It's My Winter 2019 List!

Who’s up for a road trip? I hope all of you because the three novels I’m editing for Winter 2019 all have one!

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise (1/8/19) by Dan Gemeinhart has so many of the things I love about middle grade literature. An unforgettable protagonist in 12-year-old Coyote, a girl full of heart, wonder, and mischief. Honest, authentic issues in the form of the grief Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, deal with every day since the death of Coyote’s mom and two sisters. Genuine humor to offset the serious stuff, generated by the brilliant cast of characters Dan has created. And a journey of self-discovery, as this ragtag group drives from Florida to Washington State.

When designer Carol Ly and I met to talk about the cover, there was no doubt that we wanted to showcase Coyote. We also agreed that we wanted to do something sophisticated to go along with the heavier themes of the book. Carol hired Celia Krampien, who turned in some near-perfect sketches.

I love how evocative this image is, but it feels a bit quiet, which Dan’s book is not.

I love how evocative this image is, but it feels a bit quiet, which Dan’s book is not.

Celia’s composition here is super smart, and I love the movement in the sketch, but…

Celia’s composition here is super smart, and I love the movement in the sketch, but…

this sketch perfectly captures the energy of the character and the story.

this sketch perfectly captures the energy of the character and the story.

Celia went to final art on the third sketch, and after a title change, some experimentation with palette, and some fantastic hand lettering from Michael Burroughs, we had our final cover:


What We Buried by Kate Boorman (February 2019) is a tense psychological thriller that will make your mind expand and maybe even explode. I instantly fell in love with the novel’s damaged protagonists. Liv is sixteen and a former child beauty pageant queen and reality TV star. She’s coming to terms with the mental damage her childhood had on her and the role her parents played. Jory, her older brother, had a very different childhood. Born with a partial facial paralysis, he was relegated to the sidelines by his appearance-obsessed parents. The two have long been estranged, but circumstances force them to work together when their parents vanish. Their road trip through the deserts of Nevada is filled with surreal twists and nightmarish imagery, as the two grapple to reconcile their pasts and maintain a grip on the present. I’ve never read a YA novel that so deftly explores the bond between siblings.

Usually, when I acquire a novel, I can picture what the cover could be, but here, I was like, “Huh?” Happily, I was paired with designer Rich Deas, who is masterful at capturing tone and theme, particularly with complex, darker material. And just as he and I were starting to work together on the cover, the New York Times published a piece featuring a creepy AF piece of art by Matthieu Bourel. Rich brought Matthieu on board, who delivered some super cool comps.


Rich and Matthieu worked closely to find the right model for Liv (Rich already had the perfect image for Jory) and the images that would live in the characters’ faces. Matthieu worked his magic, and then Rich played with backgrounds and type treatment.

Cover FINAL - What We Buried.jpg

As Liv and Jory’s narratives have equal weight in the novel, we wanted to give them equal “billing” on the jacket. I am IN LOVE with how it turned out.

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 10.29.14 AM.png

Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller (April 2019) is a coming-of-age story focused on the power of the friendship among three young women. Camille knows that she wants an abortion, and she quickly discovers how challenging the system in Texas makes it for young women. As she, Bea, and Annabelle drive from Houston to the Mexico border and then to New Mexico, she’ll share her experiences leading up to the road trip: of being ridiculed at a pharmacy, of being shamed at a family crisis center, of being bullied in court by a condescending judge.

The novel has clear nods to Thelma & Louise, and designer Katie Klimowicz and I discussed doing a photographic cover, maybe a selfie of our three heroines along the lines of this iconic image:

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 12.34.27 PM.png

My mind also jumped to Crossroads, another tale about three young women on a road trip of discovery.

Screen Shot 2018-11-18 at 12.36.11 PM.png

But the photographic approach felt potentially cheesy and would have necessitated a photo shoot (the stock photos weren’t going to cut it), which would have been hard to pull off—three models, a car, a road that looked like it was in Texas. Katie determined that the best path forward was to do something typographic, which felt right for Sharon’s awesome title and the content of the book. She brought on the brilliant Letterettes, and together, they came up with some polished concepts, including these:


We ultimately moved forward on Option 3, which best captures the narrative: the tire treads speak to the road trip, and the double pink line evokes a positive pregnancy test. The Letterettes worked their magic, resulting in this beautiful final cover.


