Longtime readers of Engen Books might remember when, in the early days of ashcan-like editions published in Pocket Paperback editions by Calgary-based printer Blitzprint, the back covers of the first five books in the Black Womb series looked like this one, on the left.
The covers were simple: plain black background with white text, title above. Sometimes issues with the printer made them faded and illegible — such are the woes of starting out in publishing. But while we’ve improved immensely, there are some things that have been lost along the way as we’ve gotten more polished: avant-garde ideas that traditional publishers wouldn’t try that made us stand out on the bookshelf. And that was, ironically enough, the back cover.
We had the interesting idea of not wasting the back cover with a hook or synopsis or out-of-context trailer to try and force the reader to buy: we wanted to bring them in with our storytelling ability and our sharp, witty dialog. So we did something very few other novels have done: we made the back cover a part of the story.
Instead of touting reviews or plots or spoilers, Engen back covers were short stories in and of themselves: short monologues written from the first-person (sometimes second-person) perspective of the characters within the story, as though they were being interviewed after-the-fact. Engen back covers didn’t waste space: we were given a venue to tell stories with, and we wanted to use every page and surface available to us to tell a story.
Since slowly switching the original six novels (Black Womb, Transformations in Pain, Smoke and Mirrors, Roulette, Ghosts of the Past and Compendium) into their new international paperback formats starting in 2010, these covers have been slowly fading away. This month, the last two (Smoke and Mirrors and Roulette) finally fall out of print with the help of revamped edits from Erin Vance and Ellen Curtis (respectfully), and the new back cover to Smoke and Mirrors looks like this:
But that said, part of the problem with having the original back covers have text on them that was a part of the narrative, when we changed to move away from those covers, is now there not a part of the narrative that’s missing? We don’t want these short vignettes into the minds of the characters in Black Womb to be lost, so we thought we’d do something creative with them instead: make art out of them!
So we’re going to be re-presenting the quotes from the back of each of the five original Black Womb novels, one at a time, with the words of the quote making up a part of the image of the character speaking it! It’s an idea inspired by a plethora of artists online who have honored their favorite characters and quotes from all across modern media with similar treatments. Be sure to look for print versions to be given out at the Engen Books table at conventions in the future, if this sort of thing grabs you! 🙂
First up, the quote from the back of Smoke and Mirrors show above in it’s original black-and-white format, spoken by convicted killer Adam Genblade: