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Authorial input

(Astute readers will notice that I just updated the sidebar section "Buy my books" with a new title that's due out in July. If you want to understand the reason I'm posting this entry, read the rest of it then click through the link to the US hardcover edition for a worked example.)

Thoughts about marketing and brand dilution remind me that it's about time I said something on the subject of marketing and books. So I'll start with a point that is both trivial and has a remarkable ability to annoy authors: How much control does a novelist have over the way their book is published?

Unless we're talking about the small press or self-publishing, the answer is "zip". The author is responsible for writing and delivering the contents of the book and, optionally, additional material such as a dedication and acknowledgements. But the way their manuscript — a typescript, typically prepared in accordance with the ancient and established Rules — is turned into a book is entirely up to the publisher.

There's a good reason for this: novelists are not generally marketing experts or design gurus.

In fact, as novel-length fiction is the last hold-out of the solitary creative producer, most of the folks who're attracted to it as a profession are downright odd, and have correspondingly strange ideas, including the peculiar misapprehension that, having signed a contract licensing the publisher to publish and sell their work, they ought to have some say in how the publisher goes about doing so. (Not to mention harbouring charmingly eccentric but not necessarily realistic theories about marketing and design ...)

The one important insight that authors generally lack — or at any rate have difficulty in acting on — is that it's not about them. A major commercial publisher pumps out books on a production line, producing five to ten (or sometimes more) titles every month. Their novel, which they have slaved over for months or years, is not the centre of the publisher's world: it's an item on a conveyor belt geared to meet the practical demands of shoveling shipping containers of books out the warehouse on a weekly basis.

It follows that one of the unwritten parts of the job description of a commercial fiction editor is to keep the authors as far away from everybody else in the business of publishing as possible. And so, there's a standard production process that the delivered book gets run through, with the author kept in the dark until the fateful email arrives with a large graphical attachment and a note saying: "hi! Here's your new cover! We all think it's great! How do you like it?"

The cover of your novel is not an attempt to faithfully depict a scene from the story that you wrote. It is an advertisement, aimed at the eyeballs of members of the reading public who have never heard of you, and it is intended to make them pick up the book. It typically comes about because the editor prepares a brief synopsis of the book (including, if you're lucky, a sample extract or two) then sends it to the art director, who briefs an artist to paint a picture (again: if you're lucky enough that they're willing to pay an artist a couple of thousand bucks to paint a picture based on your book). The art director then passes the picture to a graphic designer to handle superimposition of the necessary layout elements (title, author's name, publisher's logo, bar code and other necessary tags, then the strap line and cover copy). Then it goes to marketing, who pass judgement upon it and maybe send it back to the art director for tweaking. Some or all of these hats may be worn by the same person. In any event, all of these steps happen before they get to the stage of sending the email that says "hi! Here's your new cover! We all think it's great! How do you like it?" ... and by the time they've sent the email they're already working on the next book.

So. What kind of answer do you think they're looking for?

Things are different with small publishers, of course; very often all the hats are worn by the same person, and the cover arises out of a free and frank three-way discussion between the artist, the author, and the editor. And that's very nice, but it only really works if the publisher's got time on their hands. I've occasionally been in the privileged position of having an editor at a major publisher show me an artist's rough sketch and ask for an opinion before they commission the cover art ... but that's rare. In general, the cover lives or dies by the Marketing Director's whim, on the basis of the one question: "will this help sell more copies?"

Finally, the author doesn't even own the title.

One title I've been regretting for years is "Singularity Sky". The novel published under that name went through a variety of names along the way. My original working draft was tagged "Dead Light", but that was a bit too close to "Dark Light" (which Ken MacLeod had stuck on the front of one of his books). Books either start with a title and proceed therefrom, or the title is an afterthought; this book was one of the latter. In the end, I sent it out as "Festival of Fools", and that's the title it was sold under. Until, a month after the US contract was signed, my editor emailed me. "Sales say that it's too close to another book we published this year, called 'Ship of Fools' — it'll confuse the readers. Can you think of a different title for it? Maybe something with the word 'Singularity' in it?"

Okay, at least she asked. I've got nobody but myself to blame for "Singularity Sky". And it's not a bad title, really; it's just that, in combination with the content "Accelerando", it gives some folks the peculiar idea that I'm one of those Singularity guys. In fact, under the contract I'd signed, my editor would have been pretty much within her rights to have retitled the book without asking me. Because? The author is responsible for delivering the stuff between the covers of the book, and has a legal right to have their name on the cover ... and that's about where their involvement in the layout and design of their book begins and ends.




hmm. yes. Glad I live in the UK - the US cover would be getting me disparaging looks from my girlfriend at the very least.


Why did you sign this thing about the retitling? Didn`t seems important to you?


Will amazon.co.uk ship to Canada?


Signing "this thing" seemed important to me, yes: because it was the contract without which the book would not have been published. (And without which I wouldn't have been paid.)


My gods, I'd never have bought any books by you if I'd seen a cover like that on one of them, that's just... well... tacky as hell.

Seriously, my girlfriend would murder me if I bought a book with a cover like that.

It's no wonder there's a misapprehension that sci-fi is only aimed at 14-year-old boys.

Thank god the UK one is sane, and safe for me to buy.


I've never realised that you had so little control over the title.

Art work yes - I suppose that makes sense (I can, indeed, imagine some of the wierd shit that would grace our paperbacks if certain authors had a say). But I always believed that - barring using a title already in existence - it was down to you.

Of course I'd let a publisher change the title of my book to "Robot Orgy" if they'd buy it...

Hmm - there's a thought.


It'll be interesting to compare the sales of the UK and US editions relative to your other books, to see if the eye catching cover increases or decreases sales.

It's a pity that the US HC is Ace rather than Tor. I'm curious to know if they'd have offered the cover as one of the current series of free downloads or not.


This is a problem that comes up all over the place. At one point I used to buy a small circulation motorcycle magazine and got irked at the girlie shots they insisted on having on the cover and inside.

The editor used to hang around on a forum and said they needed them to keep the circulation figures up. They'd tried it without on a sister publication and it made a very noticable difference.

I'm not sure what the solution is. Probably just time.


Charlie @4:

So you had no choice? You couldn`t insist on your own title?


I think that the UK hardcover is almost as good an example of this process. As Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise sold well, the publisher is obviously trying to make a 'Charles Stross'-style cover, giving Saturn's Children almost exactly the same cover style, so that people link the three books in their head. The intended train of thought presumably being "I liked Singularity Sky, so I'll like this".

