Tag Archives: book covers

WANT Cover Reveal

By Cindy Pon

Every book I have written is a book of my heart, but WANT is especially dear to me. A near-future thriller set in Taipei, it is an ode to my birth city, the vibrancy of which is deeply rooted in me. The feel of the air, the smells, these colors shaped my childhood and who I am today. I tried to capture that in WANT. This book is also special because it is the first non-fantasy novel I have ever written and challenged me in so many ways as a writer. But I loved my characters in this book, especially my hero and heroine, and I loved portraying this city I adore, a character in itself, so close to my heart. It is the first YA speculative fiction I’m aware of published by a big US publisher set in Taipei, if not the first young adult set there. So many fantastic firsts!

The WANT cover is stunning and amazing and everything I could have hoped for as an author. I hope you love it too!


Jason Zhou survives in a divided society where the elite use their wealth to buy longer lives. The rich wear special suits, protecting them from the pollution and viruses that plague the city, while those without suffer illness and early deaths. Frustrated by his city’s corruption and still grieving the loss of his mother who died as a result of it, Zhou is determined to change things, no matter the cost.

With the help of his friends, Zhou infiltrates the lives of the wealthy in hopes of destroying the international Jin Corporation from within. Jin Corp not only manufactures the special suits the rich rely on, but they may also be manufacturing the pollution that makes them necessary.

Yet the deeper Zhou delves into this new world of excess and wealth, the more muddled his plans become. And against his better judgment, Zhou finds himself falling for Daiyu, the daughter of Jin Corp’s CEO. Can Zhou save his city without compromising who he is, or destroying his own heart?

Following is a conversation I had with Jen Ung, my Simon Pulse editor, on our thoughts about this cover!

Cindy: I wasn’t expecting it at all when WANT’s first cover iteration dropped into my email. It came as a complete surprise! My reaction? *screaming* and *lying face down* ha! WANT is the first non-fantasy novel I’d ever written, and one of its draws for me was my #cuteasianboy hero Jason Zhou. To see him rendered so wonderfully and featured and centered on the cover, with the lights of Taipei reflected on his helmet—I honestly cannot describe all my feels. I know everyone has a different preference and opinion for book covers. But personally for me, the more Asian faces I can get onto my novels, the better!!

Jen: WANT’s original editor, Michael Strother, and I were also all for showing a #cuteasianboy on the cover! When the designer for the project, Karina Granda, read the first draft of WANT, she described the read as feeling atmospheric and “wet,” and wanted to evoke this with the cover art style. She decided to hire artist Jason Chan, who does a lot of work in the video game space. He also regularly illustrates MG/YA book covers, so she knew he could do a fantastic job applying his video game art style to a YA book cover. The cover you see here is one of Jason’s original concepts, and I think it’s stunning.


Cindy: I feel so so lucky because Jason Chan is an amazing artist, and he really captured the feel of the novel so well. I also love that Karina described the atmosphere of WANT as “wet”. This novel was truly an ode to my birth city, Taipei, which is a very humid city with many rain showers (and typhoons!), and I wrote all that into the book. I’m just so pleased that she picked up on that as a perceptive designer! When I saw the original cover, with Jason’s white blonde hair and eyes closed, I was already blown away. Michael was kind enough to ask if I had any feedback. I did. My main concern was that readers might not see with this first cover iteration that Jason is indeed Asian. I don’t think it’s an unfounded fear, as there are so few Asians featured in young adult novels today, much less Asian boy leads. In fact, I’m certain that WANT will likely be the only YA cover with an Asian hero so prominently shown in 2017. This representation mattered to me. I really appreciated the dream-like quality of having Jason’s eyes closed, but he is such an active hero in the novel, I felt opened eyes and a direct look from him was more suitable. And although he starts with blond hair in the novel, the majority of the story he wears it black. Jason Chan was able to incorporate both suggestions, and I truly feel so happy and fortunate. I don’t think there is any room for doubt that my hero is an Asian boy on the WANT cover. I adore this cover so much.

Jen: We loved Cindy’s suggested changes, and I agree that the tweaks ultimately made for a stronger, more active image. Representation in YA—in terms of both covers and content—is something near and dear to my heart, and I just know that WANT is going to mean so much to so many readers, for so many different reasons. I’m very grateful to the designer and artist for so perfectly capturing the essence of the book, and to Cindy for writing such a fantastic story!

