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!)

86 thoughts on “In Which a Cover Strapline Does Not, Alas, Reveal a Vast Conspiracy For My Benefit

  1. It’s all not a conspiracy!1!!111eleventy! and the NYT is part of it! As are radio waves from Venus and my tinfoil hat is leaking!

  2. All this talk of strap lines and revealing covers is kinda hot. Might be time for that “Beaches of Lucas County” bodice ripper.

  3. The world is full of wee racist lads and trolls of all sizes and shapes. Fortunately, people like you react intelligently and give us interesting behind-the-scenes explanations! Thanks!

  4. But John, we KNOW you are part of The Global Conspiracy (TM) (C) (R). That’s why you keep using your feline minions to distract us!
    Wait a sec, that car has been parked outside for hours.
    *someone knocks on the door*
    Yes?
    *they shoot him*

  5. So how does one get in on this “conspiracy propping me up” thing ?
    This whole working for a living thing is crap and having a conspiracy prop me up would be far preferable.
    Inquiring minds want to know ….

  6. The New York Times best seller citation can be misleading. There’s a British whose work I adore that has it somewhere in the inside blurbs or the cover of every book he’s written since getting it. However he didn’t get it for any book in the long running urban fantasy series he as he got for the novelisation of a movie he did nigh unto thirty years ago.

    In your case, it makes sense to use it, but I like the idea that publishers just throw at authors who are part of the SJW conspiracy.

  7. Quoth OGH:

    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.

    Of course, if you had a conspiracy working for you, you’d say you actually wrote books and weren’t sitting back and drinking Coke Zeros on the beach while minions did everything…

  8. I assumed that Tor was just being optimistic about you; they’re assuming (rightly so) that the Collapsing Empire is the first in a series of outstanding books that will be bestselling.

  9. In other words, Tor UK f’d up the strapline in a publicly visible way, and now you have to write about it because Arch Nemesis struck again. Well that nips that.

  10. Apropos of nothing, but the ship on that cover image of “The Ghost Brigades” sure looks like a Cylon raider from the original Battlestar Galactica series.

  11. Cat Eldridge:

    My opinion of that is that if he wrote the novelization (which are generally speaking significant expansions of the scripts they are given and require substantial work, usually at a substantially accelerated writing schedule from original novels), then it’s entirely fair for him to use the “bestseller” title. Work is work!

    Also, any marketing person will tell you that once you’ve been a bestseller, you will always be a bestseller. Doesn’t matter if it was last week or 50 years ago. No expiration date on it.

    Pedro:

    I wouldn’t call it a fuck-up, no. It was just placeholder text. Also, have to write about it? Naaaaah. The wee little racist writes lots of things about me I let pass. But as noted, this gives me an opportunity to talk a little bit about publishing inside pool, which is always fun for me. As for being my “arch nemesis,” well. I’m sure he thinks so. He certainly craves my attention, the dear lad.

    Wiredog:

    There might be Cylons in TGB. They look like everyone else!

  12. Someone please tell the conspiracist that this sounds too complicated for me to care about, tell me a simpler conspiracy theory instead. Perhaps something about how Post-Soviet Voles keep nibbling holes in our socks to keep the Russian wool industry going. I’d care more about that one. Does anyone really read book blurbs anyway? Last one I did was the Terry Pratchett one from the Daily Mail guy about writing in chapters which was put on the covers as a gag.

  13. Hey, that was a pretty cool post! Thanks to the mean-spirited sniping for inspiring a very informative and interesting glimpse into how covers work. I had no idea they could be changed right up to the very last minute; I always figured that sort of thing would happen on a really tight schedule.

  14. Now, it might prudent to have your bags packed in case a hasty exit is required. It’s entirely possible that during the massive investigation into voter fraud that will soon be upon us, your very own conspiracy might be unmasked. Forewarned is forearmed. Or is it the other way around?

  15. That’s a good looking cover. As part of the conspiracy, I’m looking forward to this new work. However, I’ll have to settle for the also excellent US cover.

