Zoe’s Tale Cover Art, Teenage Girls, and You (Yes, You)

Got an e-mail from someone who loved Zoe’s Tale but is completely confused about its cover art:

I don’t know if you can change this at this point, but the cover of the book SUCKS. “An Old Man’s War Novel” is up there so big that it is going to scare away teen girls looking for a good read (I’m assuming readers who enjoyed the Old Man’s War books would find this novel without the big reference on the cover.) I’m guessing teen boys who like war books would be turned off by the girl’s name in the title…so the cover is just going to sooo limit the audience, which is a shame for such a good book. It looks like an action-packed war book, which will turn off the majority of girls…or middle-aged ladies like me.

I actually didn’t want to pick this book up because of the cover, but I saw the “winner” announcement (the only thing the cover does right) and took a chance. Glad I did…

I know you’ll probably sell a gajillion of these books based on your existing reader base…I just think it’s a shame more people won’t be picking it up because of the poor cover.

This isn’t the first time someone’s questioned me about the cover art, incidentally, and specifically about questioning whether it’s appropriate for the content of the book. I recently shared a cab ride with a Young Adult author who spent a fair chunk of the ride taking a mallet to the cover art, because she was convinced it was doing me no favors selling the story inside to whom she assumed was the books intended audience, which was YA readers (to be clear, this particular YA author is a lovely person, and wasn’t criticizing me; we were just having shop talk).

Well. I don’t think the cover art sucks, or that it’s inappropriate for the book. It’s a good cover, and it does its job — i.e., signaling to both booksellers and readers a basic idea of what’s inside — pretty well. What the cover also does, however, is point out the challenges publisher have and decisions they have to make when dealing with a book, particularly in an existing series, that doesn’t completely color within the lines.

A brief recap: Zoe’s Tale came about in part due to a conversation my editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden and I had, in which he suggested that at some point I try writing a YA-friendly book in the Old Man’s War universe: “YA friendly” being something that could speak to teenagers without driving away the adult market that already exists for the books.

I thought this was an interesting idea and some time later — and adding in my own motivations for writing as well — Zoe’s Tale was the result: sixteen-year-old main character, stand-alone book, designed not to raise flags to nervous school boards while at the same time neither condescending to teens nor boring the crap out of existing adult fans of the series (incidentally, if you think doing all three of these at the same time is easy: try it sometime). ZT was designed to be able to read across between reader demographics, and I think by and large everyone who’s read the book agrees that I pulled this off. So well done, me.

But when it comes time to sell the book, it also comes time to look at the hard-nosed economics of the situation and ask: Where will its market be first? Hardcover books, as we all know, are relatively expensive, and Tor spent a decent-sized chunk of change both extracting the book from me, and then producing it. Among the considerations (I would imagine, since I didn’t sit in on the marketing sessions):

1. I have an established base of adult readers and very high name awareness in the adult science fiction market.
2. Correspondingly, although Zoe’s Tale is YA-friendly, I have no name awareness in the YA field and no base of readers.
3. Although Tor has recently had good success with Little Brother, Cory Doctorow’s YA novel, it’s still feeling its way around in the YA market.
4. Tor could try to boost YA awareness of the novel with heavy marketing and touring, but Tor just toured me extensively for The Last Colony, and neither they nor I are ready to have me do another weeks-long tromp across the country.
5. Although Zoe’s Tale is a stand-alone, it’s also the fourth book in an existing series.

And so on. And thus, at the end of the day, it made sense for Tor to say: “We’ll go after the adult market first.” And thus, the cover art and design, which is in line with the other books in the series: same artist, same typography, same basic design. Was it the right decision? We’ll find out, I suppose. The early sales numbers that I’ve seen suggest that it hasn’t been a detriment: the book is chugging along nicely in sales right now, and will hopefully continue to do so into the holidays.

Does this mean that Zoe won’t be discovered by YA audiences after all? Well, no. Two things here. First, the hardcover release is just the hardcover release; there will be a paperback release as well. Tor has some time left to decide whether it wants to do a YA-specific version of the book. There are hard-line economic reasons for and against doing this, and at the end of the day those will dictate what happens, but personally speaking I certainly wouldn’t mind having a version of the book that sits in the YA section and has a cover that appeals to YA readers. I like Zoe a lot; I’d like teens to meet her.