Enjoy the rides! And please don’t text while driving.

It's My Summer 2016 Picture Books!

Summer is nearly upon us--HUZZAH!--which means the books of summer will be hitting bookshelves very soon--DOUBLE HUZZAH! As I've done the last two seasons, for Spring 2016
and Fall 2015, I wanted to give you, dear reader, a glimpse into the cover-designing process. A LOT of thought, time, and energy goes into the creation of these beautiful images. My Summer 2016 is pretty big, so I'm going to break it up into two blog posts: picture books and novels.

Let's start with Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay (5/3/16) by Susan Hood with art by Sally Wern Comport. I don't think we considered any concepts other than the below for this amazing true story of an orchestra made up of children playing instruments built from trash. Sally so expertly combines the major elements of the story--Ada, her violin, the trash, and the orchestra members--in this inspiring, stunning piece of art. Early versions of the cover were in warmer tones, but we decided to go with shades of blue to capture the spirit and joy of the orchestra. 

I'm very happy to be simultaneously publishing a Spanish-language edition.

We printed the jacket of the F & G's for Ada's Violin on a gritty matte paper in an effort to capture the grittiness of the setting. Though the finished product looked cool, the paper was almost too gritty--it didn't feel great in your hands. The actual book jacket is now on a regular stock with matte lamination and a beautiful spot gloss on the title.

Next up we have It Came in the Mail (6/21/16) by Ben Clanton. The story follows young Liam who loves getting mail...except he never gets any. He comes up with the brilliant idea to send his mailbox a piece of mail, asking for some mail in return, and the mailbox delivers. The first item the mailbox sends Liam is a delightful dragon; the interior image looks like this:

When I presented It Came in the Mail in our Summer 2016 Launch meeting (where we present all of the summer titles to the sales and marketing team), this moment got a big, "Awwww!" Lucy, that genius designer, suggested we make a version of the art our cover. We thought a less crispy version of Liam better suited the front cover, and Ben obliged. 

The book has a trim size of 8.5 x 11 inches. The jacket has a matte lamination.

Finally, we have A Tiger Tail (Or What Happened to Anya on Her First Day of School), a fantastic new offering from author-illustrator Mike Boldt. Mike's a pretty big deal in his homeland of Canada, and he's garnering attention in the United States for his work on Dev Petty's I Don't Want to Be a Frog. I scooped up A Tiger Tail and a second picture book in a hotly contested auction. 

Almost always, the cover is the last piece of art to be completed on a picture book. The book's designer (in this case, Krista Vossen) wants to see how the interiors come together before thinking about the cover. Sometimes, there's a piece of interior art that will double as the front cover; other times, a new piece of art is created. For this book, the latter was the case. We reached out to Mike to see if he had any ideas, and he delivered the following sketch:

Cover Concept - A Tiger Tail.png

It's not at ALL what I had in my head--it's SO MUCH BETTER. The image so elegantly captures the spirit of the book--just look at Anya's anxious little feet!

Like It Came in the Mail, the book is 8.5 x 11, printed with a matte lamination with a spot gloss on the title treatment.

Check out the "Coming Soon" tab to learn more about these books!

CURE FOR THE COMMON UNIVERSE (Actual) Cover Real and Manic Pixel Scavenger Hunt Winners!

And now, some news from Christian McKay Heidicker:

Welcome back, scavengers! Glad you survived that crazy, pixelated city.

 It would be exhaustive to list everything discovered on the CURE cover, so I’ll just name the top ten things I didn’t even know were on there (and a few that made me chuckle):

1.         “Six barber-pole swords”

2.         “A man reading a love letter written with invisible ink”

3.         “A lucha libre parade float falling in the street” alternately “Just the sweetest, fattest, blue-haired little baby chubbo that better end up on a t-shirt or I'm going to scream and cry at the same time. Scry? Cream? Hmmmm.”

