by Margaret Welwood
Photo by Tarra Young
Where there is no counsel, the people fall;
But in the multitude of counselors there is safety. (Proverbs 11:14, NKJV)
Most of us are flattered when someone asks for our opinion, especially if we know the request is sincere. I have found adults and children alike to be so open in their responses—and often the reasons for them—when I’ve sought their input.
Children who judge a book by its cover and the adults who strive to please them have much to teach us!
Please take a look at my little slide show for the cover of Marie and Mr. Bee here. (Interestingly, there were no comments on this blog post; my answers came from in-person conversations and social media contacts.)
Here’s a sample of the helpful comments:
Cover A (Marie and all her forest friends under the old oak tree)
“All kids love animals.” (foreign student/chef)
“Softer, friendly.” (library staff)
“I like the animals with the chair.” (guardian of a young man with a disability)
“I like how the orange color frames the picture.” (arts center staff)
“The chair is not the focus.” (arts center staff)
“Kids will see a fox, bear, and squirrels. It looks friendly and inviting.” (dad of a three-year-old)
“It shows the story.” (college staff)
Cover B (Rescue mission—Marie is wheeling back to her cabin with the ailing Mr. Bee on her lap)
“I’d be most inclined to pick this one off the shelf.” (acting children’s librarian)
“Tells more of the story, piques curiosity.” (library staff)
“I like the colors better.” (Christian bookstore staff)
“Marie is bigger.” (college staff, photo contest winner)
“It jumps out more. The chair is noteworthy.” (college instructor)
“I like the flowers on the wheel, and the bee.” (kindergartner)
“The bee is on her lap and it’s not stinging her.” (kindergartner)
“It looks really interesting. It looks like fall. I’m probably going to do something in the fall.” (grade two student)
Cover C (Marie and Mr. Bee are playing Helper Bee, a board game)
“I like the characters. It makes me curious about the story.” (store clerk)
“I really love this one. They’re playing a board game. It’s reminiscent of a classic book.” (bookstore manager)
“She’s playing a game with the bee.” (kindergartner)
“I like playing board games with my daughter.” (store clerk)
“I really like bees.” (grade two student)
“The bee is playing a board game.” (grade two student)
Cover A was the clear winner, but those who liked B and C were still able to enjoy their favorite pictures in the book.
I also sought feedback on the cover for my first book, Scissortown. Once the cover picture you see here was chosen from two options, my son designed a more intricate scissors border. I offered a cover with this border and a scissors-free cover for feedback. Now the focus was on the scissors! This feature certainly captured people’s attention, but they were also afraid that scissors-happy children would cut along the dotted line! Perhaps the defining moment came when a former college instructor said, “Children will like it because they can cut it.” The scissors border was relegated to the “Creative Ideas Not to Use” file.
Feedback on the title of my second book was also highly instructive. I liked Marie and Mr. Drone better than Marie and Mr. Bee. However, I was happy to change the title when most of my Facebook contacts—including the children of a beekeeper and despite the picture of a little girl and a bee on the cover—thought the drone was a machine!
I sent out samples of the Scissortown cover with a few different fonts. I also tested fonts for the pages of the story. This time there was no contest; the fonts you see in the book won hands down, and I used it for my other books as well.
So there you have it. No doubt the people in your circles will be as pleased to help you as my contacts have been to help me. And the finished product will be something you know will resonate with readers.
Margaret Welwood loved teaching English as a Second Language, writing magazine articles, and editing a business magazine and adult non-fiction books (one an Amazon #1 best seller, the other a Writer’s Digest award winner). However, with the arrival of grandchildren and their welcome request—“Grandma, can you tell me a story?”—she began writing and editing picture books for children. This is now her favorite genre.
Margaret is now working with AC author Terri Martin on Happy’s Surprise, a charming tale of a little rabbit, his grandpa (think Grandparents Day), and an important life lesson learned the easy way! For those of us who have learned too many lessons the hard way, this is a refreshing and comforting story.