Sunday, June 22, 2014

Opinion, Please!

Feel like giving me your opinion?

I sure hope so!

We sent a little questionnaire about the possible reissue of the Sammy paperbacks to booksellers we visited on the Southern Loop of our tour. I thought it would be nice to get your input, too! After all, who knows Sammy better than you guys, right?

There's lots I could say about this, but I think it's best for objective feedback if I just present it to you without preamble. The Overview is not necessary for most of you, but I'm including it nonetheless, and I've whittled the questionnaire down to two basic questions.

Here we go!

OVERVIEW: Sammy Keyes is a scrappy middle school girl who lives illegally in a seniors-only apartment building with her grandmother. People define her as a modern-day Nancy Drew, but she can be hot headed and sassy. The 18-book series takes her from the first week of 7th grade through 8th grade, with each book occurring about a month later in her life. Although content and language are clean and the books are funny, Sammy tackles serious subjects, making the books edgy and tween/teen-relevant without crossing into YA territory.

On the left are two images—the existing paperback cover art and a very rough, incomplete mock-up of what a realistic cover might look like. (We’d need to have a girl with jeans and high-tops, for starters!) As a basic concept, though…

Which style of cover do you think works better, HUMOROUS (the yellow one) or REALISTIC (the mock-up)?


How about the images below? Any comments? 

The series is presently not numbered. Would you prefer the books to remain UNNUMBERED or be NUMBERED (and throw in a Why if you're so inclined.)

If you have other comments do express them! And if you have an image idea that you think better captures Sammy, send it to me here.

As always, thanks for checking in. Really looking forward to your comments! 


Gabrielle said...

If I had to choose between the original paperback and the one next to it, I would have to pick the one next to it. It captures the series better. The original paperback looks like they're meant more for younger kids, not pre teens.

I like the other two images. My favorite out of those two is the one where she's sitting on the skateboard.

I personally would like the books to be numbered. Because when people start a new series of books they don't know the order of them, so they get confused on which one they should read first. And I personally like reading books in order.

Hope everyone has a good week! :)


Kylie said...

Answer for #1: As many of you know many boy readers do not like reading books with a female protagonist and I feel like the current paperback covers allow male readers to feel like they aren't reading a girl book. But also with the recent trend of penny boards and the increasing amount of girl skateboarders having the realistic cover will help to bring in those readers. I also think that the new covers give it a more tween/teen feel and less of a middle school feel. I do like the full body shot. It would be cool if you could incorporate something from each book on to the cover. Like for psycho kitty queen you could add a bat in hand and a horseshoe charm. Or for wedding crashers she could be holding heels, something like that. I also think the new covers might help to make the series look new to people. Seeing as it has been around for so long people might see the new covers and decide to give it a try.

Answer for #2: I think numbering the series would be a great idea to help those who don't want to read them out of order. While I did start reading the series out of order it would have been helpful to know the order of them so I wouldn't be lost on somethings. I usually use the list on the inside to tell me the order.

I have a question: If you did reissue paperbacks would the old paperbacks still be available?

Have a great first week of summer everyone! And did anyone watch the World Cup today? USA was so close!


Yusa said...

I prefer the one on the right but hard covers shall always be my favorite. The one on the right speaks more to the teens and pre teens. There are so many great sammy type photos online. Those would make great covers!

YEah numbering the books wouldnt result in anything bad and would just help people keeps the order right. Easier considering there are 18 whole books.


Jessica said...

I also prefer the second cover and agree that it would appeal more to tweens/teens than the old art. The realistic photos are edgier and make the books seem current. I really like Kylie's idea of using the same image but with one or two things added to personalize it for each book.

I heard from a boy reader that it took him quite a bit into the first book to figure out that Sammy was a girl, not a boy (he just assumed from the cover and the name, and since it's told in first person, it's not obvious if you don't read the description...). Since I'm not a t(w)een boy, I can't be sure, but I think any of the images would be okay for them since they're kind of gritty and feature skate-boarding. I like the last picture (where she's holding the board) because you may not even notice the board in the other two, at least not at first glance. But would the board be kind of confusing on Hotel Thief? I thought it wasn't even mentioned until Moustache Mary. Though she definitely has a skater vibe from the very beginning...

