Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I, Steampunk

Ĺšlepowidzenie is out in Poland. The cover makes it look kinda like a Jules Verne retread, and I mean that in a good way; in terms of literal, technical detail it gets pretty much everything wrong, but in terms of thematic ambience (and basic artistic skill) it rules.

This is just as well, because I was never consulted on this cover despite a clause in the contract stipulating that I would be (a clause I have insisted on, for obvious reasons, in every contract subsequent to the Tor edition). Once again I am reminded of how fucking impotent authors are, and how utterly meaningless contracts are. Over the past year, various contracts have promised me input on cover art; interest payments for late advances; consultation on audio performances; and unabridged transcription of text. And whenever these commitments have failed to solidify, I've always been told that there's fuck-all I can do about it; the contracts contain promises but no penalties. They're universally described as essential things for authors to have, yet there doesn't seem to be any recourse when a publisher breaks them.

But I digress; I'm very happy with the way this cover turned out. And initial reader reaction seems to be pretty positive too; Google translation software isn't all it might be, but this nine-star rating is pretty unambiguous. And others seem to be using words that port over as "best book published this year" and "deserve the highest praise".

So overall, a good start in Poland. I just wish there were more than fifty people in that country.



Blogger Raja said...

I liked the Tor cover, but I like that cover a lot more. As a reader, I'm not too concerned about technical accuracy in a cover as long as it looks great and nails the mood, which this Polish one definitely does.

August 12, 2008 10:47 PM  
Anonymous Sunday said...

I have a friend in advertising that assures me that the Vodka company Finlandia - which does banging business is America - is actually kept afloat by the utterly profound amount of vodka sold in Poland. How does this affect you? Only positively, I am certain. For example, I think there are more than 50 people in Poland.

I like the cover, incidentally. Any attempt to mate 'grim' with 'fractal' earns at least an A for effort.

I need a drink.

August 12, 2008 11:39 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

As a lawyer, I must say that you are right and and you are wrong.

Right: It is hard to enforce a contract unless you can afford to hire a lawyer to do it. Lawyers make their living in one of two ways: pay by the hour; contingency fee where they get a percentage of your monetary recovery.

Unfortunately the system in the US and Canada sucks. You can't show monetary damages because of a cover you don't like, because how much did that damage you? So the lawyer has nothing to pay him on. You cant' afford to pay him by the hour because that's hugely expensive - and your recovery is just the same.

However, theoretically, contracts are sacrosanct, and can be enforced, and the courts will generally agree. The trick is how to do it.

This is too long a posting, but I would suggest that you craft your remedies and place them into your contract. The court's will enforce an agreed upon remedy and you won't have to prove damages.

The question, of course, is whether you, as a lowly, craven, architect of words have the commercial clout to get a publisher to agree to this.

August 13, 2008 12:30 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

As someone who spent ten fucking months in Western Poland, I am obliged to say that Poland is awesome, populous, and will crush China and America under the heel of their brilliance and culinary badassitude.

As someone who will sacrifice a goat or two on occasion to the Almighty Watts, I am also obliged to say (truthfully!) that Poles are so fantastically cynical that you really should get more sales than anywhere else combined. Unless you've managed to get licensed by the Russians.

August 13, 2008 6:28 AM  
Blogger The Lake Fever said...

That's an appropriately creepy-ass Event Horizon cover, although I'm not sure you could trick me into getting into that spaceship as pictured for all the kittens ever.

August 13, 2008 9:12 AM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Wow, I really like that cover--the art at least. Those greenish gradient blocks they put the title & name in...not so much, but what a kickass image. I think the book paints a much darker picture of space than the cover does, but the brightness sure make Rorschach look dark and badass.

August 13, 2008 10:54 AM  
Blogger Peter Watts said...

Sunday said...

How does this affect you? Only positively, I am certain. For example, I think there are more than 50 people in Poland.

Yes, and they all have the same choice to make with their hard-earned money: buy vodka, and drink until yesterday's hangover disappears; or buy a book that will give them a hangover and then drive them to drink.

The way I see it, they'll probably just go straight for the vodka. Cut out the middleman.

Paul said...

The question, of course, is whether you, as a lowly, craven, architect of words have the commercial clout to get a publisher to agree to this.

And I'm scared to admit this, but I think the answer's pretty obvious. Tor wouldn't even offer decent percentages for my next novel even on the heels of Blindsight's success, and there's at least one editor over at Bantam/Spectra who seems a bit leery of the name Peter Watts because she's heard I'm "difficult to work with".

Powerful enough to enshrine penalty clauses? In my dreams.

August 19, 2008 4:00 PM  
Blogger Tomasz said...

Having experienced similar approach to contractual obligations from other Polish publishers, I can only offer my sympathies. Some of these people really can be petty asshats.

As for the number of Poles likely to buy Blindsight (as opposed - or in addition - to the liquor)... well. The book came out in hardcover in a series that opened up with Hal Duncan's novels and thus some people look at it with a certain trepidation: "Eighteen-line sentences? No more!" On the other hand, again - it's you joining the company of Hal Duncan, Ian MacLeod, K.J. Bishop... Way neat, and finally some adventurous decisions from our publishers.
Still, it's a hardcover. And even if at ~17 USD it's priced in the mid-range for books in Poland in general, it still can be seen by some as too expensive. Get this, or ten beers (or a locally produced Mary Sue having vampires in secret services duking it out with other, non-government-employed vampires and three beers to help it go down)? Hmmm, decisions, decisions... In addition, I would guess from prior experience that the print run was something in the range of a thousand copies, two thousand tops - in a country of 40 million, that's kinda pathetic, but sadly the Polack jokes aren't utterly unjustified. Half of that will sell, some 50 will be handed out as review copies, the rest'll end up remaindered or as contest prizes. Goddamn sad.
Well, I'll keep on pimping your work at internet forums. Hope this'll help the matters some.

August 25, 2008 4:46 AM  
OpenID Branko Collin said...

"Once again I am reminded of how fucking impotent authors are."

Legally there is a lot you can do (breach of contract: does that mean they still have a license to publish your copyrighted work?) but whether you should is another matter. You're almost certain to piss off the publisher if you pursued it now.

I don't see why a penalty clause would be a problem. Why stipulate things in a contract if both you and the publishers know they're never going to pay attention to them?

August 31, 2008 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Stella said...

If you'd like to know what my privat reader's reaction to "The Blindsight" was, you're invited to our www: http://www.dami.pl/~kamil78/slepowidzenie
Well, yes, google translator is not what it could and should be, but than again, what else we got?

November 5, 2008 2:35 PM  

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