Log in

No account? Create an account
12 December 2007 @ 11:23 am
the mysteries of cover art & copy  
Very soon I'm taking the first 150 pages of the QUEEN'S BASTARD manuscript and going out of the house to do galley edits on it, because...well, because I believe if I stay at home I won't actually do them. I'll find a million other little things to do instead, and probably many of them will be things that need doing, but ...

...woog, the air pressure in here just changed. *frantically tries to clear ears*...

Uh. Right. Anyway. Going to work soon, that was the point. But first, a quick post on cover art.

The topic put forth in my LJ was, "How much control you've really got over the cover art/book format/back-cover-blurbs". It was not the most popular selection of those available, but I've just gotten permission to show off the QUEEN'S BASTARD cover, so it's the topic you're getting first. So there. :)

Previous entries on this topic: Art Fact Sheets: Harlequin's data entry system for information about what an author might want to see on her cover.

The actual art fact sheet for HEART OF STONE.

Having provided what, by dint of actually having links of their own, are clearly *not* short answers to the question, the short answer to the question is: "Not a damned bit, actually."

Arright, I'm going to assume you've gone and read those other two links and I'm going to talk about books I don't talk about in them, like THE QUEEN'S BASTARD. :)

Del Rey didn't ask me a thing about what I'd like to see on the cover of TQB. However, being the, uh, there's a nice word for this, I'm sure. The, uh, *forward-thinking* and *involved* author that I am, I emailed to ask about it, and said I didn't know what they were thinking of, but that I would personally love to see a real costume drama kind of cover, a la Phillipa Gregory's covers, particularly THE VIRGIN'S LOVER, THE QUEEN'S FOOL or THE OTHER BOLYEN GIRL, but maybe adding in an element like Belinda (the main character)'s dagger, so it's not *just* costume drama and so it hinted at what Belinda's real duty is.

My editor wrote back and said she'd been thinking of something like Marie Brennan's WARRIOR AND WITCH cover, which is very intense and sexy.

This is what we ended up with:

I think it's a *wonderful* mesh between the two ideas (and yes, she is highly boobalicious). I was incredibly, incredibly pleased with it. (*laughs* The poor art director, whom I met in NY while we were there in August, said to me, nervously, "We'll probably take some liberties with the dagger..." because Belinda's dagger was given to her when she was barely more than a baby, and was sized for a child her age. It's a token now, a keepsake, but it's also very representative of who and what she is, so I loved the idea of using it. It would, however, look perfectly ridiculous at its actual size, because the whole of it's not much longer than an adult's hand. I said to the art director, "Oh, that's fine, it'd look ridiculous if you didn't, and besides, I don't care if the cover is a flawlessly accurate picture of what's in the book. What I really want is something sexy and beautiful that'll sell a lot of books." He said to Betsy, "Can we keep this one?" *laughs*)

Similarly, with Del Rey, they sent me the cover copy:


In a world where religion has ripped apart the old order, Belinda Primrose is the queen's secret weapon. The illegitimate daughter of Lorraine, the first queen to sit on the Aulunian throne, Belinda has been trained as a spy since the age of twelve by her father, Lorraine's lover and spymaster.

Cunning and alluring, fluent in languages and able to take on any persona, Belinda can infiltrate the glittering courts of Echon where her mother's enemies conspire. She can seduce at will and kill if she must. But Belinda's spying takes a new twist when her witchlight appears.

Now Belinda's powers are unlike anything Lorraine could have imagined. They can turn an obedient daughter into a rival who understands that anything can be hers, including the wickedly sensual Javier, whose throne Lorraine both covets and fears. But Javier is also witchbreed, a man whose ability rivals Belinda's own . . . and can be just as dangerous.

Amid court intrigue and magic, loyalty and love can lead to more daring passions, as Belinda discovers power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

out of the blue and said, "What do you think?"

I said *clutches my heart* wow, that's good! and it pretty much got left at that.

For my other series--ok, starting at the top. My editor at Luna sent me her original blurb for URBAN SHAMAN, which ... *checks* ... I no longer have. I rewrote it entirely, *mostly* by changing it from passive to active tense but keeping all the same elements my editor had used, and my copy was basically what got used, and set the tone, for the back covers of the Walker Papers. Since then, I've rewritten the back cover blurbs and gotten more or less what my editor wrote in the first place. :)

I can't find the COYOTE DREAMS blurbs, so here are the THUNDERBIRD blurbs:

Original from my editor:
It's the end of the world.

