Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Cover Dilemma.

Since we're talking about covers I thought I'd poll readers.

I'm in the wonderful position of having an editor ask me for cover suggestions for my new series, King Rolen's Kin, which comes out next year.

Do I want a traditional fantasy cover like this one? You know the sort of cover, a castle in the background, often there are rolling fields and a warrior on a horse.

Or do I want to go with a character cover like this wonderful illustration of one of George RR Martin's characters?

Or do I want something symbolic like the lovely covers of Kate Elliot's Crossroad's series?

I want a cover that says this is a ' Rollicking Fantasy Read', while looking stylish.

Which covers would make you pause and pick up the book?


Tehani Wessely said...

Character covers are lovely, but only if they're done nicely and are actually representative of the character/story! I'm starting to really lean toward the elegant stylistic covers :)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


That they way I'm veering, too.

As long as the cover says fantasy. Kate Elliott's lovely Crossroads covers do. The US versions are similar. I think I prefer the Australia editions.

Trent Jamieson said...

I think the elegant stylistic covers are the way to go, too.

It gives the reader a bit more imaginative space.

Dion Hamill said...

Perhaps the idea of the character being the main focus of your image, especially if its going to be a series and the same characters are going to show up time and time again. You can get that rollicking-swashbuckling feel with a character shot depicting an exciting scene from the book giving your fans and followers that "oooo whats he/she up to now?". Plus you would almost be developing a brand for your series that way.

Dion Hamill said...

Can I make one other suggestion that I've heard another artist make and worked out really well. Go to your local book store, see what all the other covers look like on the shelf and do the opposite if you want it to stand out.

TansyRR said...

I'm voting for the character covers, though only if you have three very physically distinctive characters to get depicted -

I do like the stylistic ones.

Definite boo, no to the generic fantasy type. I think that look is just dated & old-fashioned now.

Zara Baxter said...

I tend to pick up covers that are character focused, rather than setting focus (as the first example you posted is). I'm only going to pick up a fantasy with a cover like the Kate Elliot if I already read the author and trust that them.

The last books I chose based on cover alone were the DM Cornish Monster Blood Tattoo series.

Brendan said...

Definitely Character covers. Of the tree options it has the widest scope to be the least generic. I have never liked the traditional covers much-they don't say anything to me, and the symbolic covers are a bit faddy and over used at the moment.

I look forward to seeing whatever cover comes out though.

Lisa said...

I'm with Trent -- stylistic is the way to go; and with Tansy in that the generic fantasy ones are too dated. I worked as the Fiction buyer for a fairly big indie bookshop here in SA for 6 years -- and I'd shudder every time I saw one of the generic covers on the lists. And too often, 'character' covers look like they're heading straight for the Remainders bin -- and I'm sure that's not the look you're going for :-)

Transcendancing said...

I'm with the character cover and my reasons reflect Zara's pretty closely. Old cover is dated and boring, and the stylistic ones tell me nothing about the book or it's story or it's characters - at which point I'll only pick it up if I trust the author already. Character cover done well is my preference by far.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Great response guys, I really appreciate the feedback.

the consensus seems to be that the traditional fantasy covers are out of date. I wondered if it was just me, because I've been feeling that way.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I've been trawling the websites, looking at covers, and making copies for my sample cover file!

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Zara, the DM Cornish covers are lovely. Very distinctive.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I like the character covers if they are done well. Otherwise they can look a bit twee.

Not every artist is up to doing something like that George RR Martin's character illustration.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Argh, Lisa and Transcendancing!

You've stated both sides of the argument. Stylish or character?

I'm torn.

I'd like to find a way to create a character cover that was stylish and gave just enough information to make the book look interesting.

Lisa said...

The new covers for Robin Hobb's books are gorgeous -- simple, but really suit the content.

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of the 'simple statement' covers, lately. I much prefer the UK covers for Jim Butcher's Dresden Files over the US ones. Likewise, the covers of Fiona McIntosh's lastest fantasy trilogy are elegant while clearly fantasical at the same time.


Glenda Larke's "The Last Stormlord" has the traditional fantasy setting cover (Aus version) and I LOVE IT. Shows you exactly what you're in for - a dry land and water magic.

I'm not too keen on character pictures. If something on the cover doesn't quite mesh with a description inside, then I grumble and mutter. (see Justin Larbalestier's "Liar" cover issues) Ambiguous is best.

I guess it all comes down to quality. You can get crap and gorgeous in all three styles.

Still, my vote is generally toward the stylistic these days.

Cheers, Lisa.

Flinthart said...

Bollocks to stylistic. They always put me in mind of thrillers and conspiracy-thriller novels out of the nineties. I like the character cover.

Anonymous said...

Many, many apologies to Justine Larbalestier. Where's the edit button?? ;)

Cheers, Lisa.

Brendan said...


I suppose I say Character or Story covers because those are the ones I remember the most and sometimes pull off the shelf just to look at them. Of course I am talking of artists like Michael Whelan, Geoff Taylor, Stephen Bradbury and John Howe.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...


I think everyone must know the back story on Justine's 'Liar' cover by now. So don't worry, I'm sure no one took that comment the wrong way.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Brendan, I'm a big fan of certain artists too. I have expensive glossy books on artists, 5 on Frank Frazetta!