Crescent Moon, 2/1/17

Proof the what the eye sees and the camera sees are different things: When I was looking through the viewfinder I could see details in the crescent and nothing of the non-illuminated part; here in the picture it’s entirely the other way around. I like it.

In Which a Cover Strapline Does Not, Alas, Reveal a Vast Conspiracy For My Benefit

I was pointed this morning to a blog post by an author not previously of my acquaintance who was making a bit of noise about the UK cover of The Collapsing Empire; the June 2016 cover reveal of the UK cover featured the strapline “The New York Times Bestselling Series” (above, to the left), and the author was questioning how Tor (he was apparently not aware that Tor and Tor UK are separate companies under the overall Macmillan umbrella) could make such a statement. He also then suggested that “after noise was made,” a new cover was created, i.e., the US cover for the book, which in point of fact was publicly debuted before the UK cover.

A little further digging revealed that this author almost certainly got this idea from one of my usual suspects (i.e., the same poor wee racist lad whose adorable mancrush on me has gone unabated for a dozen years now), who trumpeted the strapline as evidence that Tor is planning to fake a position for me and TCE on the New York Times bestseller list. As apparently they have done with all my work, because as you know I don’t actually sell books; Tor and Tor UK and Audible and a couple dozen publishers across the planet give me lots of money strictly because I am the world’s best virtue signaller, and therefore worth propping up with byzantine schemes to fake my standing on bestseller lists, because who doesn’t like virtue.

Well, it could be that! Alternately, here’s another theory, which is that the UK cover reveal last June featured a mock-up cover with text from other Tor UK covers standing in for straplines and blurbs to come. Like, say, the Tor UK version of The Ghost Brigades, which as you see has the same strapline and blurb as the cover reveal for The Collapsing Empire.

This sort of thing, as it happens, it not entirely unusual; lots of cover reveals happen before covers are finalized for printing. Why? Well, because of marketing, of course — the publisher wants to generate excitement for an upcoming book. Covers are good for that, and cover art is also often done and completed long before the book is in — as it was in the case of both the UK and US versions of The Collapsing Empire.

Covers are tweaked constantly prior to publication; I know of one recent cover that was changed literally as it was about to get printed, because of a late-coming blurb for the book. Nor are the cover tweaks finished when the book is printed: if a book wins an award or shows up on a bestseller list, for example, the cover will often reflect those things in subsequent printings. So long as a book is in print and being reprinted, a cover is never final; it’s always subject to tweaking.

Now, as it happens, I have seen the final pre-pub cover of the UK edition of The Collapsing Empire; I included it as part of the first image in the entry, to the right. You’ll note the strapline has changed; it now says “The New York Times Bestselling Author.” You might also notice the cover blurb has changed, from one from the Wall Street Journal to one from Joe Hill.

I’ll also note this is not the first time for me where there’s been a difference between a cover reveal and a final cover. Usually the changes are on the level of what we’re seeing here — verbiage tweaked and blurbs replaced — but sometimes the changes are more dramatic. Some of you might remember that between cover reveal and publication, The God Engines cover was completely swapped out: new art, new typeface, new everything. As noted, tweaking happens sometimes literally right to the moment of printing, and then beyond, when appropriate.

So, while it’s possible the Tor UK cover reveal accidentally let slip the vast and complex conspiracy on the part of several multinational corporations to falsely position me as a bestselling author, for reasons, the rather less exciting but, alas, more likely explanation is that in June Tor UK just put up placeholder text to be swapped out later (as indeed, it was). You can believe what you like!

For the record, the wee little racist almost certainly knows there’s no vast conspiracy on my behalf, he just likes to lie about me. The other author in question here I don’t suspect of willful obtuseness; he appears to be self-published and may just not know how all of this stuff works, because this stuff is pretty opaque until you’re doing it, or have it explained, and he has the misfortune of believing this other fellow is giving him information that’s anywhere near accurate.

Also for the record, I wish I did have a vast conspiracy on my behalf! My life would be easier then. Heck, if I had a conspiracy working for me, I probably wouldn’t even have to actually write books. I could just sit back while minions did everything and I drank Coke Zeros on the beach. Sadly, I actually have to do the work myself. It’s so unfair.