For all the bodies she’s encountering, you’d think beat cop Joanne Walker is Homicide. But, no, Joanne’s a reluctant shaman who last saved mankind three months ago—surely she deserves more of a break! Yet, incredibly, “Armageddon, Take Two” is mere days away.

She doesn’t have a minute to waste.

When her spirit guide inexplicably disappears, Joanne needs help from other sources. Especially after she accidentally unleashes Lower World demons on Seattle. Damn. With the mother of all showdowns gathering force, it’s the worst possible moment for Joanne to realize she doesn’t have enough control of her own powers.

Or for her to discover she’s being lied to....

My rewrite:
The pressure is off.

Reluctant shaman Joanne Walker has survived the Wild Hunt and a banshee. Now her worst problem is suffering through her day job as a street cop during a heat wave.

At least, until she finds another dead body, starts to lose her tenuous grip on her magic, and accidentally unleashes Lower World demons on Seattle.


As her friends begin to pay the price for Joanne's lack of training, she accepts help from a host of powerful newcomers in her life.

But someone is lying to her.

And she doesn't know who.

And what ended up on the back of the book:
It's the end of the world.

For all the bodies she’s encountering, you’d think beat cop Joanne Walker is Homicide. But, no, Joanne’s a reluctant shaman who last saved mankind three months ago—surely she deserves more of a break! Yet, incredibly, "Armageddon, Take Two" is mere days away.

There's not a minute to waste.

Yet when her spirit guide inexplicably disappears, Joanne needs help from other sources. Especially after she accidentally unleashes Lower World demons on Seattle. Damn. With the mother of all showdowns gathering force, it’s the worst possible moment for Joanne to realize she should have learned more about controling her powers.

Or for her to discover she’s being lied to....

So not much in the way of change from what the editor wrote to what ended up on the back of the book. (Meh, in retrospect, mine wasn't that good, although I still like parts of it a lot more than what ended up on the book.) Similarly with COYOTE DREAMS, although the tag line on that--Wouldn't it be easier to just save the world? came from my rewrite, and I was pleased that, at least, made it on, 'cause I thought it was funny. :)

On the Negotiator books (well, the first two, anyway, since the third hasn't been blurbed yet): the copy I wrote for the back cover of HEART OF STONE ended up being printed on the inside of the cover flats as the story synopsis as to why booksellers should buy this book. I like it vastly more than what did end up on the back cover, but the only bit they kept for the cover copy was something to the effect of, "As the bodies pile up, it's a race against the sunrise to clear Alban's name and keep them both alive..." Which was my favorite line, so hey, that's not so bad. :) (Oh, the original text I suggested is in the art fact sheet entry linked above.)

With the exception of the words "uber-hot", the cover copy on HOUSE OF CARDS is, I think, entirely mine. I don't know what, exactly, will end up on the back cover when the book is actually produced, but for the moment, at least, what I wrote is what's on there. And I have no idea what'll end up on the cover of the third book. Right now I couldn't blurb it to save my life, unless they'd take, "And it all goes to hell! Read and find out how!" as a blurb. :)

I had pretty much no input on the Dermody book blurbs, but that was my own fault: I took forever to respond to the first one, and by the time I did it was too late and the tone'd been set and all. Overall, though, they were fine, and I *loved* the little one-line teasers they put on the front covers (THE CARDINAL RULE: Trust no one but yourself. | What rises from the ashes of betrayal? THE FIREBIRD DECEPTION | Someone has to rise from the ashes... THE PHOENIX LAW (I'd proposed something slightly different from that for PHOENIX. Can't remember what/find it now, but I liked it slightly better. Still, it was that general gist, which is cool.).

So. There ya go. From my experiences, at least, that's the kind of input an author has on the book cover/blurb. I know Charlie Stross commented on one of my earlier entries on the topic saying he'd never had anything like the Harlequin Art Fact Sheets, and talked about his own experiences a bit. Perhaps other writers will weigh in and people can get a broader spectrum (I have, after all, only worked with two houses), but this is what I can give you. :)
Current Mood: creativecreative
J. Kathleen Cheneyj_cheney on December 12th, 2007 11:49 am (UTC)
I like the cover. Very nice!
ex_kaz_maho on December 12th, 2007 12:41 pm (UTC)
That cover seriously ROCKS! Beautiful.
-peartreealley on December 12th, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
Wow. That's one hell of a cover. I'd certainly pick it up off the shelf even if I didn't recognize the name ;)

(Also, the cover copy is intriguing...)
Brian: Bunny: readinglogrusboy on December 12th, 2007 03:46 pm (UTC)
Ooooh...dangerous boobies....

