September 12, 2008

Looking for Miza: Choosing the Book Cover

Posted by at 10:31 am in Authors, Reads | Permalink

In last week’s entry, Evan introduced our Miza campaign to SAVE THE GORILLAS and promised that you’d meet a special surprise guest blogger today. Well, you’re in for a treat because that special surprise guest blogger is Craig Hatkoff, the author of the book behind the movement: Looking for Miza! Here’s the inside scoop, directly from Craig himself!

Whoever said, “Never judge a book by its cover,” probably wasn’t in the book business. In the book world, the book’s cover really is important because it is the world’s first window into the book and serves as the invitation to open the book and “come on in.” One thing we know for sure: it is pretty hard to read a book if you don’t look inside.

When we first started the Looking of Miza project, the only photograph we had of Miza was the picture that now appears on the back cover of the book. It was a photo of just an eye peering through a bush, snapped by Peter Greste last summer. It was the only photo Peter could get of Miza, who was still traumatized from her ordeal of being lost in the jungle. Park rangers Diddy and Innocent confirmed it was Miza by her distinct and now-famous nose print. With only that one photo in our possession, we agreed with Scholastic to do the book even if we couldn’t get any other pictures of Miza because of the importance of telling Miza’s story and raising global awareness of the mountain gorilla crisis. So the first proposed front cover photo was the photo that now
appears on the rear jacket of the book.

But luck was with us: over several months a number of additional photos were found from various sources. One in particular clearly identified Miza. She is standing slightly behind the arm of another
adult gorilla (presumably her mom Lessinjina).

We were elated to have found another picture that revealed Miza and in which you can clearly see her nose print. It was a perfectly fine cover photo, but there was something a bit melancholy or sad about her expression. But it was the best we had, so we were going to go with. The first version was in scarlet and had a slightly different subtitle. (Can you see the difference?) When I showed Isabella and Juliana (my daughters and co-authors) the cover, they weren’t crazy about the color!

So we tried a different color — this one was deep blue, and we all thought it worked better — a rather subjective opinion.

So this was the cover we were going to go with. But literally just hours before we were going to “lock the book” (a publishing term for no more changes before the book is actually sent to the printer), I
received  an email from our co-author Paula Kahumbu with another picture that Diddy and Innocent had stumbled across from their many photographs of gorillas. You could see from the nose print it was Miza! I called our editor at Scholastic, Jen Rees, who was rushing madly to finish all the changes. I said, “Jen, you are not going to believe this, and I know we only have an hour or so left. You are probably going to shoot me, but I think I found a better  photo for the cover of the book.
Is it to late or do you want me send it so you can take a look?” She sighed very deeply and said, “Please send it quickly.” Within minutes I emailed the new photo to Jen. She called me back right away. She said, “Oh my God, that’s the one! Let’s go with it!”

So we scurried around madly and ended up with this as our final cover.

Maybe you can notice a slight change to the subtitle, as well. And that’s the cover that actually went to press.

Interestingly, just yesterday I received from Paula another photo of Miza that was taken in February of 2007. If we had had the new photo back then, I am not sure if we might have used it instead of the one we went with!

Best, Craig