Apologies for the relative silence, ya’ll. Been seriously motoring on book 3, which is threatening to become a doorstopper. ::ulp:: I’m planning to chop it ruthlessly when I get into the editing phase because I just don’t believe a fantasy novel should be heavy enough to punch a hole in the fabric of existence, but for the time being Sieh is being a demanding little brat, and I’d better do what he wants or he’ll replace all my coffee with Taster’s Choice or something.
So I’m just getting around to addressing this now. Last week there was a little confusion in the blogosphere because some folks dug through Orbit’s “forthcoming publications” catalog and found the preliminary cover of book 2 of the Inheritance Trilogy, The Broken Kingdoms. Nothing really wrong with that, since the catalog was after all online for anybody to download… but said bloggers didn’t realize the cover was preliminary, probably because the catalog didn’t say so. (Oops.) Which led to some confusion. And more blogging. And more confusion, as people emailed me with WTFs, wondering why I hadn’t posted anything about it. And so on.
The good news is that people seem to like the preliminary cover. The bad — or rather, neutral — news is, it’s the preliminary cover.
See, despite their availability, publisher “forthcoming” catalogs aren’t really meant for the public. For one thing, they come out so far in advance of the book’s publication — sometimes years before the book comes out — as to be meaningless for the purposes of retail marketing. Which is why they’re meant for wholesale marketing; they’re aimed at booksellers, distributors, and the like, to encourage them to put in orders for the forthcoming stuff. (Or so I understand. Remember, I’m new at this too.) These wholesale folks understand that the cover art isn’t final, but they still want to have an idea of what the publisher is thinking in terms of the book’s marketing push and direction. Descriptive blurbs are also helpful for that purpose, but to mutilate a cliche, a picture is worth a thousand retail orders. Even if that picture isn’t the one that will ultimately go on the book.
To illustrate my point, here are the preliminary and final covers of the US release of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (click for a larger version):
Like night and day, isn’t it? Literally; I love that the final version has Nahadoth superimposed over a bright sunlit sky. (Yeah, that’s Naha. I’m not sure why people keep thinking it’s Yeine, but AFAIC it’s a beautifully literal interpretation of Naha as he frequently appears in the book — a silhouette, but others can always see his eyes.) I was warned from the get-go that the text on the prelim version was just a placeholder, so that was no big deal. As the Orbit folks explained to me, the preliminary cover had too many elements jostling for the reader’s attention, which is why they decided to remove some of them (Yeine most noticeably, which I’ve discussed before) and focus the reader’s eye on the palace. Since dammit Jim I’m a writer not a design professional, I didn’t ask why the color palette was swapped, or the “Book One of the Inheritance Trilogy” band (which appeared only on the Advanced Reader Copies) was removed, or any of that. When I saw the final version, I was so stunned and delighted that I didn’t care why the changes had been made. I just knew I liked the result.
Thing is, until I saw the final, I thought the preliminary was pretty cool, too. And it was! But now you know why I haven’t been crowing about the preliminary cover of book 2 myself. Granted, book 2’s cover isn’t likely to change as drastically as book 1’s did, since by this point in the series we’re all a little more comfortable with its overall style… but it will change. So I haven’t gotten too attached to the prelim, and none of you should, either.
Anyway, trust me, when the final cover for The Broken Kingdoms is ready to show off, you’ll definitely hear alllll about it here.