  16. That ship looks exactly like the 1970s Cylon Raider. I guess you’ve never heard of “Battlestar Galactica” just like you’d never heard of “The Forever War.”

  17. John, silly question for those of us that sit on the outside and enjoy these little views into the publishing world: how much say do you get on the final cover, if any?

    In just curious if you get any input into the artwork, the blurb selection, or anything else, really. One thing I’ve always appreciated about Tor is that there’s a relatively consistent quality to their covers, and even the spines, within series and authors. It makes it easy to spot on the shelf (which is, after all, the point of these features) and I really feel your people do a great job at it. So is it a case of this being publisher-knows-best and you’re just along for the ride, or do you get to around with it too?

  18. We’re just going to casually pass over the weirdness of holding an online grudge against somebody for 10+ years? I can’t fathom having feelings that deep and hostile about anything, but then, I also have ADD and a mood disorder so I change with the sunrise.

  19. Abbarach:

    It depends on the publisher and the book. Generally speaking with Tor they’re in charge and I offer opinions only if I have a genuine objection, which to date I’ve not had. With someone like Subterranean I’m generally more involved (I’ve helped select my cover artist for the last couple of books there, for example), but I’m still generally following their lead. For foreign covers I get what I get and assume the publisher knows their market better than I do.

    In every case I recognize that a) cover design is not my core competency, b) the point of the cover is to sell books. One of the reasons I work with publishers is that they have people who are more competent than I am with certain aspects of creating books, and they know what works to move books in the marketplace (hopefully).

  20. Dear Mr. Scalzi – Sorry for breaking cover, but my attempts to decode your instructions are obviously inadequate. I have fed the pages of your books through ROTs 1-47, I have tried the alpha/numeric switcheroo thingy, I’ve fed the pages through the enigma machine my husband made from spare microwave parts, and my attempt to hold the pages over a flame to make visible the invisible ink resulted in two fire trucks and an arson charge. I am trying very hard to do my bit for the cause, having now gone through three entire sets of your collected works, but my instructions remain unclear. Please ship me another set of your works so I may try again.
    Sincerely,
    AL

  21. Yes, of all the real and imaginary conspiracies littering the American landscape these days, this is the one I’m worried about.

  22. I’d have sworn on my life that I had some of your so-called books on my so-called bookshelf, but after reading this and going to check, I discovered that they were in fact elaborately re-labeled VHS tapes of Breakin’ 2. Fiendish!

  23. I am presuming this is “the same poor wee racist lad whose adorable mancrush on me has gone unabated for a dozen years now” that resulted in $60K+ being generated for worthy causes a few years back. I gave this very week to a couple of those same causes thanks largely to your making me aware of them. Please keep not writing Sci-Fi and continue elevated for odious virtues!

  24. So, since I put forth cash monies for a signed copy of The Collapsing Empire, does that make me part of THE GLOBAL CONSPIRACY? If so, when can I expect dividends on my work for your organization?

    Also, KUDOS on the fact that THE GLOBAL CONSPIRACY has done such a great job in keeping your books in the stores and keeping Mr. X out!

  25. Aww pat the precious little darling on the head, he’s seeing things again. Hi Teddy, I know you’re hanging on every word, even though you can’t be trusted not to shit on the carpet.

    Man if it’s a conspiracy I sure got sucked in. I tend to buy both print and e book versions of your stuff for my collection. Keep the conspiracy going!!!!!!!

  26. I really enjoy these types of posts because they expose me to the inner workings of the publishing industry. I don’t think I’ve read one yet where I didn’t say to myself “I did not know that.”

    When I sit down and write Jerome’s Great Opus, I’m going to proclaim I got my expert tutelage from the Grand Conspirator himself.

  27. Well, you don’t sell any books, but every time I go to a bookstore and take one of your books, they make me pay them money. What’s up with that? That is what’s unfair, Mr. Scalzi. *That’s* what’s unfair.

  28. DFHKO HFDFK KHVSS MGCRU KGCDY KJGRX ZETGK!

    (Assuming you know which of your books, and page number to decode. Then, and only then, will we compare jello box top halves to confirm.)

