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  1. #61
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Radone

    When I lived in England, the sci-fi/fantasy books often had a subdued cover, and non-genre books over on this side of the pond usually have generic cover art. So, yeah, I understand about grabbing your attention, but I wonder what it is about those other books that makes the publishers think that they don't have to grab your attention.
    My guess would be that in Britain, they don't want the sf/f books to have too much of a flashy genre look and that may be because the British fan audience has somewhat different tastes from us crass Americans, and there's a bit more crossover appeal, less regimentation than in the American market.

    The design of bestseller, non-genre works is to use clean colors and catch buyers eye with large print -- to announce the name of the author and for buyers to find that name as quickly as possible without it being overshadowed by artwork. This is because people buying bestseller mainstream novels usually are already fans or have heard of the author's name and are specifically looking for that author's work, not just a nice cover.

    Another reason not to use fancy artwork, again, is to make sure that potential buyers are not turned away because the work looks too much like a sf/f title or a romance title or a mystery title -- something the buyer doesn't ordinarily read and wouldn't feel comfortable carrying around with genre cover art. When I was a teenager, I used to carry around the sf/f novels I was reading and classmates were always asking to look at the covers, surprised at the cover art. Those same people probably wouldn't be inclined to carry around such a book themselves. The contemporary romance genre still has the conventional couple artwork on their series lines, but for other titles, has switched to a contemporary, neon colors look that makes the romances look more like "chick lit" titles. They're doing that because the fan audience for romances is declining, and they want to tap into the market of women readers who wouldn't want to try out a typical contemporary romance novel but might try a romantic novel that looks similar to "Bridget Jones' Diary."

    Another reason is that subtle, minimalistic artwork can stand out among bright colors and busy cover art. There tend to be trends. Gold and silver -- metallic leaf -- used to be a big trend in the eighties, for instance, to make covers stand out by making them shiny. But too many books used the metallic colors on the covers so then publishers might try something like "An American Quilt" -- small hardcover size, white cover with just a quilt panel on it. That stands out among brighter colors. So it depends on the potential audience, the name recognition of the author, what other publishers are doing with their covers, how closely the art department is supervised and so on. Catching a buyer's eye is a big goal, especially if it's a relatively unknown author, but there's also pleasing booksellers and making the book as easy to find as possible for fan audiences and other potential buyers.

    Kseniya -- It's not so much carelessness as scheduling. An art department may be handling several hundred non-fiction and fiction titles over a few months. The art department may have only a passing knowledge of a particular book and no time to sit down with the book's editor to get the lowdown. The manuscript may not be ready for print until late and production of books has been greatly shortened. A year used to be the average, now it might be only a few months. So there's usually not time in the schedule to have an artist read the whole ms., choose a scene and check its accuracy with the editor and writer. Also, artists need to turnover assignments relatively quickly. Having to read a 600 page fantasy novel each time doesn't help them pay the bills. Artists like Whelan are much in demand, are very expensive, are usually given only lead titles to illustrate, and are given more time to do the illustration and more information. Even so, they may not be completely accurate. I just read Tad Williams' "War of the Flowers," and Whelan did the cover art. It features a female-looking elf with blonde hair. The elven female who's the love interest has black hair. It's still a lovely painting, though.

  2. #62
    Registered User kseniya's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Shayna
    The cover to the Bridges of D'Arnath is sweet! I do not knwo this book, but it has peaked my interest! Thanx
    YAY OH YAY! Convert .... well, I dare hope
    "The Bridge of D'Arnath" is the name of Carol Berg's new trilogy. It goes like this:
    1. Son of Avonar (just came out)
    2. Guardians of the Keep (Sept 04) - this is the cover I posted
    3. The Soul Weaver
    If you've never read her stuff, the Rai-kirah book are amazing (the ugly-covered Transformation, then Revelation and Restoration).

    Originally posted by Shayna
    I like the cover of the omnibus edition of The Fionavar Tapestry!! I have it! and great book!
    There's an omnibus edition?! Since when?!!! ** rushes off to check amazon **

    KatG:

    That's incredibly enlightening. You seem to know a huge lot about all this. Are you in the business?

    When I said "careless", I meant the editors or the publishers or whoever is in charge of giving out the cover art assignments. Whenever a cover misrepresents something or just misses the mark in style, the fans tend to come down pretty hard of the artists. Case and point, the thread . Like with Zsinj's bulging-muscled heroes. They absolutely have their place on some books, depending on the content. Would you like to see Fitz like that? Or the Fool? The point is, I have a hard time believing any artist would set out to produce bad or badly fitting cover art. I suppose they are simply not given the choice or the time, like KatG said. But somewhere, at some level of the mysterious publishing heirarchy, there must be someone whose bad judgement call results in the horrors that have been inflicted on some of our favorite books. Not that I discount the role of the artists talent, or lack thereof.