While I agree that numbering the series could be helpful, a part of me thinks that it might put off some readers -- but maybe that's because of the formulaic numbered series that were so prevalent when I was young (Babysitters Club, etc.), where the stories didn't really progress, and they never ended. But Sammy Keyes isn't just a series -- the overarching stories that get resolved through the series make it much more than the sum of its parts. And numbering might hide that fact. Since the series is complete, maybe just having the list in order on the back of each would help people hopefully actually read them in order, without the negative connotations numbering can have. Or maybe the numbering could be really subtle, maybe embedded in the picture on each book (like if there were a street sign, it could change from "1st Street" to "2nd Street," etc.).

Additional Comment: Boxed sets! Maybe 3 sets of 6 books each? Or 2 sets of 9? I was given an Anne of Green Gables paperback boxed set, which I think had about 13 books in it (too lazy to look up how many books there are in that series), but I think that was pushing the limits to number of books you can put in a boxed set. And I think our Little House books might also have been a boxed set originally. This has the added advantage that the books are in order in the box, so it's easier to read them in order without having to resort to numbering. And the boxes can be labeled (1 of 2), so that people know how many books total there are. A set of 2 boxed sets = birthday + Christmas present = super-easy gift-giving for clueless family members.

Kylie said...

I like Jessica's idea for numbering! That way it is still there but not obvious. And the list is also a good idea.

Unknown said...

Hmmm, I actually like the realistic cover better (with the changes you mentioned, right now the cover is more hipster, less teen-sleuth) and I really like Kylie's idea of having some relevant object in the photo, but the hardback covers will always be my favorite. :)
I think it would be nice to have them numbered, but then; some people might get turned off when they pull the book off the shelf and see the number eighteen on it....but if they are numbered, nobody's going to accidentally read Sin City or Kiss Goodbye out of context.....
If I were to choose, I think I'd number them.
I also like the idea of box sets, my sister is pretty into Sammy Keyes now, *victory dance* and that'd be an awesome gift :)

Ryan said...

I like the original cover better. It just says "fun" to me. The realistic photos make me think the book will be too "heavy" and dull. But... I'm probably not your typical, target audience either. =)

So I like the light-hearted and fun look better.

As for numbering, I do like to read series in order and it's a lot easier to do when they're numbered! Or even lettered. (e.g. Sue Grafton) I'm rather fond of the idea of hiding the number in the cover, though, like Jessica suggested. =) That would be sufficient for my purposes and isn't so in your face about it!

Gabrielle said...

I think Jessica's idea for numbering the books! And Kylie's idea for putting something from each book in the cove is a good idea too!


Amanda said...

With regards to question #1, those two covers will draw in entirely different reader groups. The yellow cover is more likely to appeal to slightly younger readers, but it will also appeal to both boys and girls. The realistic cover looks more like the covers found in YA sections, so it would probably draw in older teen readers, but it looks like it would draw in girls more. For the other two pictures, I personally like the one where she's sitting on the skateboard, and I think it would present more unisex appeal. That doesn't really answer the question, but it ties in to part of a paper I just wrote for a library science class :-)Personally, I think I like the yellow cover the best.

Also, I think numbering the books would help new readers keep the order straight, though there's enough explanation when something from a previous book is mentioned that readers could jump in anywhere. Just putting numbers somewhere on the spine would be an easy way to add this without messing with the designs of the books too much.

Unknown said...

I prefer the realistic cover. The yellow one seems to be for kids a lot younger than the target audience. The sitting-on-a-skateboard one is my fav because it's less hipster-y and more unusual than normal teen cover photos.

Numbering would really help. I got the first twelve Sammy Keyes books all jumbled together in a box for Christmas, and I accidentally read them in random order. I was sooooo confused.

Leah Lam said...

I really like the idea of a realistic cover; but I don't think that just having a "Sammy" on a skateboard would do the series justice. Sammy is more than just a gritty teenage girl who rides a skateboard. I really like the paperback covers with realistic drawings of sammy; Could you use those same type of scenes on the realistic one? Because those show Sammy as a tomboy, but also shows that its a mystery.
For question two, I think you should include a numbered list in the books, but not advertise it too much on the cover. I read the first 8 out of order- because I got them from the library and I just took what they had at the time. If they had been numbered, I wouldn't have read them like I did. Of course... I was also 8 at the time.

Anonymous said...

