Valuable Intelligence

Here are a few really useful articles I’ve come across in the last couple of weeks, all of which have to do with developments in the business. I’ll stick them in here in the order of the events they refer to:

Eoin Purcell’s written an interesting article on who he sees as the winners and losers in the ongoing relationship wrangles between the publishers, Apple and Amazon, as the nature of publishing changes.

Charlie Stross predicts the end of Digital Rights Management and explains quite clearly why by giving us a rundown of how Amazon do business – which is quite frankly, astonishing (and disturbing) in its ambition.

Not long after Charlie posted his article, Tor announced it’s ditching DRM. For those who don’t know, Tor (Tom Doherty’s imprint, along with Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen) are one of the world’s biggest sci-fi/fantasy publishers. They also published ‘The Gods and Their Machines’ in the States.

Basically, this is the first move by a major publisher away from trying to cement readers into using a certain type or brand of reading device, or to stop them from copying their books from one device to another. It’s a realization that the main defence against piracy is not to restrict the readers who buy the real books, but to make it as easy as possible for them to get hold of them, and use them the way they want to. A positive move, one that gives people less reason to buy pirated material while also reducing Amazon’s (or Apple’s) attempts to create a monopoly.

Found in Translation

This is a weird business. Just before Christmas, I got a courier package from Random House. I normally know ahead of time when I’m due something from them, so I was a little curious when I opened this one up. Imagine my surprise (and pleasure . . . and a touch of confusion) to discover that the first two Armouron books, ‘The Armoured Ghost’ and ‘Lying Eyes’, had been translated into German. And published in hardback, no less.

This is how I found out – I opened that package to discover my copies of the books.

Now, normally when my books are sold into another country, I’ll be consulted, and there’ll be a contract to sign. Beyond that, how much input I get into the foreign editions is down to the individual publisher – some I have contact with, most I don’t. There’s none with the Armouron stuff, because I don’t own the creator’s rights, the designer of the toy range does – although I did do most of the initial set-up of the world and the characters. Even so, you’d think somebody would have sent word that they’d sold the German rights for two of my books. And my agent (who normally handles foreign rights for me) was as surprised as I was.

Not that I’m being all negative about this (well, a little more communication would be nice); it’s always cool to see your book in another language, even if most of the rights are, in this case, owned by someone else. It’s interesting that Loewe, the German publishers, kept the original covers too – those often get changed when you break into a different market. You can have a look at the covers of my other foreign editions here. I thought I’d got over the stage in my career where I found out about stuff after it was done.But this little episode just goes to show how unpredictable and disjointed this industry can be at times, even when you’re working with the most professional people.

It reminds me of my first ever foreign edition, when ‘The Gods and Their Machines’ was published by Tor in the US. I did have to sign a contract for that one, but the first time I saw the cover of the book was when it appeared on Amazon. Thanks, guys.


Here’s a first look at the cover of the French edition of ‘The Wisdom of Dead Men’. It’s going to be entitled ‘Féroces’, (‘Ferocious’), and I’m really pleased with the design. They’ve captured that ‘dark-gothic-mystery-and-violence-tempered-by-a-need-for-civilized-decorum’ feel very well indeed.

You can see more versions of my book covers in my Cover Gallery.

As I’ve mentioned before with the French version of ‘Ancient Appetites’, when your book is sold into another country, the level of input you get into how it looks can vary. With a publisher in the Irish or UK markets, I’d expect a lot of say in the cover.

In foreign markets, I have to trust the publisher there to know their business; the audience in every country is different. Mango, my French publisher, make a point of showing me the cover and asking my opinion, as they’ve done here, but the cover image is pretty much done and dusted before I see it, and I can only really get it tweaked at this stage.

Contrast that with my very first foray into a new market – when Tor published ‘The Gods and Their Machines’ in the States. The first time I saw that cover was on Amazon.

Thanks for the cover, Mango. Can’t wait to see it in print.