Old Man’s War and Ghost Brigades Cover Art

I know, for a guy who says he’s taking the day off, I sure keep updating a lot. But I thought you’d like to see the new cover art of the trade paperback edition of Old Man’s War and the cover art for The Ghost Brigades, both of which were sent to me by Tor, I can only surmise, as a birthday present. Yay! The new artist is John Harris, who has previously done covers for folks like Orson Scott Card and Ben Bova. There is worse company to be in. Anyway, here they are.

31 thoughts on “Old Man’s War and Ghost Brigades Cover Art

  1. As Patrick said, they did label it The Sequel to Old Man’s War.

    He must be psychic or something…

    Pretty snazzy artwork too!

  2. What was wrong with the great Hardcover artwork? Liked that better. These look to old school bolo/berserker like.

  3. I don’t think it’s a question of anything being wrong with the old cover, which I also like very much (enough that I own the original painting). My understanding is that Tor is “reintroducing” Old Man’s War to booksellers to capitalize on the hardcover’s strong sales and to position Ghost Brigades, and the new covers are part of that overall strategy. Among other things, if booksellers see Tor spending the money and effort to repackage the book, it’ll suggest to them that Tor is making these books a priority and (consequently) maybe they want to pay attention to that. Also, it doesn’t hurt that the artwork is done by the guy whose covers grace two of Tor’s best selling and critically acclaimed books (Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead). Mysterious are the ways of bookseller psychology.

  4. I think these covers are closer to the stort than the first one, though I pictured the old John in the story much like the guy on the cover.

  5. Though I vastly prefer the artwork on the hardcover, the new artwork seems to speak to the subconscious patois of SF readers. It says, without knowing anything else about the book or author, that this is SF with a military slant in the classic style. It should work well.

  6. The artwork style looks really similar to some Sector General covers, as well — conveys a nice sense of motion.

  7. Huh. The new cover would never get me intrigued enough to buy the book, old cover would. Looks a bit generic. Also, I don’t remember anyone flying fighters in the first book.

    However, with it next to the 2nd book, it makes a bit more sense, so I guess I can see the “positioning” or branding angle going on there.

    That said, I’m full of it since I know nothing about book covers :)

  8. The key, I think, will be for me to get this book into the hands of my colleagues, who can then get them into the hands of our customers. Since pretty much no one is going to come in asking “hey is that new one by Scalzi out yet?” we’re going to have to hand sell this puppy. Fortunately it should be fairly easy to do this, if my colleagues have read it…

    Question, will galley copies of Ghost Brigades be sent out to bookstores? Doing so would be really helpful in the first step of the process…

  9. So, you’ve got an Imperial Star Destroyer in the second book? Does it get to go up against the USS Enterprise?

    (I know, I know, but someone’s got to be snarky…)

  10. “The artwork style looks really similar to some Sector General covers, as well”

    Indeed, we used John Harris on a couple of the last original books in James White’s “Sector General” series, and on all three of our omnibus collections of the earlier books.

  11. I was just thinking, “That looks like a John Harris cover.”

    ‘Cause I am the world’s hugest James White geek.

  12. Grrr. I claim the fever is making me hit post too soon.

    Addend to previous: “And then I looked at the actual text, and saw that it was one.”

  13. The hardcover cover put (literally) a human face onto your work.

    The new covers are all machines and a couple of planets. To me, that’s a lot more generic, and a LOT less likely to attract my attention.

    YMMV.

  14. When is the paperback of Old Man’s War coming out? Maybe I haven’t been paying attention and you said it lately, but I figure that this post is a good place to repeat it.

  15. My understanding is that the trade paperback is coming out in the same time frame as the hardback did last year, followed by the hardcover of Ghost Brigades in March.

  16. Sigh. The new covers are so generic. There’s just nothing there to make me want to pick up the books, nothing to set them apart. Actually, it goes beyond that: The covers put me off. I liked OMW, but with a cover like that, I’d never even have glanced at the blurb, no matter how desperate I was for reading material, and I’d have missed out on a good book.

