucky enough to be going on a book tour for WHO I KISSED! Check out the dates and cities here.

And please come and see me if I’m on your turf!! Anyhow. Sorry. The incredible sound of the word ‘book tour’ distracted me. (Squee!)

Back to covers. The similar theme and feel of my covers aren’t a mistake. They’re designed to let readers know that these books are by the same author. They should let you know that when you pick up a Janet Gurtler book, you’re getting an emotional book that takes you inside the character’s heads and lets you think about life and choices (at least I hope that’s what you’re getting). The covers have gotten me onto tables at Barne’s and Nobles under headings “If You Like Sarah Dessen..try these”.  It’s an incredible table to be on. Sourcebooks is doing a fabulous job.
Of course, book covers even when approved, go through tweaks before the final version. Look at this first shot at a cover for WHO I KISSED.

I have to admit, I really hated the boy in the cover. (no offense to his mother or him, it’s nothing personal) To me he looked kind of stalkerish and his jacket reminded me of an 80’s sports coat. My editor thought I was hilarious and off my rocker, but offered up a few more choices.

Of course, I picked number 3. Because he’s cute and has fluffy hair! And er, suited the character profile so much better than the other two. And then came a couple more tweaks. First we had this:

And finally the cover that’s on the books today:

Can you spot the differences from start to finish??
As mentioned, I’m a huge fan of the covers and a huge fan of Sourcebooks. They do a fabulous job branding and promoting their authors. It’s truly my pleasure to be published with them! What are some of your favorite YA covers? Why?


  1. Wow! Great post. Thanks for sharing. This was most insightful.

  2. Doing most of my reading on a kindle puts a different spin on the cover issue. A few books I've read and loved turned out to have covers that told me absolutely nothing about the author or story. One of my favorites I wouldn't even have picked up (based on the cover) if I'd seen it in a bookstore. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

  3. That's a really good point Renee!

  4. It's true, you can't judge a book by its cover, but ya can surely get drawn in. Great post!


  5. Interesting post. I love all three of Janet's cover pages. Intriguing so you want to find out more. Reminds me a bit of Paullina Simons' covers - love her books! Definitely liked the final cover of Who I Kissed. The dark pink bubble makes the title stand out against her white singlet top.

  6. I like the points you make about branding. You've hit on a distinct cover look. Readers will definitely be about to pick out your books without seeing your name on the cover.

  7. Your covers always hook me, Janet! And your voice is what made me a fan. LOVE your books!!!


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