Monday, May 10, 2010


(Another guest blog from my dear friend and Scholastic Press Senior Editor Rachel Griffiths, who is entirely too modest about her editorial gifts in writing this post.)

"A charming little bonbon of a book.” That’s what Cheryl called My Invisible Boyfriend by Susie Day, a book I co-edited that just published on Scholastic’s Spring 2010 list. That’s it exactly, I thought, and spent so much time chattering to Cheryl about right she is, and how this book should be in everybody’s beach bag, and how it’s the kind of book that you read on the R train and embarrass yourself because you keep snorting with laughter and people look over worried about swine flu and other diseases you can catch on subways. I must have blathered a lot, because Cheryl offered once again to let me write a guest "Behind the Book."

Of course, what I really want to do is sit here and gush, because this is an adorable book – zippy, with awkwardness, wooing and a British boarding school completely full of glamorous misfits. But Cheryl’s Beyond the Books are so informative that even as an editor I learn something new each time. So this post is gushing plus information too – a case study in how to make a package that (I think) says "Pick Me Up, Please!"

One of the fun things about being an editor is that you get to work on all kinds of different projects. Right now, I’m editing The 39 Clues, a series about kids hopping around the world chasing a huge treasure; Kathryn Lasky’s new Wolves of the Beyond series about a wolf pup struggling to survive alone in the wild; a graphic novel about a superhero’s pets, and a host of others that I love. Cheryl and I, coming from the Arthur A. Levine School of editing, think about emotion first when we approach a book. The feelings a manuscript evoke are paramount for us.

And that’s how I approach a book’s package too. Each of the books on my list bring to mind a different mood. The little wolf story is deeply felt and written with profound respect for the natural world. And so the cover is realistic, a close up on a noble wolf alone in a vast wilderness. 39 Clues is full of action and danger, and so the covers are bright, vibrant, and with a lot of movement and motion lines.

My Invisible Boyfriend is like a great pop song, and I wanted that flavor. Figuring out how to get a mood expressed as an image is beyond me, and my good luck here is that we have a great design team -- in this case Elizabeth Parisi and Becky Terhune. I asked them for a juicy cover, full of energy and a bit of humor, which would reflect how funny and awkward the book is. I also wanted a cover that would stand out on shelves. The YA section is currently overflowing with pale girls looking miserable and slightly ill (seriously, don’t vampires ever eat healthy people?), and this book is firmly YA, but has nothing paranormal about it. It’s outside the pack, and I wanted it to have that look – a splash of color in a sea of black. (Sometimes you advertise that you are different, and sometimes you want to make your book fit in. It depends on the book and your guess at the market. This book bucks the market trend, but I’m gambling here that some girls who like romance might be ready for a break from the supernatural.)

My first thought to get the book attention was to do a paper-over-board die-cut. I wanted the silhouette of a hot boy cut out of the board of the book, and no traditional jacket. But we tried a few covers like that, and nothing really popped. The cover looked like a gimmick and conveyed nothing of the flavor of the book. Then Becky came back to Elizabeth and me with a photo she’d found of a bunch of kids on a couch. What if we silhouetted one, she asked? The book has such a great ensemble cast, and the kids on the couch looked full of mischief and fun. The concept was perfect.

Unfortunately, the photo wasn’t. Occasionally our designers find a stock image that’s exactly right for a book, but in this case it was clear that we needed a photo shoot. So together, the designers and I picked models. We wanted attractive teens, but no one glamazon – we wanted to give readers the feeling that they could hop on the couch on the cover without anyone sniffing at them. So we cast our main character first, and then found others to fill in. (The photo shoot was a blast, by the way. There were five good-looking teenagers told to pretend to make out on a couch. The guys were flirting outrageously, and the couple on the right of the front cover ended up exchanging emails.)

So the cover was done, and now up to bat was the next part of the package – the flap copy. It was killing me. The list of cool things I wanted to convey was clear to me:

  1. The book has a very fun plot, in which the main character invents a boyfriend to gain acceptance from her friend. The neat thing is that Susie takes it farther than most books – her main character creates an Internet profile for her boyfriend, and her friends start writing to him.
  2. The book has a fabulous, fluttery love story and there is lots of romantic angst that gets resolved in a very satisfying way.
  3. It’s hilarious. (Reference the aforementioned subway snorting.)
But the author is endlessly inventive with language, making great daisy chains out of words, coming up with hilarious nicknames (Tarty McSlutcakes for an enemy of the main character), and playing a lot with Internet jargon. Susie is young and works in a boarding school near Oxford, and she has an ear for the language of the teens around her. I wanted to convey that in the flap copy, but I don’t have that voice at all, nor that knowledge – I recently had to ask my baby sister what LMAO meant. But my assistant, Mallory Kass, came to Scholastic straight from getting her master's at Oxford (I know. How lucky am I?). She had the British tone, she’s fully up to date on all things Internet-related, and she cracks all of us up all the time. So we wrote the flap copy together, tossing it back and forth until it worked, Mallory providing the clever bits.
Heidi has the perfect solution to her popularity problems – a fake boyfriend. She’s even made him a real-life Internet profile that makes him look like a motorcycle-wearing bad boy who reads poetry for fun. *swoon* Heidi’s friends are impressed. So impressed they start e-mailing Heidi’s fake boyfriend for advice about their own problems. Including their problems with, um . . . Heidi.

