Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why I Will Never Change the Cover of Wild Child

Although many readers love the cover illustration of my young adult thriller, Wild Child (paperback edition), it is occasionally criticized, and there is a certain pattern in the comments.   “Looks amateurish”, “Not polished” and “Unprofessional” are a few examples.

Well, there's a reason that the cover may appear appear amateurish, unpolished, and unprofessional to some people.  It was created by a 17 year old art student in Atlanta, the winner of a city-wide student art contest I held in 1997 for the best cover illustration for the book.  His name is Seron Fuller, and he is an phenomenal artist.

Over 150 students entered the contest.  No guidance whatsoever was given other than to read the book and come up with the design that they believe best depicted the story and characters.  There were lots of interesting designs, but when I saw Seron’s illustration, I was awestruck.  He chose to depict what I consider the perfect moment in the story, when Briana shows Kyle the magical green water.  The expressions on their faces, and their body language, it says it all!  Briana:   euphoric, hyper, and slightly out of control. And Kyle:  bewildered, concerned and uncertain, as if thinking, “What am I going to do with this girl?”

Before I go on, I want to emphasize that the readers who have criticized the cover design had no idea that it was done by an art student, or that I’d even held such a contest.  I know that these well-meaning readers have only had my best interest at heart—most raved about the story and the writing.  They only want to see Wild Child get into the hands of even more readers, believing that a more professional-looking cover would help make that happen.  And they may well be right.

But there are several reasons I will never change the cover design of Wild Child.   

First, a key part of art contest prize was that the winning illustration would be used as the paperback book cover forever.  Not just for the first six months, or until the second paperback edition was published, or until I got tired of the design, but forever. To change the cover now would be going back on my word, and I would never do that.

Second, my books are like my children, and I think most other authors feel the same way.  If you’ve read The Wild Publication Story, you know that I threw 3,000 paperback copies of this little baby in the trash can—every copy I had—before the poor thing could even walk!  Miraculously, she was able to crawl out of  that rubbish bin all by herself and make her way into schools, to help teach young people English, and into the hands of a dozen Amazon resellers, to help those people make a living.  To change the cover now would be like telling my 16 year old daughter, “Honey, you’ve done absolutely amazing things up to this point, but some people think you’re ugly so we’re going to give you plastic surgery.”

Whenever I’ve been tempted to have a new cover designed for the paperback, I always remind myself that it was Seron’s cover that was on all those copies that found their way out of the trash can, and not another.   This may sound silly to some people, but I believe there is a certain magic in his cover illustration, just as there seems to be in the story itself, and that this magic comes across to readers, at least on the paperback edition that you can hold in your hands.

Seron Fuller's Self-portrait
But there’s a far more important reason that I would never change the cover.  When Seron Fuller won the contest and I presented him with his $250 check, I asked him what his future plans were.  He answered, very modestly, “I want to be an illustrator at a Hollywood movie studio.”  I thought this was very ambitious, but on the other hand, with his amazing talent and quiet determination, I did not think that goal was beyond his reach.  I told him so, and I encouraged him to go for it.

Today, 14 years later, Seron Fuller works in as an illustrator in Hollywood, at Paramount Pictures.

Just knowing that his winning the Wild Child cover illustration might have played some small role in his journey to achieve his dreams is worth more to me than any amount of money I could every make from selling mere books.

Thank you, Seron, for being part of the Wild Child magic!


  1. That is such a great story! I find the cover of Wild Child intriguing...so many book covers are the same. That Seron made his dream come true is just awesome. Thanks for the warm fuzzy!

  2. I like the cover and without knowing what the story is, the cover is the reason I would read it. It reminds me of books when I was a child! Knowing the history of the cover makes it even more special and I am sure (if he knows?) Seron appreciates your sticking to your word!

  3. I'm looking forward to reading this mainly because my son is called Kyle! I don't mind the young adult thriller/horrors. And, by the way, I think the cover looks great.

