{Guest Post} "The Process Behind Designing A Book" with MONSTROUS BEAUTY Author Elizabeth Fama

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Check out my review ofMONSTROUS BEAUTY 
Elizabeth Fama has previously stopped by ABS
 for a fun interview
and shared a guest post on
 "Weaving the Past with the Present." 

Also, check out the short story "Men Who Wish To Drown," 
set in the world of MONSTROUS BEAUTY.  
It's FREE online here!

Elizabeth Fama is the author of MONSTROUS BEAUTY and OVERBOARD, which were published a decade apart.

Elizabeth's second young-adult novel, MONSTROUS BEAUTY, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan this past Tuesday.

Her debut novel, OVERBOARD (Cricket Books, 2002), was named a 2003 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association (one of only eleven books selected unanimously by the committee that year). It received the 2002-2003 honor award from the Society of Midland Authors, and it was nominated for five state readers' choice awards (New Hampshire, Texas, Illinois, Utah, and Florida). She is currently working on a young-adult alternate-history novel with the working title PLUS ONE and a middle-grade novel about a girl and her hippo (which will have AWESOME COMICS in it).

She can be found on her website and Twitter!

The Process Behind Designing A Book

by Elizabeth Fama

Here's a fact that many readers don't know: authors rarely have control over any part of the "outside" of a book. The cover image, the font, the trim size, and the paper quality--all are determined by the publisher. Even the title is often out of the author's control. For instance, Monstrous Beauty sold to Farrar, Straus and Giroux as Syrenka, and my first book, Overboard (Cricket Books, 2002), had the working title A Ferry to Weh.
Even when you have "cover consultation" written into your contract, you really don't have control. It's a politeness. It means your publisher will show you the cover before the advance reader copies are printed, and there may or may not be time for you to request (small, easy) changes. For instance, my friend was successful in getting a darker skin tone for her African-American character. 

But happily, your publisher's interests are usually perfectly aligned with yours: you want to sell your book, and they want to sell your book. It's likely they'll work hard on your behalf, and it's likely you haven't got a whit of design sense anyway, and you're better off leaving it their hands.

I was happy with the hardcover image that Macmillan's then-designer, Anne Diebel, created. It hinted at the considerable darkness of the story, while showing just how genuinely lovely a mermaid could be to a man--how he and she might both be fooled into risking everything for each other. I loved the way it almost looks like a painting, and that it suggests historical fiction. I appreciated the fact that an adult reader or a boy reader might not be embarrassed to be seen with it. I adored Franny Billingsley's prominent blurb!
The original hardcover cover!
But it was definitely a quiet cover, and in particular, the small font and deep color of the spine melted away in dim lighting conditions (my favorite local independent bookstore in Chicago is in a basement). Most books aren't faced out in bookstores, of course, and only the spine shows. I joked with my kids that my book was like a chameleon: you couldn't see it unless you were searching for it. Also, it turns out that some readers actively avoid mermaid books (crazy, right?), so the mermaid was something of a liability for people who might otherwise like ghosts or historical fiction--two other major components of the novel.
The revamped paperback cover!
I was happily surprised when they sent me a mock-up of the revamped paperback cover of Monstrous Beauty. It's dynamic, and intriguing, and it doesn't advertise "mermaid." But even more delightful, it turned out that Laura Wilson, the editor of Square Fish (which is the paperback imprint of Macmillan), was open to author input. She sent me interview questions, and I shyly asked whether we couldn't instead use the blog tour questions that Bonnie and so many other bloggers had worked so hard on. "Great idea!" she said. Her enthusiasm emboldened me, and I asked whether we could include endpapers--I had always wanted them in the hardcover. 
Gorgeous endpapers!
After checking briefly, Laura gave me another thumbs up, and I sent her my daughter's "naturalist sketches" from Ezra's journal. (I hired a local calligrapher to do 19th-century handwriting for those.) Then, totally giddy, I said, "What about a historical map of the area?" Yes, was the answer. I found one at the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, MA, and had it photographed.

In fact, there are so many juicy additions in the "bonus materials," the paperback is like a little treasure chest. I just love the total package, and I'm so grateful for having had the rare experience of participating in its production.
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Elizabeth Fama
Release Date: Out Sept. 04, 2012
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan

Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.


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