WANT (Simon Pulse) releases June 2017! Add it to your goodreads shelf!

imageCindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow Books), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. Serpentine (Month9Books), the first title in another Chinese-inspired fantasy duology, is a Junior Library Guild Selection and received starred reviews from School Library Journal and VOYA. Sacrifice, the sequel, is also a Junior Library Guild Selection and received a starred review from Kirkus Reviews. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Learn more about her books and art at http://cindypon.com. Chat with her on twitter: @cindypon or follow her on instagram: @cindyponauthor

People of Color on YA Book Covers in 2015

We’ve been tracking new releases all year, and as the year comes to a close it’s interesting take a look back and see how people of color have been represented on book covers.

In putting together this collection, I focused on covers that feature photos or illustrations of people who appear to represent the book’s main character(s) of color. I omitted images that were silhouettes that did not seem to speak to race, and images of people from the back or the distance that effectively obscured all their characteristics. I may have accidentally omitted some covers because there were quite a few of them! It’s also important to remember that not featuring a person of color on a book about a character of color is not automatically a negative. There are many evocative covers out there that don’t have any people on them. But if you’re interested in covers that do feature people of color, here is 2015’s batch.

You may also be interested in a similar roundup from 2014 and 2013.

Cover reveal: SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon

We are soooo excited to help reveal, in conjunction with Month9Books, the cover for DiYA co-founder Cindy Pon’s next YA fantasy, Serpentine, which will be published Sept. 8, 2015!

Be sure to enter the giveaway found at the end of the post!


SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology.

Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell.

When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time.

“Vivid worldbuilding, incendiary romance, heart-pounding action, and characters that will win you over–I highly recommend Serpentine.” ~ Cinda Williams Chima, best-selling author of the Seven Realms and Heir Chronicles fantasy novels

Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright’s transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.” ~Kristin Cashore, NYT Bestseller of the Graceling Realm Series

Serpentine’s world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you’ll want to lose yourself in.” ~ Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites


cindypon2015Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Serpentine, the first title in her next Xia duology, will be published by Month9Books in September 2015. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at www.cindypon.com.

Connect with the author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads


Month9Books is giving away 1 digital copy of Serpentine. The giveaway is open internationally, and a winner will be drawn May 29, 2015. Enter the giveaway below or at Rafflecopter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Representing Diversity on 2014 YA Book Covers

By Malinda Lo

Representing non-white, non-straight, disabled characters on a book cover is a complicated thing to do well. A book cover must represent the story told in the book, of course, but it also must speak to genre (a science fiction cover looks quite different from a romance cover) and work for both online booksellers and brick-and-mortar bookstores. A good book cover grabs your attention from across the shop — or stands out legibly in thumbprint-sized images online.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that not all people of a particular race/ethnicity look like stereotypical images of that race/ethnicity. For example, not all people who are “Asian” look like stereotypical images of Asians, which are dominated by often Orientalist stereotypes of Chinese or Japanese people. Asia itself is huge and contains many more nations than China and Japan, and translating a specific character into an image that can be read as “Asian” by people who aren’t familiar with that specific character’s heritage can sometimes fail.

The following images are 2014 book covers that feature main characters of non-white descent, disabled characters, LGBT characters, and covers that suggest non-Western cultures. There is a wide range of representations of characters, from full-face head shots to images of a character’s back or silhouette. Not all images may read as non-white to every reader/viewer, but the question is: Does an image need to read exactly the same way to every reader/viewer?

Obviously, sometimes images of non-white people have been whitewashed on book covers, and that is problematic. But is there a gray area between full-face photographic images of a non-white person, and the wrong that is whitewashing? Is it possible to be more subtle in representing diversity while still speaking to those who are able to read those images clearly?

The fact is: not every book is best represented by a full-face photograph or illustration. Also, many readers don’t like to be confronted with pictures of the characters in the books; they like to cast these characters themselves, in their heads, while they read. And as I stated above, ethnic identity isn’t always clearly recognizable to everyone. I think it’s interesting to look at the entire year’s crop of representations of minorities on book covers to gain some perspective on how identity is depicted in different ways.

People of Color

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Native and Indigenous Peoples

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LGBT People

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Representations of Non-Western Cultures

There is another way to represent non-white and specifically non-Western characters on a book cover: using an image that suggests the non-Western culture that the character lives in.


A Diverse Cast

One book that was published this year depicts a number of non-white characters, and fittingly, it was written by Walter Dean Myers, one of publishing’s greatest advocates of diversity.


Which covers work for you? Which covers do you have problems with?

