A Winter’s tale

The Time of the Wolf HardbackSo, now that my finger-tips have recovered from bashing away at very nearly all the keys on my iMac’s keyboard, producing the last post about James Wilde’s Hereward/The Time of the Wolf covers…here’s part 2.

I hope you’ve all been taking notes…but in case you haven’t, why not have a(nother) glance at it first, I’ll wait for you…

HerewardHereward The Devils Army2As I have mentioned m-a-n-y times before, James first piqued my interest by saying on Twitter that his number two Hereward book, in the UK called Hereward The Devil’s Army, was going to need a name change for the US version. A change he didn’t seem entirely enamoured with.

Let’s see those Tweets again:

Twitter Hereward name

As you can see, I was pretty nonplussed about what exactly they felt they needed to change for the delicate souls living across the pond. Hence my thoughts that it must be ‘Devil.’ ‘Army’ was thrown in as a ‘surely not?’ comedy aside, to be honest.

But, at this point, back in December last year, I had no idea that this was the second of the Hereward novels to be changed in the US. I had presumed that Hereward had sneaked through unscathed.

At the end of my first email to Faceout Studio‘s Jeff Miller (the very talented designer of the US cover to Hereward, called The Time of the Wolf ) he was so kind as to say that if I had any further questions about the design of that cover, to feel free to email him again.

And free, I did indeed feel.

I asked him a couple of follow-up questions:

I was more than curious to know if he was Art Director for the job of designing The Time of the Wolf cover (if you click on the ‘Art Director’ link there, it will take you to a description on Wikipedia). You see, I couldn’t quite make out if he’d done the work from concept to finish, directing himself as it were, or if he was working under someone, who would let him do the designs but direct him. In that the other person would say ‘this is the way we/the client want to go.’ If he had to present it internally before it got sent to the client is what I’m partially getting at.

I also wanted to know, as I mentioned in the first post, if he’d seen the cover to the UK version of Hereward (that he designed as The Time of the Wolf of course).

I actually sneaked in a third question, just under the wire – asking if he was going to be involved in designing further Hereward covers, given that he’d done the first and James had said that there would be at least a US version of the second book. I also presume that Jeff/Faceout Studios have the contract for doing the covers to all the Hereward’s, maybe they have a contract to do all of Pegasus Books (the publishers) covers, I don’t know.

IMG_0140So, was Jeff Art Director on The Time of the Wolf?

For The Time of the Wolf cover project, I was indeed the Art Director in our studio during the project. Our studio does have a couple quality control checks before sending presentations out, including having our Creative Director give his quick opinion on any last minute tweaks. We also double check everything to be accurate (spelling, imagery used).

You’d expect someone at Faceout Studios, one or more persons, to have a look over all work going out from the studio, to make sure it is up to their standards and to have discussions with the individual designers, to see if all bases are covered. And to help with the creative process, if needed, I suppose.

But it isn’t a case of the cover going to the publishers as a fait accompli. That’s it. You just sign the cheque here, please Pegasus Books. The publishing houses have their own marketing departments and it is they who decide how the book cover should and will look. What the designer such as Jeff is doing, is presenting his proposals for their consideration. As I was trying to put over in the first post; a designer/agency can steer the client into accepting what the agency want them to accept, but it’s the client’s money and so the client’s final say:

However, we never get “final say” in the cover design process, and almost all calls are made by the publishing house’s art department and marketing/sales team (and occasionally the author).

‘The author’?! Blimey! We’ve hardly mentioned the author‘s opinion in this whole process, have we? He or she is the one who had the original vision after all, so you might expect he or she to have an opinion on how the cover of their ‘baby’ should look. The question is, how much of a say do they, or can they, have in this? I have no idea of what a typical contract would say, but it does seem like an author writes first, gets signed up by an agency and because it is the publisher who is putting the money where the author’s words are, it is they who surely have final say over what goes out/published under the publishing house’s name. If you follow any authors on Twitter, you’ll  no doubt have seen the many Tweets authors post about having to do edits or make changes based on the opinion of their contact at the publishers. You’d expect that the author writes the book/story how they want it and that’s it. But clearly the publisher can come in and say that’s no good, get rid, that’s good do more, or whatever. Cause it’s their money.

Same with the cover, surely? I’m sure the author could come in and say NO! No way! But how much effect that would have on the final cover, I’m not sure. How much leverage the author has, I don’t know. Can they say ‘right, I’m not letting you publish it cause I don’t like the cover?’ I doubt it, once they’ve signed a contract (presumably) saying the Publishers get final say on all things Marketing. I can think of ramifications of that sort of action, mostly to the author’s detriment, but if it happens I don’t know. If the instructions from author to publisher to design agency are good enough, then there shouldn’t be much of a problem, I’d have thought.

TOTW.Initial Presentation Idea 3

The Time of the Wolf Hardback

Apart from some ‘tweaks’, as Jeff puts it. Knowing his/her subject, the author may well spot something, like a wrong/not appropriate type of sword handle, immediately, that might have not registered with the publisher or designer.

