Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Guest Post: Rob Rufus, Author of Die Young with Me

Back in September, we did a mother-daughter read and review of Die Young with Me by Rob Rufus. This book easily makes our favorites list for 2016 reads. We are thrilled to have him on the blog today talking about the process of his book cover design.

You can’t judge a book by its cover, my ass.
            I love jacket-cover art.  When I’m roaming around bookstores, a cover image can be almost as striking as a book’s title – a good cover is always enough for me to read the synopsis of the book, and consider buying it.
            So when my first book was coming out, I got annoyingly nitpicky about the artwork.  I didn’t know anything about the business of choosing cover art – I guess I had always assumed it was like choosing album art for a rock-n-roll record, (i.e. if the band thinks it looks cool, just throw it on there and roll with it).
            But the process is much more complicated than that.  There are designers, marketers, editors, PR agents, literary agents, focus groups, and all sorts of people you never know or meet who have a valid input on the finally images sitting on a bookstore’s shelf.
            I have to admit, I was a total punisher to my agent, editor, and pretty much everyone else at Touchstone/Simon & Schuster about the art direction.  Since it was my story, it was initially hard to understand that, just because something appealed to me, that didn’t mean it would appeal to the book’s audience.
            My brain gravitated to the harsher aspects of the book – punk rock music, and cancer.  Everyone else, however, leaned more towards the sentimental, coming-of-age aspects.  So while the designers at Simon & Schuster worked on jacket art, I had NYC artist Jeannine Cannon (who usually does envelope-pushing political protest and female empowerment art) mocking up alternate cover designs. The result of all this work was that all the publisher’s designs seemed too tame to me, while the designs I turned in seemed off putting and unmarketable to them.
            In the end it was my editor, Matthew, who worked through this chaos to find the idea that would become the final jacket cover.  He cut out pieces of the mock covers, and taped them on a black book jacket as a straightforward, simple graphic.  The design team at Simon & Schuster ran with it, and cleaned it up so it was palatable.  A lot of people worked very hard to make it all come together, and I think the result is something we can all be proud of.  After all, people are already getting that DYWM skull tattooed on them, so that must mean someone did something right…right?

(Artwork mockup #2/5 by Jeannine Cannon) 

(Eventual artwork concept by my editor)

(Final result)

Thanks so much for sharing, Rob! We think the final result is perfect! Here's a little more about Die Young with Me and author Rob Rufus: 

In the tradition of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl comes the incredibly moving true story of a teenager diagnosed with cancer and how music was the one thing that helped him get through his darkest days.

Punk’s not dead in rural West Virginia. In fact, it blares constantly from the basement of Rob and Nat Rufus—identical twin brothers with spiked hair, black leather jackets, and the most kick-ass record collection in Appalachia. To them, school (and pretty much everything else) sucks. But what can you expect when you’re the only punks in town?
When the brothers start their own band, their lives begin to change: they meet friends, they attract girls, and they finally get invited to join a national tour and get out of their rat box little town.

But their plans are cut short when Rob is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that has already progressed to Stage Four. Not only are his dreams of punk rock stardom completely shredded, there is a very real threat that this is one battle that can’t be won.

While Rob suffers through nightmarish treatments and debilitating surgery, Nat continues on their band’s road to success alone. But as Rob’s life diverges from his brother’s, he learns to find strength within himself and through his music. Die Young With Me is a raw, honest account of a brave teen’s fight with cancer and the many ways music helped him cope through his recovery.

Rob Rufus is a musician and writer living in Nashville. His band, Blacklist Royals, has released two full-length albums and played in sixteen countries over the past five years. Rob has written articles for Modern Drummer, Amp Magazine, Digital Tour Bus, and many music sites. Rob also works closely with the cancer community, including the Lance Armstrong Foundation, Stupid Cancer Podcast (the largest advocacy/support organization worldwide for teens with cancer), and Make-A-Wish Foundation.

You can find Rob online at: 

© at A Belle's Tales



  1. This was a fun post and I love how the final cover turned out! I remember how much you two loved this one!

  2. Covers matter. This was interesting and I think the collective came up with a great cover.

  3. What an interesting post! I think we all judge books by their covers and until a couple of years ago I thought authors had a lot more say about covers. I enjoyed hearing what Rob had to say. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. Cover really matters, especially for a four-eyed specie like me, haha. But so glad how the cover turned out!

  5. Love the cover! Such an interesting and fun post! Thanks for sharing you amazing person you!!


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