    (whisper) Walk away all natural like. Whistle something jaunty. Sshh!

  29. Another Laura:

    I fed all of Mr. Scalzi’s work through Double ROT-13. Not only did the instructions make sense, I found the text highly enjoyable.

  30. The term “cover strapline” had not been part of my vocabulary until your blog post explained it to me. Thank you very much for educating me.

    And ooo yes, it is Sooo Unfair that you have to work to sell your books. But the Scalzi manse doesn’t run for free. And unfortunately there’s no such thing as free kibble for the Scalzi menagerie. Somehow things will keep running even without phantom Conspiracies for the benefit of Scalzi.

  31. Rather than “wee little racist”, why not go full Scots with “wee racist scunner”, scunner being an object of distaste, a nuisance, a nasty piece of work. Full credit to M.C. Beaton for enlarging my vocabulary on this topic.

  32. I object! My cats won’t do a danged thing except walk all over my keyboard, producing gibberish…. Oh, wait, maybe…. Nnaahh, couldn’t be.

    My cats are convinced I should be working for them, not the other way around. I somehow still like them and they still like me. Or they think the rent’s free and the chow’s OK, so why not hang around?

    I wanna be propped up by a conspiracy to give me lots of cash! I’m broke and all attempts to earn money fast enough to replace it are not going so well right now. (I’m selling my house in the meantime, and working to get an income back, but in the meantime, man, is this lack of funds not fun.)

    Nobody has a man-crush on me, darn it. Straplines or strapless or whatever. Darn! Yeah, I had this idealized, romanticized notion of True Love and Lifelong Devotion (er, and makin’ love / hot sex, OK, I admit that too) … but somehow had myself too conflicted and stayed in the closet way too dang long. So far, Mr. Right has not shown up at my door or under the Christmas tree or whatever, and if he did show up, I’d probably be very freaked out, so he’d have to kinda work at it to get me convinced. So yeah. That gay lifestyle / agenda? Dude, seriously. My agenda is more like, “Get through the end of the month with a balance above zero.” Besides, any guy would have to be a saint to put up with me at present. Still working to get my life out of the mess it’s in. But hey, maybe there’s some great guy out there who’d like a challenge and who needs some, ah, comforting and cuddling and…. — Oh, wait, that’s starting to sounds like one of those fanfics. Hmm. Drat!

    All kidding on the square aside — There’s this thing called “Lorem ipsum.” Placeholder text for mockups of anything printed. At least the cover art wasn’t a space toaster. Not that I have anything against space toasters. Heheh. I mean, a good space toaster is probably hard to come by.

    More seriously, art and marketing departments for publishers want to sell lots of books, and these days, a cover has to compete with a bajillion other book covers, in print, and very tricky, in a little bitty icon sized thingy on screen, and in an only somewhat larger, less than full-size cover for an ebook version. (Dang it, I’d like nice big cover art and interior illustrations.) Text has to be readable on the paperback, the hardcover, and the ebook, and there may be separate covers for each. (I’m not in book publishing, but I used to work as a small graphic designer / typesetter / you-name-it, back when the buzzword was desktop publishing and using a computer for publication design was nigh unto heresy. Boy, has the world changed since the 80’s.)

    Absolutely, if an author gets good reviews or has ever had a bestseller, that’s gonna be on the cover, the front, the back, the inside front, the inside back, somewhere, along with as many favorable reviews as they have space to stick in with the number of pages in the book. And rightly so. When we readers go into a bookstore or go online, we ogle the cover, get excited over the cool artwork, like the blurbs we see, and look over the interior reviews saying the book and author are the best thing ever. And maybe we skim a page or two of the text, but not the last page, because, spoilers.

    I will admit I’ve been known to buy a book because I liked the cover art. But usually, it’s all the factors in the above paragraph. And it may be an author I’ve never heard of, or it may be an old favorite. Hey, I’ve been reading SF&F since I was a kid in elementary school, and watching TV and movies since I was born, so I have a thing for good science fiction and fantasy art and books. Booklover, here. (And likely so is everyone else who bothered to comment.)