Second, and to my mind far more importantly:

Well, look: if you are one of those who think teenage girls (or even boys) would love Zoe’s Tale, could you do me a great big ginormous favor and give the book to one of them? Please? I mean, really: Help me out, people. I understand that a lot of you out there think I’ve reached a point in my career where my books don’t need any more help to reach the public, but — surprise! — I really wouldn’t turn down the offer. Word of mouth has made a huge difference in the success of my work so far — Old Man’s War took off specifically because of friends telling friends, online and off, “hey, there’s this cool book I’ve found.” It makes a difference.

And it would make a huge difference if the people who’ve read Zoe’s Tale and liked it handed one over to a book-loving teenager of their acquaintance and said, “here, try this. You’re going to like it.” Because if they’re right and that teen does like it, she’s going to tell her friends to read it, too, and then off we go. All the massive marketing campaigns Tor could do, or the covers they could design, or the tours they could put me on, can’t replace the simple act of someone saying to someone else, “I loved this book.”

And, you know. If you think the cover of the book will keep a teenage girl from reading the book, here’s what you do: Take the cover off. It’s a slipjacket; it comes off nicely, and the hardcover nature of the book means it’s somewhat resistant to wear. It’ll survive. And the book wants to be read. Won’t you please help it fulfill its dream? It’s a simple dream, it is.

So, yes, pretty please: Champion Zoe’s Tale to the teens you know (and for that matter, any and everyone else. But especially teens). I would be very much in your debt, and so would Zoe. And I’ll say this much: If you think Tor should make a YA-friendly version of Zoe’s Tale, the absolute best possible way to do that would be to show them that there’s a market for one.

46 Comments on “Zoe’s Tale Cover Art, Teenage Girls, and You (Yes, You)”

  1. I first heard of Old Man’s War by word of mouth, and it led me to a author who is both a great story teller and more than a little nuts. That’s a great combination. I have told several others about this Scalzi, and they have all enjoyed his books also.

    So, I have to agree with him about word of mouth. Give Zoe’s Tale to a teenage girl, let her decide if it’s good or not. Or at least recommend it to her.

  2. Cool- I can lure my niece over to the SF side of the street (not that I have anyrthing against vampire novels……)


  3. I don’t know if I’m an anomaly, but as a former teenage boy who was (and still is) a big fan of war- and sci-fi- novels, I don’t think having “Zoe” in the title would have bothered me a bit. Several of my favorite series from my teenage years had young female main characters, and I never thought there was anything strange about it.

  4. I am not convinced that teenage boys are going to see the name ZOE in the title of this book and run screaming, for what that’s worth.

  5. I’m obviously not a teenage girl, but I think releasing a YA-cover paperback is a good idea. As for showing there’s a market for one, is there a way to do this other than by there being buzz and Tor reading the buzz? If you convince a lot of teenage girls to buy the hardback, the numbers won’t show where those sales are coming from.

  6. Did you or Tor have any concerns about possible blow back from parents or whoever about YA’s that after reading Zoe, then went and found the rest of the OLW series and stumbled into some not so YA content? Obviously, none of that would be your fault, but I could see a situation where an outraged parent assumed that if Zoe was in the school library and 13 year old friendly, then the rest of your books would be fine for a 13 year old too. And of course, the parent would blame you, Tor, the library, or maybe Obama before they would blame themselves.

    Of course, the resulting flare up would probably just draw more attention to your books and create additional sales.

    BTW, I did pass Zoe on to my 14 year son, who greatly enjoyed the book too. Of course, he reads 3 to 4 sci-fi or fantasy novels a week, so he was probably going to be a Scalzi fan sooner or later anyway :)

  7. Makes more sense to hit the adult market first, too, because the YA market takes longer to give up on titles than the adult market does. At least, that seems to be case, looking from a library.

  8. When ZT comes out in pb, I will give 3 copies to my 3 nieces. I don’t care about the cover, per se, but they might. THey are all readers enough to read it, I think, but if the cover is sufficiently “boyish” they may not take it to school or where the other girls can see it. Btw, I have that cover problem when read some of the urban fantasy stuff- I’m a bit embarassed to be reading that in public. (First time that ever happened was the pb cover of Darkover Landfall, as I recall.)

  9. Will do re: passing the book on- I’m trying to decide whether my sister-in-law would like it yet, or whether it should wait a couple of years.

