Guest blogger Jason Sanford often rants on his website at www.jasonsanford.com. His fiction has been published in Interzone, Year’s Best SF 14, Analog, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Pindeldyboz, and other places, and has won the 2008 Interzone Readers’ Poll and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship.
Here’s a simple story about how important cover art is to an author’s book sales. There’s this struggling new writer named John Scalzi, who has a first fantasy novella coming out called The God Engines. Okay, I’m being a bit sillyâ€”we all know Scalzi. But for me, this book wasn’t an automatic buy. While I’ve really enjoyed Scalzi’s science fiction novels, I wasn’t sure I’d buy a fantasy from him.
Then I saw the cover by Tomislav Tikulin (see right) and decided to take a pass. This isn’t a pan on Tikulin. I usually love his art. If you go through his online portfolio, you’ll see a ton of amazing illustrations, any one of which would make me buy the story they’re based on. But in this one case, the art didn’t work for me, so I decided to take a pass.
Fast forward a few months and Scalzi announces that Vincent Chong is now creating a new cover for the book (see left). Suddenly I’m once again interested in the book. Chong is one of my favorite genre artists and has illustrated two of my Interzone stories (“When Thorns Are the Tips of Trees” and “The Ships Like Clouds, Risen by Their Rain“). And while the new cover is thematically very similar to the original cover, Chong has taken the art in a totally different direction. Instead of the original’s retro-pulp feel, Chong’s art feels both cutting edge and ground-breaking, as if this story will be unlike anything I’ve ever read before. So I ordered the limited edition as an early holiday present for myself.
This is a fascinating case study in how an illustration can make or break a book’s sales. And yes, I realize with the draw of Scalzi’s name and talent, he probably would have sold out both editions of this book with either cover. But I wouldn’t have purchased the book without Chong’s art.
BTW, it blows my mind that we aren’t seeing more of Chong’s art on these shores. He’s one of the most talented new artists working in the genre. While he has created a series of amazing covers for Subterranean Press, I’m shocked we aren’t seeing his work on more covers for the larger presses. But their loss is the gain of Subterranean Press and readers like me.