The publisher’s marketing team will also be looking for a solution that sells. To the market they think they can sell it to. Whether it truthfully reflects the contents of the book or not is, I wouldn’t be at all surprise if you couldn’t find any number of marketing people willing to admit; neither here nor there. It sells, or it smells. As they say. It’s a tough business and you have to look at it dispassionately. As a designer, you are ‘close’ to your work. You design because you like (and are good at) doing designs. But you like doing it. So what you come up with can be quite precious to you. But you can sometimes be too close to your work and be unable to see what is actually needed, up over what you have liked doing. And then you’ve got to show it to someone to get their approval. Who doesn’t give a fig about how much time, effort, blood, sweat, passion and tears you put into the design. Or how much it would break your heart if they changed any of it cause it’s perfect as it is, WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO CHANGE IT?!! MY MUM SAID SHE LIKED IT!!!!! The marketing person is looking to see if it works. By ‘work’, we mean ‘sell James Wilde Hereward books’ and get the money we have invested in the whole process, back. Or not. Their decision is based purely, simply and solely on that. Whether they personally like it or not, is immaterial. That’s the way I managed to work my whole career. I always designed or came up with ideas to fit the instructions I was given and then stepped back, mentally or physically and criticised my work as if it had been done by someone else.

To be objective, not subjective.

Well, that’s that out of the way – now for the fun part.

As I said, I mused if Jeff was going to be working on Hereward II or III. And he very kindly and completely un-asked for, sent me designs for the second Hereward to be published in the US, the one that as we know isn’t ‘Devil’s Army’, but is…

*trumpet fanfare again*

What?! He’s announced it on his Facebook page?! Oh, for f… And cancel those trumpeters!!!

Oh well, as James Wilde has indeed scooped me now by quite shamelessly announcing the title and cover for his own book…I have no choice but to also tell you what it’s going to be called;

The Winter Warrior

And this is the cover:

The Winter Warrior Cover

I actually got Jeff’s email with the cover and of course title, back at the end of April. I got the feeling that James hadn’t seen it at that time, as he hadn’t said anything – on Facebook or Twitter. I asked James if it was OK that I had seen the designs and at that point he confirmed my suspicion and said he hadn’t even seen them himself! But was OK with the fact. So, if I’d got my ass in gear earlier, I’d have had an exclusive 😉

To be honest, I kinda sat on all this, as I really didn’t want to appear like some sort of clever dickey and put out stuff James was, quite rightly, much more entitled to – and no doubt better at – making a splash of. Now that he has announced it, I feel ok about showing the cover.

And these.

Winter Warrior Idea 2

Winter Warrior Idea 3The working ideas/rejects. Ha! Now that’s what you call an exclusive!

Jeff Miller has named the top one ‘Idea 2’ and the one under ‘Idea 3.’ That just probably because the way he sent me them, the ‘Idea’ 1′ was the same as the image he sent me of what he’s saying is the final approved cover. And what James has posted on Facebook.

James is saying that The Winter Warrior will be released in November. There will also be an audio book version of Time of the Wolf out at the same time!

Now, as I showed last time, whilst I can’t see anything on Amazon.com yet for ordering, November is a long way off yet. And if they if they have a page up soon, the image they use, whilst it may be the version at the start of this section – it may not be the cover that drops through your letterbox…I have no indication from Jeff if there will be any changes, but – as we saw with The Time of the Wolf – someone’s niece or nephew may well come in to the office on ‘Bring Your Son/Daughter to Work’ Day at some point between now and ‘Send To Printer Day’ and say; ‘Daddy (or Mummy, of course) you know what that looks like…’ and suddenly Jeff’s back to the digital drawing board.

You never know.

What I also don’t know, is what Jeff’s brief was this time around. But I’d say it looks like the powers that be at Pegasus have decided to look for a more action-filled cover this time. That’s what the chosen one is. Much more like it. Maybe they’re trying to show Hereward as a more rounded character? Finished with watching from the shadows, riding out of the snow and taking the fight to the enemy. The Winter Warrior CoverMore like the Hereward of the UK covers is I’d say. So that’s alright by me. Though, if the continuity link is that the first Hereward figure was stationary and this is in motion, it’s a bit thin. Surely there’s more to it than that? But I can’t see it. If it didn’t have ‘Author of…’ on the front, you’d never know it was the second in the Hereward series, would you? Be honest. If it were me Art Directing Jeff, I’d say ‘OK, we got Idea 1 through, we’ve got until (whenever they need to send it to be printed) to improve the look.’ I’d add some more tones and colours to the figure and the horse (washed out doesn’t always equal ‘Winter’), give it a bit more depth, even feeling. Which was what The Time of the Wolf had in bundles, after all.

Winter Warrior Idea 2

With Idea 2, with us not being able to see the figure’s face, you don’t connect with him, I don’t feel. That could really be anyone under that helmet. At least with the chosen cover, you can see a little of Herewards face, or at least know there’s a real personality here. But the ‘depth’ of the background is good, though it could use some more snow, to go with the Winter of the title – easy enough to do. I think the rich blue that mirrors the richness of the Wolf cover works well. However, in my view, this says ‘knight’ a little too much for it to be Hereward. The chosen cover is more authentic in feel, wouldn’t you say? On 2 (and 3), that helmet, that sword, that coat of arms, looks a little too much Ivanhoe for me. Hereward is much more man of the people, much more ‘grab what’s lying around’ – like the figure on the horse in the final choice, where it looks like the Normans left a few of their helmets behind after that last raid, doesn’t it?

