Frank Partnoy's Wait has a cover that fits perfectly with its one-word title. The book is about the art of last-minute decision-making, a topic which might lend itself to many a visual idea. So how'd they end up with Maggie the dog? Here's Frank to tell the tale:
"Wait is a book about procrastination and delay, so it was fitting that when my editor, Clive Priddle, e-mailed a first version of the cover art to me and my agent, Theresa Park, I had only just sent him the first three chapters and had not started writing the second half of the book. PublicAffairs had announced a publication date of June 26, 2012, nine months away, yet I still could not even come up with a way to begin the Introduction. The last thing I wanted to think about was the cover.
"Clive’s e-mail said, 'Our sales team likes this direction. But does it make you wag your tails?' When I opened the file, I couldn’t stop laughing. The art department at PublicAffairs had found a stock photo that perfectly captures the ideas in Wait: an adorable, patient Golden Retriever with a dog treat balanced on its nose. We loved it, and wagged: no one changed a thing, and the final cover is exactly the same as the first version. The only debate we had, after I tried unsuccessfully to track down details about the dog from the photographers, was what we should name it.
"The cover also helped me start, and finish, the book. After I saw it, I finally knew how Wait should open. Here is the first paragraph:
The dog on the cover of this book – let’s call her Maggie – is a role model for those of us who want to make better decisions. Maggie could have devoured the biscuit resting on her snout in the blink of an eye. Instead, she is holding back, showing us she can keep her instincts and emotions in check, delaying the pleasure of the snack she can smell all too well. Although this book is mostly about human beings, not animals, its central point is that we can learn a lot from Maggie.
"Maggie also gave me an excuse to write about my own dog, Fletch, a fourteen-year-old yellow Labrador retriever I trained as a puppy not to immediately go for a treat. Like Maggie, Fletch’s ability to anticipate consequences and delay gratification has served him well. If anyone in my family leaves food on the table after dinner, Fletch won’t leap for it right away, when we probably would catch him. Instead, he’ll quietly follow us into the living room and lie down at my feet. We won’t realize he has moved until we hear the crash of dishes from the kitchen.
"As I finished writing, I often returned to the photo of Maggie for inspiration. Without her, I doubt I would have discovered, at the last minute, a 2012 study from researchers in Scotland and France who found that dogs could learn to suppress their snap reactions for relatively long periods of time. A working sheepdog in their study held a small chicken chew treat in her mouth for more than ten minutes while waiting for a chance to trade it for a piece eight times bigger. (Maggie also inspired the trailer for Wait, which you can watch here I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that the dog in the video is balancing a lot more on its snout than Maggie is.)
"Both Maggie and Fletch were constant companions as I wrote. Fletch was my loyal friend, and I’ve dedicated the book to him. And Maggie was a brilliant guide dog. I couldn’t have finished Wait without her."
Thanks, Frank! If one image says "wait," this is it.
What do you guys think?
Melissa Walker is the author of six Young Adult novels, including the newly released Unbreak My Heart (pictured). Her author blog, where Cover Stories originated, is melissacwalker.com. Follow her on Twitter @melissacwalker.
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