Thursday, September 06, 2007

Paperback Contact, and A Cover Issue...

I just spoke for the first time with my Anchor/Vintage editor. He's a new guy for me, as my previous editor for the first three books has moved on from the company. It's way early days to start thinking about the paperback, but they do these things way ahead of time. Looks like they'll be aiming for an early fall publication. So this time next year Acacia should be hitting the shelves. (If that seems like too long and you've yet to read the book - the hardcover is lovely, good quality, won't fall apart on you, pages smell nice, etc.)

Man, these things take a long time. My hope, though, is that the folks at Anchor will do a terrific job with it, and that a little extra time will help that happen. If they can build interest that rolls toward Christmas all the better...

About the only thing semi-concrete that was mentioned was that they quite like what Doubleday did with the cover. I've always like it too, but I've been very aware of the cover art issues in the fantasy genre. Seems like a contentious issue, really. I know some people didn't care for Acacia: The War with the Mein's cover because it didn't seem to represent a fantasy novel well; others said they like it because... well, because it didn't represent a fantasy novel in the most familiar ways.

As we head for a second shot at this I'm wondering what folks think? Should we stick with a version of the hardback cover? (When this works well it helps to brand the book, making it familiar straightaway to people that had seen the book but not picked it up earlier.) Or should we try something new - roll the dice and see what we come up with as a fresh take?

With that in mind I'd also ask you to consider the differences between the only two Acacia covers in existence so far. Here's the US one beside the forthcoming German one. Which floats your boat more? (I'm not suggesting, by the way, that my US publisher is considering using the German cover. I'm just tossing out there as an example of what alternatives can look like...)

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21 Comments:

Blogger Aidan Moher said...

The German edition of the novel is just bloody beautiful.

I wasn't that impressed with the US cover for ACACIA... until I saw it in the store. The image on a computer screen just doesn't do justice to the actual printed copy.

That being said, I think a shake up wouldn't be a bad thing when it comes to the paperback. I don't think the original US cover would translate well to paperback format.

~Aidan
A Dribble of Ink

1:02 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Thanks Aidan,

Hmmm... True enough, I do think the US cover is best when it's actually in your hand. They put a lot of work and expense into the details, but you don't really know that until you have it in hand and can feel the quality.

That's great, but with all the online sales the cover also has to connect with folks that just see the jpeg...

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Tia Nevitt said...

I quite like the German cover! However, I agree with what Adian said. Once I had the book in my hand I was wowed, but until then I really had no opinion about the cover.

You bring up a good point with the branding issue. I don't suppose you want to do anything completely different.

3:46 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hi Tia,

Yeah, that branding thing can be good. They used the same cover for both versions of PRIDE OF CARTHAGE in the US. I think that indicates that Anchor thought things went well with the hardcover and figured it was better to stick with a good thing than try to redesign it. Feels like a similar feeling for this one so far.

On the other hand, my UK publisher did two very different covers for PRIDE OF CARTHAGE. I think that reflects them thinking they could do better on the second round with a fresh take. So... in some ways it's certainly a good thing that they might stick with the original cover.

Still curious about what folks think, though.

5:21 PM  
Blogger Mego said...

I like the US cover for Acacia, but it doesn't scream 'fantasy book' when you look at it.

For the paperback a cover that is more fantasy oriented might attract more attention. That German cover is nice.

8:22 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hey Mego,

So, the US cover isn't fairing too badly yet. Hmmm...

8:53 PM  
Blogger Constance said...

I agree with mego. The Acacia cover just doesn't say fantasy to me. If that is the market you're looking to capture, then something a little more fantastical might be in order. The German cover immediately says "historical" (possibly) and "Fantasy" (possibly) to me. If I didn't know anything about Acacia and saw it in the store, even in the F/SF section I would think it was a post-apocolypse tale- just from the cover.

(For the record I loathe the "babes in chainmail" type covers. Won't buy them)

I think a Donato Giancola cover would do wonderfully on any of your books. :)

9:00 PM  
Blogger Saladin said...

I think the image of the tree with chains for roots is a great image symbolic of some of the book's themes -- and it looks cool! But I have to admit - I might have come to George R.R. Martin's books earlier if his cover art had been more conventional (ie, a depiction of the heroes).

10:54 PM  
Blogger Scott Oden said...

While I like the US cover, that German cover absolutely rocks! Whoever painted it is a gifted artist.

12:44 AM  
Blogger Child of Albion said...

The German cover is lovely, but the somewhat spartan American one is undoubtedly elegant. It doesn't, perhaps, scream fantasy, but I think that's a good thing. It stands out on the shelf. Color and simplicity, especially on an American bookshelf, can draw the eye as readily as fairy-tale castles and swooping dragons.

~ Tim

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I like th German cover, it is "standard issue" for Fantasy. I read a lot of Fantasy and Sci Fi and most covers just run together. The US one stands out and speaks to the tone and themes of the book.

Of course, in order to appreciate it that way you have to have picked up the book and read it. But the cover didn't turn me off or push me away in any way.

