Saturday, February 11, 2017

New Look for Sammy Keyes!

I am so excited for this week's post! Finally, finally, finally, I have new Sammy Keyes art to show you.

But first! From last weekend's post...our drawing winner is....Ashli B. from Ohio! (Congratulations on your Charmin' good luck. Your box of Lincoln Jones goodies will ship out on Monday.) 

(Did y'all, uh, snicker about the "Charmin' good luck"? No? Well, go read Lincoln Jones--it's magically delicious!)

Okay, okay. I feel like I tapped the mic, read last week's minutes, got sidetracked, and lost my grip. 

But what else is new, right?

Wendelin! FOCUS! 

Right, right! Sorry! I'm just excited!! And honestly, I don't know where to begin. Some of you have been reading this blog since I first started soliciting your input regarding new Sammy Keyes artwork, and you have probably wondered, what the heck ever happened with that? Well, it's a huge thing, redoing the art of 18 books! And in the end, it's a business decision. Do sales--past and future--warrant an investment in new art? And, if so, what is the purpose for the investment, and how will the new art serve that purpose? 

It's not unusual for books to get a "refreshed" look periodically, and having multiple looks across the life of a series is pretty normal. I've been told that Sammy having the same art/artist for all 18 hardcovers was very unusual.

Here's a post from back in 2014, where I was trying to get a bead on the direction the art should take once the series was complete. The dilemma with Sammy Keyes is that she doesn't fit neatly into "Middle Grade" (8-12 yrs) or "Young Adult" (12 yrs & up, but more realistically, 14 yrs & up). Sammy is edgy, funny, irreverent, and not obsessed with boys. And she deals with stuff like meth labs, buried bodies, gangs, and seriously scary adults. 

I personally wanted the new art to move in a more realistically rendered direction (as proposed in that linked post). And, because her name can confuse the uninitiated, I wanted the new art to make clear that Sammy is a girl. 

So for a good year I gathered input from booksellers and kids at schools and people here and online. One of the crucial questions I posed was, where do you think Sammy should be shelved? YA, or MG? It makes a huge difference in bookstores and in schools. 

The data was pretty evenly divided...which reflects the situation with middle school itself: it's that transitional ground between childhood and near adulthood.

Here's what finally came down as the reality of current trends: Realistic covers are for YA books, and although Sammys are read by a wide range of ages, the books belong on shelves accessible to kids younger than 14. 

Realistic was out.

I was bummed.

And then I was shown some preliminary sketches done by New Zealand artist Craig Phillips.

And I got a whole lot less bummed in a hurry.

The new look still had humor, but there was also an edginess to it. And a girl! I know we all have our own picture of what Sammy looks like, and that was the goal. We wanted readers to picture her their way. 

So after all this time, seeing Sammy on these covers is a little strange. And it may not match the Sammy you see in your head, but give it time. I hope you can adjust and learn to like this new art as much as I do. 

A couple of other quick things: 

One of the many questions I asked when collecting data was...should the books be numbered? Again, the answers were evenly divided. Readers edged toward yes, but booksellers edged toward no. And really, although it's best to read the series in order, I wrote them so you don't have to. So if the title you have in front of you is, say, Hollywood Mummy, don't think you have to find the previous five books before you read it. Open it up, get on that bus to Hollywood, and go!

So, again, the team at Random House concluded: No numbers.

Only this time I countered with an idea that originated in the comments of this blog: 

Hide the numbers in the art. 

And guess what, guys? That's exactly what they're doing! Some of the numbers are easy to spot, some are a little more challenging. (I've seen art for the first 8 books but I can only share 3 at this time.) I think hidden numbers are super fun, and I just love that the idea originated here. (Yes, okay, go find them. Then come back and read the rest of the post.)