From their point of view (the UK publisher that is) it's not a bad idea. I do wonder if your US publisher has actually read the book, because even by the standards of a rushed designer, that cover is truly hideous.


Anatoly: nope, I couldn't insist on my own title. Moreover, it would have been stupid to do so -- with two titles so close together on the same publisher's list, it would have caused massive confusion among the bookstore staff who order in copies of books.

Nick: the big irony is, it's a high budget cover. That cheesecake is expensive cheesecake, rendered using high-end CGI by a heavyweight animator. And it's also a homage to a certain Heinlein cover from the 1980s (the book that "Saturn's Children" riffs off extensively). But by the same token, they put so much into producing the cover that any suggestion that they ought to alter it was met with ... well, let's just say it wasn't welcome!

I'm hoping that the gap between the number of people who say they won't buy this kind of cover and the number of readers who actively won't buy it is, ahem, wide ...

At least the cover on the hardback is a dustjacket; if it embarrasses you to be seen reading it, take it off. And if it doesn't sell the book they'll have time for a rethink before the paperback comes out.

Folks who are published direct to paperback don't have that luxury ...


Anatoly @ 9 - when your publisher asks you to change the title. You change the title. Remember these folks are paying your wage, and as Charlie pointed out - they're usually kinda more in touch with marketing than you are.

If they suggest you change the title, it's oft for a good reason.

Nick @ 10 - If I remember rightly the US cover does actually relate to a portion of the book. Just perhaps not a portion of the book most normal human beings would pick as the cover :)

I agree on the UK cover though - I like it a lot more.

Also - whenever I get US hardbacks they appear to actually be made of cardboard, uncovered. And being a bit of a hoarder/collector I like the nice covers that we seem to generally get in the UK.


Doh - I type too slow. Sorry for duplicating that.


Hasn't it always been thus? Back in the '70s and '80s practically every science fiction book had a painting of a huge spaceship on the cover regardless of whether there were spaceships in the book; Asimov's books were packaged with massive robots fighting on the cover.

You do luck out occasionally though - Halting state's UK cover was perfect!

Do you ever have trouble with your UK & US publishers wanting different titles Charlie? This seems to happen quite frequently with the US title almost always dumber than the UK one.


Guh, I really hate US marketing some times. The new cover seems to harken back to the old "omg boobs will sell stuff" SciFi. Meh.
That being said, if it helps any, I picked up Singularity Sky because of the title.


Uh-huhm.... interesting cover... looks like something someone whipped up in Poser. But anyway, the cover won't make me NOT buy it.

I am also surprised at the lack of control over the title. But I totally understand that you'd rather get the book out with a different title than you wanted than not get it out at all.


I second Gordon's comment- Halting State's cover was excellent. If there was a Hugo for SF covers that don't suck, it'd definitely be on the shortlist (the very short list). One question- is the character with shaven head and beard meant to represent the author?


For the record, _Accelerando_ (given to me as a gift) was my introduction to the concept of singularity, and I purchased _Singularity Sky_ based on its title for want of more fictional content related to Singularity.
Now, here I am, four titles into Stross' work and subscribing to and commenting on his blog.
Anecdotally, the system works.


There is a very good book on the 2000 UK intervention in Sierra Leone that I feel embarrassed to read on trains because its publisher chose to give it one of the worst flames-n-daggers-n-choppers jackets ever on the principle that, as the SAS figure in the text, it must be sub-McNab stabbymaniac wank fodder.


BrianR @17: yup, that's me on the cover :)

JustAnotherJohn @16: if only it was a quick Poser knock-off it might have been possible to get them to change it. But? When a committee's just signed off on getting a Pixar animator to spend a month building a 3D model and settled on a cheesecake pose, they ain't gonna budge. (Especially as I threw my toys out of the pram a year earlier, over a botched cover prep for the US edition of "Halting State".)


Loved the U.K. cover; unfortunately, I'd already ordered the U.S. version...

My first thought was: "Good Lord! Will you look at the way those things defy gravity! She must be an android!". 8-)


I spent my childhood reading SF with dodgy covers and now I've got a way of sitting and reading that shows as little of the cover to people on bus/flatmates/parents/siblings etc. just to avoid the issue, but still, I am glad I'm in the UK.
(Based on the 3s look I had at both covers, I can't notice any difference between the uk one and the cover of Accelerando at all, but that's because I didn't look properly)


Charlie @8:

So, the bookstore staff is really so dumb they can`t distinguish between two different titles if they have the same word among them?

I`m not criticizing you, just want to know where you would draw a line. OK, suppose title is on the title page, so it belongs to the publisher. What about chapter titles? Names of characters? Ending? 8-)


UK version happily preordered. The US cover looks like the artist just got a copy of Poser. (Iron Maiden had the same problem a few albums ago).

Do they really think a bit of poor cgi cheesecake would appeal to the average sci-fi reader more than a rather nice picture of a spaceship? I suspect they're not trying to appeal so much as have the book jump out at the reader from the shelf. I grudgingly admit that I'd probably pick up the book to have a look if I saw it on the shelf looking like that. From morbid curiosity more than anything else.

I've seen much better cgi cheesecake though. Try this one

I'm sure we'll all enjoy the book no matter what the cover though :)


Hey! I think I read that Heinlein book (referenced in comment 11) back in 1982 (if I'm guessing correctly). I believe that I probably DID purchase it due to the cover art. And, yes, I was 14 or 15 at the time. Most of me has aged since then.

I still read Science Fiction.


One additional complication comes into this particular conundrum: At whom is the marketing material aimed? In US practice, publishers care less about what the public at large — those who will actually (for the first time) buy the book — thinks than what bookstore-chain and book-distributor buyers think. That leads to some truly bizarre disconnects; for example, a couple of years ago the head buyer for one of the major chains' romance segment had not read a romance published since the mid-1970s and proudly proclaimed so.

The key distinction is that there's a big difference between what will get a book into a bookstore and what will move that same book out of the bookstore and into the reader's hands (without becoming a remainder). Admittedly, this is a more-significant issue in the US than in the UK, but still...


The trouble with the US cover is that I know a bit too much about CGI art. At the cheap end (which is Poser) you can buy a figure, which has various adjustments to alter the shape of the face, vary the body shape, and generally make a reasonable range of human figures. But you can often still identify the basic figure, and there are certain common weaknesses.

The android look, suggested above, is one of the common weaknesses. I see a picture like that, and I think CGI.

And, for me, the picture fails to tell me anything of the character or setting. It's a CGI babe in a standard sci-fi outfit. The Heinlein cover that Charlie refers to isn't that much better, but it doesn't have the same cookie-cutter feel.

I think it's a cover to sell a book, rather than a cover to promote a particular book. Like a Chris Foss spaceship, you could have put it on anything.

But this is on a dustjacket. Right? Is there any reason why somebody couln't design and sell a replacement? Oh, the publisher "owns" the title. Well, how about just labelling it "Another Fine Charlie Stross Book"?

(I'm in a weird mood today.)


Anatoly @23: yes, my editors can ask me to re-write or change chunks of my books. And I can decide for myself whether or not to do so, with the proviso that in extremis they may cancel the contract, demand repayment of the advance, and invite me to sell my book to someone else. I have, as it happened, changed the ending of at least one book in response to such a request ...

Charles @26: dead right. One of the big problems with this business is that everybody thinks they know what sells books, whereas in fact they only know what sells books to them. Is the cover intended to sell the book to the wholesalers, to the bookstore buyers, or to the general reading public, or to the author's hard-core fans?


Yowza. That US HB cover may well make me wait until a friend or relative travels to the UK and can pick up a copy for me. It will be my small way of discouraging such covers in the future. Don't know who that cover is intended to sell the book to and don't care. Just don't want it on my bookshelf.


It's an tenteresting point about just who the cover is selling to.

But as long as the buyer can recognise covers his chain can sell, does it matter?

(Aren't there websites which really have fun criticising dodgy romance covers?)

But consider eBooks. The "cover art" goes direct to the end user. I wonder what works, and whether the difference is down to a different market.

I do get the feeling that the romance market is brand-driven, and part of the branding is the flavour of the cover art.


I think the brand thing could be true for sci-fi too. Gollancz have a fairly distinct style of cover art - comparatively classy I think.

I'm sure most consumers wouldn't know or care less about a book's imprint but if they associate a particular style with books they have enjoyed in the past it's bound to influence them.


I agree that the US cover is somewhat cheesy. However, the very generic UK cover isn't good either. It seems you didn't rate the better artists for this book (hopefully that will change).

While the publisher's art director and marketing department probably have more experience than you do, I wouldn't assume that it is necessarily all that good. SF cover art tends to be faddish - lurid pulps, surreal, abstract, spaceships (Foss), etc. While a cover can draw the eye on a bookshelf, it needs to stand out in some positive way. I think your US cover will draw the eye, and I find it reminiscent of the cover of Orson Scott Card's "Capitol" - a reclining Sorayama-style robot. (Personally, I would have thought Jim Burns would have been the ideal artist for this book). Unfortunately the cheesiness is a bit of a -ve, so you have to hope the blurb is catchy too.



Well, I pre-ordered anyway.

Reminds me of a U.S. paperback of Sterling's "Islands in the Net" (cover here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:0441374239.01._AA240_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg )

The wife gave me a constant rash about that one, and I was quite annoyed -- both by the title and the cover. I ripped the cover off that one.

At least they didn't make a cheesecake movie from your novel. Oh, wait...


Now now; not just romance covers. Though they're well represented.

And now I must trek over to Canada to get the good version. For anyone unaware, Canada is within the Commonwealth as far as book covers are concerned.


I was always disappointed as a young reader that the cover work for "grown-up" books had so little to do with the story inside.

The transition in the US goes kids book, illustrated every page -> short YA with occasional interior illustrations -> older YA with relevant cover illustration -> [big old gap] -> grown-up fiction with no illustration/genre-flavor illustration/random irrelevant thingy.

If anyone in the pub biz wonders why some of the people in my demographic luv the manga (and light novels) and others never make the transition from reading older YA to reading fiction at all as adults, here's your reason: you squandered years of people learning that pictures help tell stories.

It's not as though it was cheaper to produce illustrated books 75 or 100 years ago - surely that was done to help them sell, yes? (Of course I'm looking at publishing's anointed winners here: J. Allen St.John's work on John Carter of Mars & Tarzan, N.C. Wyeth's stuff on Treasure Island, Sherlock Holmes as illustrated in the Strand. I mean each one of those was a license to print money, and arguably two are YA equivalents. )


Well, I just pre-ordered the UK version. I have no objections to the cheesecake, (obviously) it's the bad type treatment that turned me off.


Even if I understand some of the reasons for cover multiplicity, looking at my SF book collection, I'd say the aesthetically most pleasing thing would be if each SF author get's one size and one style, and the publisher(s) all over the world sticking with that. I often buy by lowest price, and that means either US or UK edition here in Germany, and thus, for example, my row of nice Iain M. Banks books (Orbit covers, I think) is broken with an US edition of Excession (and with a super-large "high end paperback" of Matter). Stross is even more diverse ;-)


P.S.: See here for a pic illustrating what I said.

P.P.S.: It's very nice that one has the possibility to learn some of the trade secrets of authors and publishers in this blog.


Till: expecting publishers to accept someone else's cover design and layout for one of their own authors is like trying to herd cats. (Using a sleeping sheepdog.)

Nor do different cover designs work well in different regions. For example, the split in British and American cover styles is striking and rather deep right now, as a quick comparison of titles on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk will tell you.

(Alex @32: the cover illustration for the UK edition actually depicts a scene from the book. And the cover for the US edition actually depicts the central character -- who is (ahem) a sex robot. Both covers are, in fact, reasonable attempts at interpreting the subject matter: whether they succeed or not is another matter. But the UK cover is anything but generic, I assure you ...)


And here I thought it was an oblique reference to Saturn 3.

No offense intended in connecting the two works. The combination of "Saturn" and "absurdly low-cut garb" neural nets me straight there. I can only hope that no other unfortunates share my disability.


I'm sure Charlie makes his publisher do it on purpose. Knowing I organise my book cases by book size (and therin author).

Charlie takes up the top shelf along with with the bigger formats (such as Peter Hamilton's epics). Middle shelf space with the slightly smaller books like the Merchant stories, and then has the audacity to make the atrocity archives/Jennifer Morgue slightly smaller. Forcing them to nestle with the Hagakure and Five rings.

The man has no remorse I tell you - it's all down to him personally (and not publishers, typesetters, marketing, printers).


Wow. That US cover is hideous. I might could put up with it if I were going to read it quickly and pass it on. As I keep your books, however, it's the UK edition for me. Thanks for the PSA!

I don't expect covers to accurately reflect the book's innards, mind, but this one has that that certain look that says to me, "You couldn't have been further from our minds when we packaged it." Yet, it's probably not the badly-written, male-ego-shoring, pile of jack-off crap they seem to be trying to present.