    Speaking as one example of an adult female, though, I’m totally turned off by space battles, space stations, etc. on the cover of books, I think because they suggest to me that the book will be more plot driven (read: lots of explosions) than character driven. I would never have picked up Old Man’s War except that I had already read Android’s Dream, which I picked up because the cover was interesting and suggested exploration of concepts and humor. Incidentally, I had the same problem with the Ender series- the techie covers were almost unappealing enough to scare me away from what turned out to be a very character and concept driven series.

    I hate to think cover art is all that important in my book selection, but it definitely comes into play when I’m just wandering through the bookstore, looking for something interesting. I think depicting a few characters along with all the techie goodness would help show potential readers that there’s a lot more depth here than your average space pyrotechnics.

  10. 3. Although Tor has recently had good success with Little Brother, Cory Doctorow’s YA novel, it’s still feeling its way around in the YA market.

    Tell them I’d be more than happy to help them feel their way. My agent sent word they are reviewing my YA manuscript. Fingers crossed.

    For what it’s worth, I like the cover, but I am not a teenage girl so it’s probably not worth much at all.

  11. Zoe’s Tale has still not arrived from the library. However, there is a waiting list.

    I think that this calls for a video, John. Bratz Doll meets Zoe’s Tale.

  12. I’m the last perosn to ask about those giant space war covers because I think they’re over saturated in the market, and boring. That said, I think Irene Gallo knows far more about covers, marketing and what sells books than I do. If she thinks it was a good choice, it probably was.

    Personally, I prefer the style of the OMW cover that was done by Donato Giancola, which has actual people on it. But I have Strong Opinions On Art.

  13. i rather liked all the covers of the series so far. had/have a bit of the 1970s SF PB feel to them (the cover of ‘old man’s war’ reminded me of some of the fred saberhagen ‘beserker’ books i have floating around my bookshelves, for what it’s worth), but that said….

    why would anyone buy a book solely based on the appearance of the cover in the first place?

    i know some folks would do that when buying comics, which, being a visual medium and all makes a certain degree of sense, but plonking down $7.99 for a TPB based on a ‘cool cover’ isn’t something i’ve ever felt very compelled to do before.

    the content is the king, imo. i had a fair estimation of what i was getting before i ever bought the first book based on all the recomendations i had gotten and in turn, wasn’t disappointed at all. at that point, the cover image is just the cherry atop the icing on the cake.

  14. My local teenager likes Zoe’s Tale just fine. However, this doesn’t broaden your market much since she had the release date memorized and made little squeaking noises when she got a signed copy.

    For the record, she drew the line at the cover for Charlie Stross’s Saturn’s Children.

  15. Given the amount of pimpage you’ve done on your blog for other writers, perhaps your YA writer friends should consider returning the favor. I know you got some love from Cory over at boingboing, but how many others have done the same?

  16. Just out of curiosity, did the price point make much of a difference in your marketing decision? These days it seems like an average YA hardcover goes for at least four or five dollars less than than average SF hardcover, even when they have comparable page lengths.

  17. Cover art, well, there’s long been a lot of unkind speculation about Tor’s cover-art department, mutters of employment for the boss’s brother-in-law, things like that. How else to explain Darryl K. Sweet? I once met Lee Modesitt, and asked him why he and Robert Jordan didn’t pool their money to put out a contract on Sweet. He didn’t directly answer, but there was a thoughtful look in his eye.

    It is a mystery many have speculated over, why Tor in particular keeps publishing cover art that is wildly wrong — okay, the artist didn’t read the story or pay attention, but surely SOMEONE did? Why didn’t it jar them as badly as it jarred the fans who moan about it on RASFW? (The protagonist is called “silverlock” because his hair is, duh, silver? But on the cover art, it’s brown.)

    So this cover is just fine, relatively speaking.

    As for the marketing ideas, perhaps the person who vets the cover art is the same guy who does their market research and comes up with notions like “mainstream sf authors don’t have any name recognition in the YA market”. That must have been derived from consulting several joints. (Marijuana or bars, take your pick.)

    When we were YA’s, the problem was keeping us OUT of the adult sections of the library and bookstore, and keeping what was thought to be “too mature”, out of our hands rather than persuading us to read them. When I qualified as YA, I was very much aware of what Ellison, Sturgeon, Van Vogt, Vance, et al., were doing, and none of them ring the YA bell.

