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When Mainstream Publishers Do SFF

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When Mainstream Publishers Do SFF

Daniel Polansky's debut novel, Low Town, was released last year by Doubleday. Owned by Random House, Doubleday publishes mostly mainstream fiction, with a smattering of science fiction and fantasy. Some of their more recent genre work includes David Anthony Durham's Acacia Trilogy and Graham Joyce's Some Kind of Fairy Tale. For the most part, they do a reasonably good job of crossing over to the different genres, marking them to the appropriate audience. 

David Anthony Durham's recent covers code perfectly for fans of genre and the George R.R. Martin quotes are fantastic.

With the paperback release of Low Town, not so much.

A quote from the Newark Star-Ledger and cover art that would be more appropriate on a Chuck Palahniuk novel, Doubleday has branded Low Town as literary fiction. If Polansky's novel was a crime thriller, or historical fantasy, or urban fantasy, or magical realism, I'd probably go along with it. Unfortunately, Low Town is second world fantasy with wizards and sword fights. It's as fantasy as something is like to get short of throwing in a dragon and an elf.

Sure, there's a lot of crime fiction noir roots in Polansky's writing, but readers expecting Elmore Leonard are going to be perplexed (although they might enjoy it). I'm not convinced Doubleday did a better job with the hardcover released either.

Comparing it to the UK version, I can only wonder who Doubleday is targeting with Polansky's work.

While I don't much care for the art, it does code fantasy much more clearly. Not to mention better titled.

What do you think of the Doubleday covers, particularly the new paperback one? Would the weird cover turn you off as a fan of genre?

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At August 7, 2012 at 9:52 AM , Blogger Bob Milne said...

Wow, that's atrocious. I hate to judge a book by it's cover, but that monstrosity with the hairy/exploding jewel does nothing to catch my eye. Even if I was looking for the book, that cover would likely make me second-guess myself.

Liking the UK version much better.

At August 7, 2012 at 1:23 PM , Anonymous Peter said...

The stencilled art on the hardcover indicates modernity, while the story lacks the advent of modern technology. It's been awhile since I read Low Town, but I don't remember the "hairy jewel" in the book (lol, Bob).

So, yeah -- not a big fan of the covers. The comparison to Palahniuk's covers is good and Polansky does have a voice that is at least unique enough to merit them in the same discussion.

At August 7, 2012 at 3:40 PM , Blogger Stefan Fergus said...

I'm with @Bob on the new Low Town cover. But then, the US cover also gave me pause. I really like the UK artwork.
Love the novel, too - a must read for fantasy/thriller/crime fans.

At August 7, 2012 at 7:50 PM , Anonymous redhead said...

strange choice for cover art. Does Doubleday / Randomhouse have a Scifi/Fantasy imprint? if not, they need to start one.

At August 7, 2012 at 8:47 PM , Blogger Elfy said...

I've seen the covers around, except for the atrocious hairy geometric object one, but I haven't found them particularly inspiring. It's just as well I don't choose my books based on covers, because I wouldn't read much if I did.

At August 8, 2012 at 12:05 PM , Blogger thexmedic said...

I've seen the Low Town hardback about, and I knew it was something genre from the places I'd seen it online. I'd always assumed it was some sort of dystopian SF based on the cover. No clue it was a fantasy cover. The paperback cover gives me the same sort of vibe. An update to a classic penguin SF title design. Definitely not fantasy.

That said, I do think I prefer it to the more generic fantasy cover from the UK.

At August 9, 2012 at 11:24 PM , Blogger Buniyad Real Estate Services said...

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