Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #950

Today's award goes to Tor, publishers of science fiction, for putting their publicity and marketing foot firmly into their corporate mouth.

In March one of Tor's authors, John Scalzi, will launch his new book.  Here's the cover image originally put out by Tor for his novel.

Note the top line of text on that cover image:  "The New York Times bestselling series".  Note, too, that this cover was first revealed by Tor in a blog post dated June 27th, 2016 - more than seven months ago at the time of writing.

Can Tor explain, perhaps, how a book can be launched as part of a "bestselling series" when:
  1. It's the first book in the series?
  2. Its bestselling series status was announced more than nine months before its publication date?

And what does this say about how a book - or a series of books - achieves such an exalted status prior to publication?  Does it, perhaps, imply that a place on such lists of "bestselling series" might be bought and paid for in advance, as an advertisement or publicity stunt, rather than earned on the basis of sales success?  Would the New York Times care to comment?

I note, too, that since that cover was announced, and questions began to be asked, Tor is now showing a different cover on the book's Amazon.com page.

You'll notice that the last line of text invokes the New York Times in a rather different way.  Was the new cover selected simply because it was better . . . or is the changed reference to the NYT an exercise in "duck and cover"?

As Alice might have said, "Curiouser and curiouser . . ."



Dad29 said...

So...is this book ABOUT the NYTimes?

Timbo said...

Smells like Gamergate to me.

shugyosha said...

Well, there *is* a previous book, sort of a collection of consecutive stories (sort of like Kuttner's 'Mutant', if I'm not mixing memories). And IIRC, it's also part of the 'Old Man's War' series universe. So, it might be a stretch, but...

Take care.

dave said...

Or maybe the cover designer was simply negligent or ignorant and assumed it was part of a previous series.

Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence.

Anonymous said...

No different than the TV networks' claims about "the new #1 hit show" ads hitting the airwaves about halfway through some show's premiere.

In previous times we'd refer to this as the digested material found laying behind a male bovine, now it's "fake news." The previous definition was more accurate, and more indicative of an organization's credibility. Which, with Tor, as with CBS/NBC/CNN/NBC,/WaPo, et al, shouldn't be in much doubt.

Post Alley Crackpot said...

"Needs more green ..."

"Nah, needs more blue ... and what's with the type faces, got some Transport for London and Canary Wharf envy there?"

"You'd do it over again in blue with comically huge movie credit-styled typefaces, with some ridiculous blue background with ludicrous amounts of faux lens flare ..."

"That's pretty good, but I'd put moons on it ... I can't get enough mooning the reader, it's my private sick perversion."

"You're on ... do it."


Peter said...

@shugyosha: AFAIK, it's not part of the "Old Man's War" series, but a new one. Certainly, reading the blurb on Amazon, it doesn't appear to bear any resemblance to his earlier books.

@dave: You have a point.

John Scalzi said...

Oooooh, I know the answer to this one!

To begin, those are two different covers. The green one is the Tor UK cover, and the blue one is the Tor US cover. They two are different companies (although both ultimately owned by the same conglomerate), serving different territories, thus the different looks for both. With the case of the UK book, the cover design is meant to look similarly to the cover designs of the UK editions of the Old Man's War series.

The UK cover debuted on 6/27/16 was a "mock-up," i.e., an early, draft version of the cover, not the final cover. This is not entirely unusual -- most cover reveals (especially if several months out) are mock-ups to some extent, and several elements can change between cover reveal and actual publication, including blurbs, marketing text, typefaces for title/author, and even the size of the author's name.

In this particular case, I suspect the cover designer is not in fact a time traveler (alas), but simply cut-and-pasted the verbiage from TOR UK's OMW books (all of which have "The New York Times Bestselling Series" on the covers) because they knew they were planning to put something similar up on the cover for TCE.

And indeed, as I have seen the final cover for the UK edition of TCE, I can tell you that it now says "The New York Times Bestselling Author," NOT "series." Also, the cover quote has changed from the Wall Street Journal's quote to a quote from Joe Hill (the WSJ quote is now relegated to the back cover).

I will note that this is not the first time things have changed for me between cover reveal and final cover. In one case (The God Engines), the cover was entirely redesigned, from artwork to cover text.

I'll also note the US cover was actually revealed before the UK cover (5/24/16 on Tor.com). The verbiage on that appears to have remained constant, at least as far as I can see on the ARC of the book, which I just checked.

(And of course covers can change even after publication. The paperback versions of Old Man's War have entirely different artwork from the hardcover, and cover text on the paperback version has changed several times; depending on which printing you get, the book will tell you I am a Campbell Award Winner, a Hugo Award winner, a New York Times Bestseller, or some combination of the three.)

So, while it's fun to ascribe malice or incompetence or conspiracy to that Tor UK cover, it's mostly just a cover designer slapping up placeholder text to be tweaked later, which it was.

(That said, Amazon UK continues to have the early draft of the cover on it -- again, not unusual, publishers serve retailers with artwork early as possible -- so I'll drop them a note to swap it out. Thanks!)

Robert Johnson said...

I like Scalzi, but $13 for an electronic book in today's market is out of place.

Brian Niemeier said...

Early draft cover still on Amazon US as of today.


BigFire said...

It isn't that hard for Tor to gamed the NYT bestsellers list. Afterall, they've literally invested millions in Scalzi's next 10 books, and have to protect their investment. It's just that the way they go about doing it is a wee bit too obvious.

Anonymous said...

Incompetence it is then. :) Even so, using text that is clearly untrue as placeholder text is dishonest and sloppy at best.

And if they already knew that far in advance that they were going to put text similar to NYT Best Selling Series on the cover for TCE, well either that non time traveling cover designer is psychic, or that undercuts the, "Oopsies. Just an accident! Honest!" argument.

Tam said...

"It isn't that hard for Tor to gamed the NYT bestsellers list. Afterall, they've literally invested millions in Scalzi's next 10 books, and have to protect their investment. It's just that the way they go about doing it is a wee bit too obvious."

What is that? The Underpants Gnome Conspiracy Theory?

1. Tor prints a bunch of books and sells them at wholesale.
2. Then they buy a bunch of their own books back at retail.
3. The now have an NYT Bestseller!
4. ???????

I'm waiting for a sane explanation for what the conspiranoiacs think happens in Step Four.