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Guest Post: Cover Evolution With Cristin Terrill and ALL OUR YESTERDAYS

You YA Highway readers are an informed bunch, so you probably already know what usually goes into the designing of a book cover. As an author, mostly you just wait for the day when you get an email with an attachment, have a heart attack waiting for the attachment to open, see the cover that's been chosen for you, and (hopefully) love it.

That was not my experience with my debut novel ALL OUR YESTERDAYS.

Here's the story of the good, bad, the ugly, and ultimately the pretty of my cover.

The first time I met my editor, Emily Meehan of Disney-Hyperion, was just a few weeks after she'd bought ALL OUR YESTERDAYS and she was already thinking of cover ideas. But it wasn't for another six months or so -- about a year before the book was due to come out -- that I received my first cover comp. When I finally managed to make myself look at the screen (I was really nervous!), what I saw was this:
Not gonna lie, I was confused. There were elements I loved (like the vertical title text and the mirroring concept), but I didn't realize that this was merely a mock-up of the general concept Disney-Hyperion was intending to pursue. I thought it was what they had in mind for the actual cover, and I had CONCERNS. Those models look nothing like my characters! What's that weird tree thingy? What's with the tattoos on this lady's face?

My misunderstanding was quickly straightened out, and I was both relieved and excited with the direction for the cover. Disney-Hyperion, unlike the cautionary tales debut authors are often told about publishers, was always interested in and responsive to my input. For instance, when the time came to choose models for the cover shoot they let me pick the model to represent my main character, Marina.
I went with girl on the bottom right, Charlotte, primarily because I thought she had the most "girl next door" look. A photo shoot with Charlotte took place, and I waited patiently (and sometimes not-so-patiently) for the final cover.

Three months later, I got another email, but to my surprise it did NOT contain the final cover I'd been expecting. Instead, I was looking at a set of totally new and different cover comps.
It wasn't until I was putting together this post that I saw the results of the photo shoot, which is below. I think it turned out pretty well, but my editor Emily says everyone at Disney-Hyperion felt it "lacked the shine" they had been hoping for.
So they were going in a new direction, ergo all the new comps. And the focus was obviously now on the title as opposed to the face (sorry, Charlotte!).

I liked the concept of the first new comp the best. The "many faces" made a lot of sense thematically for ALL OUR YESTERDAYS, which is a novel about time travel that revolves around both present and future versions of the three main characters. But we all thought there were too many faces and we preferred the title treatments of #2 and #3, so the designer made some revisions with those things in mind. We went through several rounds of removing more and more faces, moving the faces around, and changing fonts until we ended up with the cover you would have seen if you received an ARC of the book.
After almost six months of work, this still wasn't the final final cover. Disney-Hyperion was going to reshoot a cover based on this design with models we chose who would look more like the characters (and less like each other--yes, that's both a boy and a girl on there). But we were getting close!


I was at my first conference as an author where my ARCs were being given out for the first time. About ten minutes before my first ever signing, I got an email. Barnes and Noble didn't like the cover. And when the largest brick and mortar bookstore chain doesn't like your cover, it gets changed.

The many-faces cover was dead, and we were back at square one.

We had about three months until the book had to go to print, and everyone was feeling the time crunch. Cover comps started flying fast and furious.

Here, I KID YOU NOT, is a modest sampling of the dozens we went through:
Some of these concepts I really liked and some I REALLY didn't, but I was so thankful for how hard Disney-Hyperion was working to find the perfect cover for my book. As you can see, they were casting a wide net and there were multiple designers contributing comps. At this point there was also a new urgency to the process since ALL OUR YESTERDAYS had been chosen for the YA Buzz Panel at BEA, which was only a few weeks away, and we all wanted to have a cover to show by then.

My favorite of the new crop of comps was this one:
I thought it was pretty and unique and eye-catching. I loved the feeling of movement created by the colored lines of light, the clock moving backwards in the "o" of "novel," and the gathering storm clouds. I thought it conveyed that the book was both a speculative story and a romance. Happily, my editor liked this concept best as well, so they decided to focus on refining this idea.