Characters of Color on the Covers of 2013 Young Adult Novels

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10 young adult books that feature queer couples on the cover

From “Representing LGBT Romance on Young Adult Book Covers” by Malinda Lo

It’s Not Always About Race

By C.J. Omololu

My YA novel Transcendence came out last June, and one of the first industry reviews I read liked the fact that there was a biracial character on the cover, but commented that “there was no textual follow-up.” Many other reviewers felt the same way — that because there was a person of color on the cover, that fact should be addressed somewhere in the text. Comments generally came in two versions — “why is there a brown boy on the cover when the book isn’t about race?” or “I didn’t pick it up because I thought it was a ‘race’ book.”

It seems that for many readers, it’s confusing to have a brown character on the cover of a book just because.

I didn’t set out to write a diverse YA book. I wanted to write a fun, romantic book about a group of people who remember their past lives — the fact that the love interest was biracial was just part of the story, and honestly, I didn’t think about it very much. The characters in the book are a reflection of the community where I live in Northern California and people who know me will testify that I’d rather borrow from real life than make things up.

I was thrilled when my publisher Bloomsbury/Walker decided to put Griffon on the cover of Transcendence — not because he’s brown, but because he’s cute, and the cover reflected the story perfectly. There is no discussion of race in the book, no questioning by Cole’s parents when they’re introduced to Griffon, no commentary on their interracial relationship. Griffon’s dad is white and we meet him in the very first chapter, and his mom is African American and plays a large part in the story. All of this is just because these were the characters who fit the story I was telling.

It was only in the eleventh hour as we dove into copyedits that the question came up at all — my editor and I realized that we’d never addressed the “race issue” in the story and unanimously decided to leave it that way. I live in an interesting community — our high school is 40% Hispanic, 25% Asian, 17% White, 15% Black and 2% Multi-Racial. My boys have friends and have liked girls who are part of each of these communities and it’s never been an issue.

My family is a crazy study in genetics. My background is a mix of Swedish and Scottish while my husband is Nigerian. Our oldest has brown skin, brown eyes and curly brown hair (at 15, he looks remarkably like Griffon on the cover of the book — a fact that he doesn’t love), while our youngest son is very fair with green eyes and blonde curly hair.

The Omololu family, with C.J. on the left, her two sons, and her husband on the right.

If you ask either of them who they are, they’ll answer: baseball player, track runner, trampoline master, guitar player, honor student, etc. I’m not sure that “biracial” would even come up in the top ten. I think that like most families, we’re just going about the business of our daily lives — we don’t sit around the dining room table talking about race, and that’s the idea I wanted to carry into my story.

I think that there is a big need in today’s society for books that are about race or coming out. I also think that there is a big need for books that have gay or racially diverse characters just because these are the people who are present in our daily lives.

I have to say, I’ve been thrilled with the reaction from both Barnes and Noble and indie booksellers — all of them have placed Transcendence face-out in the regular YA section, which to me is a big win. Only by normalizing diverse characters into our stories can we honestly reflect the lives of all of our readers.

Visit C.J. Omololu at her website, and get a copy of Transcendence at IndieBound, B&N, or Amazon.

Cover Design 101: The Cover of Awakening

Originally posted over at Lee and Low website. This fantastic series features editor of Tu Books Stacy Whitman discussing cover design and creation for particular novels published the imprint.

This week, Tu Books Publisher Stacy Whitman shares the process of creating the cover:

Those who know Tankborn well will know that there’s something different about the girl on the cover of Awakening compared to the girl on the cover of Tankborn (aside from the fact that they’re two different people and, yes, represent two different characters). I’m not sure I should give it away, actually! But I’ll give you a hint: look at where the GEN tattoo falls in both covers:

TankbornAwakening cover 

But let’s start from the beginning. First, talking about Awakening will require a few Tankborn spoilers, so those who are spoiler-averse: beware!

As you can see from the early proposed concepts, we had a few possibilities to choose from:

Pages from Awakening covers-3-1

Pages from Awakening covers-4-1

Pages from Awakening covers-2-1

Pages from Awakening covers

But which one best represented the book? To make a decision, we had to dig into the essence of Awakening.

In Tankborn, Kayla was recruited by a group of trueborns and lowborns quietly working against GEN oppression. In Awakening, Kayla starts to chafe at the slightly more gentle bonds this organization puts upon her—she wants to control her own destiny. But while she works towards freedom (and a chance at love with Devak, a trueborn), a deadly disease is spreading among GENs–which is especially curious considering that GENs are people who are genetically engineered not to get sick. On her travels for the Kinship–while also avoiding bombs set in GEN housing and warehouses by a mysterious group that only identifies themselves with the grafitti “F.H.E.”–Kayla meets a couple other GEN girls who are connected to this disease, one of whom is rumored to be able to heal whomever she touches.

