I have a new book about to be released! Siren Beat, my paranormal urban fantasy novella (sans vampires of werewolves but featuring murderous sirens, a kraken, tentacle smut and a very sexy sea pony) is now available for pre-order over at Twelfth Planet Press as part of an Ace Doubles style publication (back to back, two covers), also featuring “Roadkill” by Robert Shearman, World Fantasy Award winning short story author (as well as “omg he wrote Dalek” Doctor Who tv/audioplay writer).
But what I really want to talk to you about is… isn’t my cover AWESOMECAKES?
Hee, getting good cover art has to be one of the top 5 author experiences, up there with The Call and earning out royalties for the first time… there’s just nothing like seeing a piece of artwork that has been inspired by your writing. Something you could never have produced yourself, but instantly adds value to your own work.
Especially when it’s really good!
Covers are a tricky business. You only have to have been following Justine Larbalestier’s blog and lately to understand that. An author rarely has control or final say over the look of their book, and can end up disappointed. Sometimes that disappointment is seriously warranted – as with Justine’s story, where the wrong cover seriously misrepresented the book, dragged in very uncomfortable race issues, and simply makes the author, book and publisher look bad.
More often, though, the author has to suck it up. Covers are about selling a book – and the publishers and marketing departments, though they are usually interested in author input, especially in the initial ‘inspiration’ stages, are rightly more interested in producing a cover that will sell the book than which will conform exactly to the author’s (or even the reader’s) expectations of how certain characters, places or items should look.
There are many brilliant covers that get stuff wrong. I remember as a young fantasy reader being utterly bewildered by some of the David Eddings covers – they were beautifully painted and yet who was that Amazonian redhead? Couldn’t be Ce’Nedra, everyone knew she was the height of a small garden gnome…
While it’s nice to have covers that get important character details right, more important is getting a cover that sells the right kind of book – that draws the eye of readers and lets them know what they will be getting.
In the case of this particular cover, Alisa the publisher asked me if I had any particular ideas to give the artist, and I suggested a couple of scenes that might give the right kind of action-y mood. Later, I realised that the one key and iconic thing about my story was tentacles. Nancy Napoleon’s paranormal world revolves around threats from the sea rather than the more traditional vampires and werewolves, and one of the main villains is a seductive cecaelia (octopus siren). I pinged Alisa with the request that a tentacle of some kind be involved in the cover.
What the artist, Dion Hamill, ended up producing was the above image from an important piece of Nancy’s backstory – her battle with the Kraken. I love the strength of Nancy as depicted here – it’s a sexy image but not in a demeaning way. She is fighting underwater, and I like that she has exactly the right look – an athletic, practical and dangerous woman. There is a detail that’s very wrong, which is that Nancy’s hair is short, whereas the story reveals that she only cut her hair short after her battle with the Kraken. It never occurred to me to even mention this to Alisa and Dion, though, because it’s irrelevant – and an image of Nancy with long hair would give the wrong impression to readers about who she is now. It’s a tiny compromise of consistency – and one I was perfectly happy to make.
And I do love my tentacle.
Okay, this is definitely a cue for authors and readers alike to chime in with their stories of covers got right and covers got wrong… do you like covers with characters depicted or is this just asking for trouble?