I'm just assuming, here. ;)


I still think that the US cover is going to end up on one of the cover snark sites. And yet -- in some ways it is a highly appropriate cover for the book. It's just that it's going to send entirely the wrong signals to people who don't already know that the book is a pastiche of late Heinlein, with a leading character whose nipple really does go spung.


It's not just fiction authors that are odd. In fact, the non-fiction ones may be even weirder; or maybe the fiction ones are just further away. They also have no control over their books.

Partner's comment on the US cover: "Is that soft p0rn?". I wonder if you'll be able to compare the US and UK sales figures and decide which cover is "better".

From what I've see of two book contracts (no, not me; I'm far too sane ;-}), they are the sort of language that even an EULA lawyer would blush if they wrote. I don't understand how authors put up with it. (Or how their partners do -- but I think, for me, whisky helps.)


It is very hard for me to believe they paid a 'big name' to make this cover. The model looks so plastic, it's not funny. I know amateur sf artists who do a MUCH better job of making and applying textures to CGI figures.
I hope when it comes out in MMPB it has a different cover.


From the blurbs about the story inside the cover I guess it should look plastic.


Happily preordered the UK version. My wife took one look at the US cover and just raised an eyebrow at me!

Charlie, any chance you will you be reading any of SC at Alt.fiction in Derby next week?


Wow very Baen-like*. Clearly that means all embarrassment can be avoided by reading the ebook version.

Oh no it says Publisher: Ace. Oh well I guess not then.

*Although actually Baen covers nearly always do represent something inside the book that is story relevant - just in a very garish way.


Okay, I guess I'm the minority mouse here, but I like the U.S. cover. As a female, I know it's everything I should despise, and as a science-fiction lover who's tired of defending her reading choices to the self-proclaimed arbiters of "quality literature," I should hate it for playing to stereotypes, BUT...it makes me laugh.

That cover is so cheesy, so blatant and unashamed in its purpose, yet so nicely done, that it's crossed beyond tacky and jumped right into a kind of artistic camp. It's art with a conspiratorial twinkle in its eye - a sort of "I know that you know that I know this is utterly ridiculous." And any book whose cover immediately makes me laugh is a book I'll pick up. Charlie's books often make me laugh, and this cover is almost like a promise of what I'll find inside.

Not to mention that those colors are definitely eye-catching. The marketing monkeys know their business there, I'll give them that. This book will definitely stand out on the New Arrivals shelf at my local bookstore. There, every other cover is some Old Masters rip-off that attempts to make me believe the historical or philosophical content of the book is more weighty than it really is. And half of the other covers are nothing more than desperate attempts to get "inspirational" status conferred on them by Oprah by means of oh-so-subtle artwork of things like a single leaf on a stark white background. Blech. Anyway, I like both covers and, because I'm obsessive, have pre-ordered both. (Funny thing about the UK cover...it initially reminded me of the ships in the movie adaptations of Gaiman's Stardust and Gilliam's Baron Munchausen. Coincidence?)


too bad they didn't go all the way and try to make the nipple go "spung" on the cover. In graphic closeup. Then maybe it would become notorious and banned and infinitely more popular.


Ok, I'm in the minority here. I don't hate the US version enough to provoke me to order the UK one, unlike 'Halting State' (Michael@3, Amazon.uk will indeed ship here to Canada, however you pay through the nose for postage. From the UK, 'Halting State' cost me 12.01 pounds of which 4.32 was postage. Now some might say that's not too bad, but I think it's just obscene to pay half again the cost of a book in postage. And Dan@34, the only copy of HS I ever saw in Southern Ontario was the US version hence having to resort to Amazon.uk. for the wonderful UK copy, even if it was only a tpb).

Not to give you cover-envy or anything Charlie (especially since your cover for 'Toast' is also wonderful), but check out the gorgeous cover Tobais Buckell got for his book from Wyrm Press. http://clarkesworld.livejournal.com/114515.html

It's a shame you didn't get such a nice cover, but I guess that's why you get the (relatively) big bucks from a larger publisher.




Paul @47: I'm not sure what I'm meant to be doing at Alt.fiction, but if a reading is scheduled ...


I can't say I mind it, at first what did kind of turn me was how fake it looked, but I had also not seen a full description of the book yet and did not know of her being a droid at the time. When I found that out from amazon uk blurb it made some sense, and when I looked at it then I not only did not hate it but saw what Heinlein cover it was copying, and though I do not hate the uk cover for the book, I do not like it either. Though I do not hate the American cover for Halting State, I do like the uk cover better. I do have a question though, what would you have titled the book if you could have. Can't wait to read it though.


Joe @53: I do have a question though, what would you have titled the book if you could have.

"Saturn's Children" was my original pick for a title.

Titles I've had imposed? Let's see: "Singularity Sky" I described already. "The Atrocity Archives" -- the terminal 's' was added by mutual consent to distinguish the two-item collection from the original short novel (which had previously been serialized in a magazone). "The Hidden Family" -- was originally the second half of "The Family Trade", and I had to come up with an extra title at short notice when they split the book in two. And I was told I couldn't use UNTITLED SPACE OPERA (most unfair, that's what it said on the contract!) for "Saturn's Children", but that was a leg-pull in any case.

Mostly they don't mess with my titles.


So Conflicted...
I usually don't mind cheesecake, as it serves a valid purpose, but unless the new book is positively brimming with well endowed purple haired women and their cohorts, I can't imagine that the cover fits the story.

Are we in for an interstellar bodice-ripper?


LOL - that's just funny. I mean, wtf?

But can't wait to read it, of course.


All great points for an author to keep in mind, yep!

But, I really liked the title Singularity Sky, it was one of the reasons I picked up the book (and then, everything else you had written).


JKS@51:"I think it's just obscene to pay half again the cost of a book in postage"

Don't order camera gear from Adorama, then. They only use International Express Courier for shipments to Canada, so a $60 camera bag gets dinged for $150 shipping! On the bright side, if you lived in New Zealand, Outer Mongolia, or somewhere in the 'Stans it would still only cost $150 for shipping.

Amazon.uk is actually more reasonable than a lot of US companies when it comes to shipping stuff.


Not a happy-making cover, but for a lot of us, the words "Charles Stross" are the most important thing on the cover, anyway.

That's the same artist, I assume, that did Elizabeth Bear's Jenny trilogy?


Peter Watts has several different covers for his novels on his web site. Possibly Mr. Stross could do the same kind of thing? Invite fans to submit cover designs inthe form of printable dust jackets, and post the ones he likes as freebie downloads.

