Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cover art

My publisher always requests a marketing sheet that includes what the author wishes to see on the cover. This is where being with a small publisher is an advantage, because the author actually gets involved in the process. It still is a delicate process of negotiation.

So there I am envisioning Battle Dancer, my latest military SF novel due out in December. This is the last of the series. Only one of the novels, Rogue Dancer, came out with a one-hit wonder of a cover that everyone liked immediately. A spin-off from the series, Waiting Weapon, proved a real pain for both artist, publisher, and myself when it came to depicting something lethal sticking out of the ground.

Now it was Battle Dancer's turn. In the story there is a scene I wanted to capture - a forest ablaze after a nuclear strike and the armored figure of my main character emerging from said cataclysm with rifle in hand. I figured, with her head fully helmeted, it would be a shoo-in for the artist (Amanda Kesley). Heh. It wasn't. Apparently, commercially available images of women in SF combat armor wasn't very appealing to the artist.

The first pass ended up being the mid-section from calve to lower jaw of a female warrior in leather brandishing a knife. She was posed before a decent looking forest that was aflame. I pointed out to my publisher that this didn't suggest SF, and insisted the heroine had to be in combat armor (and even provided examples off a quick Google search). Publisher agreed to a re-try.

What came back struck me two ways. First, it was the most eye-catching of all the novels I've had published. On top of that, the female figure held to a savage stance that did capture the spirit of my errant warrior in this final novel.

She was still wearing leather armor - scantily. Worse still, she was holding a sword instead of a rifle. Neither were appropriate in a blazing forest, let alone against plasma cannons, missiles, and remotes populating my novel. The illustration missed the SF mark completely - and I was quick to tell my publisher so.

Back to that "eye-catching" bit. This was what was driving my publisher to want the cover. The hell if it had little to do with combat SF - the cover would sell. The argument back to me was that, being a series, the reader would already be well aware of the genre. Also thrown in was the fact that the character probably did handle a sword sometime in her life. Point taken. My Mikial does hoist a ceremonial sword in the novel.

My publisher put their foot down, and this will be my cover. Honestly, I'm torn, but in the end the publisher calls the shots. Always. The reason is simple - they are responsible for selling a product, and are in the best position to determine what sells and what doesn't. I depend on their experience in this matter.

As far as my being torn - this isn't the cover I would expect for an SF novel, but someone tell me this book won't catch an eye. It does tell the reader that a female warrior is involved. It certainly captures her spirit. I (ahem) did get my burning forest. Call it a compromise, but a damn good looking one. Such is the business.

I will be back in November to tell you about the book itself as Mikial finds the path between Savior and Tyrant a treacherous one.



Linda Kage said...

Yep, it's definitely an eye-catcher!

I like it, and I wouldn't call it a real life scene because, yeah, who would fight with that kind of outfit on?

Plus it looks both medieval with the helmet and sword, but also futuristic with the skimpy clothes and female protagonist, so I'd say that would only leave a Sci-Fi theme.

I think it came out pretty dang awesome. I'd buy the story off that cover alone. Congrats!!

Linda Rettstatt said...

Great cover. I am sometimes amazed at how one of our artists can take my attempts at describing what is in my head and turn out such fabulous cover art that truly fits the story.

Jude Johnson said...

Eye catching, yep. Accurate? Uh, well, but it's eye catching...

I don't know why women always have to be in skimpy "armor" a la Kiera Knightly in "King Arthur"--they costumed her in Celtic lederhosen. Completely impractical, nowhere near akin anything a Pict or Celt would have worn but I guess they couldn't do the paint the nude body blue bit for Disney.

I understand your position. Still, the compromise works in that it evokes sci-fi, she looks bad-ass deadly--and it's eye catching. ;-)


KMTolan said...

Admittedly, a fully suited-up figure wouldn't have the same kind of impact as this cover. I agree that Mikial's rather vicious nature is perfectly captured here.