Sorry, did you say something? :)

I really enjoy reading all the insights into the real life of a famous (okay, proto-famous if you want to quibble) author. I always suspected that blurbs were written by some marketing wonk who, if you were lucky, had read the synopsis. Nice to know that sometimes the author can have input into the blurb and try to make it say something interesting and relevant and fun but doesn't spoil anything.

Of course, I'd buy a book if the only words on the cover were "C. E. Murphy".
kitmizkit on December 12th, 2007 06:21 pm (UTC)
Of course, I'd buy a book if the only words on the cover were "C. E. Murphy".

I love you, my agent loves you, my editors love you... :)
Brianlogrusboy on December 12th, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
You could try writing something crappy so I'd have to be more selective.
Phaedra: wraithmeharet on December 12th, 2007 04:00 pm (UTC)
SHINY!! Booobalicious! My coworker's eyeballs popped out at that cover. He's 27. He doesn't read Fantasy. He wants that book.
kit: tqbmizkit on December 12th, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC)
TQB for teh win! Yay!

Remind him of this in May. :)
cearabredecearabrede on December 12th, 2007 05:56 pm (UTC)
It's pretty. I like the castle in the background, but... woah at the boobs. And also, WHAT is with the cut-half-the-face-off trend? I know in YA it's cuz the models look too old, but it's across genres. Is half a face sexy? Ugh.

But I like it on the whole. Although I admit, it makes me wonder what's up given that the person on the cover is obviously a woman, but the title is TQB which typically refers to a man, and therefore I am *curious*, which means I will pick it up and read the back copy to see what the connection is. But that is a good thing. And this is way more than I probably needed to expoud.
kit: walkerpapersmizkit on December 12th, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
I've always assumed the Headless Model thing was to help allow the reader to place herself in the lead character's position. (Other people are far less forgiving than I am on the topic, and regard it as yet another objectification scheme.) I was almost certain somebody would comment about it on this particular book, though nobody's said anything about it on the Walker Papers. :)
cearabredecearabrede on December 12th, 2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
I admit that I didn't remember what those look like, although viewing your icon, I see that. I don't dislike the cover - it's beautiful and I'm more about the mood of a cover overall than the specific way it looks, if that makes sense - so I hope I didn't come off that way.

(I REALLY like the Negotiator trilogy covers, btw. The stained-glass writing is brilliant; it really stayed with me.)
kit: negotiatormizkit on December 12th, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
It makes sense. :)

I like the Negotiator covers a lot, too! I feel generally that I've had superlative luck with my covers. :)
La Mutant of Reputemutantenemy on December 12th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
I am greatly intrigued and a bit woo-woo for learning the inner cog works of how a book truly becomes what you see on the shelf.

That is amazing and quite the process.

Thanks for sharing. Now I know the work doesn't stop once the manuscript is done (yea, yea, i'm a n00b. LOL).

By the by -- LOVE TQB cover. Once I finish the Negotiator Series, it will definitely be next on my Amazon Wish List.

*boingys off to the local coffee shop for a java jolt and to test run her new fountain pen*
kit: tqbmizkit on December 12th, 2007 07:47 pm (UTC)
Ah, but TQB will be out before the end of the Negotiator Trilogy! So clearly you must put it on your wish list before HANDS OF FLAME!
La Mutant of Reputemutantenemy on December 12th, 2007 11:27 pm (UTC)

*scrambles to her wish list, kicks Amazon for loading its pages at the speed of a lethargic snail and edits it*

Thanks for the heads up! =D

(Deleted comment)
Sunfeetdreamstrifer on December 13th, 2007 06:26 am (UTC)
That cover's prettilicious. And boobilicious. Neither of which are bad, per se. :-)

Drawing from someone else's comment on half a face or whatever on books, I kind of like them (and shots of the heroine from the back, as long as they're done well) because not only does it help you get into the role of the heroine, but you can make up your own mine about how the heroine looks based on the author's description, you know?

Of course it all becomes moot when books are made into movies (hey, a girl can dream!), but whatever. ;-)