We could thus buy whichever hardcover we can get first, and add the dustcover we like most. Everyone wins!


In fact, as novel-length fiction is the last hold-out of the solitary creative producer

I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the howls of protests from millions of painters, sculptors, musicians, cartoonists, t-shirt designers, fabric artists,...


Avram: okay, okay already. I was thinking in terms of film, TV, band and orchestral music, and so on. Comics, too (insofar as there's usually -- albeit not always -- a process involving separate writers and artists).

I will also assert that you seldom, if ever, find t-shirt designers or fabric artists who slave away in isolation for months or years before delivering a finished design to the manufacturer/distributor.


On the plus side, maybe you'll pick up some new US readers in the 12 to 14 age range. :)


Wait...Charlie Stross writes cheesecake romance novels, too? When did that happen? Man, I gotta keep up with the blog more often...

LOL, just kidding. But if I had the money to buy either book at the moment, I would soooo shell out for the UK version. I'm sorry, but that cover is just pure cheese, and not something I'd want on my shelves. If I didn't already know who you were and the quality of your work, this cover would so turn me away - I'd assume it was just another shoddily-produced, "porn in space" nerd wank.

stupid publisher...


"Singularity Sky" to me always had the ring of an Alastair Reynolds kind of title.


I like "Singularity Sky" too. The title really caught my eye and was actually the first Charlie Stross book I bought.

Much better than "Dead Light", though "Festival of Fools" would have been equally good.


Thank god we usually get the UK version down here in Australia.

Thats probably the first book cover i've seen that actually made me burst out laughing :)


Guess what Amazon US just recommended to me? (Besides Kindle and Barbie stuff)


Personally, I'd always pictured the Eschaton as having hair a lighter shade of purple, and knockers perhaps a cm or two smaller. But hey, one always expects new books in a series to unravel favored fanon, so who am I to complain?


Count me as another who's not completely disgusted by the US HC for SC (by CS). I'll probably remove the dust jacket for out-of-house reading, though. It is just a bit . . . much to be waving around.

You can also count me, though, as someone who preferred the US cover of Halting State. Yeah, it was kinda abstract and weird and "artsy", but that was largely countered by it being GORGEOUS. The UK cover just seems too "on the nose" to me, inasmuch as 16-bit-console-era game sprites matches up to immersive MMORPGs of the twenty-teens, anyway.


Hmmmm, does the fact that most self-identified geeks are also fairly prudish have anything to do with the reception that cover is getting here?

Personally, there are a handful of authors whose books reduce me to a state of "What, were you talking to me, what do you mean it's nearly midnight?" and Charlie is one of them. I don't care what's on the cover, I'm not looking at that.

JKS @51, if I could get new releases delivered for 12 pounds all-up, I've be saving about 25% over the price of getting them off the shelf at my local bookshop. Someone in the book industry must be making a killing off the strong Aussie dollar at the moment, because it doesn't seem to be helping book prices any...


I must say that I can't wait to see Charles Stross do late Heinlein. I'm probably one of the rare people who considers that era of his work to be some of the most enjoyable sci-fi ever and one of the small minority (Really small) who's read Number of the Beast multiple times.

Does the lead character sleep with his/her relatives? It's not classic Heinlein without a bit of incest ;)


Read the article before clicking the link to the US HC @Amazon.

My condolences.

...but at the same time...



Stephen@72 - I despair to read what you wrote ...
that's probably the only book I've ever actually thrown across the room in disgust - not because of any incest - just the sheer laziness & self-indulgence of the writing.

Admitted, that was maybe 15 years ago but I won't be rereading it to see if my opinion has changed.


Something that came unbidden to my mind: different ways of doiing art make different things easy. And the hard things are where the artist thinks he earns his money.

I've sometimes spent days making a CGI model. It's one of the hard things, and it feels good when the end result works.

But, color me cheap, for a picture like this it feels the wrong thing to waste time on.

Sample CGI Picture

That's a commercial mesh. Getting a distinctive face might be tricky, but there are morph packs out there, and you can make other faces. There are little details and rendering artefacts I could spend time on. Still, making a cute humanoid female figure isn't the hard part.

CGI cheesecake is easy. I wonder if the Art Director knows that.


Dave @ 75.

I think we all keep missing the point. It's supposed to be Cheesecake because of the flavour/topic of the novel.

If anything it might be that the US cover is more representative of the inside than the UK. But it's just that many of 'us' suffer from Geek complex, and can't stand people looking down their noses at us on the bus/tube/street/in bed!

I appreciate everyone + dog seems to be able to do better, and that this is a simple poser model. But sometimes you pay some one a lot of money to make something that doesn't look awesome.


Semphin, #76

The fact they look down at you isn't important, what matters is why they're looking down.


Well previously I'd assumed it was because I was on the tube in nothing but Y-fronts and a Rising sun T-shirt, but I can see your point.

I for one let Charlie pick for me.

Hey Charlie - which one do you get paid more on?


Mr. S,

Well don't leave us hanging -- is there a boobie-lady in your novel or not?

so-called "Austin Mayor"


Chris@71: "does the fact that most self-identified geeks are also fairly prudish have anything to do with the reception that cover is getting here?".


I like this Vallejo cover for Heinlein's "To Sail beyond the Sunset"
(but it bothers my teenage daughter)

And this Pennington for Heinlein's "Glory Road"

I don't like the US edition because Freya is a poorly executed CGI illustration. bad enough, that I think it can be called "cheesy".

Charlie@39: "cover illustration for the UK edition actually depicts a scene from the book". Fair enough, although it is not clear what the scene is - a spaceship approaching a comet, an explosion? I contend that it is generic in that it is a spaceship painted against a space-y background, reminiscent of any of dozens of Chris Foss's as one example. Are you really saying that this picture could not be recycled for another book? More importantly, I don't think it stands out and says "pick me up off the shelf" which is it's purpose.

If I had to pick between the covers, the UK edition is better, although not sufficient to make me pay the higher price for the UK edition.

Does the cover even have to be relevant? Tor doesn't seem to have bothered with their Martiniere cover for Robinson/Heinlein "Variable Star". I quite liked the retro look of Scribner's edition of Heinlein's "For Us the Living", which does attract the eye because it is so different from current covers - and it does have elements from the story too.


Wait...Charlie Stross writes cheesecake romance novels, too?

Cheesy romance novels featuring ninjas.


Robert @58: The horror you typed out filled me with such revulsion that I broke into a cold sweat just reading it!