Winter Warrior Idea 3Idea 3. If they are wanting to come up with something new for the Hereward series in the US, Idea 3 is too static. Like The Time of the Wolf again, just whiter. As a piece of art, I like this one the best, to be truthful. Apart from having Jeff sort out the guy’s right arm (which looks done on the computer for the presentation actually), make him a little less ‘relaxed’, I think as a concept, it hangs together better, it looks more ‘finished’ and in your face. I can almost hear a (muffled) ‘bring it on!’ coming from inside that helmet. Though I’d perhaps use the dusk background from Idea 2, to add even more feeling and make a link, however subtle, with the nighttime scene of The Time of the Wolf. I hate to say it, but it says ‘quality’ more than the final choice, sorry.

Jeff didn’t this time let me have an indication of what he was asked to achieve with the cover to The Winter Warrior. But here, it’s like Jeff has been told to ignore the first one and come up with a fresh solution. I don’t know why.

But I can and indeed will, speculate.

No, wait! Please don’t go!!!

I honestly have no idea. It seems to defy most kinds of logic. Unless they’re using chaos theory.

HerewardHereward The Devils Army2Hereward End of Days

I must admit to being more than a little surprised that they seem to be starting again with the Winter Warrior cover.

The Time of the Wolf HardbackThe Winter Warrior Cover

Re-inventing the wheel, as my old boss used to say. I’m seeing all sorts of reasons for not choosing idea two and three, but the one they’ve gone with is still struggling to justify itself in my world. Especially as I can’t shake the conviction that the covers do need to have some kind of continuity. More than they’ve got so far. I’m not saying that just because the UK versions do, but I can’t come up with a convincing argument for why the US versions shouldn’t. The UK series has a continuity and if you got and liked Hereward, then you’re going to be able to spot Devil’s Army a mile off. “A-Ha!” You’ll say upon entering your favourite bookstore“I liked the other one that looked like that, I’ll like this one!” Then, if Devil’s Army is actually your first encounter with the books, then you’re going to know immediately that Hereward is in the same series. And of course, End of Days, to be released soon in the UK, does more of the same.

And had Jeff seen the UK Hereward before he started on The Time of the Wolf. Had it been me, I’d have avoided seeing the UK ones, so as not to be influenced either way – to not try avoiding looking like the UK ones, or trying to follow them. And he says;

As for Hereward, yes, I was actually shown the UK version with the intent from the publishing house to have a similar “flavor” in my design. The US publisher wanted to see Hereward in more of a secretive, mysterious manner, so that’s why I landed where I did.

415706That was what he was instructed to do with the Wolf cover. It does seem though, that the US people actually decided, as the great Fleetwood Mac once so astutely observed, to; ‘go their own way’, doesn’t it? What his instructions were for The Winter Warrior, I don’t know. I really can’t imagine though, that left to his own devices, Jeff wouldn’t have tried to follow something (more) of the feel of Wolf, for Warrior. By looking at the three solutions he’s given me here, I would even suggest his brief might have been specifically that they should not look similar. And they’ve gone their own way not only from the UK versions, but from Wolf to Warrior as well. You see, by following a similar design, the UK versions don’t need to have ‘Author of…’, on the front. The cover style does the work for them. In my mind, by putting ‘Author of…’ is pretty much an admission that this looks like a new book by a new author; ‘but it isn’t! It’s by the guy you’ve read one by before…just a completely different cover!’ As it stands, I can’t see the continuity at all. If I was selling these, I could probably make something up. I’d say OK the first, is Hereward at the start, watching and waiting. The second shows him in action, taking the fight to the enemy. The third will go on to show him at the end of his struggles. Whilst not victorious over William (even James Wilde can’t change history), at least justified in what he set out to do. So the three covers, would be a start, a middle and the end of the Hereward’s story. That would be my answer to any continuity ‘problems.’ Jeff will of course have produced his ideas again based  on the marketing department’s instructions – whatever they were. And the one the marketing people have gone for, will be an answer to their questions. Winter Warrior Idea 2However, if I were a betting man, I would go out on a limb and guess, though Jeff hasn’t given me any indication that I’m right – that idea number 2 is actually the one Jeff would have tried selling to them hardest. Even with the ‘problems’ I have with the facelessness, it is for me the one that most closely – though still a long way off  – resembles the first.

All in all on the face of it, I think the US route seems a little misguided. Still, they know their business, it’s their money. I work in a hospital helping little old ladies go to the toilet – amongst other things – what do I know?

hereward-fens_1634567i
The Fenlands, still a lot like Hereward knew them

And after all that. Following my own chaos logic: Yes. I’m going to buy Winter Warrior. And I don’t think this is the final, final version. And I think it’ll look better when the book actually comes out. And, I gotta keep the set up now, don’t I?

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