    Do you and your publishers *really* think that military sf doesn’t have any attraction for young boys? I dunno about you but by the time I was twelve, I was firmly into the stuff. (Hey, here’s an obscure one for you: do you remember “Bullard of the Space Patrol”? May have been before your time.) But if somebody thinks that the battles of the Navy of Helium weren’t interesting to boys, keep that person from making any decisions about marketing, eh?

    Stories about girls wouldn’t be interesting to boys? Yeah, Bob Heinlein ran into that all the time, and it was so bad that John Varley just followed him into it. The pre-adolescent period when gurlz are icky and have cooties, seems to have nearly vanished, and kids discover sex earlier and earlier.

    I think the people who came up with most of the notions you list, are the same people who had the idea that there even needed to be a YA section in the first place. What did PNH say, “just a place in the bookstore that you DON’T need to look?”

  18. Bughunter:

    Given my sales, which are very healthy, I have a hard time with the argument that the art for my work so far has been wrong; on the contrary it’s generally effective connecting readers to the work.

    Likewise, comparing the reading and sales dynamics of a quarter century ago, when I was a teenager, to the dynamics in play today, is not useful.

    Finally, your characterization of PNH’s approach to YA is flatly wrong at this point.

    I’m not sure where you’re coming from in your comment, but it doesn’t have much relation to the bookselling world as I know it, or Tor as I work with it.

  19. Scalzi: I don’t promote other writers for that reason, though.

    I know, and I wasn’t suggesting you have (or should, or ever would) demand quid pro quo.

    I’m just saying that other YA authors you’ve plugged here who think Zoe’s Tale doesn’t suck (which it doesn’t by the way — I finished it last week) should consider giving you a shout-out to their own readers.

  20. Dude, nothing makes the sales numbers bounce like an ORANGE B-17 looking spacecruiser!

    it could be true though, what do I know about selling books?

    I think the impressionist/ blurred style does make one think about how one might actually perceive a war in space. Which connects to the old man’s war novels because they definately call attention to the viewpoint of the characters more so than comparable works in the mil-sci-fi subgenre. For example they are “light years” better than the covers Jack Campbell’s (AKA Hemry) Lost Fleet series was saddled with.

    That being said, a girl on the cover couldn’t really HURT sales, could it?

  21. Well John, as you’ll recall, way back in my review of the book, I mentioned I’d thought Tor made a major miscalculation with the cover art, and ought to release a YA edition of the book with a more girl-friendly cover…say, with Zoe actually on it for starters. Sure, the regular HC edition is chugging along nicely with your established fan base, which is great. But I do think a separate edition would be a worthwhile risk to take in the interests of trying to expand that base.

    While I’ll grant you they’re higher-profile books to begin with, Tor’s done separate YA editions of Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow and The Eye of the World, so it’s doable. And you could argue OSC and Jordan had no real “base of readers” in YA either. Then again, for all I know the YA editions of those titles didn’t sell nearly as well as the regular ones.

  22. Speaking as a female reader who spent most of her teen years peering out at the world over the backs of various David Weber and John Ringo novels (among others), I don’t think the spaceships would have bothered me a bit. The only time I can remember being embarrassed by the cover of what I was reading was when my history teacher loaned me a copy of something by Edgar Rice Burroughs (I forget which title), with a woman on the cover who was basically naked; I don’t think even that would have bugged me if it hadn’t come from a teacher, and one who was one of my dad’s old army buddies, at that.

    I guess my long, rambling point is, I don’t think the ZT cover registers negatively on kids who are actually big readers, especially of science fiction, and the whole idea that they’d turn off girls more than boys is weird to me. I’m just glad they didn’t do that close-up-of-the-main-character’s-left-eye thing that it seems like every other YA sci-fi book has been doing since Uglies came out.

  23. I can understand, I suppose, why publishers (especially in the marketing department) and writers might get all angsty about cover art and reading reaction to it. But I cannot understand why anyone would not pick up a book because they didn’t like the cover art, although I know it goes on because it has been discussed over on the sf/fantasy forum where I moderate.

    I will plead guilty to very occasionally picking up a book because it has an interesting title. As far as I can recall, however, I’ve never picked up a book just on the basis of liking its cover art nor have I ever not read a book just because I didn’t like the art. Maybe that’s because I had it drilled into me as a child that…wait for it…you can’t judge a book by its cover. I don’t know. But cover art is just irrelevant to me.

    To me, I guess, it’s like not befriending someone because they are too thin or too fat. If I did that, I’d have missed out on some of the best, most fun people I know. And if I didn’t pick up a book just because I didn’t like the cover art, I would have missed out on some pretty spectacular reading.