    Racists or bigots or ‘phones? No, thanks. Seen enough of those in life already. Never did like ’em; still don’t. Lads are great; quite like lads. :D Wee folk, little people, and so on, whether the human variety or the elvish-etc. sort, fine by me.

    The insight into cover production and the life of the novel in print, really great. The satire and humor, really brightened my day, gave me a good laugh too.

  33. “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.”

    Byzantine Schemes for Virtue Signallers is a hell of a band name.

  34. Wait, wait, wait. I don’t even understand the basis of this imagined conspiracy. The strapline refers to the NYT bestselling SERIES, which… haven’t the previous books in the series all landed on the NYT bestseller list? If so, “New York Times bestselling series” is a completely accurate statement regardless of how well the new installment performs.

    If the “problem” is something else, then I’m utterly at sea as to what the dude is even getting his butthairs snarled over.

    ANYWAY… 9_9 forever. Looking forward to reading the new book!

  35. That is a nice cover. However, I have no idea who Joe Hill is. I had to google him. The cover would tell me ‘action/military far future SF’ which I would guess is what they are trying to go for.

  36. John, can you comment as to why different countries need different cover art? I understand the text will be different, but wouldn’t the art be effective everywhere? Especially in the UK where the text doesn’t even need changing. I am not just wondering for your work, either, but for all books. I admit to being ignorant as to why a picture that goes with the story wouldn’t be good for everywhere it’s sold.

  37. If your VAST CONSPIRACY OF FAKE-BOTS consists of an overworked art department drone (or freelancer trying to hit a dozen absurdly tight deadlines at the same time) who had a trivial proofreading fail and an equally frantic publicist who bulk-emailed out a proof cover, you really blow at the whole Evil Social Justice Overlord thing.

  38. @ArbysMom:

    John, can you comment as to why different countries need different cover art? I understand the text will be different, but wouldn’t the art be effective everywhere?

    Not necessarily. I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but culturally what’s “legible” and attractive to a reader in the US or UK many not go over in other markets.

    And sometimes, to be crudely commerical for a moment :), publishers just don’t want to go to the cost and inconvenience of securing the rights. I don’t know why the American editions of the Discworld novels are so butt ugly when Josh Kirby & Paul Kidby’s UK covers are gorgeous, but I suspect it’s got a lot to do with HarperCollins deciding it would be much cheaper to keep it in-house.

    One last consideration: As Mr. Scalzi points out, the primary purpose of a book cover is to sell the book. Often, another factor is to create a consistent “brand identity” for a publisher or imprint. There’s a wonderful indie publisher in the UK called Persephone Books. All their books have plain grey covers — no illustrations. Believe it or not, they’re quite distinctive.

  39. ‘It’s the first of a brand new series written by a guy who has written another series which is a bestseller’.

    I just read the books, but even I can see that the sentence above, whilst factually accurate, wouldn’t leave enough space on the cover for the title and the picture.

    On the other hand this episode has reminded me of the charity gig we did for the odious chap with a man-crush, and I have therefore donated to a couple of causes he would most loathe. This is a win-win; Scalzi gets to geek out and I get to lighten the load a bit for some people …

  40. Marion: I had exactly the same problem!!!

    Also, Mrs. Scalzi, your minions are totally falling down on the job, apparently. They let this kind of detail slip. Shame!

    (Can’t wait to buy the book! Congratulations!)

  41. Now, hold on there, John. Are you slick? Or, are you entertaining and accessible? Couldn’t possibly be both, could you? Confuse the fan base. THAT’S the conspiracy!

  42. I appreciate your posts on the “inside baseball” of book publishing and the business of writing. It’s a world I know nothing of but I’ve been enjoying its products for a long time now.

    One of the best book club meetings I’ve gone to was one where the book was one I hadn’t read–the local library and used books stores didn’t have a copy, and the genre was such that I wasn’t willing to pay to buy it new. But the author came to our meeting, and it was fascinating to hear her talk about how the book went through the process from start to finish. One of her first comments was that the book we read wasn’t the one she originally wrote–it changed that much during the editing process.

