Jul 17, 2009

Additional Apologies to Daniel Abraham

When I originally heard that Daniel Abraham was writing Urban Fantasy under the pen name M.L.N. Hanover, I was intrigued. I like Urban Fantasy. I like Daniel Abraham. After a quick google search, I found the publisher’s blurb to be interesting enough to add the book to the Amazon wishlists I use to track release dates.

Then I saw the cover.

I’ve hated the stereotypical Urban Fantasy covers since I started noticing the trend. Attractive girl with a lower back tattoo facing away from the reader while holding a weapon, et cetera, et cetera. While not ever thing fits the exact description, 90% of the Urban Fantasy books featuring female protagonists have covers with at least a few if not all of the trademark clich├ęs. Covers I would be embarrassed to be seen reading. Covers I was determined not to purchase.

So I had a decision to make, either I could succumb to my desire to read the book. Or I could hold out and stick to my principles. I chose my principles.

So I wrote this post, and said I wasn’t going to pay to read Unclean Spirits in protest over the lazy covers, while offering my apologies.

Somehow, Daniel Abraham actually ended up reading the post on my fledgling blog and he very professionally and politely responded:

“Your objection to the cover is well-taken. It is very much an urban fantasy cover, and it ain't breaking any new ground. And if it turned you off the series, I certainly respect that. I've seen the cover for the second book, and lemme tell you, it's totally going to fail for you too.

As far as your promise to never put your money into that kind of cover art . . . well, should you ever choose to shoplift a book, please keep me in mind.
I thought this was exceedingly cool and we kicked a few e-mails back and forth and talked a little about the book, about urban fantasy in general, and about the covers. In the end, Mr. Abraham ended up sending me a review copy of the book, allowing me to read it without “putting my money into that kind of a cover art.”

YetiNote: It’s also important to note that this isn’t something that he normally does. Please don’t swear off his work in some attempt to get free books from him. It would negatively affect his sales, which would negatively affect his ability to sell more books, which would negatively affect my enjoyment derived from reading them.

So I read it. And I enjoyed it.

I would like to offer my apologies again to Daniel Abraham for judging his book on its cover. He should be proud of the way he was willing to stand behind his work and challenge my opinions in a professional and productive manner. And he should be proud of Unclean Spirits. It's a great read. He’s got one more person who is going to pick up the next installment in his Black Sun's Daughter series.

Regardless of how bad the cover art is.

Look for a review of Unclean Spirits and a discussion with Daniel Abraham regarding the Black Sun’s Daughter and the state of Urban Fantasy in the coming days.


  1. Wow! The whole "never judge a book by its cover" thing huh? So do your perceptions change now, or do you just have an exception to the rule?

  2. Basically. But I still hate the covers and the looks that comes from reading them out in public. I'd really like to see some more cover variety.

    I will however trust my instincts and read a book I'm interested in, no matter the cover.

  3. You can certainly judge a publisher's marketing department by its covers, but Unfortunately, authors have very little control over their covers...

    Urban fantasy and YA are the most commonly abused genres for this-- especially since a lot of UF and YA authors actually have put some thought into their book's messages, for instance, it's incredibly discouraging to watch ones theme be ignored and undermined by some pinhead in the marketing department.

    here's an interesting case-- this author's book's message was completely subverted by the cover and librarians and readers managed to convince the publishers to change the cover; Liar, by Justine Larbalestier

    There's something of a new movement, readers with an arts background are "re-covering" books with bad covers to make them fit the contents-- a new sort of fannish activity.

  4. Hi Stella, glad to see you are giving me a fair chance and sampling some of my other commentary. I have seen the "Liar" controversy and I think it's definitely an interesting one. I also would like to see more authorial input on what goes on the cover rather than what the publisher decides will sell. On the other hand, most marketing departments do know what they are doing and it's in the author's best interests to sell as many copies as they can. If an author is willing to sacrifice the experience of the sales teams in order to have a differet cover, that is something I can respect.

    As far as I am aware, that whole situation is full of productive dialogue and results.

    Personally, I am not a huge fan of characters on the covers because it takes some of the imagination out of the reading process, especially when they aren't who you see the character as.


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