Some early concepts, like the ones above, included one piece of Awakening or another, but a couple looked too modern-day urban or romance genre (didn’t quite set themselves apart as futuristic science fiction); another didn’t get the full message of the book across in a way I felt the other concepts did; another felt like it was actually better held back for the cover of Revolution, the third book in this trilogy (so now you have a hint as to what book 3 may look like!).

In combining the concepts, the designer, Einav Aviram, did a great job of showing what this book is all about in one great cover: the grafitti (Freedom, Humanity, Equality), the mysterious GEN girl who can heal whoever she touches, the dawning of Kayla’s stand for her rights–all coming together.

I should also say, of course, that we were happy for another chance to put a person of color on a cover. Whitewashing of YA covers is still, unfortunately, a common occurrence, and one of the things we try to do at Tu Books is showcase our characters of color on the cover whenever possible, whenever the design allows it.

Cover Design 101: Hammer of Witches, and the Pros of Illustrated Covers

Originally published at Lee and Low’s website, Cover Design 101 is a series of blog posts discussing cover creation (often with the inclusion of people of color characters) at Tu Books.

We’re so excited about the upcoming release of our new YA historical fantasyHammer of Witches! In this post, Tu Books Editorial Director Stacy Whitman discusses how she and the designer came up with the final cover:

Historical fantasy can be tough to market. You have to show that, despite being steeped in research and history, this is an exciting, awesome book. It should look different from all the contemporary books out there, but not old-fashioned. Because of the fantasy element, a photographic cover just couldn’t do this book justice, but for YA, illustration can be tough because you don’t want the illustration to make the book look like it’s for a younger audience. We needed an illustrator whose art had a more mature look, whose sensibility tended more toward something you’d see in the adult market than the middle grade market—and we found that illustrator in Andrew Maroriginal sketch for Hammer of Witches cover
Because the cover is illustrated, there’s a lot more leeway in terms of what we can pick to show. So we get to see an important moment in the story: a character moment where the main character, Baltasar, meets one of his primary companions throughout the book, Jinni (who is a half-genie). We know there’s magic happening–she’s floating, after all!–and we get to see how the author envisioned these characters rather than having to find a model whose looks fit the character or a stock photo that’s not quite right. We can also see that this is a historical setting from the view out the window, the characters’ clothing, and the items on the table. We even get some nice detailing in Jinni’s dress, and I love the expression on her face compared to Baltasar’s!

How did we choose this particular scene? The illustrator and designer both read the book, and we all actually came separately to the conclusion that this key scene had a lot of potential for illustration. Check out a few of the early sketches to peek in on the illustration process. First we had to choose what position the characters would be in, and then we had to figure out where the type could go in juxtaposition with the scene. How would the reader’s eye travel across the artwork and type together? Would this invite them in to the book to read to figure out what will happen?

sketch with typography options for Hammer of witches cover
The modern look of the typography ties it all together–this is a book for today, looking at this controversial time period through a different lens than the old stories. We looked at several font choices—as you can see from the thumbnail sketches, that font is not the one we ended up with on the final cover. Then the designer, Isaac Stewart, had to place the typography in a way that stood out without overwhelming the great artwork.

The end result: a cover that says “READ ME!” to anyone who sees this book.

Hammer of Witches cover
There’s been a lot of great buzz about Hammer of WitchesHere’s what people have been saying:
  • An engaging, magical adventure set against the historical backdrop of Columbus’ westward voyage.” —Kirkus Reviews
  • “Mlawski’s magical take on the exploration of the New World is a dazzling, richly imagined tale about history, legend, and the fantastic power of story.” —Diana Peterfreund, author of For Darkness Shows the Stars
  • Hammer of Witches is a historical revelation—an eye-opening magical carpet ride that takes the reader over the ocean and through the woods to an ancient time, full of beauty and grace, and the ever-present conflict between man’s spirituality and his natural brutality.” —Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Pura Belpre Award winner, Morris Award nominee and author of Summer of the Mariposas 
  • “A truly enjoyable energetic tale and an altogether original take on one of the most important events in human history—the first voyage of Columbus.” —Joseph Bruchac, author of Wolf Mark

Look for Hammer of Witches in April 2013!