June 20th, 2012


Bits and pieces: art and new stuff ... and stuff

There are a lot of comparisons made between the book business and the music business, with the tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth of executives over piracy now often outshouting the part the creators and the consumers want to hear about -- the final product. The art.

In the old days of the popular music business -- let's say the fifties, sixties, and seventies, and perhaps into the eighties (for those were the days when albums and singles co-existed and radio play was essential to recording careers) there was someone called an A&R man. Although frequently men of many parts, one job an A&R man might easily fall heir to was "finding the single" in an album, finding a way for the single to reach people and thus sell the record. Lucky recording artists had a knack for hitting the public's fancy, often with multiple hit singles from the same album -- while others were one hit wonders, never coming up again with that breakout song.

There is, of course no exact analog of the A&R man in the print publishing business, and here I'm talking about books -- let's say science fiction and fantasy books, science fiction and fantasy novels.

A good editor does some of the same things, of course, and a good marketing department does some, and a good agent does some, and ... right. No exact analog. The publisher and editor will make decisions of book-style - hardcover, trade paper, mass market -- with some books going through all three, plus audiobooks and ebooks. Lucky or proficient authors may know their works will do this from the git-go. Others have it revealed to them as the all important "numbers" speak to the publishing house.

So without that A&R man, what do genre books -- science fiction and fantasy books in particular -- depend upon to reach readers? Well, after all, novels are about words, aren't they? So what should they depend upon, after all, but .... well .... artwork. Cover art, cover design, typography.

In particular cover art, cover design, and typography are the equivalent of the A&R man's single, for lacking the radio play of the recording artist -- which you might compare to a PW or LJ review -- historically the other best weapon for getting books in people's hands has been the cover art.

If you happen to be close to the field you'll hear certain artist's names over and over, see them win awards, see them visualize not only for you, but for the author, and maybe for the marketing department. The key here is not necessarily accuracy of the presentation to the book, or to the story, or even to the intent of the story -- but finger-grabbiness. A good cover makes you take the book home! It acts as that album selling single, as the frontman for the circus.

Be not too rough on the author (who often doesn't get to explain their particular vision to the artist) or on the artist, who is may be given such rules as "We're looking for bluer covers this spring, with a central flash of bright color" or worse, "make the girl's blouse tighter, will you?"

The whole key here is that authors really do (and must!) rely on word of mouth -- so tell your friends about the books you like! -- but the first chance a new books has to sell is when it is in someone's hands at the store.

Oh, right. Well.... these days a lot of publishers are going to sample chapters online ... byut many are still making decisions about reading the sample chapters based on that cover art.

We salute our cover artists, and you should too!

Also ----
New from Sharon Lee, direct and online http://splinteruniverse.com/?page_id=524
Emancipated Child -- An Archers Beach Story, If you like it, you can donate!

And then, there's also this:

As mentioned elsewhere, we have Clarion West news; with 5 weeks to go, we have sponsors for near 1/3 of my $1000 goal, from US, AU, GB, CAN. Thanks for helping how you can! A buck, a sawbuck, every little bit helps!


... oh, and this:

Now available for those who were out of range last week: http://archives.weru.org/category/writers-forum