Answer for #1: I personally like the realistic cover. It can easily appeal to preteens and teenagers today! I agree with Kylie's idea of incorporating key items from each book (maybe like Encyclopedia Brown, except in a more modern way). I like the first image of a girl and a skateboard. The hand shows how she relies on it, while the second one just shows the girl just carting it around.
Answer for #2: I would love seeing the series numbered! My first Sammy Keyes book was "Sammy Keyes and the Cold Hard Cash", and I remember feeling confuzzled. I love reading books in order, and this would seriously help future Sammy Keyes readers!

Oooh! I love the idea of boxed sets!

Have a good week!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Great comments! This is all very interesting to me, and I'm glad I asked you for opinions. Traditionally, MG books are illustrated, while YA books are "realistic". Sammy falls in that no man's land between the two categories, as the books are edgy yet "clean". And one of the things I've learned from being an author is that art is hard! So all these comments are very helpful. Even knowing that Corazon was really confused by the order is helpful. The books are listed inside in order, but people don't seem to look there. And the idea Jessica put forth about incorporating a number subtly into the art is something I really like! The input that's come in from the tour booksellers, you guys, and others, is really helpful, so thank you!!

Optimistic4ever said...

I definitely like the re-vamped covers, they would attract a wider audience. As much as I like the cover right next to the Hotel Thief one, it could give off a summer romance vibe.

Numbering the books would be helpful, especially due to the fact that later in the series, a lot of big reveals are made!

Unknown said...

I feel like neither covers truly encompass what Sammy Keyes is all about. As someone pointed out, the original cover, while near and dear to my heart, is almost childish. The books are, safe to say, not childish in the least. The proposed cover is, as someone else pointed out, very much made to suit a girl's taste in books and not taking into account a boy's aversion to reading a "girl's book."

The covers for the hard cover editions I think are absolutely perfect for the series. It brings in the element of being a kid, yet it has a seriousness that draws all, regardless of gender or age. Why not make the hardcover edition cover a paperback edition as well? Rick Riordan did it, no harm done.

Numbering would be super helpful, I admit. But....... (there's always a but) one of the most accomplished feelings I had while reading this series was figuring out the order that the books came in. I don't know if anyone else experienced that, but the books were unique in that hey weren't numbered. You could figure it out as you went along, and have the freedom to skip books as they become available to you. When I went into middle school, I didn't own all the books yet, and my library had one Sammy Keyes book, Runaway Elf. I read it (not having read Sisters of Mercy) and I still got the same enjoyment out of it. When I got my hands on all of the books, I reread them all in order and that put to rest any confusion that came up with skipping and coming back to books.

This is a very unique and special series to me, and to pretty much anyone that's stumbled on them as well. I hope my input helps.

Emma said...

Personally, I prefer the humorous cover, though the original hardcovers are definitely my favorite. The girls on the realistic covers don't really fit my mental image of Sammy. I guess everyone has there own unique picture of Sammy, though, because her physical appearance isn't really described in the books. I kind of like being able to form my own images of characters.

Art of Deception was the first Sammy book that I read. Though I didn't really mind reading the series out of order, I usually do like to read a series in the right order. I like the idea of hiding the book number in the cover. I really like the idea of boxed sets too!

SC said...

The new mockup covers with the real girls and images on it are DEFINITELY better. I have been saying FOR YEARS that Sammy Keyes would get more attention and popularity if they had cool modern day YA covers and were placed in the YA section (cause let's be honest, they are about teenagers who do teenager things; why are the books in the KIDS section?). Love the modern mockup cover! Crossing my fingers and hoping the books are re-issued with new covers cause honestly I'd rebuy them all with new covers.

SC said...

I think it'd be cool if the books got modern, new covers but each cover also featured an object or element from the plot of the book. So for the runaway elf, there could be a garden elf included on the cover photo, as a little wink to the plot. But yeah, I do like the cover with the girl on the skateboard, it looks really cool. It'll draw in more readers, in my opinion. And numbering the books will also probably help since there's so many now.

Unknown said...