  24. Been there, done that. My daughter loved the book and has yet to return my copy – it’s doing the rounds of her friends which, I appreciate, may not do much for John’s book sales but hopefully will pay off in raised awareness. (Actually it did do something for his book sales – I have dispaired of ever getting my original copy back so I went out and bought myself another one…)

  25. Wow, Bughunter, I’ve been a fan of much of Tor’s cover art choices for quite a while. If you’re interested in the decision making process, Irene Gallo’s blog, The Art Department can give you a primary source, instead of speculation from… well, I’m not sure who’s speculating you’re quoting. They’ve made some off choices, but overall, I find Tor covers quite nice.

    Not to mention your assertion that “I think the people who came up with most of the notions you list, are the same people who had the idea that there even needed to be a YA section in the first place.”

    YA sections not only have been around for a while, but are also good business for authors who break into them.

  26. First: The Old Man’s War books are the first SF series I have read since I was 14 (and the first SF book period I have finished since 18 so ten years of a SF glut for those playing at home). Awesome! Thanks btw you give me hope in renewing my enjoyment of SF.
    Second: I like the cover art for ZT, the graphic is military (boy catcher) and obv Zoe (girl catcher) and then the clincher is that it’s part of the series and the word winner(easily seals the deal for everyone else) not to mention orange on green and huge letters, how can someone not see this book on a shelf? As a browser of book shelves, I must admit you can’t do much better in sum.
    Third: Found out you existed in an ‘Unshelved’ comic strip collection
    Fourth: You have made the extemely short list of author’s I recommend to other people; Roald Dahl, Alan Gordan, and John Scalzi.
    Fifth: You’re a good author and not just a good SF author

  27. If you think Tor should make a YA-friendly version of Zoe’s Tale, the absolute best possible way to do that would be to show them that there’s a market for one.

    I may be obtuse, but how does selling copies with the existing cover prove that such a market exists?

    M@9 – I’m with you 100%.

    Even now, as a mid-40s male, I’ve always found space-ship covers to be somewhat of a turnoff and there have been endless classic titles that I overlooked for years, decades even, because of the perception they created. It’s this blog and – to a lesser degree – the cover of Android’s Dream which brought me to the OMW universe.

    I have a feeling that Charlie Stross’ non-spaceship- covered editions helped get him onto bookseller display tables in Australia, where I fear your titles are almost unknown.

  28. Like Kendra, I read a lot of sci-fi as a child and as a teen, and Edgar Rice Burroughs covers were more problematic to me than anything with a spaceship on it (but I read pretty much every book Burroughs wrote anyway). As a teen, it’s likely that I would have preferred a cover that didn’t have any people on it; I preferred being able to imagine the character the way that I wanted to (there’s probably some subtext about how being of mixed ancestry related to that but I’m going to leave that alone for now). I don’t know how much influence I may have had on her, but I know that kidlet doesn’t give a rip about the cover art *if it’s a book I have chosen for her* because she thinks I have reasonably good taste in books and she does ask me for recommendations. In the bookstore and library, she does look at cover art more, especially if she wants something light and fluffy with expensive shoes and handbags in it. She’s got the hardcover of Zoe’s Tale right now, sitting in the dorm she shares with 3 other young women. Who knows? Maybe they’ll take a break from swooning over the Twilight series.

  29. John @ 29: I’d love to know where your books are sold as I’ve only seen them at one SF specialty store (at pretty huge prices ie a PB costs more than a US HB). My local bookseller said they’re import-only.

  30. Aw man. I failed to put in an email address and lost my post. Clicked back after the error and it was gone. bleah.
    Ok where was I? Oh yeah, I know nothing about publishing but I won’t let that slow me down. I like TORs strategy. Count on the fans to move the hardcover and then count on them to share it with or sugest it to everyone they think might like it. Then decide if they need a YA covered version just before the paperback goes to press. The cover looks fine to me but I could be sitting smack dab in the middle of the demographic of the Scalzi fan base. Which brings up a question, what are the demographics of the Scalzi fan base? Anybody know? Fodder for a future post? Or has it already been covered?