Seriously though, it would have to be some seriously specialised and desperately needed bag to compell me to submit to such postal extortion. I'm sure that when my wife bought her custom leather bassoon gig-bag a few years ago we didn't pay anything even near that in percentage terms, otherwise I'd still be having nightmares.

And Chris @71, I feel the same way about publishers because of the current state of the Cdn $ vs the US buck (pretty much at par). Bastards.




Alex @81: you missed out the fact that they're chibiform dwarf space ninjas.

Every novel benefits from the presence of space ninjas!


Charlie @83: Every novel benefits from the presence of space ninjas!

And enemy space Nazis! (aka the "ReMastered" in Iron Sunrise. That's how I described them when I mentioned the book to someone. Space Nazis.)

On the topic of sci-fi book covers, it is sad that book covers in general have become tiny advertising billboards for publishing companies.

Although, the first "Scottish SF" book I bought way back when I was a teenager was Ken Macleod's The Cassini Division, and being unaware that "Sci-Fi" extended beyond spaceships and ray-guns, it was mostly the shiny, fanciful robot (shooting lasers) on the cover that caused me to buy the book for some summer entertainment. What I ended up reading was rather different from what I was expecting!

I remember grumbling that the cover didn't reflect the events or contents of the book at all, but considering the pleasant surprise of the literary frontier I had discovered it was not much of a complaint. However, now that I know what a book by Macleod, Stross, et al generally contains, the covers are usually highly annoying, and as a somewhat competent graphic designer I've had plenty of ideas about how the book's contents could have been better represented by its cover.

But yeah, the publishers of course seem less interested in covers as art (however interesting and relevant) and more as generic advertising.


I'm assuming that the Heinlein book you're riffing off of it Friday? That's the only cover that I can think of that features a seductive female, although the character in the book bore absolutely no resemblance to the cover depiction.

And, you know, I think there's a certain amount of pointlessness in the publishing system that you describe? After all, you're Charles Stross. It's not as though you couldn't move to another publishing house with your next book and still make them money.

Back in the day, the publishing company used to be the brand, and it was only the stand out authors (Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, Le Guin) that became their own brand. Today, many writers have to build up their own brand separate from the publishing companies.

No matter who publishes you, you'll still be Charles Stross, the guy with the antipope.org blog. Cory is always going to be the BoingBoing/Craphound guy before being a Tom Dougherty & Assoc. writer. Ditto with Scalzi and Whatever.

Thus, I would think that from a publishing perspective, I would be very, very interested in keeping you happy with the work that I produce under your name. After all, you no longer require the publisher to communicate with the readers, as you can do it directly through your blog. If you go elsewhere, the chances are that you're going to take your readers with you.

So, while I understand that there's a lot of pressure on the publishing industry to completely ignore the writer after the novel is submitted, it doesn't seem like a particularly smart business move.

Also, I think it's quite hilarious that the Saturn's Children U.S. version already has 4 "cheesecake cover" tags.


Oh man, Charlie, I haven't thought about that Heinlein book in a long time. Yowza. I can picture the cover, though...front zipper way too low, and yet, to a 15-year-old male, not nearly low enough. In fact, I can REALLY remember the cover. Lips parted, direct gaze. Ahem.

I do remember that one as being well over the top, and it was painfully obvious that it was a male writing his dream of a super-duper kiss-'em-or-smash-'em laydee. The writing and world-creation were fun, though.

Not that I'm thinking of any kiss-'em-or-smash-'em parallels between Friday and Rachel Mansour. Not at all. Nossir.


Alex Tolley @80, Martiniere is Artist GoH at Minicon next year. Karl Schroeder is Author GoH.

I could have used some antipope the last few days -- the news was all Pope, all the time.


The flaw in both the US and UK covers is that they are generic. They could as easily be covers for the next Honor Harrington from David Weber, or for Babel-17: it is a very 1960s US-publisher version of Rydra Wong.

[Waits for the back row to wake up and work that one out]

And, as CGI space-bints go, it's done well. It just doesn't seem to tell us anything significant. If it works, it works because we already know something else about the book, and I'm not sure that is well-made advertising.


OMG, my sympaties because everyone and their uncle is going to think you had something to do with the T&A factor of that cover. Perhaps they should give out some of the meds the designer was under the influence of, along with copies of the book, at purchase?


Way too many anti-sex comments about the cover here. Prudes may yet cause the destruction of human society!


Chris #71- you'll have to produce a cite for that claim. Most self identifying geeks are also fairly prudish? Not on any planet I know, once they get past about 21.


I don't think people are anti-sex, I think they're anti crashing-unsubtlety, and anti inappropriately using the lowest common denominator to sell books.

Not at all saying that's the case here -- as it appears to be entirely appropriate to have a sexbot on the cover -- but SF publishers have a history of doing exactly that, and in combination with society's prejudices about SF readers (cf Ansible's As Others See Us) it means that SF readers can be overly-sensitive about covers that scream "I'm a lonely single maladjusted male looking for light relief!"

I like the UK cover, by the way. Iron Sunrise's too -- while they are quite generic (spaceship! in space!) I appreciate the typography, palette and use of lighting in both of them.


There's a great article/review in the latest New York Review of Science Fiction [Vol. 20, No.8, April 2008, pp.19-21] which serves as a cautionary tale for a major novelist who is utterly and completely wrong about marketing his own fiction, and destroys his reputation.

"Two Views: What Can Be Saved from the Wreckage? James Branch Cabell in the Twenty-Fi8rst Century, by Michael Swanwick, reviewed by Darrell Schweitzer.

Cabell: "... 'standing at the helm of the most successful literary career of any fantasist of the twentieth century' with 'diligence, hard work, and a perverse brilliance of timing... drove the great ship of his reputation straight and unerringly onto the rocks.' Cabell was not only a bestseller in the 1920s, but seriously mentioned as a possible Nobel laureate by Sinclair Lewis in his own Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1930, but he managed to become all but forgotten at the time of his death in 1958."


Good grief! I'd completely forgotten that Glory Road cover. I own that edition (buried somewhere in a box in the spare room, AFAIK). I can't believe that, as a young woman in the 1970s, I happily travelled by public transport reading a novel with bare tits on the cover!
(...which is infinately better than being on the tram reading a novel with bare tits).


I nagged my editor to do something about the cover. My preferred minimum-cost solution -- because nobody wants to re-do a cover from scratch -- was: take that inclined plane she's lying on and replace it with a cratered moonscape, maybe with a dome in the background, and add in some stars on the black background above her so that it looks like she's doing the cheesecake pose on the surface of an airless moon. I figure that would have telegraphed the fact that there's something hinky about her (aside from the purple hair).

