Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Up Front

CS Harris had a fine blog today about covers.

Marcus Sakey had one the other day at The Outfit.

Irene Gallo is an Art Director for Tor, Forge and Starscape books. She also blogs about covers.

I feel like I have a foot in both worlds on this issue. I've been an illustrator more than once in my career, and (God willing) I'll soon have cover issues of my own to contend with.

The good people in the Art Department care, and care deeply, about doing good work. Like editorial (or authorship) is a hard slog to get your foot in the door. The pay is low, the hours long, the rewards largely the thought of a job well done.

As writers, we all want care and thought, commitment and creativity to go into our baby. Especially the bits everyone's gonna see first.

The illustrators want to show off their creativity. They want to do their best work, maybe get an award for a clever design or a nifty typeface. Yeah, there are even awards for typefaces. Even a pat on the back from the boss helps.

So what happens?

Well, the art guys don't get to actually *read* the books, for a start. Too many books, too little time. They get a one-page treatment. Way I hear it, the treatment comes from editorial, who uses the pitch from the agent, who uses... your cover letter.

Don't know if there's any truth to that, but I do know the art folk get one page. They also get several books a week, and have to do several versions of each book. It's a constant grind.

It'd be nice if houses could afford enough staff to let each person spend more time coming up with 'best' solutions, but that's not the industry today. Heck, that hasn't been the industry since the Golden Age of Illustration, somewhere around 1910-20.

No easy answers, but I think the best we can do as authors is to get across what makes our work unique, a selling point nthat translates visually.

That, and light candles in church. I also have a voodoo woman named Phyllis who assures me she can make up a gris gris bag for just these occasions...


cs harris said...

Funny, I never thought about this issue from the standpoint of those slaving away in the art department! Although the ones I blame are the editors and marketing departments in their cover conferences who send the directives to the art department--and also fail to send good descriptive data.

Steve Malley said...

Seems to me our challenge as writers is getting our bullet points into the right hands.

And, of course, actually having the right idea about what sells to start with. There's a good reason nobody's about to let me do my own cover...

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm with Candice. Didn't think about it from that angle. Great pictures from Julie Bell from your links.

Kate S said...

Very interesting and enlightening, Steve. Guess I'll have to make sure I come up with good cover letters in the future. Assuming I'm ever published again, of course... :)

Susan Miller said...

Ah, the importance of a cover letter.

Lana said...

Imagine if "creative artists" like painters, writers, etc. got the pay they deserved...Whatever happened to the good old days of patronage?