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!)