    Oh, maybe you folks can help solve another mystery. There's a book that I keep picking up at Barnes and Noble based purely on the cover art. When I realize what I'd just done, I shove it back in and think, "No, no, bad, bad. You're not THAT shallow! You know nothing of the book or the author. Put it down. Walk away." It's called Myst, I think. Is it shameful that I don't know anything about it? All I know, is the cover's pretty
    Last edited by kseniya; February 15th, 2004 at 12:26 AM.

  3. #63
    Greyscale Shayna's Avatar
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    I have the trilogy of The Fionavar Tapestry for quite sometime now. Check out Guy Gavriel Kay's site.... www.brightweavings.com

    I think that is it!!

    And thanx for the information about the other trilogy. I will look at them next time I go to the bookstore!

  4. #64
    Registered User Iskaral Pust's Avatar
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    Recently got this book and think it has a brilliant cover:

    Love the way the tree looks like a mushroom cloud towards the bottom.
    The covers of the Fantasy Masterworks series are always consistant in their quality.

  5. #65
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Originally posted by kseniya

    KatG:

    That's incredibly enlightening. You seem to know a huge lot about all this. Are you in the business?
    It depends what you mean by in the business. Let's say that I used to be.

    When I said "careless", I meant the editors or the publishers or whoever is in charge of giving out the cover art assignments.
    The art department of the publisher, or if they're too small to have an art department, the editor in charge of the book or the production person in charge of producing the book.

    Whenever a cover misrepresents something or just misses the mark in style, the fans tend to come down pretty hard of the artists.
    Most of the time, the fans don't. Well, they might complain to the author if they meet him at a conference, who will then complain to their agent and publisher, but the publisher is less concerned with accuracy than with producing cover art that will please the marketing people, the booksellers, and will do what they need it to do. Most fans don't pay attention to who the cover artist is.

    The point is, I have a hard time believing any artist would set out to produce bad or badly fitting cover art. I suppose they are simply not given the choice or the time, like KatG said. But somewhere, at some level of the mysterious publishing heirarchy, there must be someone whose bad judgement call results in the horrors that have been inflicted on some of our favorite books. Not that I discount the role of the artists talent, or lack thereof.
    Sometimes it's the artists who have the agenda. They have calendars to sell, after all. They produce art that advertises their style and their vision and more often than not, publishers go along with it. Sometimes it's the art department, which is very seldom closely supervised in what they decide to do. Sometimes they are going for a particular look for an entire imprint or for a series reprint or such and that may be more important than if the cover is completely fitting. It can certainly backfire, but minor inaccuracies -- such as the hair color of a main character, for instance, usually don't do much damage. Only if the cover art misrepresents what type of work a novel is -- making it harder for the right audience to find the novel -- do you really have problems, usually.

    Oh, maybe you folks can help solve another mystery. There's a book that I keep picking up at Barnes and Noble based purely on the cover art. When I realize what I'd just done, I shove it back in and think, "No, no, bad, bad. You're not THAT shallow! You know nothing of the book or the author. Put it down. Walk away." It's called Myst, I think. Is it shameful that I don't know anything about it? All I know, is the cover's pretty
    It sounds like it's a novel based on the popular fantasy computer game called Myst -- a tie-in work. It might be good or bad; tie-in works vary widely. They often hire established fantasy writers whose style may appeal or not. The game is suppose to be much more intelligent and challenging than most of the fantasy stuff out there. (I don't know, I've never played it.) So if you read the first page or two and it sounds good, who knows.

  6. #66
    Registered User kseniya's Avatar
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    Shayna, I looked at the omnibus Fionavar cover. You were right - WOW. And, of course, it's only available in Canada. Of course. And I hope you enjoy Carol's books. All this talk sent me right back to the book shelf and made me start rereading them

    KatG:

    So, is there any way for the authors to have control over how their book is presented? Or does that depend on how established an author they are?

    Thanks for the tip of the Myst book. Somehow the word "game" just turns me off entirely. Maybe that's rash, but whatever.

    Iskaral Pust, that IS a very beautiful cover. How's the book?

  7. #67
    Well I have to admit that I love the old Ace Burroughs covers - or anything in the style of B. Vallejo, etc. When I'm going off a recommendation cover art doesn't matter but when I'm browsing in my favorite used book store with 2 full aisles of sf/f paperbacks - I tend to pick out books (to read the back) based on the cover art. Short of just starting in the "A" section and pulling out each and every book to read the jacket - which would take who knows how long). And since all the books are half price and many are pre-90's they are only $0.30-2.00 - (nothing like finding a ERB Pellucidar book in great shape with a cover price of .75!) - although over the past 6 months they've really been upping the price on those... Anyways - not a huge deal if I grab a book based on the cover that I don't end up liking.

  8. #68
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Originally posted by kseniya
    ,
    KatG:

    So, is there any way for the authors to have control over how their book is presented? Or does that depend on how established an author they are?