The new mock-up cover looks incredible! I think Sammy Keyes has had a good, successful run in the childrens' section of the bookstore and with its old book covers. I mean, even if it's reissued with a new cover, tons of the copies of the old covers will still be available in the childrens' section of libraries everyone and in bookstores, until they run out. It's really not a huge change, but the change will create a new group of fans for the series.
Most of older/teen SK fans these days are fans because they've liked the series since they were a kid. But now that the series is almost over, and especially due to the fact that many of the new books touch on more mature subjects (counterfeit money is the first thing that comes to mind!) it would be awesome to see younger to older YA readers picking up Sammy Keyes. The new mock-up look really will attract more people, people who are looking for a good, realistic series about a teenage girl who ISN'T in love with a vampire or fighting cancer and falling in love simultaneously, or fighting 24 other people to the death. I mean, let's be real, even though the covers would attract girls more so than guys, girls DO make up the majority of readers these days. And if the guy is a true, smart reader, than he won't be one to discriminate a book just because a girl is on the cover (that's actually a really sexist take on things, eliminating a girl from the cover of books just because guys won't pick it up. Come on, females! )
Anyways, SC makes an awesome point in saying that each cover should have a unique element from the book in question. A garden elf, a pumpkin or a skull, an oil can, a wad of cash, a player pawn from the game of Clue, a wedding ring or a shoe, etc. It would be super awesome to see these books come to life! I'm so excited to see how this goes down. I love the old covers to death, but I'd also really love to see more older readers pick up the series. These days realistic fiction is the new trend (thanks, John Green!) and I'm positive that this would bring a lot of new, positive exposure to the series.
Good luck on everything, Ms. Van D!

Jessica said...

I didn't discuss the original hardcover covers because I remember a post saying they seem "dated" now. But the type font + side spine jumped out at me on my nephew's bookshelf, and the front cover definitely made me think "ooh, mystery!" and read the inside blurb. Which of course led me to read the book... which led me to the rest of the series, and Wendelin's other books...

I know mysteries fell in popularity for a while, but I think they're on an upsurge again. Maybe the original covers emphasize the mystery element too much and scare off people who think mystery = formula. I don't know. But I think it would be nice if the cover somehow reflected the mystery element at least a little bit.

They're good books, so the covers just needs to get some teens to pick them up. And word of mouth should take over from there.

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Love all the comments! And THANK YOU to everyone who's taken time. I had a really long talk with Nancy about the art. She said the input I've been relaying to her is super helpful. And I'm SO GLAD I floated this out for your comments. I'm trying to stay out of the discussion because I don't want to skew it, but I've read some of these and jumped out of my chair with "Exactly!" (and similar exclamations). I just want you to know that I'm here, listening, relaying, and appreciating. THANK YOU!

Unknown said...

I agree that the original paperback looks like the books are meant for younger kids and that the new covers would give the books a more teen feel. Although my kids started reading them in 4th grade, they still read them at 18 and 21. I also love the books and think the more mature pictures would bring in a whole new group of readers.

I would love if they were numbered on the spine. If I am looking at them on a bookshelf, it is very handy to see at a glance which book you are looking for and what order they should be in.

Caradith Craven said...

One reviewer describes Night of Skulls this way: "Author Wendelin Van Draanen gives us an intriguing mystery, well-paced plot, and likable three-dimensional characters. She also doesn't flinch from provocative sub-plots with plenty of substance...." This could be the review for any of the books in the series.

This series represents the best in tween/teen lit. for the reasons given above and in Wendelin's OVERVIEW. As a middle school librarian, I very much appreciate the sensitivity to the age of the target audience without being afraid to address relevant, real-life issues that interest all ages.

I agree that a more realistic-looking cover would be more appealing to teen-and-older readers. Box sets would be great for bookstores to sell, and numbering the books on the spine or on the cover itself would be very helpful to those who are not familiar with the series.

Random House lists the interest/reading level at ages 10 and up. One site even has the interest level at 1st and 2nd grade. This is probably why many public libraries and bookstores put the series in the children's section. A more mature-looking cover might give reconsideration to where the series should be placed on the shelves.

Great comments and viewpoints from a wide-variety of Sammy readers.

Renita said...

I totally agree with the majority of the comments. I think a realistic cover wouldn't take away from the series it will just help us gain more Sammy enthusiasts. Besides the humurous covers will still be out there. Won't.they? I like the one with her carrying the skateboard best. I also think if I didnt start reading the series when I was 12 and when I still shopped in the in the children section I would have never seen the Sammy series and then where would I be? Now I only venture to kids section to pick up the newest Sammy novel. I think people are more likely to pick it up if it looks young adultish.

As for the numbering, I'm all for it. I will admit it was hard for me navigating which book to read because i often borrowed my books from the library and not all libraries are complete with every single novel so i could flip through the pages. Although this was before the entire series was out. I agree with a tasteful number on the book spine will be fine. I also agree with Jessica that numbering can put some people off. I have stopped reading certain series because they went on too long with no real progression but I don't think that will happen to this series. It has progression.