  31. I think your e-mail correspondent raises a more general question about the appeal of SF cover art to female readers generally. I don’t read much SF at all, but I have enjoyed the titles I’ve read, which have been either required reading for school or recommended by my spouse (who, incidentally, does suggest I get around to reading me some Scalzi, which I haven’t yet). And I think the way SF is marketed — and particularly cover art — plays a large role in my reluctance to read SF. There are just so many other books that inherently appeal to me more that I’m unlikely to ever get around to SF. But maybe I’d feel differently about that if I was being marketed to more directly.

  32. @Elaine:

    But I cannot understand why anyone would not pick up a book because they didn’t like the cover art.

    Elaine, I’m one of those people, most likely because I naturally think like a marketing wonk (in fact, I play one at work) and I recognize that the covers they choose are chosen with a purpose. That is, to loudly identify this particular book with that particular market or genre or style.

    I know, for example, that being as allergic to “chick lit” as I am, I won’t pick up a book with one of those Skittle’s color palettes, girly cut-out art and cutesy font, because that cover was chosen to scream “CHICK LIT!”

    Likewise, the minute I see a dark, brooding chiarascuro cover featuring vaguely steampunk or arcane themes and sporting names that are almost, but not quite, Latinate, I grab on for dear life because the marketers in the pub house are screaming pseudo-Victorian sci-fi with (quite likely) a dark twist. And when I see a spaceship rounding a strange planet with a title in embossed gold serif lettering, I know that’s probably my ticket if I’m up for some FTL warfare, aliens and explosions.

    Of course, this isn’t a 100% accurate test – without knowing the author or knowing for a fact that the content of the book is as otherwise “advertised,” I wouldn’t pick up Stross’ Saturn’s Children (smacks of pure geek wank). But in general I will usually at least pick up and read the flap copy of a book by someone whose writing I know and like, even if the cover looks suspiciously aquamarine and fluffy, because I have a bigger reference set than just the cover. And occasionally, I no doubt miss the odd cool book because the cover is completely out of synch with the content.

    Finally, I do choose at least a portion of my reading material based on book reviews, blog postings, word of mouth and other buzz, without ever seeing the covers.

    But in general I do let my eyes guide me when I’m out hunting in physical book space, because marketing departments go out of their way to help me do so.

    Using this technique, I am only occasionally disappointed. And in the end, there are so many books, and I have only one lifetime (at one time, anyway) to read those most likely to entertain and enlighten me. You’ve got to have some way to do quick-and-dirty, on-the-fly thin slice filtering or that math just gets real ugly, real fast.

  33. Hey John
    just wanted to leave you a comment about your book, Zoe’s Tale. Even though i was originally disappointed that it wasn’t extending the story past where you left off in The Lost Colony, i loved the way you added in extra details and loved it so much i stayed up last night to finish.

    On the subject of the cover art. As a 16 year old I find the cover art to be interestingly abstract, and it gives an interesting insight into the universe you have created. I can’t say I’m strongly in touch with femininity, and I’ve read your other books, so there wasn’t a strong chance of you alienating me with the cover art.

    Keep it up, and i cant wait for your next installment.

  34. I’ve got to say, I’ve found the cover art for all the Old Man’s Novels to be hideous. First, it’s generic. Each one has nothing but spaceships and planets (not including the hardcover, which is also kinda blah). I couldn’t distinguish it from any other dime store space opera. Second, it gives no indication on the story. Most of Old Man’s War takes place on a planet or inside a spaceship. Old Man’s War is a war novel, not a space novel.
    Yes, it gives a basic idea of what’s inside, but I want a _specific_ idea of what’s inside. Otherwise it looks like a Star Wars wanna-be. A book’s cover should be its own promotion, like a movie poster. It should entice the reader, motivate the buyer, and communicate not only what the book is about, but what the stakes are.

  35. My sixteen year old daughter and I have read and enjoyed all of your novels. I put the question of the cover to her and she said that she would have preferred to see a picture of the colony or of Zoe and her friends rather than an exploding spaceship. It didn’t stop her from reading the book, but she said it would be a turn off to many of her friends who prefer character-driven stories to action novels. Perhaps you should pass these comments along to Tor and have them consider another YA cover for the paperback.

  36. On a side note: When did Tor switch from the cover printed exactly as shown above (hint: orange lettering) to the alternate-universe cover, which features the same artwork but has lustrous, dark-forest-green lettering? [1]

    I’m nearly certain that the content inside is the same book; it’s just that every time I encounter another ZT-related article with the orange lettered-cover I get this *twinge* and have to look outside to make sure the sky on this planet is still blue.