4.         “A camouflage helicopter blasting David Bowie music (obviously)” alternately “the Quad City DJs copter blasting tunes to the neighborhood”

5.         “1/10 of a robo-squid”

6.         “The bottom of someone's leg, wearing a purple-striped sock. This person must be a giant.”

7.         “Two happy green tripods talking about the upcoming presidential election (they're both rooting for Trump).” alternately “A couple of gleeps having a sweet convo”

8.         “A rather muscular wrestler standing under a purple umbrella with his favorite child (everyone has a favorite).”

9.         “A potted succulent on a balcony.”

10.   “That yellow dog head is totally licking its own eyeball.” alternately “A dog-head sculpture. Maybe it's a vehicle... If people ride in these, do they stick their heads out the window?”

And, of course, they can all by seen now, by you, in full, on the cover of Cure for the Common Universe:

Pretty nifty, eh?

Pretty nifty, eh?

This eye candy of a book was pitched by John Cusick, bought by Simon & Schuster BFYR, edited by Christian Trimmer [that's me!], and designed by Greg Stadnyk with art by eboy. I feel obscenely lucky to work with such talented people and to have such a jaw-dropping luscious cover. I only hope the words inside live up to it.

As my friend Korey Hunt, who actually came up with the idea for a story about a video game rehab in the first place . . . MISCHIEF SCAVENGED.

But that’s not why you’re here.

You’re here to see if you won one of our five elite prizes, which, to remind you, look like this:

Our five Manic Pixel Dream Reveal winners are . . .

1.         Krys McCintyre

2.         Yamille Mendez

3.         Annette Weed

4.         Alicia Van Noy Call

5.         Tim Campbell

The Cotton Floozy will get stitching and Simon & Schuster will get printing and we’ll hopefully have your stuff out to you by December.

Thank you for hunting. I hope you enjoy the inside of the book as much as I enjoy the outside. 

See you in June,

Christian McKay Heidicker

P.S. Thanks to all of the bloggers who participated: Christian Trimmer, John Cusick, Elana Johnson, Jennifer Bardsley, Valynne Maetani (friend and agent-getter), Brooke Lark (who designed my website and shot the prizes!), Carol Lynch Williams (who taught me a thing or eight about writing), and finally, Marie Davis Brian, The Cotton Floozy, who made the embroidery-posing-as-cross-stitch that elicited just as much drool as the cover.


How fun! Congratulations to the winners! Don't forget to add Cure for the Common Universe to your "Want to Read" shelf on Goodreads. The novel will be available for pre-order beginning this weekend--why not order it now so that you receive a surprise package early next summer?



Over the last number of months, I've had the supreme joy of working with Christian McKay Heidicker on his debut novel, Cure for the Common Universe, and I'm now partnering with him to reveal its cover. I've talked quite a bit about Cure for the Common Universe on my site, here and also here. But now, I'd like to give the other Christian a chance to speak. Please listen closely.

[Begin correspondence from Author Christian.]

Hello, everyone. My name is Christian McKay Heidicker.


Whew. That’s a mouthful. Let’s try . . .


There. Better.

You may be asking yourself, Where’s the cover? I came here to see a cover.

Okay, first, have I told you how nice your hair looks today?

And second, the cover isn’t here.

Cure’s cover art is a little intense to take in all at once, so for everyone’s safety, I’ve divided it into nine pieces (er, pixels) and spread them across the internet.

WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO US? you're asking.

To make a scavenger hunt, of course. What’s the use of a book about a kid going to video game rehab if there isn’t some gaming first?! The art is reminiscent of books like I Spy or Where’s Waldo?, so this scavenger hunt will work just like that...except instead of finding a cat's eye marble or some seemingly friendless chump in a red and white striped sweater, you’ll receive ACTUAL PRIZES.

Five lucky winners will receive a signed ARC (advanced reading copy) of Cure for the Common Universe AND an embroidery of one of the phrases from the book, hand stitched by the extremely talented Cotton Floozy.

