Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cover Design, Part 2

Dragonchaser was my first fantasy novel, and it was clear that a different style of cover would be needed from that employed for The Zael Inheritance.  For fantasy, the emphasis is on low-tech, so the kind of glossy image I had used before was clearly inappropriate.  Nonetheless, I wanted to avoid the traditional kind of fantasy cover, partly because square-jawed heroes and winsome damsels aren't really my thing; but also because the chances of finding a high-resolution, copyright-free image of human figures were not high.  Subsequently I've discovered a number of professional fantasy artists who do work in a way that I admire, although even then I suspect that their services would be out of my reach.  Check out Andreas Rocha, for example:

For Dragonchaser, then, I was led towards images from antiquity.  I'd long had an interest in historic maps, and particularly the pioneering 16th century work of Braun and Hogenberg.  Fortunately much of this is available in hi-res, and soon I found this image of Marseille, which topographically was all but identical to Paladria, the city at the heart of the novel (as shown in my original map).

Again some cropping was necessary, the image being both the wrong shape and adorned with the legend 'MARSEILLE',  which was not entirely helpful.

As well as cropping the image, I flipped it over to correspond more closely to the map in my head, and ended up with this:

This is close but clearly not satisfactory.  The text is far too indistinct.  A change of colour is called for, so I darken the text and lighten the background:

And that's what I would have gone with, but my daughter was adamant that the colours were muddy and indistinct, a view that wider canvassing confirmed.  You have to know when to listen to advice, and so a final version with altered colour values sprang forth:

And here are the ones that didn't make it:

None of these need be regretted, although they do all reflect elements of the novel.  The real problem is that they're all photographs, and they simply don't work as covers for fantasy novels.  The photo-cover smacks--with no disrespect to the authors--of self-help "How God Changed My Life" books; a respectable and popular genre, but not one a fantasy novelist is pitching at.

Next - the self-published edition of The Dog of the North, including another bout with the curse of photo-realism.


C. N. Nevets said...

I do like the cover you ended up with, but I think I preferred the more colorful map version, perhaps just with something to further clarify the text.

Either way, love the sneak peaks at your process.

Tim Stretton said...

We're building up to Bellotto, of course!

C. N. Nevets said...

I can hear the drum roll building in the background!