Wednesday (oops) on Writing

Today’s subject is deadlines, and the breaking thereof.

Not really, although I do mean to post on Wednesdays, and this week got away from me.  Writer’s Wednesdays (or in this case, Thursday) here on Mutterings are my musings on various aspects of the writer’s trade and life.  This week: a venture into e-publication.


Last week I was in New York for Edgars week, which included a day-long writing symposium.  In addition to my own panel (billed as a “no-holds barred look at a writer’s life,” although it didn’t turn out quite so wild-and-wooly as one might have anticipated) and a great interview of this year’s Grand Master, Sara Paretsky, one of the discussion points was modern trends in publishing.  No surprise, really: all any group of writers seems to talk about these days is to e-book or not to e-book, and this particular panel included an editor from St Martin’s Press, that house that simultaneously lost Barry Eisler, who decided to go for self-publishing in e-format, and gained Amanda Hocking, who decided she was sick of all the peripheral work of being self-published (and thus self-edited, self-designed, self-promoted, self-hunting-down-the-pirated-torrents, self-formatting, self-everything.)   There’s an in-depth discussion between the two writers here, and all I can say is, I’ll be most interested in hearing from them both a couple years down the line.

Me, personally?  If I had any OUP books, I’d put them up.  I do have one or two short stories that haven’t seen print in a while, and I might do those, but I was also thinking of using them for a collection.  I’ll probably hang onto them for a while longer before I decide.

However, as I’ve mentioned, a while ago Random House asked me to do an e-novella that they can put up a couple of months before Pirate King, as part of their various and many-armed marketing plan.  I’m trying to urge them to sell the rights to some kind of print version as well, for those of you who want actual books in your hot little hands, and I’m relatively certain those will come along eventually.  But in the meantime, it’s strictly an e-book venture, and the similarities and differences have made it an interesting experience.

As far as the writing goes, being a sort of long short story, it was a change from the complexities of a novel, since there was a simplified story line rather than all a novel’s threads that weave together and get tangled and give the poor writer hives, and make her swear that she’s going to give it up and take up watercolors instead.  It’s much easier to keep focus on a single track.  On the publishing side, because it was for my usual publishing house, much of the process has been that of a regular book—except that, due to the length (50 pages rather than 350) they chose to do an e-edit, which I hate.  Really, really hate.  Really.

Research, writing, characterization, edit/discussion/copyedit, all those steps were the same.  But then last week I was given the cover, and I can’t say precisely why, but it has a distinctly e-feel to it.  Maybe because it’s tighter, with all the print nearer the same size?  (I suppose the concern is, on an iPhone, small print would vanish entirely.)  The colors, too, seem to me particularly suited for a screen rather than paper.  I’m not one to judge, since I don’t read many books on an e-reader, but for those of you who like e-reading, do you have any comments on e-book covers?  Most e-books seem to use the same covers as their print versions, but are there occasionally different looks?  And if so, how do they differ?

Anyway, here’s the cover for Beekeeping for Beginners (the book’s page is here, the pub date is July 6) and by way of contrast, Pirate King (here, and Sept 6).  What do you think?


  1. Laidee Marjorie on May 5, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    I ver much like the “BFB” cover’s art work and the fact that your name is bigger than the title is an interesting switch from the “Pirate King” cover. I do think that the phrase “A Novella” should appear on it (because there will be place where it is on sale on-line where people may be confused and think it a full length book.

    I also wonder at the quote from Lee Child (which is great), but how much of a crossover is there from Child readers to Laurie King readers in the mystery world. Just thinking out loud here and I don’t know what I’m talking about.

    By the way, as an attendee at the Edgars Symposium, it was fascinating being at the panel discussing the future of publishing, about going to and coming from e-publishing and getting the general feeling that nobody knows for sure how it will all shake out in the future. I hope that there will always being a hunk of paper and ink that I can pick up and hold in my hands from time to time, but I may be just a romantic.


