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Arts & Entertainment


Judy Blume

Lesson time 17:46 min

Writers should understand the power that cover art and titles can have on perception and sales. Judy shares lessons from the trenches, as well as her view on the importance of keeping a clear sense of your own identity within an ever-changing market.

Judy Blume
Teaches Writing
In 24 lessons, Judy Blume will show you how to develop vibrant characters and hook your readers.
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My experience is that after you go through this wonderful experience, yes, we accept your book and we're working with you and you've done all the revisions and the copy editor is through with your book, before that, your publisher editor is going to want a title because they present to you a book at sales conference and sales conferences way before your book hits the marketplace. I have been caught in the position several times of not having a title. I once had Dick Jackson call me and say, Judy, I'm presenting this book at sales conference tomorrow and I need a title now. That turned out to be Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. I don't know. I have trouble sometimes with titles. Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret-- first line of the book. Then Again, Maybe I Won't-- last line of the book. Would I give something such a long title as, Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret. No, I wouldn't. We all just call her Margaret, but there it is. I didn't have a title for Summer Sisters. I had a long list of musicals-- I wanted a musical title. I wanted a song title from the era that these girls were growing up. And I had oh so many titles. And Carole Baron, my wonderful editor, said to me, Judy, you're missing the best one. It's so obvious, Summer Sisters. And I said, but Carole, it is so obvious-- Summer Sisters. And she said, that's what this book should be called. And, of course, once she said that, I went with it. I once had lunch with my beloved agent, Claire Smith, many years ago and I had no title for a book that became, Just As Long As We're Together. And the way it became that was, I had no title and we were singing songs at this lengthy lunch. We were the last people in the restaurant. And we said, we have to find the title. We were singing camp songs to each other. And that's a line from a song. What's the song? Just as long as we're together. (SINGING) We won't have a barrel of money. Da-da-da-da-da-da, along, singing a song. Oh, no, that was side by side. And maybe just as long as we're together is in there in another verse. I take it all back, stop. So anyway, we were singing songs and we came up with one song that had a line in it, just as long as we're together. Something about the weather. We'll be fine. And it that was good, just as long as we're together. Write down everything that you can think of. That's me, the scribbler. I would just take a page and write 25 possible titles on it. Once, I actually did that and sent it to my editor and it became Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, which was one of the 25 titles that I had on there because I couldn't come up with a title. In the Unlikely Event is interesting because, of course, I didn't have a title. And again, I wanted a musical title. There's a lot of music mentioned in the book, popular tunes in the '50...

Write timeless stories

Judy Blume broke the rules. Her refreshingly honest children’s books were banned by hundreds of libraries and loved by generations of readers, who bought 85 million copies of classics like Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Superfudge. In her first online writing class, the award-winning author teaches you how to invent vivid characters, write realistic dialogue, and turn your experiences into stories people will treasure.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I appreciate her enthusiasm and encouragement about writing. She does a nice job of providing some tips but always mindful that each writer has to discover for themselves how best to work with those tips.

Judy Blume is such a great person to motivate you never to give up, when writing is all, whats in your mind. Thank you so much for that! I enjoyed this masterclass very much!

This has inspired me more than anything ever has. Judy Blume is the kindest and loving teacher I have ever had. Everyone should watch this, writer or not.

I thoroughly enjoyed Judy's lessons. She's not just great with pen and paper; she bears her soul in these videos and she writes with her heart :)


Estelle R.

Good re dialogue But Judy was way ahead re Marketplace, including issue re Title... I am interested in how to find an agent, a good editor, etc.

Mary H.

no fan of Accelerated Reader program, here - a better children's literature program is promoted in this nonfiction book

Katherine B.

What’s the point of knowing how important a good cover is if we don’t get to choose what the cover looks like?

Mia S.

