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Covers for Immolation: Your Opinion

Next August, my novel Immolation will be published.

I finished the first round of big edits on it the other day, and Julie Crisp (the editorial director of Tor UK and collector of heads in jars, please send her some) and I are discussing the cover for the book, provided by Alejandro Colucci. In case you've missed the description of what the book is about, here it is:

Immolation is set fifteen thousand years after the War of the Gods. The bodies of the gods now lie across the world, slowly dying as men and women awake with strange powers that are derived from their bodies. Ayae, a young cartographer’s apprentice, is attacked and discovers she cannot be harmed by fire. Her new power makes her a target for an army that is marching on her home.

With the help of the immortal Zaifyr, she is taught the awful history of ‘cursed’ men and women, coming to grips with her new powers and the enemies they make. Meanwhile, the saboteur Bueralan infiltrates the army that is approaching her home to learn its terrible secret.

Split between the three points of view, Immolation’s narrative reaches its conclusion during an epic siege, where Ayae, Zaifyr and Bueralan are forced not just into conflict with those invading, but with those inside the city who wish to do them harm.

Early on in the process, it was decided that the cover would feature one of the main characters. There are three in the book, so the idea is that, three books, one character on the front of each cover, beginning with the character, Ayae. Julie explains here:

So my brief was, there are three books and three characters. Let’s try and get one of the characters on each of the books starting with Ayae because – well – because she’s really cool!! And she sets her sword on fire. And she’s a woman. And I like her. That was pretty much my thinking. And we’ve come up with a direction that everyone likes but we can’t actually decide on which one works best! Now, before I show you, let me reiterate that these are what we call visual roughs. There’s still a fair amount of work to be done on them. But I want your opinion on the crop, pose and figure – and hell, the title while you’re at it! :-)

You can read Julie's full post here, and leave comments there, or here, as it goes.

Now, the truth is, we have arguments for both. Julie prefers the cropped face, but I tend to think that the full face is better. It is a question of ideology and aesthetics, when you get down to it: the cropped image looks more modern, and would hold the full faced image on the back, ideally (if one happens but not the other, don't quote me, since everything can change between here and now). I agree with that, actually, but I tend to believe if you have the image of a non-white woman on the cover, you should show it. Julie agrees with that, as well. We've been debating it back and forth for the last, I dunno, month, I think. Ayae is based on a Southeast Asian appearance, and my first concern has been that--I am sure I have been cursed by both Alejandro Colucci and Julie for trying to impart what's in my head to both--but after that is achieved, well, then we come to crop and design, and so forth.

It's been pretty fun, actually. Generally, I'm not really the first person you go to for opinions on covers, because I tend to only like odd, abstract things, and this has made me stretch my general ideas and thoughts on them. I've had a good time discussing, and in truth, could go on about it for ages to come, and perhaps I will, because we're putting it up for everyone to have a say on now. I reckon that's pretty cool, because I am genuinely curious to see what you all think is best and more interesting.

You'll also note that Julie makes a comment about the title at the bottom, and yes, that's up for a change as well, probably. If you read this blog while I was writing Immolation, you'll know I went through a few titles until I settled on this and the other two (Innocence and Incarnation). I like them well enough, but I'm not wedded to them, and if a better one came along, I'd be pretty happy with that. To be clear, this is not that uncommon a thing to happen. Titles change all the time. The downside is, at least for me, that I can't think of anything that even remotely resembles a good title. The girl and I stuck up a whiteboard to write alternatives down and, yeah, they've all sucked. Not just a little but a lot. So much so that I refuse to even share our cesspool of titles, except to say that we once quoted a bad teen horror film from the nineties for inspiration. It is not going well, as you can see.

Anyhow: have a look, let me know your opinion, here or on facebook, twitter, or Julie's original post. This is not one of those, maybe baby kind of things, I actually do what your opinion, and the more the better, so, have at it!


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Nov. 14th, 2013 11:08 pm (UTC)
Of those two, it's got to be the full face image.
Nov. 15th, 2013 04:52 am (UTC)
I like it full face image better.

It may be that I have read a few posts on whitewashing covers, which include examples where non-whites were cropped or otherwise masked.
Nov. 15th, 2013 05:21 am (UTC)

btw, was that you i just friended on twitter?
Nov. 15th, 2013 05:24 am (UTC)
Yep. That's my a bit less pseudonymous but still plausibly deniable internet identity.
Nov. 15th, 2013 06:05 am (UTC)
Nov. 15th, 2013 12:50 pm (UTC)
Yep. I think the cropping is distinctly objectifying as well—it's just odd.
Nov. 15th, 2013 01:38 pm (UTC)
The objectifying aspect was brought up on twitter. As well as pointing out there is a trend in cutting women's faces on book covers, so you can't see their eyes, which from the sample of covers shown seemed to be a big thing in historical romances.

Nov. 15th, 2013 02:31 pm (UTC)
Interesting, because it suggests it's more a "subjectifying" trend if anything—avoiding getting in the way of reader self-insertion.

I'm still not a fan of it though. A partial image, a template onto which you can project either your fantasy self or your sexual fantasy … it's a bit gross.

Edited at 2013-11-15 02:31 pm (UTC)
Nov. 15th, 2013 02:33 pm (UTC)
I totally agree.
Nov. 15th, 2013 09:01 am (UTC)
I like the cropped face. I'm not sure why but the full face image looks more YA than the cropped to me?
Nov. 17th, 2013 06:20 am (UTC)
apparently they crop faces a lot in YA.

but, that said, theimage is going to be roughed up and toughened, you know? everyone agrees it looks a bit clean atm, and much to YA.
Nov. 15th, 2013 11:41 pm (UTC)
Okay. I had to sit back and think about this. And although I am aware of the ideological stakes involved, in the end I ignored them.

I'm going with the full figure, you-can-see-her-face option, even though it looks a bit YA and like the artist is trying to make you think of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This is because I can't for the life of me see what's so interesting about this woman's sternum. The focal elements, both visually and cognitively, are the flaming sword and the haunting eyes. If I had the chance, I'd probably rearrange everything to place these front and center.

In regard to the titles: I think Immolation, Innocence and Incarnation are absolutely awesome. I can't think of anything you could change them too that isn't a step backwards. In fact, the only thing that even came to mind was The Burning Woman, to be followed by The Shackled Man. And that probably culminates in The Shining Child, which is all just too David Eddings.

In any case, I'm just glad the publisher is soliciting your input on these things.
Nov. 17th, 2013 06:22 am (UTC)
yeah, i'm not having much luck with the titles. so far no one is, so it may stay the same, but there's some concern that they give the wrong look for the books...
Nov. 18th, 2013 12:46 pm (UTC)
Maybe you should keep the individual book titles, but give the series as a whole a name as well.
Nov. 18th, 2013 12:56 pm (UTC)
the series is called 'children' ;p
Nov. 18th, 2013 01:03 pm (UTC)
It seems to me that could be a bit more... descriptive, which leaves the individual titles to be evocative.
Nov. 17th, 2013 11:14 am (UTC)
Cropped +1
I liked the cropped version myself. I know there's a thing with objectification, but the cropped picture is vague enough that there can be a little more identification and self-insertion for the reader. It's a tough one, as she's also the "rare POC cover" which would make full face significantly and morally important.

I wanna throw in the two schools of thought where the writer absolutely dictates the narrative and the other one where s/he suggests it, and the reader kind of fills in the blanks in terms of character motivation, and looks too, I guess.

And I suppose when Immolation gets adapted for film and TV one doesn't want the covers to be TOO dated by a very specific cover!

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