  2. Erin on May 6, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I agree, the Beekeeping for Beginners cover does look somehow more suited to an e-reader. I think it’s got kind of a fuzzy look to it.

    Speaking on covers for e-readers: I’ve got a standard Nook (not color) and I don’t really even see covers on it. The books are all in list format and they open onto the title pages. The covers do show up on the tiny touch screen at the bottom, but they are just thumbnails so it’s more about recognizing what the cover vaguely looks in order to select it.

    That’s the one thing I’m sad about with my e-reader; I always enjoy looking at the cover art and I don’t get to see much of it with the electronic files. Though I suppose it’s kind of forcing me to pick books on their synopses rather than their covers 😉

  3. Aaron Lazar on May 6, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I love your Pirates cover, as I’ve told you before. But this new novella eBook cover is actually quite appealing, although I think your name might stand out more if it were in white text. It’s a little muted looking. I would bump up the saturation on the colors to make it stand out more, if I had it in my hands. And the honeycomb graphic (I love that connecting theme on your covers) doesn’t look quite as crisp as the graphics on your previous books. I’m not sure if it will come off as a honeycomb in the small thumbnail that appears on the Kindle, sale page. But all in all it’s pleasing.

    On my Macbook Pro laptop and on my iPhone I love seeing vibrant book covers in full color – it’s a little thrill, actually, before I start reading. And when I buy eBooks on Kindle, the first thing that draws me in is the cover (if I don’t already know/love the author). I’ve been watching the top 100 list (since one of my books was on it for a few days! Yay!) and I’ve noticed that it seems books with blue skies or blue seas seem to dominate the top of the list. It could be chance, but they do really stand out on the screen. And when we’re scanning for good deals (esp. on the free Kindle list), all you have to go on is title, author name, and cover art. No blurbs show up to tell you if it’s a mystery or a romance. So the cover HAS to impart that info – in a clear manner and with “oomph!”

    Can’t wait to download the novella, Laurie!


  4. kate on May 6, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I like both covers though I really like the Beekeeping cover. It doesn;t look all that e-readerish to me, I can easily imagine it in a bookstore (please!). I’m somewhat stuck in the dark ages when it comes to book-reading technology (and happily stuck there I must add – no computer will ever be like holding a new book, or an old book for that matter, and feeling its pages and smelling it…) so what do I need to read an ebook? Do I have to have an e-reader? I’m loath to get a kindle because of the mass of advertising that Amazon have produced to promote it, but I also want to read Beekeeping…

  5. Pat Floyd on May 6, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    I like the Beekeeping for Beginners cover but definitely agree with Aaron’s opinion about the color for your name and the honeycomb, which lacks a clear hexagonal shape. I have long been discontented with your U.S. covers. Apart from matters of personal taste, the designers don’t take into account the need for legible type when covers are reproduced small size as they are for most sales venues. Look at the covers on this page. Touchstone is handsome, but the metalic typeface of Laurie R. King fades out and IMO Touchstone would show up better in a sans serif type. Nothing on The Beekeeper’s Apprentice can be read. This excellent cover idea could easily have been executed with fewer hexagons and clearer, larger type. The idea of having The God of the Hive sink into the Thames is interesting, but it detracts a bit from legibility.

  6. Margaret W. on May 7, 2011 at 10:29 am

    I echo Kate’s problem and question. With poor eyesight I much prefer audiobooks to a Kindle type reader. I’m looking forward to Beekeeping for Beginners. I’ll read it on my computer if I have to but would prefer an audio or paperback.

  7. Meredith T. on May 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Quick reaction to BFB: handsome but a little simple. And that’s the difference: can’t have tiny detail. I think it’s all right and could make the jump to paper. Good bee, no one will be saying this is about hover flies.

  8. Mom of 6 on May 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Based on your description, I expected to find a pixelated, bland cover when I scrolled down, but instead found something very pleasing. I hope the word “pleasing” isn’t too much of a letdown after reading all of the very insightful and knowledgable comments and suggestions above; I admit that the shallowest part of my book-lover self wants a cover that pulls me in.

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