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richard
Posted on Tuesday, November 25, 2003 - 10:55 am:   

Here's a thought - what do you do (and feel) if your publisher slaps a really dodgy cover on your novel. Worse still, what do you do (and feel) if said dodgy cover sells said novel in large quantities. I've been lucky with my publishers in the UK and the US (and France and Italy too, come to think of it), but that's me - are there any horror stories out there?

Reason it comes to mind - for nostalgia reasons, I recently bought a couple of battered twenty year old Poul Anderson paperbacks and one of them has a sub-Boris Vallejo tableau that wouldn't have looked amiss on a bodice ripping Mills and Boon historical romance. And does anyone remember those John Norman books about some place called Gor, every one of which seemed to feature an airbrushed and barely dressed Pamela Anderson clone wielding a sword or fainting away into some metal clad warrior's arms? Come to that, did anyone ever read one?
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Tuesday, November 25, 2003 - 12:51 pm:   

I read a few of those Gor books in 6th or 7th grade I think. The covers actually capture exactly what they are about. S&M softcore/hardcore porn. Great stuff for a horny teenage boy, but like most porn, they get old real quick.

As for covers -- I'm biased. Night Shade has a standard on covers... they have to sell books, but they have to not be embarrassing -- and the author usually gets full approval. I haven’t had enough experience with Romance Novels that masquerade as period fantasy, so I haven’t had to make a decision on a “bodice ripper” style cover.

What are your opinion on the covers of the immensely popular “Kushiel's Dart” series (http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0312872380/104-7910772-6755143)? Fairly erotic, but artfully so, and there is an erotic element to the series. I’ve all ready seen the copycat covers of this series popup in the PBO fantasy lines of some publishers – notably one of the freebies at world fantasy.

Since the sexuality of one of the major characters is of significance to the "Kushiel" books, I don't think that the covers of this series are prostitution as much as truth in advertising. The copycat covers may very well be prostitution, however.

-jl
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Neal Asher
Posted on Wednesday, November 26, 2003 - 02:14 am:   

Um, compare my UK Skinner cover to the one Tor in America have produced for the same book. I hardly need to comment.
Books: http://freespace.virgin.net/n.asher
I read one John Norman book, but for me, at the time, it was a step up from reading John Carter on Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs, or book twenty-three in EC Tubb's Dumarest saga.
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gary gibson
Posted on Thursday, November 27, 2003 - 05:30 am:   

If you look at a lot of paperback SF from the seventies, it tends to feature Chris Foss paintings of giant striped spacecraft exploding, regardless of actual subject matter. Memory is vague, but I heard a story that the Glasgow writer Chris Boyce once deliberately put a stripy spaceship in one of his novels so that the words would match the cover for once - and then got cover art which *didn't* have a stripy spaceship in it.

I'm under the impression things are a lot better now - when Mike Cobley had his first fantasy novel out a couple of years ago, he was in pretty constant touch with the artist for the several weeks it took to put it together. On the other hand, I've heard the problem is when you come out in European translation, and then you run the risk of seriously dodgy covers. I'm going to have to deal with this soon, when they start working on a cover for Angel Stations.

For some reason perhaps best not explored, my older brother had a couple of Gor books. I sort of skimmed through one. Really bad, yeah, but I heard something somewhere about a woman who ran a singles ad in the New York Times or somesuch saying she wanted to meet a man prepared to model his lifestyle after the Gor books. When I worked in a bookshop, I noticed they'd been reissued for, and shelved in, the Erotica shelves.

Another variation on the whole cover art thing is, do you want, say, a big spaceship on the cover of your book filled with big spaceships, or do you want something a bit different? Look at Grimwood's Effendi novels - those covers are great, particularly because they're not very 'genre', they don't have that whole bright primary colours thing going on there. Now they're talking about marketing fantasy novels with deliberately non-genre art so people aren't scared to be seen reading them or picking them up in Waterstone's.
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richard
Posted on Thursday, November 27, 2003 - 12:10 pm:   

Nice story about Foss and the stripey spaceship - as a parallel, there's a section in William Gibson's Neuromancer where he describes (in disparaging detail and tones of distaste) a holosculpture distortion of his character Molly - the image he writes is essentially a Chris Achilleos SF/S&M fantasy gun chick cover. I wonder if he thought his book might end up with a cover like that, or if he was trying to ensure that it didn't. Ironically,a few years later Mona Lisa Overdrive *did* come out with a sanitised version of the image he described.