A couple of weeks later, I got an email from my editor entitled "COVER!!! OMG!!!" I was expecting a finessed, finalized version of the cloud cover. What I found instead was this:
I was completely thrown. It was so far from what I'd expected, so different from everything we'd been trying for the past nine months, and I already had so much built-up anxiety about this cover (and debuting in general) that I reacted... not well. I burst into tears.

My editor Emily explained to me that the cloud cover had received a very lukewarm reaction from almost everyone else at Disney-Hyperion. After further discussing it with some colleagues, she realized what the problem was. To her, and to me, ALL OUR YESTERDAYS was a love story at its core, and that was the message of the cloud cover. But the other members of the Disney-Hyperion team didn't see it as a love story. They saw it as a thriller. Strong characters and relationships are great, they said, but people pick up books like this because of the plot.

So they went back to the drawing board to try to show the book as a thriller, and when Emily unveiled the clock cover in an internal meeting, the whole room burst into spontaneous cheers and applause.

This story made me start coming around to the clock cover.

I had one major reservation left, though, which was also one my editor shared. I was afraid it looked too much like the DIVERGENT cover, between showing the skyline of a major American city and the round flaming thing in the center. There was less than a week left until BEA, where we'd announced that we would reveal the cover. So we quickly tried a variety of tweaks to make it look less DIVERGENT-y.
While I really liked the smoky clock, we eventually decided that the original version (with a few subtle refinements) was the best, regardless of any similarities to DIVERGENT.

So, uh, sorry Veronica!

In the end, I saw the final version of the ALL OUR YESTERDAYS cover about nine months after I saw the first comp and exactly fourteen hours before it was revealed to the public at BEA. I cannot stress enough how much Disney-Hyperion went above and beyond to make a cover they really believed in and believed readers would flock to, when at any point during the process they could have picked one that was 'good enough' and been done with it. I will always be grateful to them for their dedication.

And, believe it or not, they're not done yet. The evolution of ALL OUR YESTERDAYS continues!
The paperback version of ALL OUR YESTERDAYS sports a whole new look. If the hardcover was the thriller cover, this is the love story cover. As my editor explains:

"This was one of the hardest covers to nail. We wanted to show how epically romantic it is, but it is also a taut thriller. Not an easy task. We went through countless covers trying to get the balance right. We decided to redesign for the paperback because we were getting the feeling that the cover wasn't connecting to the audience somehow, which is a shame, because the book itself so riveting. We chose a picture for the new cover that we thought was provocative and romantic."

The most interesting part of this process for me has been seeing the wildly different ways that so many people see my book. Is it a thriller or a romance? Dark or bright? Gritty or glossy? Because the words inside have always been the same. Ultimately, I've been incredibly lucky that my book's pretty outside has enticed so many readers who've appreciated the story and characters on the inside, and I hope that continues to be the case, no matter what clothes ALL OUR YESTERDAYS is wearing.

Cristin Terrill is a young adult author and aspiring grown-up. She holds a BA in Drama from Vassar College and an MA in Shakespeare Studies from the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon. She escaped the world of theatrical stage management to write. She teaches creative writing workshops for children and teens in the Washington, D.C. area. ALL OUR YESTERDAYS is her first novel.
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  1. Wow! This was fascinating! Thanks for sharing. What a crazy journey for you though, yikes. O_O

  2. I agree with Kristin -- so interesting how this all came together! I love the paperback cover, Cristin. In fact, I just ordered a copy. :-)

  3. Wow, this was a crazy journey for you! I had no idea that cover design could go through so many iterations, although it seems strangely appropriate for this particular time-travelling story ;) Just. Wow! You had to go through so much, Cristin!
    Personally I really like the early covers - the giant block letters, the sworls of colors, the hint of romance. I think those could have gone over really well with readers. I also wish the paperback cover had some color in it, but I do think it reflects the thriller + romance aspects of the story much better than the original.

  4. I remember seeing the final cover, the one that's a bit reminiscent of Divergent, and deciding to add this book to my TBR.


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