The silver lining to not having a vast conspiracy on my side, however, is that I do get to geek out about things like covers and the mechanics of how they come together. The reality of how covers get made and tweaked and sent out into the world is all kinds of good, nerdy fun. I like it, and it’s fun to share it with you. I mean, I think it’s silly these folks think there’s something nefarious about it, but it’s given me a chance to go “okay, so here’s how this really works.” And now you know!

(P.S.: If you would actually like to see me get on the New York Times bestseller list with The Collapsing Empire — or in the UK, the Times bestseller list (that’s the Times in the UK, that is, these newspapers with the same names are confusing) — then be part of the vast conspiracy of people who pre-order the book, either from your local bookseller, or via your favorite online retailer. Sadly, my publishers don’t actually prop me up. I really do have to sell books for a living. Again: Sooooooooo unfair!)

The Big Idea: Thoraiya Dyer

Bread is the staff of life, as it said, but what happens when bread doesn’t make sense for your world? Thoraiya Dyer has given this question some serious thought for her novel Crossroads of Canopy, and invites you to discover with her where these thoughts lead.

THORAIYA DYER:

I’ve always wondered, even as a child, why elves in tree-cities ate bread.

Because bread is made of wheat or other grains, right? Which is grown in fields. But all the tree-dwelling elves in stories seemed to do was hunt deer with yew longbows, drink wine and frolic along their gloriously elaborate paths made of oak tree branches.

Say what? Oak trees? My father comes from a tiny rural village where he learned that acorns were starvation rations. And yew berries are poison. Call me finicky if you like. It led to something wonderful.

Once I started imagining the kinds of trees you would actually want to have in an arboreal city where folk rarely went down to the ground – forget about farming! – it quickly became obvious what kind of forest the elves would actually have to live in.

A rainforest.

Probably up in the canopy. At least, the royalty would be up there, in the sunshine, snacking on fruit, not eating the usual fantasy fare of stew because they wouldn’t have metal for pots and pans. Or would they? Maybe they’d have a magical way of getting metal. Plus a magical way of keeping predators from climbing up and snacking on them.

And if they had bread at all, it would have to be made from tree-nuts that weren’t acorns.

And what would they have instead of wine?

I couldn’t seem to stop inventing the world of Canopy. The next question became what plant and animal species to include and which to omit. I’ve already confessed to being picky about mixing ecosystems, but this wasn’t going to be science fiction, it was going to be fantasy, and fantasy means freedom, doesn’t it? Especially after I guest-blogged about my meticulousness at SF Signal and not one single over-scrupulous scientist piped up to agree with me! Clearly, nobody else cared; I was like the toddler who doesn’t like her peas to touch her carrots on the plate.

So, in went Moreton Bay figs and mango trees, monitor lizards and toucans. A glorious mix, which gave me permission, I felt, to mix other things that I hadn’t mixed before.

The very Western Greek and Babylonian pantheons with the Eastern concept of reincarnation, for example.

I also got to mix up my protagonist, Unar, a blend of hero and villain, saviour and destroyer. How I loved her, for the freedom I had with her! She’d never seen the ground. Or an ocean. Yet she was among the lucky ones to have felt sunshine and wind, to know about things like the moon changing shape and the sun setting.

Maybe the very wealthy would even have bread. And it would be this ridiculous luxury. As opposed to fresh fruit, which would be boring and plentiful.

I contemplated the symbolism of lembas bread in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: A cross between hardtack, the sustenance of seafaring adventurers, and the church wafers that substitute for the body of Christ. Maybe in the world of Canopy, fresh fruit would be the thing to have religious significance. Fruit would be one of the offerings to the gods that helped to give those gods their powers. It would also be something that the people below might not have as much of.

With social stratification developing in my head, mimicking the strata of my rainforest, the next thing the people of Canopy needed, obviously, was a magical horizontal barrier to keep the riff-raff out. Those pasty, malnourished Understorians. Gods know what they get up to, down in the dark.

And there was the seed of Unar’s story. Her sister, lost on the other side of the barrier. Literally and figuratively fallen.

I quite like bread. Most people do, I think. Maybe after you’ve read Canopy, though, you’ll give macadamia nuts and magenta cherries a try. Maybe you’ll find they’re even better than bread!

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Crossroads of Canopy: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s page. Follow her on Twitter.