    Anyone else have a (U.S.) cover which differs from the reference standard? Is this perhaps an Amazontal condition? Or am I simply overdue for my next injection of HappyDaze™?

    [1] best guess: green hue is 120 degrees out from orange, measured in RYB color space.

  37. Cover art is weird.

    I say this with the confidence of someone who cannot draw an apple with a stencil. And (watch closesly) I shall say it again:

    Cover art is weird.

    And you know what else? SF cover art is particularly weird.

    I feel this way because – and you all know this as well as I do – in many cases, the cover of an SF novel has absolutely nothing to do with what’s in the book, a tradition inherited from pulps and comic books in the middle of the 20th century. Slam a nice cover on it, and the kids may not notice the inside is in mono and has a story about a mutant bunny instead of a story about robots.

    There have been some classy efforts to do something a bit more interesting (and sane) recently – I like the covers on Jeff Somers’ books, kinda Old Penguin meets pulp meets… etc. – but basically the process seems to be: SF novel = space + raygun + explosion + Darth Vader/Luke Skywalker kinda shapes in the background.

    On the other hand, there are some more ‘grown-up style’ editions kicking around for some lucky authors, and I thought the UK cover for Glass Books of the Dream Eaters was actually sexy. I wanted to buy it cocktails and put my hand on its knee. I bought the book itself instead; not something I would normally do in the course of a sexual relationship, but you have to make allowances when the object of your affection is non-sentient and entirely covered in transparent blue polyvinyl chloride.

    Although now that I think about it I did once go on a date with someone who matches that description all too well. Er.

    But for the most part, it’s like all those Miles Vorkosigan novels I like so much: why does a story about a guy who was damaged in the womb and never tops five foot one, whose face is sorta square-lookin’ and who uses his personality and his brain to take on the universe have a picture of a six foot three inch tall, handsome blonde guy with a raygun on the front? Or am I being dumb?

    It’s mysterious. Then again, you could ask why my book is pink. People have. I do not know. I do know I think my cover rocks, but I am also aware of people who find it stinky. Stinky is in the nose of the beholder, it seems. But even so…

    Thus, I return to my theme:

    cover art is weird.

  38. It’s just my personal taste and opinion but I really thin all the OMW books covers absolutly suck. I wouldn’t have picked ’em up if it wasn’t for this site and next door at the esque. Just sayin’.

  39. As an 18 year old girl who reads both YA and adult science fiction, I really liked the cover because it is appropriate for the book, and doesn’t feel condescending. Most of the teens I know are aware of the fact that publishing companies frequently manage to butcher covers of books, so we don’t judge too much on the cover alone.

    Also, Zoe’s tale is an excellent continuation of the series! Thanks!

  40. I’ve only read Old Man’s War so far. Can I skip ahead to Zoe’s Tale and come back to the others later? Or is it best to read them in order?

  41. I have to come down on the “what were they thinking??” side about the cover: a big orange phallic thingy with explosions and spaceships? I agree with theWallflower @ #36 that it’s very generic space-battle art. I wouldn’t have taken a second glance at ZT if I hadn’t already been primed by enjoying the other three. It (and the other three’s matching covers) make the books look like they’re all hardware wars with no people-stuff, which I think is a disservice to your stories.

    I assume someone thinks about the balance between selling to the obvious audience group and attracting new types of audience when they make these decisions and in your case decided that the former is more critical.

    When ZT comes out in paperback, I will field-test it on the two teenage girls with whom I exchange books and recommendations and see what they think.

  42. I just read ZT on Monday (yes, the whole thing, starting at about 7 a.m. – had to get it back to the library, where there is a waiting list) and really enjoyed it. But no, if I didn’t look for it because of hearing about it here, I wouldn’t pick it up from the cover art. (Former teenage girl here, but pretty certain I wouldn’t have picked it up then either.)

    Next up is The Last Colony (order? what order?), already having read OMW and TGB.

    (Was this comment too parenthetical?)

  43. And all other things being equal – or even being unequal – it’s a JOHN HARRIS cover fer chrissake. The man is God. Or at least the second coming of Chris Foss.

  44. I think cover art is a challenge no matter what. I mean you have a pretty limited space to work with and really I personally read the inner cover to find out what the book is going to be about, cover art can be misleading.
    I often find the cover makes sense after I read the book, perhaps I am literally dyslexic?
    I’m just waiting for the Old Man’s War movie now, so I can see the poster art!

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