As if that weren’t bad enough, a mysterious, rather delicious and possibly single person who calls himself “A Real Boy” e-mails Heidi to say he knows the truth. Can Heidi escape from her (worldwide) web of lies before it’s too late? Or will her chance at real romance disappear faster than you can type gtg?

There’s only one thing that’s certain: A fake boyfriend causes a lot of real problems.
To me, the result is a book package that announces the story within as the delicious treat it is. I hope we did justice to the deeply charming cast of characters Susie created, and more, I hope that it will catch teen eyes and make teen hands itch to grab it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post.


  1. This book sounds adorable! As someone who's also invented a boyfriend back in high school (granted, he was an ex, just so it looked like I had experience - I WAS AWKWARD!), I'm totally all about reading this book.

  2. This sounds like the kind of book my stepdaughter and I will be reading together. Love the idea - and the "pop song" analogy. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Fun article! This cover looks fabulous, but it made me curious about how much you worry about covers "ageing" well -- nothing too trendy so it doesn't look dated in three years, or pile on the trendiness so it catches the eye of current teenagers. When do you decide a book needs a new cover? I can think of a number of covers of beloved children's books (Harriet the Spy is one) that were updated, much to my dismay. That seems tricky -- do you distress the adult readers who will buy the book for their own kids and want it to look the same, or do you update it to attract a new generation? It makes me realize how much strategy must go into this process!

  4. Well, you certainly sold me. Can't wait to read this book. And it's lovely to know how much care went into all parts of the great cover!

  5. There's a terrific book with a similar premise in Allen and Unwin (Australia)'s Girlfriend Fiction series: The (Not Quite) Perfect Boyfriend by Lili Wilkinson. Sounds like imaginary boyfriends are not as uncommon as one might imagine!



  6. oh, this is fascinating! and the book sounds wonderful, and great for our library book club.

  7. Ha! How cute. I wish I would've been clever enough to have had an invisible boy toy in High School. Definitely going to buy this one and spread the word!

  8. That's an awesome cover--what person has not at one time or another felt just like the girl on that couch?

  9. Rachel GriffithsMay 13, 2010 12:07 PM

    Hi eecoburn, thanks for the question! I would answer that one is tremendously lucky if one gets to think about posterity and covers aging well. Oh, to publish a classic! Oh, to think generations of children might cherish the same books we do! It happens so rarely. So when I think about a jacket, I think what is going to look so luscious that kids want to pick it up RIGHT NOW. And if the book becomes a big hit, then I’m thrilled to have the problem later of updating the jacket for new readers.

  10. Thanks for the answer, Rachel!

  11. Oh, oh, oh! I want this book! Sounds so fun. I haven't figured out why, but I've never grown out of over MG and YA fiction. At first I was embarrassed, now I'm just proud. And this sounds like a great book. So good that I will have to go buy it now instead of just hoping that my library will get it someday.

  12. I really appreciate the blog since the first time do I saw it. Now they have reached another milestone which lead us to report about it, and I think it's a great new... as the content of the text.

  13. mr. morgan lee
    When I contacted Dr dodogods, I was in a complete mess. My lovelife had gone completely down the drain, and it looked absolutely HOPELESS. If it hadn’t been for Dr dodogods’s careful advice and his precious spells to relieve me of the negativity around me, I would have never been able to keep going, and I wouldn’t have a girlfriend, either. Now I do! He’s a girl I already knew from work, but had never “thought of him that way,” at least not until Dr. dodogods cast his spell to show me the way. He is the best. He saved me!! in case you need him for help his posted by mr,morgan lee

  14. My name is Sandra and i want to testify of the good work done by a faithful Dr Osoba, a spell caster. in my life i never thought there is such thing as spiritual intercession. my problem started nine months back when the father of my kids started putting up some strange behavior, i never knew he was having an affair outside our matrimonial home. it dawn on me on that faithful day 19th of April 21st 4:23pm when he came to the house to pick his things that was when i knew that situation has gotten out of hand and he then told me he was quitting the marriage which i have built for over five years, i was confused and dumbfounded i called on family and friends but to no avail. two months after i started having problem with my kids welfare rent-age and all of it, i really went through hell. until a day i was browsing on the internet and i happen to meet a spell caster i never believed on this but i needed my man back so i gave the spell caster my problem at first i never trusted him so i was just doing it but you know a problem shared is half solved after a week my husband called me telling me that he his coming back home and that was all. now we are living happily and i still do contact him on this email: