Monday, June 3, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: I HEART BAND, by Michelle Schusterman

WOO HOO--I was actually organized enough to put together an MMGM for you guys!

Today I have day one of the cover reveal for Michelle Schusterman's I HEART BAND!, a new MG series about the thrills and spills, crushes and crises of middle school band geeks.

You'll want to make sure you catch the illustrator reveal this Wednesday on Claire LeGrand's blog, and the cover reveal Thursday on KidLit Network! But today we're kicking off the week with an interview with Mallory Grigg, Designer at Penguin's Grosset & Dunlap imprint.

Hope you guys enjoy!


1. Can you tell us a little bit about what your job as Designer at Grosset & Dunlap entails

As a graphic designer, most of my time at work is spent in front of a computer. I work with a slew of people (primarily my art director, the editorial staff, managing ed, the production department, and loads of talented illustrators) to help bring the author's story to life. Over the course of a year I'll work on about 30 books, from emerging readers up until middle-grade series. There's a decent amount of paperwork—processing contracts and invoices, and lots of time building the books (and checking for typos) in Adobe's Creative Suite. Essentially it's my job to stitch the different parts of the book together—the narrative, the art, the format and special effects—and then send it all to print.

2. What's the process like for designing covers for a series? What do you consider to be the most important elements when it comes to middle grade covers?

Once a manuscript has been written, the editor (Jordan), art director (Giuseppe) and I sit and chat about cover concepts and illustrators we're interested in hiring. After we've narrowed down our options we ask illustrators to create a sample cover based on the concepts we've developed. If everything goes smoothly, we all fall in love with one over the others and hit the ground running. Our main goal is to capture the essence of the book in a single image. Most middle-grade books are written in series form, so we're focused on finding a cover concept that "has legs". It needs to be strong enough to live through several different books so that each book looks different from the others, but it's important that they look like they belong to the same series.

3. How did you and the team at Grosset come up with the idea for the cover of I HEART BAND?

Well, things aren't always smooth sailing, and I HEART BAND was a bit of a roller coaster ride. We considered dozens of artists over the course of about 8 months. This series has so many things that we want to convey: it's fun, sweet, nerdy, playful, and wonderfully feminine. We ended up with a lovely illustrator who was first mentioned in our second round of cover concept meetings, and she was hired after our fourth. With so many great things to highlight in the books, we chose a concept that shows a series of vignettes on the cover—a French horn, music notes, Holly, lockers, sheet music, doodles, etc—each one hinting at what you'll find inside.

4. How do you go about finding an illustrator? Do they work in-house, do they apply, or do you seek out freelancers?

We look everywhere for illustrators. It's pretty rare for one of us to create the artwork for our own covers—we just don't have that kind of time. But we take a lot of pride in scouring our resources to hire the best illustrator for the job. Sometimes artists will mail us directly, sometimes we find them online, sometimes a representative will get in touch, or I'll serendipitously meet a connection on the street. There's nothing we love more than finding a talented artist that's a perfect fit for one of our stories.

5. Writers typically go through quite a few drafts on a book. Is it common to go through several drafts for covers as well?

Absolutely. There are a lot of people that have to sign off on a cover design: the editor, the art director, the editor-at-large, the publisher, even our sales team and the buyers have a say. We also do our very best to make sure the author is happy with the covers we produce. Thankfully we have a smart team and everyone contributes a unique point of view and a great deal of expertise to the process. It's never easy, but it's an incredible amount of fun and ultimately I believe our books end up being read and enjoyed by the best possible audience.

Thanks so much, Mallory! And a huge thank you to Shannon for hosting Day One of the cover reveal!

Michelle Schusterman is a former band director and forever band geek, starting back in the sixth grade when she first picked up a pair of drumsticks. Now she writes books, screenplays, and music in New York City, where she lives with her husband (and band mate) and their chocolate lab (who is more of a vocalist). Her debut series, I HEART BAND!, will be released on January 9th, 2014, including both the first and second books (FRIENDS, FUGUES, AND FORTUNES COOKIES).


- Roseanne Parry is gushing about MY FATHER'S DRAGON. Click HERE to see why it was one of her childhood favorites. 

- Natalie Aguirre is interviewing author Merrie Haskell and giving away an ARC of HANDBOOK FOR DRAGONSLAYERS. Click HERE for details. 
- Maria Selke has a double feature this week with RUMP: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin, and THE KEY AND THE FLAME. Click HERE to see what she thought.
- Sheri Larsen is raving about MAGEFABLE--with a giveaway! Click HERE for all the fun.
- Dorine White has a guest post from author JS Kapchinske. Click HERE to read more.
- Michelle Mason has all kinds of fun going on related to WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME. Click HERE to see what that's all about. 
- Sue Heavenrich is cheering for AFTER ELI. Click HERE for her review.  
- Flash, the Feline Extraordinaire, (and Professional Mews to Cindy Strandvold) recommends THE AVIARY. Click HERE to see what that's all about.  
- Xander is raving about CLONEWOOD CHRONICLES. Click HERE to see what he thought. 
- Mark Baker is highlighting BELLY UP. Click HERE to see his review. 
- Karen Yingling is spreading some love for OTIS DOODA. She's also got some info about her 48 hour book challenge. Click HERE to learn more. 
 - Rosi Hollinbeck is featuring BELOW, with a giveaway of BELOW and DEAD RIVER. Click HERE for details.    
- Joanne Fritz always has an MMGM for you. Click HERE to see what she's talking about this week. 
- The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations. And if you aren't also following their Mundie Kids site, get thee over THERE and check out all the awesome! 
- The lovely Shannon O'Donnell always has an MMGM ready for you! Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week! 
- Pam Torres always has an MMGM up on her blog. Click HERE to see what she's spotlighting this week. 
- Deb Marshall is an MMGM regular. Click HERE to see what she's featuring this week.

If you would like to join in the MMGM fun, all you have to do is blog about a middle grade book you love (contests, author interviews and whatnot also count--but are most definitely not required) and email me the title of the book you're featuring and a link to your blog at SWMessenger (at) hotmail (dot) com. (Make sure you put MMGM or Marvelous Middle Grade Monday in the subject line so I see it)

NOTE: I used to not have a cut-off time for adding links to the post, but with how insane my schedule is right now, if you don't email me by Sunday evening (usually around 11pm PST is when I put the links together) I can't guarantee I'll have a chance to add you. BUT, you are welcome to add your link in the comments on this post so people can find you!

*Please note: these posts are not a reflection of my own opinions on the books featured. Each blogger is responsible for their own MMGM content and I do not pre-screen posts ahead of time, nor do I control what books they choose. I simply assemble the list based on the links that are emailed to me ahead of time


  1. Thanks for the great interview! So cool to see how the process works.

    I also have a MMGM today - it's The Spies of Gerander by Frances Watts, over on my blog

  2. I heart band sounds like something I've gotta read! Now can't wait to see the cover! Thanks for sharing this awesome interview.

  3. Thank you so much for the interview. This is like my dream job.
    I can't wait to see the cover later this week.


  4. Great interview. We don't hear about the art very often. Thanks.

  5. Thanks so much for doing this, Shannon!! :)

  6. What an interesting interview! I loved getting a behind the scenes look at how a book is designed. And best of luck to Michelle with her upcoming book!


  7. This is SO COOL!! I was a TOTAL band geek in middle school and high school--can't wait to read this!! Thanks, #1.

    P.S. Not sure I told you yet how much I LOVED Let the Sky Fall!!!!! :)

  8. Great interview. Sounds like a great story. Thanks for sharing about it.


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