But I figured out I was defeated when my agent ganged up on me. Because? I just write the things -- what I know about publishing them is just what I picked up from the process by interacting with professionals along the way. And, obviously, cheesecake sells.


Here's something that people don't realise about CGI.

Clock cycles are dirt cheap.

And once you have a figure, rigged to be posable, with all the surface colour and texture, you can do almost anything. It's more like being a photographer than being a painter. And a photographer who has the model perpetually only a mouse-click away.

The costs of changing that image are lower than they ever have been. And what Charlie has suggested would also echo the US hardback first edition of the Heinlein. But the whole business of modern art--especially Photoshop layers--is something too new for some people to grok.


Alex @ 19: Would that be Operation Certain Death? I know I tried to hide that cover where possible...



This gives me a whole new perspective on the travails of Kilgore Trout.


No, William Fowler's Operation Barras. (I had to go and don the welding goggles to check.)


Here's some links top cover pics for the Heinlein book that Charlie is riffing off. Don't look if you don't want to know the title.

First, the US hardcover. This site has a lot of Heinlein covers, but this is the original. I don't think it's a good selling cover. It doesn't catch the eye.

And this is the Whelan cover. You can find other images of the cover with a very pale purplish tint to the background, and I suspect a faded original. You decide.

Next in the list is the UK paperback, shown on this page.

And finally, the Don Maitz version.

On the whole, I like the Whelan version best. It looks real in a way the others don't. I'm afraid that Don Maitz is trying to copy it with new cliches. And all three of the cheesecake pics have the excuse of showing the title character.


As I said, there's nothing wrong with cheesecake. (I fondly remember that Whelan cover from my boyhood!) It's just not very good cheesecake. Plus, the type treatment is half-assed, and looks like a rush job. Just fixing the type, and maybe toning down the colors a notch, would do wonders.


On second thought, that was a bit pushy of me, i apologize if I offended anyone.


@102: no, that's okay ...


guthrie@91: I submit as evidence for the prosecution, the whole flesh-phobia aspect of Teh Singularity. As if the obvious ultimate desire of an intelligent being is to shed their body like some sort of vaguely soiled overgarment...


Coop is right - the picture isn't too good, but it's the combination of the bad calligraphic scripty font with the sans serif elsewhere that makes me immediately flinch. Put me down as anti-font-miscegenation if you must.


Approp of nothing I thought Accelerando was a bizzare title. Its an excellent book that I just finished reading and now I'm off to get some more of yours. (Of course I may have to hide "The Jennifer Morgue" if I get it as my wifes name is Jenifer.


Chris L@104: Damn right. AIs don't get respiratory diseases, congenital coordination problems, visual deficits, or (if properly designed, one hopes) mental problems. I'd switch in a heartbeat (if that's still an appropriate metaphor).

(Yes, I'd lose eating and some other human pleasures, but I'd be willing to live with that for all the upsides. I'm sure the sensations could be simulated, anyway.)

The myriads of people with more serious bodily messups than I've got would probably be even more strongly in favour. Control of the very local environment, yay!


Nix: I think any technology that could upload a human could make short work of most diseases and disabilities, don't you?


Nix, yes, I've seen several uploaded humans in books and envied them.

Chris L, no, I suspect we'll be able to upload minds before we can fix bodies.


Finally got around to looking at that cover photo. Yep, pretty hideous. No, won't stop me from buying the book.


107 - 109:

I'm with Chris L on this one. I think that most people who wax poetic about uploading are (correctly) assuming that we will soon have sufficiently powerful machines to run the uploaded minds on, and overlooking the real hard problem.

Extracting a usable image out of a biohuman brain.

I suspect that we will know how to cure almost everything that ails us before we have much of a handle on that.



Nix and Marilee: I suspect (in a fairly informed fashion; I'm a zoologist) that "uploading" and curing illnesses are far closer together than most people make out.

A brain is in no way a hard drive. We don't understand what gives rise to most of the properties that we're pleased to call our minds, and when we do understand those things it'll probably be because we have such a good understanding of neurology that medicine will be a loooong way ahead of where it is now.

I'm curious for your responses to an obvious half-way step: transplanting a living brain, in part or whole, into some sort of artificial host thingum, with some of the advantages that you ascribe to a disembodied intelligence.


Frenetic@84, IIRC the ship on the cover of The Cassini Division does somewhat resemble how the Division's fighters are described in the series - insectile, with beam weapons mounted on segmented arms branching out from the hull. Same goes for The Sky Road - the ship on the cover matches the book's description pretty well.


Wait...you're NOT one of those Singularity guys? Where do I return the books?!

Actually, I heard your "an exponential and sigmoid curve both look the same half way along" take at Eastercon (apologies if I've praphrased you incorrectly there). It suprised me at the time specifically because my first introduction to the term Singularity _was_ the title of Singularity Sky, which I read first or your stuff (closely followed by Accelerando).

I'm with Coop - I could stand the cover (although I much prefer the UK one), it's the font on "Saturn's" that's disturbing (and the purple at the bottom).


When I first started reading SF from the local library as a child, the covers that weren't Gollancz generic yellow covers were mostly abstract-ish '60s art, as I recall. When I could afford paperbacks, along came Chris Foss' flying junkyard spaceships; for most of the '70s it seemed every SF book had a Foss cover, whether it was Asimov, LeGuin or Ellison. They may not have had much to do with the contents, but they were stunning pictures. So, while I know that I respond to flashy covers with good art (for highly subjective values of "good"), I never really expect the cover to have much to do the contents.

Come to that, I don't regard titles as having much to do with the story. It's nice if they do, but they're mostly there to distinguish them from other books as far as I'm concerned, not much more indicative of the character of the book than the shape of the author's nose indicates his character. The best titles are about mood, it seems to me. Singularity Sky is a fine title to my ears; it looks as though it should mean something, but probably doesn't. Well, there's only so much information you can put into less than a half-dozen words.


Chris L @112, I'm reading The Zookeeper's Wife and I hope that never happens to you.

No, it's my human brain that's the problem. When I was in the hospital with my first renal failure, my evil stepmother came and screamed at me for embarrassing my father by being sick. My BP went up, the monitor went off, the nurse contacted the doctor, he ordered nifedipine sub-lingually. That was the absolutely standard procedure at the time and for a few more years.* It dropped my BP so low that I didn't get blood and oxygen to my brain for a while. I had a big stroke and six-week coma. When I woke up from the coma, I didn't know nouns, but those came back in another six weeks. I had to learn to walk, read, and take care of myself again. My walking is not so good -- I'm partially paralyzed on the left side and have balance problems.