The other thing that I'm crazy nutso happy about is the spines. There's a piece of art (to remain unnamed) that will span the width of the series. When you have the (secretly numbered) books on the shelf, spines out in the proper order, an image is created behind the spines' titles and text. It's like putting together a puzzle. Very appropriate for Sammy Keyes! I'm including the full span art of Hotel Thief so you can see its spine and get a taste for it.

There's a ton more to share, but this is probably enough for one post. But I promise to be back next weekend with more!

Meanwhile, thanks so much for checking in, (And for those of you who have been waiting years for this post, thank you for your patience and steadfast loyalty.) I will leave you with a compilation of the first three Sammy paperback covers over time, from the original puzzle-piece art (which was only out in paperback for a short time), to the realistic interim art (lasted about 8 books, after which it was replaced by) the "cartoony" art (which was available up to but not including the very last book), to the upcoming art (to be released beginning May 2nd).

So...what do you think? I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts. See you in the comments!


Jo said...

Wow, this is a whole slew of fantastic news! I really like the idea of hidden book numbers (yes, I did go look for them when you mentioned them haha) and series spine art. And while I was one of the ones hoping for realistic covers, I have to say the art for these new covers is looking pretty nice and, in my opinion, would definitely catch the eye of the target audience.

My favorite cover art will always be the puzzle-piece art, but I'm glad we'll have the chance to actually own the whole series with matching cover art. (I've always wondered why the paperback cover art was never consistent, so thank you for explaining that.)

Also, random comment, but I always thought Sammy was blonde...! I think it's because of that one line in Snake Eyes, where Sammy washes her hair with dish soap and then says her hair feels like straw, which made me associate her hair with the color yellow. Oops! You learn something new every day, I guess!

Unknown said...

I will always love the original artworks. They were like "clues" or little snippets from the story. When I would read through the chapters, I would have the a-ha! moment to what the little images meant. The new artworks look really fun though! I can see many young children will gravitate toward picking it off the shelf.

I really hope there will be a live action movie for the series someday. That will be my dream come true!

Gabrielle said...

I love the new artwork! And it's really cool how the numbers are incorporated into the the covers and the spines together make an image! Even though I have every book already, I may slowly have to make a collection of these new paperbacks.


MarqueeMovies said...

I LOVE these new covers! They are smart, sharp, and COOL looking! You're right, edgy is definitely a word that applies - I love how there seems to be action, motion happening on each cover - even the nuns feel as though they're nervously looking around, radiating unease. I'm terribly excited about this box set - can you tell your readers what we can do to encourage bookstores and libraries to take advantage of these? With STEM getting such a HUGE push these days, every school and bookstore and library should be promoting this most fantastic THINKER and DOER and PROBLEM SOLVER. Seriously thrilled about these!

Jessica said...

Wow, the new covers are really neat! I like how they capture that it's a mystery, and I *love* that they include the numbering really sneakily. The spines scream "mystery" too - especially since it looks like part of some kind of mysterious image.

I really like the hardcover versions, but they do look a bit dated. The old realistic art was nice, too, but it's lovely to have the whole series have a consistent look. I can't wait to see the rest!

Jo, I deduced that Sammy was blonde, too, from the description of the suspects and the evidence re: the taggers in Snake Eyes (plus Wendelin confirming that Marissa is Latina... it wasn't 100% clear which girl is blonde, but it made more sense for Sammy to be since Lana is). But I feel like in other books, it seemed more like she had darker hair, so I was always a bit confused... It felt similar to my confusion regarding how Santa Martina is laid out; my mental map would end up being a mirror image of the "real" map, which I only discovered from later clues.

Yusa said...

While all these comments are already displaying my opinions, I will say that while I love the new art work I felt no need to re-buy all these books (a bit costly) but the spine thing is something that would be sop beautiful so I might have to start investing... eventually, once i can. I hope there will be a boxed set I can buy. I'm gonna look for a job.

I first thought Sammy was blonde as well, but I think when Holly came in the picture, and she had brown hair, and was said to look similar to Sammy, I figured Sammy was a brunette. The mosaic/puzzle cover art also sort of makes it seem like she has blonde hair. Those covers will still be my favorite. Never judge a book by its cover, but those covers make it fun to try.