"Online marketing, marketing of your own books, has become really important. If you're about to be published, I think your publisher, editor, will ask you to please go online, do Instagram, tweet, Facebook, have your own website - this is really important. I have seen books - good books, book that friends of mine have written - and I have seen them go from, they weren't getting any publicity - the publisher wasn't putting a lot behind it in terms of marketing or book tour - and I have seen some writers who are just great at this, just go to town - they're all over the internet, and it builds, and it is very important and doesn't cost any money, and it's a great way to promote your book. If you're not thinking of that yourself already, you should be, and you'll be asked to, I'm sure. It's hard for some people to do that - they don't like it - but there are fun ways to do that, and there are some people who are just great at doing it, and you can study how they do it. They do it without saying, 'Look at this book I wrote. It's so fabulous.' But in little ways - funny little ways, self-deprecating ways - you will know about their book, and you'll be interested in it. And I think that's really here to stay."

Mia S.

"Writing to trends is a mistake, always - because by the time your book reaches an editor, that editor may be sick of the trendy whatever it was. Vampire books were so trendy for awhile, but I don't see them anymore. Maybe they're there, but I don't know about them. Always, always dig deep inside yourself, write what's there. If you love fantasy, absolutely, write fantasy. I think that we write very much what we like to read, and so the reader of science fiction, of fantasy, mystery, may become the writer of those genres. But I like the real-life stuff that I was finding in my parents' bookshelves when I was 12. I liked that, I wanted to know about the real world, so I like writing about the real world. I was lucky that, when I came along, real-life fiction was something that publishers were looking for - in fact, when I read in a magazine about Bradbury Press, it said that they were a new, young company looking for realistic fiction for young people. But that was my natural inclination, that's what I'm interested in - in real-life people. I don't think I'd be good at trying to do fantasy - I have a lot of imagination, but my mind doesn't work in a fantasy way. It works a lot of imagination in a real-life way. I've never been tempted to break out of that, I don't know what I would do - what would I try to do, write dystopian fiction? I don't tihnk so. Science fiction? No, I wouldn't be good at that."

Mia S.

"I'm a person who hates categories. I don't like to tell anybody what age they need to be to read a certain book, so I don't like telling kids, 'This is a book for this age group' or 'You get this many points on your accelerated reader test if you read this book, because this is for a 10-year-old and you're only an 8-year-old.' I really don't like categories. I love what Maurice Sendak said, 'I do not sit down and think I'm doing a book for children. I'm sitting down and telling a story and illustrating it, and whoever wants to read it is welcome to read it.' That's kind of how I feel about books, there are wonderful children's books that should be read by everybody. 'The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,' it's a wonderful book, and it's published YA. Great, because it's great for young people to read it, but it's also great - I happened to leave it on my son's bedside table once, he didn't know it was YA, and he picked it up and read it, he was 50, said, 'This is one of the best books I've ever read. Everybody should read this book.' That's how I feel. But everybody isn't going to take it off the YA shelf. There are adults who love YA books, and there are kids who are ready to go into the shelves with adult books. So I don't like categorizing books, but that's a reality, the reality of the marketplace. That's how it is. There are different book buyers in stores that specialize in children's or YA or adult fiction, mystery, women's fiction (something I don't understand at all, what does that mean? We don't have men's fiction - there's fiction, who wants to read it gets to read it and make up his or her own mind. A lot of us who write for young people, we have sat around for years now saying, 'OK, if 'Catcher in the Rye' were published today, would it be published YA?' The many different answers - that kind of changes with the year and what's in fashion; what's trendy and what isn't. It might be, who knows?"

Mia S.

