More on Book Covers

Cedar Sanderson at Mad Genius Club has a an article on book covers

Some good advice in particular:

First and most important: before you start designing a cover, creating art intended for book covers, or even thinking about a book cover, you need to look at book covers. A lot of them. Specific book covers to your genre is even better, as there are subtle cues you need to know and recognize, even if you aren’t doing your own covers.

Other aspects I only part agree with. There is an emphasis that what works as marketing trumps other considerations and that are some genre boundaries that should be crossed that are a bit Nutty-Nuggetsy.


2015 Not-a-Hugo for Best Cover

Following on from my last post. If there had been a Hugo for Best Book Cover what would have won? I’ve no idea of course! I’ve no way to properly survey what covers might have got nominated in that circumstance – particularly if covers of new editions of old books were eligible. And who knows in the era of Nutty Nuggets what covers the Puppies would have nominated.

So I’ll make my task easier. Of the books nominated, which had the best cover? I’ll include the withdrawn books also.

Here are the choices (by number of ‘Best Book’ nominations:

Continue reading “2015 Not-a-Hugo for Best Cover”

Weapons, Nuggets, Hugos

On my review of Guided by the Beauty of Their Weapons I gushed a bit about James Taylor’s cover art. Normally he has a post on his blog about his design process for a given cover but there wasn’t one there at the time I posted the review. Anyway, he does now have a long post about the stages and alternate designs that went into the cover and it is well worth a read:

Partly because as an excuse to draw stupid pictures and partly because of Brad Torgersen’s daft ‘Nutty Nuggets’ post and partly just because, I’ve been more interested in book covers of late. So here are some random musings.

Continue reading “Weapons, Nuggets, Hugos”

Nuttynug Cadets: Space Justice Warriors


Last in my very short series of creating the covers for the non-existent books that upset Brad Torgersen. This one based on two bits:

“Battle-armored interstellar jump troops shooting up alien invaders? Yup. A gritty military SF war story, where the humans defeat the odds and save the Earth. And so on, and so forth. These days, you can’t be sure.

Finally, a book with a painting of a person wearing a mechanized suit of armor! Holding a rifle! War story ahoy! Nope, wait. It’s actually about gay and transgender issues. Or it could be about the evils of capitalism and the despotism of the wealthy.”

Nuttynug Cadets: Space Justice Warrior is (in my head obviously) about a space warrior whose universal translator has been damaged leaving only one English text corpus to draw from: Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women. As a consequence, amid fighting the Crocomen of Crocodillicous 6, our hero examines the problems of gender in the context of the rise of capitalism/colonialism/British imperialism.

I envision our hero being addressed by a superior officer and finding his words rendered by his communicator as:

A standing army, for instance, is incompatible with freedom; because subordination and rigour are the very sinews of military discipline; and despotism is necessary to give vigour to enterprizes that one will directs. A spirit inspired by romantic notions of honour, a kind of morality founded on the fashion of the age, can only be felt by a few officers, whilst the main body must be moved by command, like the waves of the sea; for the strong wind of authority pushes the crowd of subalterns forward, they scarcely know or care why, with headlong fury.

Book covers


I’ve been thinking about book covers recently. A comment at File 770 pointed at this post by Lois McMasters Bujold It features a nicely door minimalist book cover. Geometrical but with subtle hints of things going on (look at the ‘feet’ of the four free-falling figures.)

wot04_theshadowrising Now I wanted to show an example of the kind of hyper busy 80s/90s style cover for fantasy that I hated and thought immediately of the Wheel of Time book covers. Here is an example of book four (The Shadow Rising). Big busy illustration, the characters are locked into a particular look (I hope the woman is intended to be shown serving herself something to eat rather then cooking for the guys sitting around drinking). The illustration isn’t evocative of anything other than a period of fantasy history. The shadow is rising so the characters go camping?  On top of this the book is covered in self promotional text. New York Times Bestseller appears twice. And despite this clearly being a professional layout of a major series, the name of the series “The Wheel of Time” is in the same reddish colours as the background rocks. Even in a larger version the text saying “The Wheel of Time” is most easily found because some of it overlaps with the yellow of the caravan.

WOT_Shadow_final_hi3Contrast it with this more modern cover of the same book. This apparently is by artist Sam Weber and was designed for an e-book release.

The art still shows a specific character but it aims to be evocative rather than illustrative. If you know the books then you will recognize the character and the stance (ostensibly relaxed, almost contemptuous but with a fist grasping a weapon ready to stab somebody) reflects the character. The clothes suggest the same period of fantasy history but here it is used to contrast with the more ancient looking weapon. The ravens and mist and gnarled tress suggest mythology. The text has been separated – probably because that works better for a thumbnail image online. The series logo is used and the series name is made clear. Rather than say “part four of…” there is just a simple number 4. A reader of a fantasy series wants to know which book they are getting – it is utilitarian data particularly for an over-long series like this.

the-shadow-risingThis last cover is even simpler. It avoids illustration altogether. Instead it uses the series logo, texture and type. I like it but it suggests a better book than what you will actually get. The covers in the same style for the other books in series simply move these elements around and use color to distinguish one from another. While this particular example is effective, for a long running series inevitably some books get a lackluster combination of colors.

No conclusion here. As with anything graphical it is easy to see when things don’t work and generalizations are either too vague or simply rules that some great cover will break.