Even though I test as smart as I did before the stroke (I'd been tested since I was six), I can tell that I'm not as smart now. I can't tell what's the stroke and what's pain and meds (second renal failure was autoimmune and you get one of those, you get lots), though.

But I do think it will be possible to upload minds before we fix the body. We can already track specific memories and plans -- amazing things are being done with PET scans.

*The nifedipine was being given to prevent a stroke from high BP, but a study a few years later, using matched patients, found more strokes in the patients who used the nifedipine. This treatment was worse than doing nothing. The standard procedure for that now is catapres.


Today, I just have to wonder what these art directors would choose for a Shakespeare play?

(No, that doesn't feel like a Lady Macbeth...)


I'm curious for your responses to an obvious half-way step: transplanting a living brain, in part or whole, into some sort of artificial host thingum, with some of the advantages that you ascribe to a disembodied intelligence.

Stephen Baxter, The FUBAR Suit.


Speaking of your books, and I didn't know anywhere else recent and relevant to put this, I came across something interesting in a Philip K Dick short called The Unreconstructed M...

"Where to, sport?" the starter at cab relay asked. City cab were guided by remote control from one central source.

That was published in 1957. I thought the call-centre taxi drivers in Halting State were a first!

I really like your stories by the way.


Well, I cancelled my US pre-order and placed a UK pre-order. If they could've at least done CS' suggestions, I'd have considered the US version because then it would've indicated some sense of clue-enablement or even SF-awareness.

BTW, this is nothing like the cover of what I believe is the very first of CS' books I read: THE WEB ARCHITECT'S HANDBOOK. That must be, what back in 1997? Good book, too!


Hmm, I like the original/US version of the cover for That Heinlein Book better than the UK paperback version I own. Why? Because it's h0t. I'm easy.

But - I hate to rub it in - but does that robot girl on your cover have strabismus? She seems to be having a little trouble getting her eyes aligned...

I do prefer the UK cover but then I was always a Chris Foss fan - bugger the book, as long as it has giant stripey spaceships on the cover I'm happy. I pre-ordered the US version anyway because 1) I am cheap, 2) I am impatient, 3) I don't really care anyway and 4) I recall something here about it being better to buy the local-market versions of books when possible. Mind you I usually get the UK version of books if they're published first there, either from amazon.co.uk, or if you're in the SF Bay Area the very fine Borderlands bookstore down on Valencia in the city often gets the UK versions in right after they come out, at decent prices too. (Plus you can get a really great Niman Ranch burger across the street at Burger Joint - a fine place to sit and drip grease on your new purchases - that's one of my favourite ways to spend an evening, that is..)

Oh yeah, and I liked the title Singularity Sky a lot, with the minor caveat that I think it sounded a bit more serious than the book itself turned out to be. No harm done, though. Now, Festival of Fools would have been a real turn-off. In my brain Fools = Jesters = Ren Faire = RUN AWAY! Not a good title keyword, for me.

Anyway, I look forward to the new book, especially as the Heinlein-book-that-shall-not-be-named is one of my favourites despite being the untouchable Late Period Heinlein. But then, I like about 3/4 of The Number of the Beast too, so I clearly have severe personality defects, etc etc.


Alex@118: the idea predates Baxter, the earliest one I can think of is Frank Herbert's "Destination Void", but I'm sure there are others. It was in a Doctor Who episode sometime in the eighties, too.

Marilee@116: I'm not that kind of zoologist, I make more with the evolutionary biology :)

You situation sounds pretty difficult. There seems to be a growing awareness of side-effects in medicine, lets hope it stays that way. And with the greatest of respect, it sounds like any high-tech improvement to your situation would require "fixing" your neurological damage, either physically or by tweaking the characteristics of an uploaded brain-state. I maintain that those two things are very close to being one and the same...


Chris L @122: what, you don't remember "Donovan's Brain" by Kurt Siodmak?

(I'm sure it goes back further, as well.)


Business opportunity - Why don't authors sell alternative dust jackets to books whose covers they are less-than-thrilled with? I'd probably shell out a few bucks to replace the excreble Clan Corporate covers...

It might even be an interesting experiment to have fans make suggestions and "fight it out" over what the best illustration for an existing book would be. While they are targeted at different market segments (replacement dust jackets are for fans, "stock" dust jackets are to attract new fans), the market segments in question are largely comprised of the same group of people. So the ideas thrown out by existing fans are probably more likely to attract like-minded folks, which is perfect for books that are geared for niche markets (please consider as more of a criticism of mass-market tastes than of your books). Good business people like to measure things - it's easy to make good decisions when you can reduce things to numbers. I could attach pages of caveats to this fact, but at the end of the day it works pretty well. If an author was to do this sort of "grass-roots" research, test the resulting products in the market, then and present hard numbers to their publisher, they might find themselves with a bit more influence in these matters...

Maybe even make some extra money in the process.

IANAL, but I would consider that there might be some rights issues to work out with the publisher: is the title itself copyrighted or trademarked, etc.?


If I'm remembering right, the actual title can't be copyrighted, but there are a metric shitload of other possible IP hassles. Maybe a trademark claim. You could easily see a lawyer sending out a cease-and-desist letter.

Now, I'm no expert, but in the case of Saturn's Children you might, I think, have an argument for the alternative cover being some sort of commentary on the original, which gives you a chance in the USA. But it would depend on the design. And I wouldn't want to risk trying to sell it.

BTW, I was wondering just what the cover illo kept reminding me of. Try this example.


There's no market for alternative covers. Trust me on this. Readers will generally either buy or not buy the book, they won't buy it and then shell out extra for a less embarrassing cover. And the quantities sold are such that even if they did, it'd be hard to make any money. Preparing a good cover costs money and takes time, the artwork can (if you're paying a decent artist) cost as much as a large chunk of the book advance, the print costs are surprisingly high (comparable to 50% of the book block itself), and then you have to find a distribution channel.

Finally: you can't copyright titles.


Uncanny valley! Uncanny valley!

Okay, she's a sex android, but is she supposed to look like a low-end blowup doll? Even Real Dolls look better -- well, some of them look almost human in photographs, other faces look exactly like that cover -- let alone Dolfies/ball-joints, though maybe having their mouth open would hurt the latter. (And they don't look human either, but have an ethereal bishie beauty.)


Well, looking like a low-end blow up doll should offset the Uncanny Valley effect, allowing her(it? I really should read the book) to not be as freaky as the Real Dolls (shudder, shudder).