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August 14, 2006

Justine on No Control

Justine Larbalestier points to all the things an author has no control over, which is useful information for when, say, you look at a book cover and wonder to yourself what the hell the author was thinking. Justine's list is pretty much correct (there are a couple other additions to the list in the comment threads), although I would make the caveat that some of this is contingent on other factors. There are some of my books which I have had quite a lot of participation on things like cover and jacket copy and so on -- but in all of those cases that was contingent on the willingness of the publisher/editor to let me be involved. The point is ultimately the decisions on a lot of things about the books is not the author's.

It's also worth noting that this is not always a bad thing. A writer's core competency is writing, it's not book design or art or marketing... or how all three of those fit together, for example, to sell a book. Writing a novel is largely a personal endeavor, but turning that novel into a book is a group endeavor, as is selling it. When you're lucky, the other people you're working with are good at what they do, and you can trust them to do their jobs well -- so you can focus on writing.

Posted by john at August 14, 2006 07:52 AM

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Chang | August 14, 2006 09:46 AM

Yikes. Sounds like the movie industry. After you sell the rights, you got nothing. unless you're stephen king and then you can keep control and screw it up all you want!!!

John Scalzi | August 14, 2006 10:09 AM

Well, I don't personally believe the publishing industry takes things to the "here's your money, now go away" extreme that the movie industry does. It's more like "let us do our job of selling you so we can all make money."

bladedoc | August 14, 2006 02:44 PM

Yeah, but doesn't it drive you CRAZY when the brunette, brown-eyed hero with the scar on his face turns into a blond on the cover? The depiction of aliens are even more usually unrelated to the actual content. Give me a day or so and I'll have examples.

Chang | August 14, 2006 02:52 PM


Would you say this is a pretty widely accepted view of publishing or just yours? I mean, I didn't think, from my limited knowledge of the publishing in dustry, that it was quite that... benevolent.

Care to elaborate?

Chang | August 14, 2006 02:54 PM

Ugh, I would also imagine you get a hell of a lot of more ccontent control of your work. The transfer of novels into film requires some reworking, but Hollywood usually magles it at best.

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