Machine Man is out in Australia and New Zealand today, because of the time
difference. We’re eight days and fourteen hours ahead of the US. I don’t know
if you knew that. It’s because the Southern Hemisphere rotates slightly faster
than the Northern Hemisphere. That’s why the seasons are different, too.
Also, most of what you think is an accent is actually just the
Anyway, the point is that residents of Australia and New Zealand should now be
visiting bookstores and moving my book to more prominent positions.
Bookstore owners say they hate that, but they’re just crotchety because of the whole
collapsing industry thing. They’ll thank you when that eye-catching
cover brings in more foot traffic.
Northern Hemispherians have to wait until next week. You know my Australian
publisher did this specifically to annoy you. Not only that, but they’re running
a promotion whereby antipodes can get a free e-copy with every print edition. I’m not sure
how that helps anyone, come to think of it. I guess if you like the look and feel of print books but the convenience
of digital, it’s good. Or if you want to test which medium you prefer by
reading the exact same book once on each. If that describes you, details are craftily hidden
on this page.
By artist Joe Granski:
Machine Man the novel is out August 9, unless you live in one
of those countries that hates me, like the UK. Seriously, UK. What have I
ever done to you? Aside from those
Bedford blogs. Those were totally
justified. Bedford is horrible.
the point is: look at me with this actual book! The publishers
have started printing. A couple days ago I was asked
whether I’d miss the sensation of holding a physical copy of my book,
since I allegedly believe ebooks are destined to take over from print.
And as much as I wanted to say no, because, hey, bring on the electrons, the answer
was yes. I do find it incredibly rewarding to hold my book, made real. I mean made physical.
Ebooks are real. I never said otherwise. But a thing, a touchable, material
thing, does validate the book’s existence in a straightforward and
undeniable way. When I
dreamed of being a published writer, I was mostly imagining a shelf full
of physical objects. Those objects may not be important, in the long run. They may
be the medium and nothing more. But boy, they are something.
Some promotional stuff is brewing. First, if you’re in Australia, Scribe is doing
a very cool thing whereby you can buy the print version and get a
Booki.sh e-copy for free. See
If you’re not in Australia, and can get to San Diego for
Vintage will be giving away Advanced Reader Copies* and
more importantly AWESOME MAGNETS. Look at these things. You can mix
and match human and artificial parts. You know you want that more
than life itself. That isn’t just me.
you can’t get to San Diego, you can win magnets and possibly something else
via a competition I haven’t invented yet. The important thing is I promise
be access to magnets. Stay tuned. And suggest some competition ideas. Because
seriously, I need to think of something.
Finally: US book tour. There isn’t one. Or at least, not a physical one.
This is mainly because flying an author thousands of miles to sell
three dozen copies of a book is not very cost-effective.
Especially when that author tends to order a lot of room service and make
long international phone calls. But also because I have an idea for a virtual
book tour, which is cheaper and appropriate for the novel and
solves the problem of people complaining I’m visiting
every city in the world except their one.
Details to come on that, too. I just wanted to let you know early so
you’re not hanging around postponing your vacation in case I come
to Tallahassee that precise weekend. Go ahead. Book the flight.
You deserve it.
(* Advanced Reader Copies are early versions
given out to reviewers and bloggers and, for some reason, Comic-Con 2011
attendees. Sometimes these wind up on ebay and people like you wonder if they
should buy them. I think they make neat collectibles, but they’re inferior
to the final book in three ways: the text is uncorrected, meaning it
contains typos and things I changed at the last minute,
the cover and front/back matter is different, and the production
quality of the book itself is lower. Also I don’t get paid for ARCs.
So that’s four ways.)
Last week I asked which Machine Man cover concept
you liked best. And there were all kinds of opinions. But once I
nerded up and crunched the numbers*,
it became clear. You like the ‘stache.
Here are the covers in
question. If you’re not seeing a graph,
try this. If you are,
and you enjoy playing with graphs, you can click site names in
the legend to add and remove them. I mention that because
it’s awesome fun.
I separated votes by domain because there were interesting
differences depending on whether you responded on
- In all cases,
(Victorian-era dude with enormous ‘stache) was
most popular. This was a surprise because I’d thought it was just
too weird. In retrospect, I was probably headed for that trap of trying to
imagine what other people might like, which is always a sure path to
something conservative and uninteresting. So this was a handy
reminder to not do that. Many
people responded very positively to the originality of this
design and were turned off by the same-ness of some others.
- Cover #3
(Millions o’ Parts) was least popular. This was lucky,
because it was the design that started this whole debate with
and if it turned out that people actually liked it best,
I would have been an asshole. The votes also seemed to back up
my thesis that it appealed more to arty types than geeks, with it being
quite popular on tumblr but abhorred on Reddit (where there were
actually more negative comments than positive ones).
- Covers #4
(Smoking Capacitor) and
(Smoking Processor), which were
deliberately similar to the style of my previous covers in
Jennifer Government and Company,
were a lot more popular with people who knew that
(i.e. people on maxbarry.com and my Facebook page).
- Reddit liked
(the Robot) a great deal, practically as much as the ‘Stache.
I suspect this is due to an affection for retro robots (something I share).