GAH! I WANT THAT. HOW DO I WIN? you're scream shouting.

Every one of the nine pixels is packed with cool objects. Make a list of all of the fun things you discover and send said list in an email to or message to C.M. Heidicker on Facebook. For every three items on your list, I’ll enter your name in the drawing.


Subject: Manic Pixel Scavenger Hunt

Dearest Christian,

I found:

1.         A puppy made of garlic cloves

2.         A bottomless bowl of undercooked breadsticks

3.         A Christmas tree wearing lipstick

4.         Amelia Earheart’s monocle

5.         A bottomless bowl of overcooked breadsticks

6.         A Who*

(*Objects not actually on cover. This imaginary person would receive two entries in the Manic Pixel Scavenger Hunt.)


Tomorrow, I’ll post the whereabouts of the nine pixels, on this blog and at (You can also follow them with #cureforthecommonuniverse and #manicpixel.)

The Manic Pixel Scavenger Hunt begins!

[End correspondence from Author Christian.]

Hey readers, it's Editor Christian. You're going to love this cover and book. Make sure to add the novel to your "Want to Read" shelf on Goodreads.

For now, I'll leave you with this image and the question, What do Christian McKay Heidicker and Miley Cyrus have in common?

Prepare to be cured, June 2016.

It's My Spring 2016 List!

As I did with my Fall 2015 list, I wanted to gather for you, dear reader, all of my gorgeous Spring 2016 covers in one place. And what a difference a list makes! For Fall 2015, I edited four fantastic young adult novels, which will start to hit bookshelves right before Labor Day. This season, I have just one YA book--Tommy Wallach's sophomore effort, Thanks for the Trouble. (In a post reminiscent of his cover reveal for We All Looked Up, Tommy took us step by step through the design process, sharing all of the cover concepts that didn't get selected.) My other three titles in Spring 2016 are picture books. For her cover reveal, Ashlyn Anstee sent a tweet that included the cover of her No, No, Gnome! Matt Roeser and Brad Woodard took to Facebook to show off the cover of their Oh No, Astro!, as did Terry Fan and Eric Fan with their The Night Gardener

Let's take a look at how these four covers came together. 

First up, we have No, No, Gnome! (2/9/16) by Ashlyn Anstee. Ashlyn's first book, Are We There, Yeti?, is on-sale 7/21/15, and I bought that title and an untitled picture book at auction from the wonderful Kelly Sonnack at Andrea Brown Literary. For her second book, Ashlyn pitched me a few stories, and I immediately fell for No, No, Gnome! I loved how the book's title and refrain were, yeti again, a play on words. (See what I did there?) I found Gnome ridiculously cute. And I really liked the school garden setting. So, Ashlyn got to work crafting the story of an energetic Gnome who wants nothing more than to help but whose eagerness sometimes gets the better of him. 

Ashlyn is filled with ideas, and she delivered a bunch of options for the front cover. Like these... 

And these...

Chloe Foglia, the book's designer, and I discussed these options with "the group" (which includes the other editors and the other designers, along with my publisher). We really liked the composition of Number 3 (top right) and the title treatment of Number 6 (bottom right), which is reminiscent of what she did on Are We There, Yeti? Chloe asked Ashlyn to bring Gnome through the plants a bit more so that we could see his cute outfit (and not mistake him for someone else with a white beard and red hat). We also wanted a slightly more mischievous expression on Gnome's face. With those notes, Ashlyn went to final art and delivered...

Like Are We There, Yeti?, the cover of No, No, Gnome! will be printed on uncoated stock with a spot gloss on the title and the author/illustrator's name.

The Night Gardener (on sale 2/23/16) began with this image (and two sample spreads).