    Thanks for the tip of the Myst book. Somehow the word "game" just turns me off entirely. Maybe that's rash, but whatever.
    Oops, sorry, I had missed this. The answer is, no, there's not a lot authors can do about their covers. Most authors can get their agents to work "cover consultation" into the contract. That means that the publisher is suppose to show the author the cover artwork and get the author's imput before finalizing it. However, if the author doesn't like the cover, the publisher can still use it and if the publisher doesn't get the cover art to the author before the art department's production deadlines, the author doesn't even get to give imput. Big best-selling authors can sometimes get "cover approval," meaning they have to approve the cover before it can be used. However, most best-sellers are given covers with little or no artwork and just their name and the book title in large print. Of course, in fantasy, where cover art is more commonly used, cover approval would be more relevant.

    Even without cover approval, an author can throw a snit if he or she doesn't like the cover art or thinks it inappropriate, and since the publisher usually doesn't like to alienate the author, the publisher may be willing to change the art even though not legally obligated to do so, to keep the goodwill of the author and the author's agent, or even because they decide the author is right. So it does pay for authors to demand to get to see their cover art early and to object if they don't like it, frequently and loudly -- the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But except in the rare cases of author cover approval, it's the publisher who decides the cover.

  9. #69
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    On the topic of cover art:

    Last night I was browsing through the bookstore and noticed a book called daylight, based on its cover: Here's the cover (sorry about the small images):

    Elizabeth Knox's Daylight:



    This rung a bell, mainly because 2 weeks before I'd purchased:
    K.J. Bishop's Etched City:


    Close inspection showed they were obviously based around the same drawing, the clothes and background being the major difference.

    Huh? Lazy publishers? Lazy artists? Blatant plagiarism?

  10. #70
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Your cover art examples were switched, but we get the point. The similarities may be due to a lot of factors. Did the same publisher do both books, or two imprints that belong to the same house? If so, they may be trying to establish a certain look for the covers, although such similar covers could be confusing for booksellers. Did one book come out significantly before the other? If so, the art department for the second book may have liked the first book's cover and copied it or contacted the artist. Is there the same cover photo art credit for both covers? If so, the same artist may have reconfigured an image because it looked like it would work for both books.

    What's interesting is that it's not straight illustration, but a photo-like image with an abstract, muddy background. It's stark, modern, cinematic and deliberately vague. It has no definite symbolic imagery to characterize the work as one type of fiction or another, or to definitely define it as fantasy (if these works are fantasy and not sf or something else.) Publishers periodically try to find new "looks" that will stand out from other titles and catch browsers' attention. This may be the current look they are trying out, which, if successful, means you'll probably be seeing a lot of covers similar to it, though hopefully not as identical. It may also mean that the publisher is trying to get "cross-over" attention -- attracting not only the fan audience but other readers who might not normally read genre works, by making the cover seem genre-less but interesting. I'd suspect that they're trying to interest graphic novel fans as well.

  11. #71
    Couch potato. xayaxos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shayna
    Yea! Now that you mention it..

    Sara Douglass' "The Wayfarer Redemption". Were they not selling two different sets of books( same story) but depicting different covers?? I mean i almost bought two of the same. Really, it was frustrating!! I had begun to think that their were three series, until I finally picked up the books(one by one) and took a good look!
    that's probably because here in Australia the Wayfarer Redemption series was released as two seperate trilogies (the first being the Axis Trilogy) but now that's it's been exported to the US/Canada they joined them into a six-book series ...

    on another note, i think that the cover probably does make a difference. i probably wouldn't have bought the Axis Trilogy if not for decent quality covers. same goes for Wheel of Time - i'm very disappointed that i couldn't find a copy of the eight book with the decent plain black with the logo on it ... got stuck with a horrible illustration instead *sigh* ... put an inconsistency on my bookshelf!
    Last edited by xayaxos; May 30th, 2004 at 06:14 AM.

  12. #72
    Registered User Iskaral Pust's Avatar
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    Oh, I think I have a new favourite cover:

  13. #73
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Well, see, there you go again -- photographic-like image with burst of light, dark blurry background, vague shapes, very mainstream but artsy look. What country are all these covers in?

  14. #74
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Perhaps that would be New Zealand and Northern Ireland, if I'd been paying attention. So maybe a new British cover trend?

  15. #75
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    Your cover art examples were switched, but we get the point
    D'Oh!

    Did the same publisher do both books, or two imprints that belong to the same house? If so, they may be trying to establish a certain look for the covers, although such similar covers could be confusing for booksellers. Did one book come out significantly before the other?

    Daylight was published by HarperCollins and The Etched City by Pan Macmillan. I'm not sure about imprints so I can't tell. Not sure on the publishing dates either.

    The Etched City was in the fantasy section of the shop though, and Daylight was in with the "normal" stuff. A look inside the cover showed that it might actually have a bit of vampire content though...

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