"Cover art is a whole other thing. I have been through so many years and so many covers, because books get re-covered, especially children's books, if they stay in print, they're constantly being re-covered. The one that strikes me as the funniest - my first paperback book; when I first started publishing, there weren't paperback books for children, which was so odd. So here comes the paperback cover for my first book in paper, 'Sit down, I have something to tell you. It's purple and green. She's got long blonde hair. She's six months pregnant.' In the book, she describes herself right away as having brown hair that's growing in and it's all pinned, but here she is - they apparently did a study in those days and found that girls were most attracted to purple. Would I have chosen this? Probably not. Since then, Margaret has been up and down and all around, and current she has cover art that looks like a text. Carole knew what she wanted for the hardcover book, and it was a dynamic cover - bold and you could see it, it was different than a lot of other books. Then came the trade paperback - to say I was underwhelmed is not telling the truth, really, I could not believe it. It looked like they were trying to reach a YA audience;it was so wrong for the book and they sent it to me the night before and said, 'This is it, this is the final.' I had many covers that they sent to me before - they were really not good, not strong, had nothing to do with the book - and then comes this one. 'But you can have this color turquoise or that color turquoise, lucky you!' I have been unhappy with that cover from day one. Now it's out in mass market, it's got a great cover - but too late for the trade paperback. I think that kind of mistake in covering a book, making it look as if it's for the wrong group, that really does hurt a book. It can also help a book if it's the right cover. There are some covers that you're just so attracted to it's like, 'I have to find out what's in this book, this is the greatest cover.' In the UK, 'Summer Sisters' was published to look like a romance novel. It should've had someone else's name on it - it was just totally wrong for the book; the book failed in the UK, where it did well in the US. Now that I have a bookstore, I think what makes for a great cover is when I put it up on a shelf, you can see it - see what it is. It's bold enough to read the title and the author's name from across the room; the colors are right, pleasing in some way or stand out in some way. I can't tell you how many books go up on the shelf and there's nothing there, you can't see anything - I wonder why. Surely, marketing, art departments know this. Sometimes you have to get right up to it before you can read it. Maybe that's what they want? I don't know."

Mia S.

"My experience is that after you go through this wonderful experience - 'Yes, we accept your book and we're working with you and you've done all the revisions and the copy editor is through with your book' - before that, your publisher-editor is going to want a title, because they present your book at sales conferences way before your book hits the marketplace. I have been caught in the position several times of not having a title. 'Judy, I'm presenting this book tomorrow and I need a title now.' I don't know, I have trouble sometimes with titles. 'Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret' - first line of the book. 'Then Again, Maybe I Won't' - last line of the book. Would I give something such a long title? No, I wouldn't, but there it is. I didn't have a title for 'Summer Sisters' - I wanted a musical title, I wanted a song title from the era that these were growing up, and I had oh so many titles. My wonderful editor said to me, 'Judy, you're missing the best one.' 'But Carol, it IS so obvious.' She said, 'That's what this book should be called.' And of course once she said that, I went with it. I once had lunch with my beloved agent many years ago, and I had no title for a book, and we were singing songs at this lengthy lunch, we were the last people in the restaurant, and we said, 'We have to find a title.' We were singing kind of camp songs to each other, and that's a line from a song. 'Just as long as we're together.' That was good. Write down everything that you can think of. That's me - the scribbler, I would just take a page and write 25 possible titles on it. Once, I actually did that and sent it to my editor. I was talking to a friend one day who had never read the book and she said, 'I'm good at this, tell me what it's about.' I told her and I said, 'I'd really like something that has to do with flying.' She sent me, the next day, something that flight attendants say all the time: 'In the unlikely event.' And I thought, 'That is perfect, that is what this book is. It's a series of unlikely events.' I think that somewhere in the book, she's a grown up, looking back and saying, 'Life is a series of unlikely events, isn't it?'"

Kim B.

I'm not quite at this point yet... but Judy gave some interesting advice and insight. I have a feeling I may struggle with titles as well!


I have the cover of the Margaret book that shows a young girl sitting on the edge of her bed looking out the window. I loved that book so much! I believe that's the first book that introduced me to Judy. I loved the cover of Freckle Juice as well. This lesson reminded me of an episode of Sex and The City when Carrie was struggling with communicating what she envisioned the cover of her book to be, but her entourage was not getting it at first. I always wonder what kind of control authors have of the cover. Though I hate to admit it, I do judge a book by it's cover. I do the same thing with DVD's as well. The cover tells me if it's a story I heard several times before, or something unique and exciting. Covers that caught my attention were Empire Falls by Richard Russo and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen.