Thursday, July 13, 2006

Judging Books by their Covers

Personally, I judge books by their covers all the time. I'll be picking up Liz Wiliams' The Demon and the City, which I have absolutely no time to read anytime soon (not that I wouldn't love to) specifically for the extraordinary Jon Foster artwork. Whereas there is a collection out from a golden age writer that I've always wanted to read that I simply will not buy because I cannot get passed the God-awful packaging. I know, I know. But I just can't do it.

I'd like to see more reviews take the art into question. Or else, I'd like to see more reviews of art, some thoughtful discussion of what works and what doesn't. Maybe a monthly column that discusses the merits of new works (and trends) as they emerge. There is a move, for instance, away from illustration towards design afoot in publishing right now, though I tend to side with the thoughts expressed in John Scalzi's post which praised John Picacio for producing cover illustrations which don't "hide the science fiction or fantasy elements of the work, but they do present them in a way that includes (and entices) non-readers of SF/F rather than excludes them." This is what we've tried for with most of our Pyr covers, and which I think works beautifully with a cover like River of Gods (by the brilliant Stephan Martiniere, currently a Hugo nominee).

So I am thrilled to see two new voices join the bloggosphere. One is artist John Picacio, whose blog On the Front, debuted last week. The other is Tor art director Irene Gallo. Not only does it feature a profusion of pretty pictures, but The Art Department contains some sound advice that every beginning illustrator should follow. Only a few days old and already I'm hooked.

12 comments:

John Scalzi said...

I love the River of Gods cover, myself. Although the fact that a building I know to be in Dubai is pictured in India causes me a slight bit of cognitive dissonance.

Lou Anders said...

Hey, it's the future, maybe they ported it in.

Dubai architecture aside, as far as the signage goes, Ian was impressed with the authenticity of Stephan's details...

" THE ROYAL BRIGADE " New Cartoon Series Blog said...

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Tim Akers said...

I would like to say that the RoG cover is the hot. Hot hot heat.

Neth said...

I'm one of those people who looks at much of the cover art from recent times and shudders - particularly books with a more fantasy slant. The cover art is often just embarassing. I blogged about it a few months ago.

However, the trend does seem to be getting better. You guys at Pyr seem to be doing a great job - The River of Gods is a great cover for example.

Lou Anders said...

What I love about RIVER is that it unpacks slowly. The SFnal elements are not immediately apparent, but become obvious as the painting draws you in. So you see floating discs, the cyber-elephant, etc... a moment or two after the collision of old India - new metropolis has already hooked you.

Armchair Anarchist said...

Agree with your points about 'inclusive' cover art. But I would say that the UK edition of River Of Gods is a lot more 'inclusive' than the one pictured...indeed, so mainstream is it that the cataloguer at the library where I work (who never seems to read the blurb or check the publishing house of fiction titles) actually filed it in general fiction - until I pointed out the mistake.

Visually, and as an SF reader, I actually prefer the US cover you have there, as it brings out the SFnal elements far more. But the old saying about books and their covers certainly holds true when discussing the take-up of SF by non-SF readers. For example, see how successful Ryman's Air has been.

Lou Anders said...

I liked the UK cover (I'm referring to the hardcover, not the yellow/red paperback that followed), but felt it was so inclusive as to no longer say "fiction." The people I tested it on thought it was a nonfiction book at a glance, possibly a travel book.

Anthony Hildebrand said...

I agree - all too often I'm more attracted to the cover art than I should be. While it approaches blasphemy to say this, I really prefer the most recent Dune cover over all previous editions - it's elegant and simple.

I'm not sure how much influence you have over this, but there's a young artist who I think would fit well into the market: Greg Martin.
www.artofgregmartin.com

Great to meet you at the Campbell Conference, and hopefully I'll run into you in the future.

Lou Anders said...

Hi Anthony,
I too love the new Dune covers. I was hacked off when they only did the first book in Hardcover and the subsequent only in mass market. I wanted a matching set of Hardcovers!

re: Greg Martin - thank you. I pick all the artists for Pyr books, so I'll check out his stuff.

Jose said...

You've improved upon the UK edition's cover art which is unusual for a US publisher. Keep up the good work.

I agree with your comments on SF cover art. There's plenty of SF books that I won't buy because I don't want to be seen carrying them.

Lou Anders said...

Thank you Jose. That means a lot. Especially since I wrestled on this one with whether to go with the UK cover or no.

As I did with Adam Roberts' GRADISIL. Excited to debut that cover - also from Stephan - when I can.