Ames said...

I'm actually not a fan of the realistic cover art. Though I agree with the others that the existing paperback mainly appeals to the younger audience, the realistic one just doesn't do the series justice. It is too generic and does not look at all like a mystery. I know we are talking about the paperbacks here but I always loved the hardcover design (ex. Anyway to use that for paperback?

As for numbering, I don't think it is too necessary but I do like Jessica's idea of the subtle numbering.

Also, just a thought but Sammy should be in the YA section too

MarqueeMovies said...

Hello! My response to the first question is to steer towards realistic imagery. And I REALLY like the one of the skateboard being carried because it implies MOTION. The Sammy Keyes books MOVE, just like Sammy moves - and the motion also brings to mind that other fascinating and complicated investigator, Harriet the Spy. Remember her classic cover, where she was in motion? What's interesting is that the Harriet cover also features bold colors, which is the advantage of most of the Sammy Keyes books, as evidenced by the Hotel Thief example above. So - is it possible to do realistic, feels as though it's in motion, and yet somehow have something bold, some splash of color? As far as numbering - I say ABSOLUTELY. While anyone jumping into this series at any point is going to have a wonderful reading experience, I have found that learning about the characters in Sammy's life and the things Sammy has discovered about herself to be just as thrilling as the many fascinating mysteries, and I'd love it if others could watch the riveting character arc of Sammy and the many realistic and wonderful characters around her as well. Someone commented that numbers on the spine would be helpful, and I agree.

Sue said...

I loved your collage covers the best-loved being able to go back and see all the connections! That being said, IF you should go with the realistic one, I'd go for the one with Sammy sitting on the skateboard. I NEVER envisioned her wearing short shorts-she didn't seem like that kind of girl to me!

And for numbering? Great idea, as each sequel does relate back to previous episodes. :-)

Ames said...

I like the collage ones too

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

No short shorts! No shorts period! Explained in text, but I guess pictures are more powerful than words (gah!). But no worries. NO SHORTS!

Megan said...

Hi! I've loved Sammy Keyes since forever and one of the things I liked the best was the cover art. I love the cute and quirky cartoon paperbacks and the cut-and-paste hardcover style - the whole multi-colored books thing is also fantastic!
I'm leaving for college in the fall and am seriously considering going into the field of design, specifically graphic or web design, or, the most exciting choice, book cover art! I think it'd be like a dream come true to design book covers, since I always have an opinion about them, and by opinion, I mean I have at least one beef with every cover! :P
Anyway, being so obsessed with Sammy Keyes really made me start thinking about design as being a viable future for me, and I can't bare the thought of you guys changing the cover art... :(
I think it's becoming harder and harder for kids to read as time progresses, what with too many distracting technologies and social demands, but I think covers with, excuse the term, "hipster-y" images might even turn kids off the series. I only think this because there's always a certain image that comes with reading, and kids are especially prone to following the strict rules their adolescent societies create. I also agree with what someone else said (sorry I can't remember who) about boys possibly turning down Sammy Keyes if there's a girl on the cover. The current graphics portray just how tomboy Sammy is and allows all audiences to read them, especially the hardcover editions.
I love the idea of a cover re-vamp, though! It definitely changes things up and kind of refreshes the series.
(Sorry about my strong feelings in this area - it's something I've debated many a time with friends :) I just worry a lot about things falling into categories, which make them, the books in this case, less approachable by all. It's for this reason that I'd worry about images like the other two being on the front or back covers.

With regards to numbering! I am all about the numbering! I think it's good to establish an order so readers can follow the story lines of the characters, even though the individual plots don't necessarily need to be read in order. However, I never really had trouble figuring out the order because I just Googled it, and kids have such quick access to technology it probably wouldn't be as big of an issue as, say, 10 years ago. Still, a number system, (on the spine???) is revolutionary! ;P

(Sorry!) Something I just thought of, that's kind of like the full body shot/girl on skateboard deal, is - you know how sometimes people make find letters/words made of everyday things? Like that one time you posted about your (editor??) sending you images and it spelled out 'Sammy Keys' (or something, I can't remember). That's kinda a neat idea. Maybe something like that, something with a 'girl-on-skateboard-with-high-tops' feel but doesn't actually feature a portrait?
I don't know how much control you have over the covers - I've heard that it's an outside/advertising kind of thing? Anyway, I hope I helped or said something interesting in my shpeal!