The Wait For a Cover – Guest Post with Beck McDowell PLUS Giveaway!

Today I’ve got Beck McDowell, author of THIS IS NOT A DRILL, a contemporary young adult debut. Beck will be talking about how her cover design – and how worrying the wait was. Without further ado, here’s Beck! (Oh, and be sure enter the giveaway at the end!)

I was SO nervous about how the cover would look when I sold THIS IS NOT A DRILL to Penguin. Even though there were tons of Penguin covers I LOVED, I had learned as a teacher the make-it-or-break it power of cover design. There were some wonderful books I begged my students to read, but if they didn’t want to be seen with that cover, I was wasting my breath. A lot of the problem was gender-based. Lots of young adult books feature a romance on the cover – even when it’s not central to the story. It’s nearly impossible to get boys to pick them up.

When I confessed to my editor, Nancy Paulsen, that this was huge issue to me – and something I was worried about – she promised me I’d have a voice in cover choice. She knew I’d spent years watching my students’ reactions to covers, so she welcomed my input – which was awesome because I’d heard so many authors say they were allowed NONE. When she sent me the top three designs the art department was considering, it was such a gift! She and I both gravitated to designer Irene Vandervoort’s depiction of a small student desk with a blackboard behind it – and a bullet-hole in the glass door in front of it.

What I love about this cover is the way it shows the innocence of the children in the story contrasted with the brutality of the intruder. The scene initially recalls the nostalgia of elementary school – the small desk and chair, the old-fashioned chalkboard, the checkered tile floor. Even the green and red color scheme feels homey. Then you notice the pencil and paper that seem to symbolize work interrupted. And finally, your brain processes the bullet hole and the fractured glass around it. The cover illustrates perfectly Emery and Jake’s attempts to protect the children from the danger outside the classroom. The contrast of the quiet room and the shattered glass sends a chilling message.

Even the title – slanted – speaks to us of a world where logic is askew. And the red-letter NOT is a reminder that this is NOT supposed to happen. I’ve actually never spoken with the artist, but I really like the way she thinks.

I’m also fascinated with how different the cover design is in the Australia/New Zealand edition – and how well it works, too. It shows a school hallway and lockers, with a vibrant green-and-yellow color scheme in a neon glow that almost screams “Warning!” It seems indicative of a student’s overexposure and vulnerability in that empty hallway that grows darker in the distance as we wonder what’s lurking there. A totally opposite portrayal of the story from the U.S. one, but also very effective.

Cover is such a big topic of discussion among readers and bloggers – I’m really interested in hearing opinions about THIS IS NOT A DRILL’s cover design. What do you think? Is it a cover that makes you want to read the book? Does it accurately portray the story? I’ll watch Comments to learn your thoughts. Be honest (but I really hope you like it as much as I do!) And if you do, maybe I’ll get a chance to have some input in my next Penguin cover!

Find Beck on: Twitter | Website | Goodreads
Add THIS IS NOT A DRILL to Goodreads
Purchase THIS IS NOT A DRILL: Amazon | B&N

This Is Not a Drill

Two teens try to save a class of first-graders from a gun-wielding soldier suffering from PTSD.

When high school seniors Emery and Jake are taken hostage in the classroom where they tutor, they must work together to calm both the terrified children and the gunman threatening them–a task made even more difficult by their recent break-up. Brian Stutts, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, uses deadly force when he’s denied access to his son because of a custody battle. The children’s fate is in the hands of the two teens, each recovering from great loss, who now must reestablish trust in a relationship damaged by betrayal. Told through Emery and Jake’s alternating viewpoints, this gripping novel features characters teens will identify with and explores the often-hidden damages of war.

Now for the giveaway! Beck McDowell and Penguin have provided a copy of THIS IS NOT A DRILL to one lucky US/Canada reader. Fill out the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Hafsah Faizal is a YA author, designer, and blogger. Her designs have graced the sites of New York Times bestselling authors, bloggers, and more. She resides in Texas, with her family.



  1. Reply

    Jesse Burgoyne

    November 2, 2012

    I think the cover of This Is Not A Drill perfectly represents the story. I haven't read it yet, but from the synopsis and everything I've heard about it, the cover is perfect. Thanks for the giveaway!

    Jesse @ Pretty in Fiction

  2. Reply


    November 3, 2012

    I can't wait to read this book! I just requested it from my library! :) Thanks for the giveaway!