My gracious and thoughtful boss showed me the piece of art and asked if I saw any potential. If memory serves, I screamed, "Yes!" I felt like I was getting pulled into the Night Gardener's world, and I wanted to go to there. Terry Fan had just finished working on the gorgeous Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell with designer Lizzy Bromley. He had enjoyed the experience so much that he reached out to her with this image of a topiary-loving gentleman to let her know that he and his brother, Eric, were eager to turn it into a picture book. Lizzy, the Brothers, and I got on the phone to talk about the character, the world he lived in, and the motivation for his clippings. We ended up with a truly magical story about a gray little town in need of some creative inspiration.  

When it came time to talk about the cover, I think we all kind of knew that it would be a version of the Brothers' original idea. The story is told through the eyes of a young boy, so we brought him to the cover image. His wonder is ours. 

Front Cover 060415 - Night Gardener.jpg

Lizzy is bringing so much magic to this jacket. It will be printed on a textured, uncoated stock, and the title will be a silver foil.

I half-expected designer Lucy Cummins to suggest a cover similar to We All Looked Up's for Tommy Wallach's second novel, Thanks for the Trouble. You know, another group of teens in a cool environment shot with some eye-catching technique. But while Lucy wanted to go photographic, she had a wildly different concept in mind--no people, just stuff. She was inspired by a scene relatively early in the book that takes place in a mall food court, and she had the perfect photographer in mind to capture the energy and tone of the novel: Keirnan Monaghan

On the day of the shoot, I headed to Dumbo, where Keirnan has his studio. While he and his partner, Theo Vamvounakis, a brilliant props and sets designer, prepared, I took in the environment. 

The props table

The props table

The set

The set

I'll admit I was a little nervous. Everything looked kind of drab. I was having a hard time imagining how the title and byline were going to work with the image. But why do I ever doubt Lucy?

The magic of lighting changes everything.

The magic of lighting changes everything.

(You'll notice that the above image does not have pizza. We needed pizza. Lucy rushed out to get some.)

Lucy considered having the title on loose scraps of paper (the protagonist communicates by writing on slips of paper) or scratched into the table. But neither approach was having the impact she wanted, so she went big and bold.

The finished jacket will be printed over metaltone with embossing and spot gloss on the title and byline.

Finally, I'm incredibly excited to be publishing Matt Roeser's first picture book. Matt is one of the most talented book designers in children's publishing. His manuscript for Oh No, Astro! (on sale 4/19/16) came to me via the ever-charming and gifted Tim Federle, and I jumped at the chance to edit it. "Manuscript" is a misnomer; what Matt delivered was a fully formed sketch dummy--and Matt's not even an illustrator. Utilizing art from this poster, Matt crafted his tale of a grumpy asteroid who takes an unexpected (and unwanted) journey through space. (Matt, of course, asked the poster artist, Brad Woodard, for permission to use the art. And we, of course, hired Brad to illustrate the book, because his artwork is awesome.)

This is the cover that Matt included with his submission:

And this is the final cover:

Matt's concept was genius, so we stuck with it. We decided to take Earth off the cover 1) to keep the ending more of a surprise and 2) to give us more room to make the title and Astro larger. The book's designer, Lizzy Bromley, selected a font that perfectly suits the retro-vibe of Brad's art. The jacket will be printed with a matte lamination. "Astro!" and Astro and part of his tail will have a spot gloss. 

Check out the "Coming Soon" tab soon to learn more about these books!  

It's My Fall 2015 List!

Over the last couple of weeks, some lovely folks have revealed the covers of the books I'm editing with publication dates in Fall 2015. (See here, here, here, and here.) The titles and covers fed to accounts over the weekend (our first metadata feed for the season), which means they're all available for preorder. Yay for you! 

I thought it'd be cool to give you, dear reader, a little insight as to how these covers came together. 

Maid of Wonder by Jennifer McGowan is the third book in the glamorous, action-packed Maids of Honor series. It goes on sale on 25 August 2015.

