Monday 17 August 2015

A new book, Recreating an Age of Reptiles, coming this Autumn

Twitter and Facebook followers will be aware that teases of new artwork and allusions to a second book form the majority of my recent social media output. Today, the teases stop and the covers are coming off : Recreating an Age of Reptiles, a collection of my recent palaeoartworks, is due out later this year. I'm really thrilled to see enthusiasm from the online community for this project. Every time I mention this book I have someone ask a question or two about content, availability etc. With that in mind, I thought I'd provide some answers via a quick FAQ. I'll do my best to answer any further queries in the comments below.

1. So, what is this exactly?
Recreating an Age of Reptiles is a print-on-demand collection of my palaeoart from the last few years. Encouraged by a very positive social media response to the question of 'would people buy a book of my stuff?', I've been putting it together throughout the summer. The focus is on art, not text, and most of the latter focuses on the artwork more than the palaeobiology of the depicted animals. As I often attempt at this blog, it would be great to try to tackle both the scientific and artistic angles simultaneously, but there just isn't enough room for in-depth scientific discussion of each image. That said, I'm sure certain images will form the focus of articles here eventually.

2. How much new stuff is in there?
There's just over 60 images in the book, being a mix of new and old, with the bulk of it forming revised images from the last few years. Some of the revisions are substantial, but they're almost all to do with technique and colours: the compositions are very similar to the original versions. There are a bunch of completely new images in there too: giant vampire squids, the 'new look' Hatzegopteryx, Repenomammus and others. I've held back, or only partly revealed, many of those images, so hopefully there'll be plenty of surprises to even regular readers.

3. Any sketches or concept work?
Alas, no. To be honest, I don't really have any: working digitally removes a lot of need for dedicated drafting and conceptualising. I have included some older versions of concepts which have been redrafted several times where I think their evolution is particularly interesting.

4. What sort of format will this be in?
Pending some sort of formatting disaster with test versions, expect a full-colour, letter-sized (8.5 × 11", or 216 × 279 mm), soft-bound volume with 100 pages. I'm printing copies with Lulu, the same company that printed All Yesterdays and the Cryptozoologicon, so check those titles for an indication of quality (if you don't have copies of these, rest assured it's pretty good. Also, go buy those books! They're great, and All Yesterdays is a definite must-have if you're interested in my volume).

Draft cover art for what the kids are already calling RecARep.
5. Will there be a hardback version?
Sorry, no. I'd love to have a one too, but the costs are prohibitive for large, full-colour print on demand hardbacks. We're talking c. £100 for a 100 page volume - no-one should be spending that amount of money on a 100 page book. If anyone knows a way around this, I'm all ears, but I have no plans to pursue hardbacks at the moment.

6. What will this cost?
The likely pricetag is going to be £20-25 for each book. I know that's a little on the steep side, but the reality of print on demand is that each book costs nearly £20 just to produce - the profit margin here is not huge. Books published on a larger scale are made cheaper through bulk economy: alas, that's not an option here. That is, unless any publishers are reading and want to sign me up for a cushy deal...

7. Will there be a cheaper electronic version?
I expect so, although my focus is getting the physical version sorted first. An ebook should be available soon after.

8. 'Age of Reptiles'? What do you think this is, the 1950s?
A number of people have commented on the the title of this book, wondering why I've chosen the term 'Age of Reptiles' when it has connotations to more archaic views of many Mesozoic animals. There are a number of reasons I went for this title, not the least being that the world really doesn't need another tome entitled "[Something something] dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures".

Firstly, the focus of the book is not just dinosaurs, or even Mesozoic archosaurs. These animals dominate, but there's sufficient other taxa in there to warrant a title which doesn't overtly emphasise specific groups of animals. Secondly, the term 'Age of Reptiles' accurately describes the time period covered in the book, it being popular parlance for 'Mesozoic'. Given the dream that a book like this might sell a few copies outside a hardcore palaeontology demographic, it seemed sensible to use phraseology which is widely understood. Thirdly, 'Age of Reptiles' resonates within palaeoart, it being the title of Zallinger's seminal 1947 Peabody Museum mural as well as Ricardo Delgado's Age of Reptiles graphic novels. The latter was a big influence on my childhood art, a fact not lost on me when choosing the title. Finally, our advances in dinosaur palaeontology in the last few decades have not stopped dinosaurs being members of Reptilia (the turtle, lizard + archosaur clade): ergo, the title is scientifically sound. I'm sticking with it.

9. Will there be signed copies?
Possibly. I'll figure that out later.

10. When is it out?
There's not a specific date yet, and the honest answer is 'when it's done'! All being well, that won't be very long off: there's some text to finish and proofing to do, and then we're good. I'm aiming for copies to be available mid-late Autumn.

Right, that should do for now - I'm happy to field any additional questions in the comments below, or on Twitter, Facebook etc. Thanks to all who've given their support thus far, and needless to say, there'll be updates soon.