  43. These trolls have WAY too much time on their hands. Sigh. (Also, I just found out what virtue signaling was today, not but an hour before I read this post. Further proof that I’m doing a great job of ignoring said trolls. *thumbs up*)

  44. @cranapia: Or consider Baen, whose covers are both IMO usually hideously ugly and look like they were composited together in ten seconds by a hasty intern with a WordArt fetish and a thing for blue and orange, but also are always immediately recognisable as Baen-published as a result.

  45. Joe Hill blurbed your book? Thought he was dead; didn’t the copper bosses kill him?

    Marion, if you want reimbursement for the amount you spent on John’s books, you need to go to GeorgeSorosEvilLibrulConspiracyInc.Gov and fill out your form in triplicate.

  46. Huh, fascinating – first time I’m aware of the term ‘strapline’, and it’s already too late! Corrupted by “Big Virtue” already. At least that explains why my Psychic Pangolin is still feeling cranky and sorely treated. Why oh why do these earthly rewards accrue to the ignoble unjust?

  47. I should have asked, is there a professional Virtue Signalling League or is it still mostly amateur at this point?

  48. I could just sit back while minions did everything and I drank Coke Zeros on the beach

    In which the conspiracy is revealed – there is no beach in the middle of Ohio! What else is Scalvi lying about?

  49. If, as we’ve been told, hardly anyone pays attention to your blog, Facebook or your Twitter account, or your speeches and appearances, etc., then you “signalling virtue” is no more effective than, say, me signalling virtue. So why is it worth paying you tons of money and spending tons of money pretending to make books of yours if no one is listening to you as well as not really buying the books? It doesn’t sound like you’re a very effective PR venture for the supposed great liberal take-over that is apparently Tor/Macmillan’s real business. I mean, J.K. Rowling sure, you can see that. Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, etc. But if you’re an utter failure on all media platforms — as I have been assured that you are — then no one much is hearing the signal. You are bilking Tor, Scalzi. And lowering the going rate for all the other bestselling liberal authors who have more media presence than you to make use of their fake book sales. For shame.

  50. @ cranapia
    About the Persephone books – yes, grey covers, but they have gorgeous coloured endpapers with matching bookmark!

    Fun with covers: covers can often be assembled very fast. Years ago, Lonely Planet had to pulp an entire printrun because the cover said it was a guide to “WESTREN Europe”. This of course made it a popular collectors’ item.

    I agree that Baen covers are generally hideous; one would think an author like Lois McMaster Bujold would have clout enough to fix the cover of A Civil Campaign, a great book with the ugliest cover ever. On the other hand, at least that cover reflects the content of the book. Over at the Book View Cafe blog, Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff has a hilarious series of posts (6 so far – with filk) about covers and blurbs. Here’s the first one: http://bookviewcafe.com/blog/2016/10/26/there%E2%80%99s-a-bimbo-on-the-cover-of-my-book-verse-1/.

  51. @msb

    Thanks for the pointer. Perhaps I’m just getting old, but these days when I see a “Bimbo on the cover” in some inappropriate locale with her boobs exposed to the elements I just think “Poor darling, someone should get her a shawl and a pair of slippers. She must be FROZEN.” I never buy the things because (how to put this politely) I bat for the other team regarding gratuitous eye candy. :)

  52. I have to admit that when I first saw the phrase “poor wee racist lad”, my mind bounced to the tiny-fisted fascist President Lord Dampnut. It seems quite a while since we’ve heard any mention of the poor wee racist with the adorable mancrush.

    Truth be told, I haven’t really missed him. There have been bigger (but not much bigger), oranger fish to fry. Yet it’s nice to see that our host – despite literary and financial success – can still make time for the *little* trolls…as long as they provide the opportunity for a teachable moment.

  53. “Scalzi has a new book? Eeeexcellent. Immediately put it on the bestseller list.”
    “BY YOUR COMMAND.”