A few people observed that it was less true to the story than #5, though.
- Cover #1
(Pixelated Guy) I think suffered from a general feeling
that this kind of thing had been done before. It was seen
as pleasant but not particularly arresting.
If you were wondering, covers #3 and #6 were designed by Vintage,
cover #4 by me, and covers #1, #2, and #5 by up-and-coming
Matt Roeser. I
didn’t mention that earlier to avoid prejudicing votes.
Comment of the week, from G Lainagier:
In numerical order:
Couplandesque cubicle farce,
Kathy Lette tries something new,
Tom Clancy for the kids of today,
what you wrote,
what you might write but not really this.
I also enjoyed seeing Caleb’s battle against indecision,
as he transitioned over the course of
three comments and several
hours from saying #6 was terrible to liking it the best.
I forgot to mention earlier that most of these covers were
concept sketches, not finalized designs. With #5, for example,
a few people criticized the machine legs, which were only supposed
to be placeholders. I’m now working with Matt and
the publisher to refine that. I promise you, those legs will
be awesome. Also: the ‘stache stays.
Thank you again to everyone who helped out with this. You
are the burning propulsive mass beneath my rocket boots.
* Nerd details:
I assigned a weighting to expressed preferences:
3 points for most preferred, 2 points for any second preference,
down to -2 for last preference, if one was mentioned. When people said
they liked multiple things equally, I alternated entering them in
the order listed or in reverse. To allow opinions on different
sites to be compared, despite very different numbers of respondents
(about 260 on maxbarry.com, 390 on
Reddit plus a thousand-odd votes, 70 on tumblr, and 50 on Facebook),
I scaled the results: the most
popular choice is scored as 1,000 and other covers based on their
relative popularity on that site. A cover exactly half as popular as the top choice,
for example, on whichever site, has a column exactly half as tall.
Note that this exaggerates a single person’s vote on
Facebook and tumblr:
the Reddit and maxbarry.com columns represent many more people’s opinions.
On Reddit, where users can endorse another person’s comment by
upvoting it, I multiplied the score of each comment by the number
of upvotes. But since users can upvote multiple comments,
even comments saying the same thing, I took the square root of each result in
order to minimize the exaggeration that would have otherwise occurred.
(Without this, the more popular covers on Reddit appeared
wildly more popular.) When highly upvoted comments expressed
equal preferences for multiple covers, I assigned equal scores,
rather than relying on the averaging nature of the alternating system
Something wonderful happened the other week: my editor asked what I thought about a proposed Machine Man cover. To appreciate how wonderful this is, you need to understand the usual process of publisher-author cover consultation. It goes like this:
- Publisher develops cover in secret laboratory guarded by Dobermans
- Publisher emails author a JPEG, accompanied by text emphasizing how much everyone they’ve shown this image to loves it and believes it to be a surefire winner
- Publisher puts image on the cover
You notice there are no steps where the author does anything. I have tried to insert that step in the past, first with Syrup and then Company, but without much success. (To be fair, I was wrong about Company. That is a great cover. I was right about Syrup, though.)
This time, however, my editor at Vintage was ready for discussion. I don’t know why. I didn’t want to ask in case that accidentally provoked him into regaining his senses. But I made a few suggestions, even mocked up prototypes of my own, and Vintage responded with even more images.
Then I became really arrogant and demanding. It was around this point I realized why publishers don’t involve authors in cover discussions. Because I still wasn’t really in love with any of the cover ideas we had. And the cover is so important. Not just because it helps sales (although there is that): it also colors the story within. It’s the first thing you see and it stays with you as you turn the pages.
So next we brought on board indy designer
Matt Roeser. This guy is
incredibly talented and has somehow not been hired by anyone yet: this is
potentially his first gig. Go look at his website; it’s beautiful.
Anyway, once Matt had done his thing,
we had six potential covers. Since I was already being a prima donna, I said,
“I should post this online and ask people what they think.” And Vintage agreed!
Like I say, it’s crazy. So here we are.
Here are larger versions of each image:
Now we reach the part where you
tell me which you like.
There’s a comment link right there. I also posted
to Reddit, because that’s where
I drew a lot of inspiration for my main character’s personality. I’m not saying
the site is full of misunderstood technology-obsessed geeks who
would chop off their own hands if they could replace them with something
WiFi-enabled. I’m just saying it was very helpful creatively.
Also, I thought it was important to get opinions from people who
don’t already like me. You’re wonderful people, you who visit me here. But you’re one hell of
a sampling bias.
Please let me know what you think! Any and all feedback is much
appreciated. And thank you to Vintage for being cool enough to let
me do this. INSANELY COOL, if you know what I mean. I’m emphasizing
INSANE. Oh. You got that? Okay.
at me! I’m clinging to life here. I’ve been so sick I couldn’t even reach the razor. That was for the first few days. Then I started to like it. I have about twelve hours of this Man Grizzly look left before Jen realizes it’s voluntary.
Copyedits off to Vintage today. I pity the fool who has to typeset this mess. I went nuts. And I don’t even know what most copyediting symbols mean. I had to guess.
It’s 2011 and publishers still print out manuscripts, manually scribble on them, and type the whole thing in again.