Lucy Cummins had established a great look for the series with the paperback edition of Maid of Secrets, so there was no need to toss around a bunch of ideas. Instead, we could go straight into casting with the goal of finding a compelling young woman and a couple of hot guys. The lead character in Maid of Wonder, Sophia Dee, is the youngest of the Maids of Honor as well as a bit of an oddball--her gift of Sight has made her less socially graceful than her fellow maids. So Lucy and I needed to find someone youthful (all the models we meet are young, but many do not look youthful) with a vulnerable, ethereal quality, which this young woman totally had. In terms of the young men, we met a bunch of them (poor us, right?). The boys who made it to the cover had physical qualities that matched Sophia's suitors in the novel. They also happened to be fun to be around, which makes a shoot day all the more enjoyable.

Once casting was done, Lucy got to work sourcing costumes and props. There isn't a ton of quality Elizabethan garb available to the general public--the thought crossed my mind to call Sandy Powell and ask her what she did with the Shakespeare in Love costumes--but Lucy found some gorgeous pieces. 

We shot the cover at Michael Frost's very cool studio in Manhattan near Union Square. (I've worked with him on a few occasions, and it's always a blast to be in his space.) Lucy then selected her favorite images, and she and I reviewed them together. After a little bit of Photoshop magic, she presented the finished cover. The actual jacket will have a fancy holographic foil on the title. 

Lock & Mori, the first book in a new trilogy by Heather Petty, introduces us to a modern-day, sixteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes on the day he meets Miss James "Mori" Moriarty at their high school.

Though there has been a big shift in the industry toward illustrated covers for YA novels (a few years ago, this was not the case--publishers were encouraged to use photographs), our sense was that we needed to take pictures of actual humans for Lock & Mori. Krista Vossen devised a concept (if memory serves, she pitched just this one--it immediately felt right) and hired photographer Ylva Erevall. Next, we had the casting. I've been to a bunch of them at this point in my career, and I'll admit that they sometimes don't go very well. Not many models show up, or the ones who do don't look like the characters in the book. Or a model walks in, and you think, Yes, he's perfect! But then you discover he only has one expression and a leaden personality. Still, we must make a choice--a studio has been booked, hair and make-up hired, and costumes ordered, not to mention the in-house deadlines. But at the Lock & Mori casting, it was as if Catherine and Massey (the models we ended up hiring) had stepped out of the pages of the manuscript.

Ylva shot TONS of images, with the models in various poses and outfits; Krista has plenty to choose from for the next two books in the trilogy. The image on the bottom half of the cover (a stock photo) represents a key plot detail in Book One; Books Two and Three will follow suit.The final jacket is being printed on gritty stock with a metallic foil on the front cover.

Daniel Kraus is one of my favorite writers, so I was thrilled to beat out a bunch of other houses in the auction for The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volumes 1 and 2. When it came time to talk about the cover for Book One, publishing on 27 October 2015, we knew we needed to go with an illustration...but of what? The novel spans five decades and two continents. There are dozens of characters. The book is a coming-of-age tale, it's historical fiction, it's gothic, it's literary, it's horror.

Thankfully, Lizzy Bromley had a plan. She came up with a list of illustrators whom she felt could capture the spirit of the book in a narrative way. One of those artists, the absolutely brilliant Ken Taylor, was intrigued by the novel's premise and signed on to the project. Lizzy and I provided him with a list of objects significant to Zebulon's story, as well as a little guidance on Zebulon's physical appearance--he took it from there. Ken's finished piece is one of the most intriguing, exciting, and cool illustrations I've ever seen for a book. Lizzy made it even more awesome with her excellent title treatment, color choices, and special effects.

Captive by A. J. Grainger, out on 11/3/15, is exactly what a thriller is meant to be: a fast-paced novel that keeps you guessing and is, most importantly, thrilling. In the book, the British Prime Minster's daughter has been kidnapped by terrorists. The story doesn't pull any punches, and designer Krista Vossen took inspiration from some of its dark and graphic scenes. She showed the group (at one of our bi-weekly meetings, in which designers and editors talk about covers) a number of images. This close-up of a girl blindfolded perfectly captured the tone of the book. Krista added some graininess to the image to create even more distance between our imperiled heroine and the reader. The finished jacket will have an extra shiny gloss to emulate a TV screen. 

Check out the Coming Soon tab in the near future to learn more about these books.