The Kushiel's Dart cover looks good to me largely because the woman on the cover bears a striking resemblance to what real women look like in the flesh - something the Gor covers (also by Achilleos, I think) never really bothered with. I think the cringe factor with Gor was the extreme stereotyping, rather than the fact that they were erotic images. Rather like someone you're in bed with suddenly cooing "Ooooh, do it to me, big boy." - sure, talk in bed can be erotic, BUT.... There's sex and fast cars in my next novel, but I'd still be pretty horrified to see a cover on it with a porn queen sprawled naked across the bonnet of a Ferrari (tho' maybe sales would convince me to endure the cringe :-) )
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fur
Posted on Sunday, November 30, 2003 - 07:16 am:   

I thought the Kushiel covers were great - especially as Phedre would love them and Joscelin would cringe and be mortified - manking them relevent and reasonably representative. But the books also repeatedly raise the question of who is exploiting whom: fair enough an author might object to a really lurid cover, but does it actually exploit the book? I'd have thought that a book which, once read, couldn't rise above a terrible cover would be in fairly dire straits anyway. The book-buyer, on the other hand, probably is being exploited by the cover (with it's siren call 'come, read about stripy-spaceships')- because it's their preconceptions which are being used against them to sell a book.
I guess my point is that it doesn't matter what you do to the outside of the book, the content isn't touched by it, and although it might inspire the marketing campaign the book itself isn't pandaring to, or selling itself to, the book-buying reader. In a sense, the cover is no reflection on the author or the text.

on non-genre cover art - does the *new* set of wheel of time covers count? A serious case of jumping on the lotr bandwagon. And the magic of recluce series has done the same thing, but gone for pictures of the weather on the front of each book. D'you reckon that's supposed to appeal to the english on some fundamental level? I agree that non-genre covers are a great idea, but a marketing campaign that equates the magic engineer and polite uk small talk seems to be a bit extreme!
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Chris
Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2003 - 03:03 am:   

Richard: Just got new French and German MMPs of The Haunting Of Alaizabel Cray. French is a picture of Stitch-Face in his lady's wig (for some reason done up in a very prim style) running around with a knife; the German one depicts two medieval swordsmen fighting a gargoyle in a ruined city kinda like Osgiliath from the LOTR movies. The French one made me fall off my chair laughing for about half an hour; the German one is very good but it belongs on a Dragonlance book and not one set in Victorian times! On the other hand, just saw the US cover art for Alaizabel - and usually they're never as good as the UK due to having the cheesometer set to Ultra Max - but I really like that one; better than the UK one, in fact.

I just find it funny though, y'know? Let them do what they want with their markets; they must know them better than I do. I'm just glad they get published overseas at all :-)
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Chris
Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2003 - 03:14 am:   

Sorry, had to post this French cover. Genius!

http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/P/2070535975.08.LZZZZZZZ.jpg
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richard
Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2003 - 02:00 pm:   

Nice...

Yeah, the foreign market thing is interesting - for Altered Carbon my french publishers went for something that wouldn't look amiss on the front of a TinTin book - but oddly enough I really liked it - it's kind of arty, and although it has limited accuracy in the scene from the book it purports to show, there's an essence captured there which ahhhh, bollocks, I'm rambling here - still dosed to the eyes with Max Strength Lemsip. Anyway, totally different to the UK cover, but I loved it just as much - and you're right, there's somethign immensely pleasing abut the fact that someone finds your work not just good enough to publish but good enough to take the trouble to translate into their language too.

I was similarly impressed with my US covers, which are deeply noirish - contrasts with the (equally (but differently) pleasing) UK approach where they've stuck to SF illustration but built a logotype that hits you like a brick coming through plate glass. Logotype was one of the things I always liked about Iain M Banks' stuff too - you can tell whose books they are at five metres out from the shelf.
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Jörn
Posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 03:05 am:   

Have you seen the cover for the upcoming german version of Altered Carbon, thats how I like them, I'm tempted to buy it just for the cover.
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James
Posted on Thursday, March 18, 2004 - 10:21 am:   

I think my favourite set of covers at the moment are the current UK one's from Gibson's Virtual Light/Idoru/All Tomorrow's Parties. The use of white, and the rotating of the quotes so they run vertically, speak to me of someone who is playing with style in a way that is often referred to in Gibson novels and seems to be out of the worlds of pop art, music and art/fashion/architecture rather than the usual SF cover design.

I do have to confess buying Laura Hamilton's "Kiss of Shadows" for the cover (very pale, not-quite-goth girl lying on her front with no clothes on). The book was dire. My fault for thinking with my "eyes"!
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Nicolai Højer Sanders
Posted on Sunday, May 01, 2005 - 12:25 pm:   

For your pleasure, i googled around for all the AC covers mentioned here + a few other interesting ones:

http://www.esensja.pl/magazyn/2003/08/img/ilustr/08_25a.jpg

http://www.randomhouse.de/content/edition/covervoila/351_87951_rs_35274.jpg

http://www.algoritam.hr/slike/proizvodi/104674_2.jpg

http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/8460000/8462416.jpg

http://www.andromedabook.co.uk/acatalog/cvrRMalteredCarbonCrime.jpg

http://www.highfiber.org/img/downloads/altered_carbon.jpg
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Nicolai Højer Sanders
Posted on Sunday, May 01, 2005 - 12:34 pm:   

forgot one...

http://images-eu.amazon.com/images/P/2914370423.08.LZZZZZZZ.jpg
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richard
Posted on Tuesday, May 03, 2005 - 01:49 pm:   

thanks nicholai

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