    -John Colicos, secret publishing overlord

  54. I actually go out of my way to buy the Gollancz UK editions of Philip K. Dick’s book in trade paperback, because the covers of the Mariner Books TPB editions available in the US are so dire.

  55. Marion asked, “I should have asked, is there a professional Virtue Signalling League or is it still mostly amateur at this point?”

    Shush. The first rule of the League of Professional Virtue Signalers is do not talk about the League of Professional Virtue Signalers . . . because if everybody is morally superior, no one is.

  56. Joe Lansdale’s short story “Bestsellers Guaranteed” is about the Social Injustice Warrior conspiracy. It at least makes sense.

    And speaking of straplines, Robert Coover’s The Adventures of Lucky Pierre is an extreme example of last-minute cover change. If you Google for images (be sure to include the author’s name, lest you get flooded by all the NSFW stuff) reveals two covers, the ARC version which was blatantly soft-core porn, and the actual cover, which could have been for a child’s book. I suspect the cover switcheroo was planned for very early on, a deliberate bait-and-switch. (If you look for the Publishers Weekly review, you’ll find it has the original suggestive subtitle.)

    So I believe there is one more point to add to our host’s description about what is likely going on. A bit of off-the-shelf mock-up improvization, certainly, but a bit of positive horn-tooting, all in the name of whipping up sales and making more money. Heck, I think I may have identified the all-powerful secret organization Tor UK takes its marching orders from: the “Invisible Hand”. Those fellows predate the Templars and even the Priory of Sion!

  57. This proves, in case anyone had any doubts, that the WLR has no real idea of how Big Pub works. Or sometimes, in the case of mistakes in copy, doesn’t work. My company once printed a book with the back-cover “blurb” of “quote to come.”…

  58. @ cranapia
    Not to mention chain-mail bikinis: they seem neither comfortable nor useful. But don’t assume that a book is as bimbo-y as the cover; lots of authors have very little control over the art used. Remember the Earthsea covers with Ged as a blond, or Octavia Butler’s Imago with a white protagonist on the front, but not inside?

  59. I feel that even if I did want to enlist you in a vast conspiracy to, I don’t know, keep down all of the racist misogynist jerks who don’t like you, I could come up with a better way to do it than that. But I’m just some dude you’ve never met, not the Illuminati (or am I?).

  60. I do feel the conspiracy should be scrutinised more carefully; people are threatening to burn JK Rowling’s books because of her comments on Trump, aka Voldermort, yet Scalzi’s minions haven’t managed a perfectly simple tweet campaign showing that even more people are burning his books.

    I hate to say this, but perhaps the time has come to upgrade the minions…

  61. I wish I had this person’s time management skills. I’m a self-published author, and in between writing, editing, publishing and promoting my own work, I barely even have time to glance at what other writers are doing, let alone obsessing about the details of their covers and what it might say about their relationship with the New York Times.

  62. “In which the conspiracy is revealed – there is no beach in the middle of Ohio! ”
    Not in *this* timeline, no. But in the special EliteVirtueSignallerConspiracy universe the very best elite virtue signaller gamma rabbits get to recline on special loungers upholstered with unicorn hair fabric washed in the tears of conservatives.

  63. @Stevie — I must need an upgrade. So J.K. Rowling has been making unflattering comparisons of Mr. Trump? And people are threatening to burn her books because of it? I was sadly unaware. Seems like all the more reason to like her books, or her. It sounds like the same sort of people who worry that her wizards and spells are “witchcraft” and therefore sinful. Too bad they can’t appreciate imagination and creative thinking and having fun, and would rather have fear and ignorance. And that, by the way, is not aimed at all people who are believers in some religious faith. It’s just directed toward the more rabid and less critically-thinking, discerning ones. — The people who’d get all upset over Ms. Rowling having an opinion and concerns over real-world events and politics, and would therefore want to burn her books for her personal views? Again, fear and ignorance. Too bad. They may think they want that, but getting it, I am pretty sure, would not make their lives better. Good for Ms. Rowling for being concerned about what’s going on over here.

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