  17. It’s the risk you take with any cover art, I suppose; you do run the risk of alienating some part of the audience. The original cover had some of those problems as well, from what I’m told. This is where the calculus of book presentation comes into play: Will the new covers appeal to more people than the original cover? Will someone who wouldn’t pick up a book with an older person on the cover pick this one up instead? Will the new cover better convey the idea that there’s a space opera-like story inside? And so on. I like both of the OMW covers just fine, and I recognize that to some extent they serve different purposes.

    I’m fascinated by art and science of how things like cover art affect sales. It’s reminder — and one that’s not always welcome from the writer perspective — that when one sells a book, one isn’t just selling a writer’s words, one is selling a package, which combines the content of the text, the presence of the author, the cover art and other book packaging, and even the publisher itself. A John Scalzi book published by Tor is going to be substantially different from a John Scalzi book published by DAW or Baen, even if the novel itself was exactly the same.

  18. I’m sure I’m an outlier, but I think the new cover works better than the hardback. I can’t imagine buying a book because of its cover art, but I *can* imagine NOT picking up a book because of the art. Thus… “first, do no harm” should be the Rule of Cover Art.

    The hardback cover was strongly reinforcing of the title. If I hadn’t known anything about the book, I would have had a strong impression of “OLD”… which is not a real purchase motivator. Not a big problem, but walks the line of violating “first, do no harm”.

    The new cover is rather non-specific, but that’s OK; it means it wouldn’t skew my perceptions. This was exactly my reaction to _Speaker for the Dead_. When I bought it, the cover meant very little to me. After I read it, the cover annoyed me… since it has so little to do with the actual interesting parts of the book. But after I’ve bought the book, I don’t think anyone really cares.

    What would be really cool would be to have a green humanoid on the front. So my thought would be, “Hm… looks like we have to fight some funky-looking beasties.” Then, about 40 pages in, my assumptions would be broken, in interesting fashion. That would be a cool cover experience.

  19. I was, in fact, thinking the same thing about the similarity to the ARC-170… but then again, I’m a ridiculous Star Wars geek who is having a hard time thinking of much else until I get to see the new movie…

    Still, that said… I think the big ship on Ghost Brigades reminds me more of an old Cylon BaseStar…

  20. Dave: What would be really cool would be to have a green humanoid on the front

    I thought so, too. That’s a cover that would get my attention.

    John, I know there’s nothing you could do about the covers even if you wanted to, and I’m sorry if my comment brought you down. I wanted to get in my data point for those who research this kind of thing, because I’d like to see covers that appeal to me on the books I like to read.

  21. You didn’t bring me down, Aconite; I put the pictures up because I was interested in what the comments would be and I naturally assumed some would be negative. No worries.

  22. Old cover for OMW good. New cover bad. It might as well be sold under the title No-Name Brand SF. The title font borders on offensive and pulpish with only the negative connotations.

    I’ll pick up Ghost Brigades for what’s inside but the dust jacket may have an unfortunate accident on the way home. ;)

  23. John, I think now you’ve officially arrived as a science fiction author now that you’ve got a book with a blurb on the cover comparing you to Heinlein…

  24. Comparing? The review pretty much says I exhumed the dead cold hand of RAH and used it to type the manuscript.

    Which I deny. It wasn’t that cold.

  25. Hey, the review uses the word “like” which I take to be a simile… and besides, the Old Man was cremated. You got gypped on that hand! Ebay?

  26. Well I love the covers. I am just the sort of military sf fan you were thinking of when you decided on OMW, so I’d say these covers are well aimed in that direction.

  27. Maybe I’m a little wierd, but seeing the title OMW coupled with the new cover makes me think “spaceships are attacking the old man’s prostate.” That is truly the old man’s war :-)

  28. Not that Tor cares (though I know Patrick is reading this thread) but I’ll throw in a vote for Old Cover good, New Cover bad. New Cover is very strong on the military and I don’t care for Mil SF (generic). Old Cover looked intriguing and I wanted to know what an Old Man would run off to war. I understand briding and do think the re-release of OMW should have similiar art to GB, but I really don’t care for either of them.

  29. Late to the post here, but I like the hardcover artwork better. Too much of the SF cover art out there has no human imagery, nothing to grab onto. The hardback version of the book shows some engaging, and aging, faces of Humans in Space, not hard-edged soulless machines. Luckily for me, I own it…

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