  4. The cover is very good - I like the person in the background who seems balanced watching the person in the foreground - a subtle message is being sent by portraying this aspect. Your advertising ability with your website and Twitter is excellent. I need to learn from you!

  5. @ Annette - Yes, I need to learn from Mike, too. You can tell he is a teacher!

    @ Mike - Yes, thanks for the warm fuzzy to borrow the above phrase. Thank you for keeping your word in a world where a spoken promise means nothing. Everyone needs encouragement and I like to think that you encouraged a 17-year old to see that his dream was not outlandish or impossible. "For if dreams die..."

  6. It's not the illustration that I think looks amateurish, but the way it is framed with the black border and the yellow Comic Sans font.
    The illustration is great, reminds me of the original Harry Potter illustrations on the Bloomsbury books.

  7. I can relate very well with this story. And a beautiful one it is at that!

    my latest novel, The Wanderer has a cover that some feel could be "better" but it has meaning to me that in my eyes can't be replaced. I had a soldier pose for the cover and his own story gave the novel a soul it might not have had otherwise. In fact, I know it wouldn't.


  8. You should always go with your gut! It will never steer you wrong! There's always going to be someone who thinks the cover could be better, or that the writing could be better, or that the back blurb could be better. I have learned to take all the critism in stride and fix what I think needs fixing and leave alone what I think is fine as it is! :)

  9. I wouldn't change it either. Most covers don't have a fantastic story behind them--they're just a cover. This cover has it's own story and it's wonderful.

  10. What a wonderful story! I just changed "Enchantment's" cover art because it was judged too "Middle Grade." Since it falls closer to the adult side of the YA genre, I felt I had to change it. (I don't want any letters from angry parents about the inappropriate level of teen sexuality in my book).

    I'd skipped over "Wild Child" several times before buying it, because I thought it was MG. But I kept seeing it pop up in "customers also bought" windows at Amazon when browsing YA titles; so I finally clicked on it, read your blurb and bought it.

    After reading your explanation, I agree that you simply cannot change this cover. Perhaps when the series is finished, you could choose a more "mature" cover for the bundled books. Perhaps, Seron Fuller would be willing to illustrate it since you were one of the first to recognize his talent... Just a thought.

  11. This is an amazing story that has made my morning. I am sure that the cover contest played a part in directing a young person to aspire to reach for his dreams.

  12. Love. Love. Love all the reasons for NOT changing the title. THis is the first I have heard of the book... but b/c of your post I have it on my TBR list!

  13. Now that story was touching. You did right and the book cover and the artist did an excellent job. Very excellent job. It's kind of funny, i love to write and if I was in your shoes, I am 100 percent positive I would have done it the same way. You kept your word and there is nothing wrong with the drawing. Looks good, I like.

  14. I love it. What a fantastic story behind the cover art of Wild Child. Sounds like you and Seron were meant to have met in some predetermined destiny sort of way.

  15. You could keep the artwork and still update the cover. The right typography would give it a more "polished and professional" look, even with the original artwork.

    I think it's great that you helped a kid pursue his dreams, and that you're loyal to him and his work even now.

  16. Mr. Wells,

    Do not change this cover. Ever! I don't care what any says, suggests or tries to bribe you into doing, leave it just the way it is.

    It is perfect! (The Queen o' Twitterverse Cookies has spoken, so shall it be!)

    Even without the backstory the cover is enough to, at the very least, intrigue me into reading the blurb. (Not a YA fan but I do love your thrillers! Baby Talk gave me the shivers if you must know!)

    Thanks for being loyal and wonderful to Seron. Sounds like you may have been just the boost he needed to fulfill his dreams too.


  17. I read your publication story and all about how a roadside boy asked for more copies of your book and then later he told you they had it on Amazon, all knew that. For me it is just a start reading of your book, so need to dig it more.

    But to be honest, it inspired me the way you thought to bring your editions from paper media to e-Media! Good Luck.

  18. I always believe in encouraging art and artists! What a great story!