Ultimately, I think the cover adheres to the larger artistic vision of the book and series and deserves to represent that vision. Using the other cover would do the book itself injustice in order to entice some of those with no knowledge. Which may in fact be the covers job...

I feel your pain. I vote for as is.

12:04 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Hmmm... Interesting all around. I see the logic pro and con both covers, but can't completely cut through it to come to a firm opinion myself.

I could add that the German publisher has a clean slate in how they introduce me to their market. ACACIA is my first book over there. ACACIA 2 will likely be my second. They don't have to deal with what's come before, or with what other stuff I might want to do in the future. Doubleday/Anchor likely wants to strike a balance with where I've been as a writer and where I may go - and consider that I have a backlist of books (that aren't at all fantasy) with them that they still want to sell for some time... So they're actually juggling quite a bit more than Blanvalet.

Having said that, Blanvalet seems to feel quite confident that they know how to publish the book to make it a considerable success in their market...

Ah, I don't know. I should probably keep my sights set on just writing the books. Words, they're my thing...

1:35 PM  
Anonymous jonathan dimarco said...

Aw, the German cover is very pretty, but rather clinical. Sure, the draftmanship is stellar, and the architectural details are keen. But the original cover, with its reds and browns and golds, with its gnarly chain-fed tree, is much more visceral. It's a blunt collage of themes and elements, colors bleeding recklessly and the corners glazed with lace. And the typeface looks like something you could club baby seals with. Mean.

I vote original.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Lyman said...

I'd have to say that the original cover generates a better sense of the richness of the book. As with genre writing in general, you walk a slippery slope if you adhere to genre trappings. You either slide into the abyss that is writing to a finite highly-specific audience or you hope and pray to traverse the slope and have your work appeal to a broad audience that finds the genre draperies acceptable. In my opinion you've found the best path across the slope. Stick to the moody current cover or one very much like it.

My two cents... congrats by the way on all your successes since we last spoke.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Lou Anders said...

German cover.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Well, having held all four of your books in my hands now, I would have to vote for something similar to the US cover. Architecture without symbolic or storyline meaning is not to my taste when it comes to cover arts. I prefer accurate depictions of people and their interactions with their environments.

Having just finished reading Gabriel's Story and Walk Through Darkness this past week (really liked them both, will try to elaborate upon this later on my other, non-spec fic blog), what I liked about their covers is the relationship between the persons depicted on the characters and the surrounding landscape. I see this sense of an immense landscape on the cover of Pride of Carthage as well (soon to be read, I promise) and traces of it are also in the US Acacia cover. There just seems to be thematic resonances there in those covers with what transpires in the three stories of yours that I've read to date. That is something that cannot be overlooked when considering the cover art issue.

So if your publisher decides upon a different cover for the tradeback (or MMPBs if issued in that format), I think something along the lines of showing one of the children with his/her "adopted" peoples and that particular clime might be a better approach than just some random "fantasy-looking" castle or roadway.

But regardless, I'm just glad that I received the beautiful hardcover edition.

P.S. Sorry for the quiet the past few weeks. First two weeks of school have been time-consuming, but in the best way possible. So far, I'm mostly loving every moment of every day. Definitely saw some passages in Walk Through Darkness that I might read to my students in the next few weeks when I really get into Antebellum South era politics. Just thought you'd like to know that bit, in case your ego needs a bit of puffing up ;)

11:14 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Jonathon... Awesome description. Umm, don't mention that baby seal thing to my off spring, though. That wouldn't sit well and would likely lead to a long discussion on the topic.

Lyman... Cool. Thanks for stopping in. Thrilled to know that you read and enjoyed this. For the record, I think you're the real deal also, and I look forward to reading your work in book form.

Lou... Okay. Duly noted. And I know you know a good deal about all this stuff...

Larry... Well, you rock! Thanks for taking in the other works. So glad they worked for you. Again, they're such important books to me - so much a part of who I am as a person and a writer. I may be off on this Acacia thing for a while into the future, but I kinda like having my feet planted back in American historical material.

I hope the teaching is going well for you.

David.

12:12 AM  
Anonymous Caroline Harper said...

The German cover is very classy. The red and gold one is a little airporty for my taste, but as I like to think I do not judge books by their covers I bought it anyway. Am now wishing I could read German tho'.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Lou Anders said...

Well, both are attractive covers. I would say that my preference is for covers that do not sacrifice their generic roots but which present these roots in a mature, adult light. John Scalzi has described this as being inclusive rather than exclusive and I think that is a fair assessment.

5:59 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...

Caroline, Thanks for buying Acacia! I wish I could read German too. As far as I can tell there's lots of good writing in Germany that never gets the English treatment. Bums me out. Maybe when I get some free time...

Lou, I agree that striking that balance between honoring the book's genre roots but also presenting it in a mature light is the right way to go. Not easy, though. Glad cover-design isn't my profession.

And that Scalzi's a clever guy, isn't he?

6:26 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Thanks! Don't worry, no actual baby seals were harmed in the making of that metaphor.

Just picked up Pride of Carthage. Eventually I'll manage to put it down. Excellent work, sir.

12:21 AM  

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