Monday, April 25, 2011

Input and changes...

So my week has had a couple of interesting developments (Besides watching Kris Rusch's blog with... interest. The potential shakeout from this could be a whimper. Could be. Or it could be the first domino. Interesting time to be in this this business.) Firstly I've been asked for input into my covers for CUTTLEFISH and THE STEAM MOLE (which have been bought by Pyr). They asked me for detailed descriptions, and also sketches of the submarine and tunnelling machine. Now Bob Eggleton, who did the cover DRAGON'S RING asked me for input. But it's a novelty having this from a publisher. I'm not actually sure it's a good thing - I can't tell them ideas suck in so many words, and also, I'm a writer, a fisheries scientist, a weird little hairy guy who lives on the outer fringes of nowhere. Writers are possibly good at writing. Fisheries scientists are good at fantasy and sometimes also at math and fish. Neither of these skill sets automatically qualify me as an artist or as a cover designer. And weird little hairy guys on the outer fringes of nowhere are a poor sample of the potential market. We (I presume there is at least one other) are not a good target market, and it matters not a jot if it appeals to us or not. Finally, it's a time sink of note. I could have written a short story in the time I've taken do ONE set of very bad sketches. So what do you think: is a good thing? How much input should authors have into covers?

Secondly I got an e-mail from Toni Weisskopf (The boss-lady at Baen) asking me if I'd do a short story set in DOG AND DRAGON'S universe (for which they will pay me 5 cents a word) as a promotional tool for publication on the Baen Website. This too is a new development. BTW DOG AND DRAGON is tentatively scheduled for April 2012, so don't hold your breath. It's a new development, and, depending on the contract I get for it(ie, how soon the story reverts) I think it a good one. What do you think? Should all publishers follow suite?

15 comments:

Francis Turner said...

On the whole I think its better for the author to be consulted by the artist/publisher than not. Not sure that that means you should draw detailed specs although I do think that authorial maps are really useful (it would actually have been kind of useful to have one for Dragon's Ring) and some of David Weber's drawing for the Honorverse have helped me a good deal.

As for the short story thing from Baen, I think that's an excellent idea. Tor has been doing someting similar for a while now and it helps a lot to get new readers interested in the writer and the universe the book(s) is set in.

MataPam said...

Dave,

I'm picturing your steam sub surfacing amoung wild waves, wrapped in the tenticles of the Kraken.

Perhaps a word picture would be better than a sketch? Or with the sketch?

I like the idea of a (paid for) stort story for advertizing purposes.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Dave, when publishers ask me for input on covers, I surf the net to see what the current crop of covers look like.

I collect the ones that make me go wow. Then I also have a Resonance file from when I'm writing the book. It contains research and pictures which have inspired me.

Plus I also put together a character description of the main POV character along with examples of the way they would dress in their society.

Then I send the best best of this to my publisher, who by this time is probably wishing he didn't ask. LOL

No, seriously, the cover artist Clint Langley has been happy to have the input.

Best of luck with these books, Dave!

Brendan said...

Rusch's blog certainly was interesting reading, even if much of it I had heard from other sources, excepting the bit about sales reporting being by publisher/title. Why aren't books being tracked by a identifier which is unique to that one edition. Like umm, ISBN numbers? How long have ISBN numbers been attached to books? (ME=Gobsmacked)

Another interesting bit of stats is on Rachelle Gardner's blog which while based of some quick and dirty stats either indicates that there are more people wanting to write SF/F than there is a market for, or that the publishers are under-estimating how much SF/F can sell.

Good news on the input into the covers. Given you are a word-smith first, perhaps giving the artist some of the character scetches from the research pile and a few cuts from the book you think may coud make integing covers. Then ask to be shown some of the images the ouitlines the artist comes up with, just to check he/she is on the right track.

Darwin said...

Short story sounds like good work if you can get it...especially if you can get it in cash or a direct funds transfer upon manuscript receipt.

As for art, I'm biased. I love sending artists stories and asking them to visualize something. I can also give direction as needed, but I prefer to be "value added" rather than "managerial".

Darwin said...

If you get a good artist and if you end up having good chemistry, you can get something like this:

http://kevinwasden.blogspot.com/2010/11/isolation-revised.html

Ori Pomerantz said...

It's true that you're not an expert on covers. However, you are an expert on what your readers like. You wouldn't have survived in this business if you weren't. Presumably, this makes you an expert in what potential readers who don't know you yet would like. So asking for your cover input is probably a good choice.

Dave Freer said...

Francis - I suspect this one of those 'it depends' situations. Some authors are going to take this as the right to get pissy about details, and micromanage something they know nothing about. Some artists read the book/story and do a better job than the author (Pauline Baynes/ JRR Tolkein).

Maps yeah, I should have done one.

I think the shorts is good move too - so long as the rights revert very sharply.

Dave Freer said...

MataPam - Bob Eggleton wrote to me asking for suggested scenes. I gave him the scenes I thought would work, and some idea of how I thought it could be drawn, and asome essential details (Dragon must be black) and left it to him. That works for me.

I like the idea of the paid shot much better than the 'this is just extra you will do for us'. And as it is the first bit of marketing I've actually seen, I like seeing it, and knowing what it cost.

Dave Freer said...

Rowena, that's an excellent idea. And, dearie me, I have no problems with weird steam devices but have a real problem with clothing as I have almost zero interest - and steampunk is very costume.

Dave Freer said...

Brendan - the trouble with rachelle's stats is that they're just outright bad sampling - ergo GIGO. Which rather like Bookscan being used to determine whether you make an author an offer or how much that offer is... means building a vast edifice (because these stats and conclusions linger) on a non-existant foundation. (ok, I am being grumpy here.)

Dave Freer said...

Erhm Darwin. Publishing believes Tmeous payment is for other people (says Dave who is still waiting for money from the last short sale. The check is in the post. really...)

Dave Freer said...

I love Kevin's work, Dar. IIRC I introduced you to him.

Dave Freer said...

Ori, that's quite suble :-). You have a point.

Brendan said...

Yeah, I know Rachelle's survey isn't good science, but thought it was interesting anyway. Considering as an agent her target is the Christian/romance market it was interesting just how many people read her blog proffessing to be SF/F writers