Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Nothing says 'whatever' like Genericover (tm)

[phone] *rrrring*
[phone] *rrrring*
[Cheryl] "Yellow? This is Cheryl." (*)(**)
[phone] .....
[Cheryl] "Yuh huh. Yuh huh. Calling all the way from Generica you say?"
[phone]  ....
[Me] "Who is it, Cheryl?"
[Cheryl] "Just the Don'tCareBear phoning in another cover."

So I discovered my Dutch cover for King of Thorns today. It's the one on the left. In the middle the cover of Chris Woodings' (reportedly excellent) The Braided Path. On the right, my US/UK King of Thorns cover.

I've been inspired to this post by a similar but better one by the estimable Mazarkis Williams at Sarmin's Corner . So here I am copying a complaint about copying. Even so...

Now one of the best oportunities for schadenfreude in this business of books is watching an author pretend to love their new cover. If you're in the know you'll be aware that authors have essentially zero input into their covers. It's possible that if GRRM blew his nose into a piece of A4 and told his publisher that was going on the front of Winds of Winter he'd get his way. The rest of us get told. We don't get told we have to pretend to like the results though. So I'm not going to. This Dutch cover is pretty lazy. The first one they did for Prince of Thorns was pretty good. It had points of contact with the story. First line of the book = Ravens. What do we see behind the lettering? Ravens. It's a bloody book. There's blood on the cover. The protagonist is young and dark haired. There he is. And blessing of blessings! NO HOOD:

The Dutch cover for King of Thorns is just a cloak. It came off the photoshop peg and has no contact with the text. I don't like it.

And while I'm on about covers. Look at the superlative quality of Jason Chan's work. Consider these details from the King of Thorns cover:

We have a face!We have scarring (from text). We have an image of the world in a metal ring (from text).

We have a skull... (from text)

Look at the frikken detail on just one random dead guy in the background!
The throne is carved with rose and thorn motifs. There's even thorns sticking out.

And on the large scale we have the conflict, the attitude. It's all there. I didn't get my ideas taken into account for the King of Thorns cover ... but frankly Jason Chan's were much better. I got lucky. I got very lucky.

And since we're on the topic.
This kind of quality costs. It can cost big time and in a low margin pursuit like publishing that cost can hurt. So I understand if a publisher sics me with a cheap cover. If I've not earned a better one through sales or through the impact I made on them ... fair enough. I deserve it. But I'm not going to pretend to like it :)

What I'm particularly uneasy with is that some of my publishers weren't ready to pay for Chan's work but have gone with copies instead. They're good copies. I've no complaints there. But dammit. If you won't pay for the original then hit me with the Cloak from Generica if you must. I'd rather that than be implicitly complicit in the copying - because that just sets me asking ... 'if you thought I'd demanded too much for my writing .... would you publish someone's slightly altered copy of that too?'

(*) Cheryl was stolen from Staffer's Musings
(**) Yes, I stole a female secretary. I must be a misogynist.


  1. #1) When can I expect a royalty check?

    #2) LEAVE CHERYL ALONE!!! (Leave Britney alone voice)

    1. I've checked. You're not royal.

  2. Oh... and more importantly, you're right on.

  3. The thing about a cheap'n'nasty cover is that it can hurt sales and potentially lose more money than a good cover would cost - as many self-publishers are discovering.

    Is the cost of re-licensing the original UK/US cover that much higher than a new cover, however cheap'n'cheerful? I know different markets have different tastes and a cover that might work here might flop there - but if they're using either cheap ripoffs or GeneriCover, that argument doesn't apply.

  4. It's possible that if GRRM blew his nose into a piece of A4 and told his publisher that was going on the front of Winds of Winter he'd get his way. The rest of us get told.

    Unless you are self publishing of course, but that's a whole 'other problem.

  5. Great post! Thanks for showing me that I'm getting mentioned on awesome authors' blogs, as well. VERY interesting point about copying covers. I guess I don't really have a problem with covers that are very similar, since that could just be marketing trying to place the book in the hands of "the right" reader. But it's a little messed up that they would take an artist's cover and blatantly copy it rather than pay the high fees of the artist.

  6. Jason Chan is very good. Was great to see him win the 2011 Chesley Award for Best Cover Paperback Art for his Geist cover.

  7. I agree about the dearth of imagination of a lot of fantasy covers, we've all groaned at the latest Hooded Man. But... I'd still rather be seen on the tube reading one of them than the fantasy covers of yesteryear - remember the girl in the chain mail bikini worshiping at the feet of the muscle-bound barbarian, even when the book contained nothing of the sort?