Authors/Covers (off-topic)

Tanaqui tweaver at
Tue Aug 17 22:38:55 EDT 1999

Courtney (+), who quotes someone else (+ >)
+ >About book covers, it seems to me to be unfair to an author to pay
+ >much attention to them, if you can help it at all. Authors must have
+ >very little control on this point, judging from the number of cover
+ >pictures that have nothing whatever to do with the story. So I try to
+ >ignore the covers, and just read the first few pages or go by the
+ >author or other people's recommendations. It is a delight when the
+ >whole book is packaged the way it should be, though.  

According to Juliet McKenna, who worked for Ottaker's Books before she was an 
author (or a published one, anyway), and the JJ woman who has left publishing 
to commercialise M. John Harrison (quote "too much of an author's author) by 
writing fantasy-cat books with him... mostly authors don't care. Nor do most
agents, astonishingly. 

JJ is Jenny Jones. I keep forgetting her name.

Note that the version Juliet likes so much is the one illustrated on
her webpage frame
and not the US one in the link to _The Thief's Gamble_, which is the US cover.

Juliet McKenna was offered utter lebensraum on her book, and apparently it
is the custom to offer such to authors who then come over all vague and
high-minded. I find this utterly incredible (I wrote copy for the Bloomsbury
Guide to SF and Fantasy and we were lumbered with a hideous 60s space-sperm
cover with no chance to exercise creative input or even a veto), but that JJ
woman claims it too. Philip Pullman has had very nice covers for the Dark
Materials books, although when that company reprinted his Victorian books
they put hideous covers on them, made them treble the size (huge wrist-
breakers they are now) and used that cheap stock that seems fit only for
lavatory paper - woolly, yellow and thick-yet-friable - instead of proper
creamy smooth stock. 

Re: Heinlein and _Grumbles from the Grave_... I have read the unexpurgated
text of _Stranger in a Strange Land_, and frankly the tightly-edited version
was better. Interesting though Heinlein's pulpit speeches are, they can get
a bit hectoring, and the version of _Stranger_ his widow had published has
half-lines of text and points where the author has strayed half-way through
a sentence and not gone back to edit himself. Variant texts of e.g. _Beyond
this Horizon_ are fascinating... all UK editions seem to lack the political
musings that conclude some US editions.

+ The reason I bristle so much about inappropriate covers on books is
+ that they are *wrong*... it's a wrongness that bothers me every time I
+ look at the book.  The same thing holds for illustrations if any...
+ and the mismatch of story and cover, especially the more blatent ones,
+ are proof of the existence of yet another oaf who just Doesn't
+ Understand (tm) in this world... <sigh>

We understand! I had my copy of Peter Dickinson's _The Gift_ in a plain
brown paper jacket for years before I found a less hideous version. The
standard indicia text inside the book about not circulating it with a variant 
cover bedammed: that exploding-house sweaty-face cover made me feel
queasy in an entirely different way to the story's psychological horror. 


If the eyes held no tears, the soul would have no rainbows
                                            (Jarvis Cocker)   "Indian proverb" 
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