Friday, September 15, 2006

Judging Books by their Covers, Part III

I'm pleased to see more discussion of cover art in the bloggosphere, first over on the Penguin Blog (and not Penguin blog) where there is a discussion of what goes into crafting hardcover and paperback book jackets, and now on the Eos blog, Eos Books: The Next Chapter, where Diana Gill says:

"Personally, I'd love for everyone to understand that the cover is to sell the book. To the reader, yes, but first and foremost to the buyer at the store and/or chain level--if they don't like the cover, it stands a much smaller chance of being seen by anyone else. So the cover is designed primarily to appeal to the buyer. After that, we want it to grab the readers' attention. And their hands. And particularly their wallets. That being said, we do want a gorgeous cover that will also reflect the book. Sometimes they succeed; sometimes, unfortunately, they don't."

She then goes on to a frank discussion of how the "girls-in-bikinis-riding-spaceships-and-dragons" sold despite the groans and complaints, which may be an uncomfortable truth at the heart of our genre. (Do core readers want science fiction and fantasy that looks like science fiction and fantasy?) Meanwhile, she uploads several interesting covers, including this gorgeous cover for A Canticle for Leibowitz, one of my recent favorites from John Picacio. (In fact, I bought the book again just for that cover - so, since I already had the earlier Bantam edition, that's at least one case where a title moved on cover art alone).

Meanwhile, I'm eager for opinions on our latest Stephan Martiniere illustration, this for Kay Kenyon's Bright of the Sky, and uploaded over on the Pyr blog. I opinion there that it may be my favorite Pyr cover to date, but five minutes after I posted the UPS man came with my copies of our just-in-from-the-printer The Blood Debt, Books of the Cataclysm: Two by Sean Williams. This one has the stupendous cover of hang gliders and dirigibles flying over a city on the edge of a huge canyon. By Greg Bridges, I've been eagerly awaiting seeing it on a hardcover since I read the original Australian mass market. So now I have a tie for favorite Pyr cover of all time. (The careful reader of this blog may note that every cover is my favorite cover. But today, it is genuinely, sincerely these two.)

Update: John Picacio wrote to let me know that I -and Diana Gill - were both using an earlier version of his Canticle cover. I've replaced it with the correct, final version. Meanwhile in the comments section of this post, William Lexner lets us know of an interesting discussion between folks holding diametrically opposed opinions of what makes for good cover art over on this George R.R. Martin forum. Since I've never read Martin (a glaring hole in my fantasy education, I know), it feels disenginuous to join just to post in my own self-interest, but I'd be very curious to see how those in the debate felt the Pyr covers ranked in their estimation, since I think we shoot for a healthy middle ground between genre elements and sophisticated treatments. So thanks to anyone who wants to steer them this way.

Update 2: Just posted the cover for the Spanish edition of Mike Resnick's New Dreams for Old over on the Pyr blog. We didn't have anything to do with this license. I just think it's fun to see how the Spanish edition artist has obviously springboarded off our Martiniere cover.

Update 3: Jose Garcia has just posted his interview with artist Brian W. Dow over on Meme Therapy. Along with the interview are covers to four Pyr titles: Genetopia by Keith Brooke, Hurricane Moon by Alexis Glynn Latner (forthcoming), The Prodigal Troll by Charles Coleman Finlay, and Tides by Scott Mackay. This is the debut for Hurricane Moon, which has never been seen anywhere before, and is a full wrap-around of an alien landscape, with space shuttles that Brian actually built from scratch.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Anders's Three Laws of Editing

Here's something that's been gestating with me for a while, an attempt to reconcile the commercial and artistic impulses that the editor of a fiction line faces. Like everyone above the level of the self-employed small independent press, I have Dark Masters with Commercial Expectations. Yet, it should be noted, my particular Dark Masters founded their own publishing company not only to make money, but for the propagation of a noble agenda as well. Furthermore, in an age where sometimes it seems as if Sturgeon's Law might need to be rephrased "90% of everything successful is crap," it is my sincere hope that readers of this blog would by now know that I am a true believer and that I think science fiction - apart from any other genre of literature - has a a lofty goal and purpose to fulfill apart from and in addition to being mere entertainment.

So, what follows is my attempt to articulate this struggle of often diametrically-opposed objectives, and to codify my thoughts into a set of principles or guidelines - laws if you will - that could form the basis of my own decision making when it comes to the execution of my duties at Pyr.

I tried these ideas out on at least two panels at this past WorldCon, and they seemed to have met with favorable responses from the audience, as well as nods of approval from two men I respect highly - Gordon Van Gelder and David G. Hartwell. I'm still working them out, so the exact language may be refined over time. But with that caveat, here they are, offered for the ages, though with tongue at least halfway in cheek - the first official print appearance of -- drum roll please --

Anders's Three Laws of Editing:

1. An editor shall select those books which he or she deems will make the most money for his/her publisher.

2. An editor shall select those books which he or she deems will provide the most entertainment value for his/her readership, in so far as doing so does not conflict with the First Law.

3. An editor shall select those books which best serve the evolution and growth of his/her genre, in so far as doing so does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

So, I think you can spot my influences. But what do you think?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Say, What's He Got Going On Over There?

Yes, this is a blatant attempt to drive some of the greater traffic I regularly draw on my personal blog over to the Pyr site, something that would make my Dark Masters happy, but it's also my first attempt at posting something on the professional site that goes a little more indepth and personal than just the reiterating reviews and author appearances (not that those aren't nice or important). So if you come here but you've never been there, please do indeed check out this latest post on the Pyr site. Comments appreciated since I really am interested in the question of simultaneous publication of a multi-book narrative.

Meanwhile, I do hope that while this is the most indepth post of this nature that I've yet uploaded over there, earlier efforts to keep the professional site interesting with lots of new artwork and even some random wackiness haven't gone unappreciated. I have found myself posting more on the Pyr blog than this one in recent weeks, and I hope to keep it updated and interesting. Thanks in advance.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Lou's First DragonCon

So, this past weekend, I drove over to Atlanta to check out my first DragonCon. I don't usually attend, in part because I've always had this one described as a mediacon, not a reading con, and mostly because it's usually held the same weekend as the unmissable World Science Fiction Convention. But this time out, DragonCon and WorldCon fell a week apart, and given the close proximity of my house to the former, I thought I'd check it out.

I was just making a hit and run, but enjoyed hanging with Jetse de Vries of Interzone (who drove cross country from Anaheim to be here) and meeting Yara Abuata of BenBella Books (who I previously only knew through our email correspondence. I occassionally write for their Smart Pop series.)

I'm still not sure, after checking out the convention, if it would be a good place to host a Pyr booth or not. With some 25,000 attendees, it represents good exposure, but my impression is that the guy installing vampire teeth for $65 a set made out better than any bookseller. (Would appreciate any opinions on this.)

Finally, it was a bit poignant for me standing in the back of a 600 plus crowd to catch a glimpse of Peter Jurasic, Mira Furlan and others from the Babylon 5 cast. Wanted to say a quick hello to folks I used to work with every day, but there was no way to even get close. Very good to see their amazing work hasn't been forgotten though. I don't think enough people on the book side of the SF fence recognize what an amazing and literate show B5 was.

I was really impressed with several of the costumes. I couldn't catch up with the Hell Boy when I had my camera out, but the guy dressed as Electro blew me away. His fingers really shot bolts! You can see them if you enlarge the picture. And this guy made a pretty convincing Lex Luthor.

Don't know when I'll be back, but I'm glad I made the trip this time.