The numbers are fun to find :) can't wait to see the rest of the covers.
Loving the Sammy revival,


P.S. still hoping for a TV show. if i had the resources I would make it myself.

Penny Wadham said...

I LOVE the new art. I've always been partial to the puzzle art, but this is the first set of new covers that makes me want to buy an entirely new set! Doesn't everyone need two or more sets of Sammy on their shelves?! I think so.

Shaina said...
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Shaina said...

Ok, I love the new covers!! And the hint of mystery with the hidden numbers and the colors and the drawings--all of it! I am so glad to finally hear the full history of the cover art, because I have 6 of the second string (I think) paperback ones and I was wondering what happened to that line of art. The cover-art saga was a fascinating insight into the world of publishing. Thanks for sharing! I just love Sammy. I'm probably way to un-adventurous and wimpy to every hang out with her, but she feels like my friend anyways if that makes any sense. I wish I had more bookshelves to get ALL the different versions of the covers! Also, thank you for your kind email reply. I relayed your message to my son Jay that you think it's asombroso that he's reading the Gecko and Sticky, and he laughed and laughed in appreciation. He was also a little bit in awe that I emailed you and that you wrote back. :) Jay asked me if I have ever met you, and I said yes, once, and you signed one of my books. He could hardly believe it. There is a living person behind all of those great stories!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Thanks for all these wonderful reactions about the new art! Yay!

I think the Sammy blonde thing is interesting. She's been BLUE in all the hardcovers (except Sin City where she's pink...which does kinda looks blonde.) I really don't like the device some authors use where the protagonist looks in a mirror and describes herself. Ugh. I will have to pay attention as I read through the series (something I'm doing now and will talk about during next weekend's post), and see if there are any 'brown' clues. I thought there were!

Kylie said...

I love these so much, they are so fantastic! They have such a great sense of flow to them that I can feel the excited of them books just by looking at the covers. The colors are bright, but not overwhelming and I get a strong sense of fun from them. I am a big fan of the hidden numbers, I think it fits in perfectly with the books. The nuns are also perfect, I can't get over it! Seriously I am super excited and can't wait to see the rest!

I very much pictured Sammy having my hair color (maybe it's because I wanted to be her haha), which is blonder in the summer, darker in the winter, basically a dark dirty blonde. She looks so realistic on these covers too, which is something that I don't see often with covers like the so I am over the moon with how she looks on these ones.

I love spine art, it is one of my favorite thing about paperbacks. I actually tend to prefer paperbacks over hardcovers most of the times and spine art is one of the reasons why! I tried looking at the one spine you gave us to figure it out, but I have nothing so far.

My favorite set of paperbacks were the cartoony art, but I think these news ones might be my new favorite! My nieces is in second grade and LOVES to read which means I can hardly wait to introduce her to Sammy Keyes in a few years and I think these books are a future birthday present waiting to happen!

I hope you all have a tremendously good week!

P.S. Yusa I am with you on the TV show, fingers crossed maybe one day.

Kylie said...
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Kylie said...
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Amanda said...

I have to echo everyone else's sentiments and say that I LOVE these new covers! If I didn't already know and love Sammy, and I came across these covers, I would definitely scoop the books up. I always kind of liked not knowing what Sammy looked like (except for a few clues), but I'm ok with seeing her on these covers because they look so cool. It's very tempting to own a second set of the books now! (Though then I'd have to meet you again, since my first set is autographed).

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Amanda & Kylie - sorry I missed your comments earlier! Thank you for your positive reaction - yay! Kylie: interesting to learn that you have blond-ish hair -- I always pictured you with dark hair, which I think is so funny right now :-)

I'm sure we'll all look for excuses to buy the whole new set (we know people who NEED these books, right?) but also know that I'm planning to give away a whole set (or two or three) when they're available. Future fun!