In the past 15 months, January Black’s cover has been called pretty, rich, mysterious, and ominous. One blogger, whose thing is to call out bad covers, posted it solely because of the bird. Some people just don’t like birds. Mostly, the response has been incredibly positive. Readers male and female, young and old have told me they love it. My husband loves it, and as a graphic designer and a 20-year Photoshop expert, he’s a tad bit opinionated.
But did I like it? (Taria, honey, if you’re reading this, please put down whatever beverage you’re drinking, lest you destroy something expensive.) Truthfully, not at first.
We judge books by their covers, but the book is not the cover. A book is the product of months, even years of hard work, of lost sleep, of time spent away from family and friends. And, while working on them, it’s impossible to not think about how it might look on a shelf with other books.
I created an account on Authonomy in 2010 and uploaded a Japanese Maple leaf I had drawn to go with the review chapters there. That was the cover for a year. After that, I worked on dozens of covers that included teen girls and boys, chess pieces, books, buildings with glass roofs, sunsets beyond open doors, and the decimal places of e. Jackson Rathbone was a favorite of mine for a while, even though I could never use it.
Basically, I had been thinking about the cover of January Black for more than two years when Taria Reed, who’s never read the book, received my cover information sheet. She worked solely on my requests, which I intentionally very vague, and the guidance of the publisher. Less than two weeks later, the finished product dropped into my inbox on December 31, 2012.
January Black’s kingdom has more in common with modern America than medieval Europe. I had never played with green or stone. I love the title font, but it is handwritten and Matty’s world is very digital, so I never would have chosen it. There are no iron gates in the story, and I don’t think I ever mentioned a bird.
It took three, maybe four seconds for me to get over the sense of it being a square peg in a round hole.
The cover provides the symbolism it should. The story is dense for YA, and suggests at a mysterious, of secrets lost under layers of something growing out of control. The bird, freedom, is small. He is unencumbered by his surroundings, but he also not very important to them. He can stay or go on a whim which is something I personally find distressing.
Mostly, the cover is beautiful, and it is sweetly romantic, both adjectives which have been applied to the story itself. Falling in love was inevitable, and I replied to Steph Murray at Crescent Moon Press to accept the cover about a minute later.