Judging a Book by its Cover

Recently there have basically been two kinds of posts on this site: 1) Those about comics and 2) Those about my upcoming novel, Deadly Troubadours. This is about option 2. I’d love to say that since this is about the art that will be making that precious first impression it is also kind of about option 1, but that is kind of a stretch. Yep, this will be a meandering post about the cover art, a piece of which has been used to form the icon for the Reading Deadly Troubadours podcast and the Deadly Troubadours Facebook page.

Earlier, I talked a little about self-publishing. By no means am I an expert. I probably barely no what I am talking about. But I have looked around and seen what others have to say about traditional publishing versus self publishing. one of the aspects that further pushed me to commit to self publishing is hearing that some authors, especially rookie, unsolicited ones like me, have very little say so in what cover gets placed on their books. That was worrying.

I have a confession to make. I haven’t read a great deal of fantasy novels. I mean, I’ve done my best, but I didn’t grow up reading such books. I think there are basically two reasons for this, and one is probably more important than the other. The bigger reason is that I did not really know anyone else who were reading fantasy novels. Basically, until college, if a book didn’t have Tolkien written on the cover, I had no real way to be aware of it. I was a voracious reader growing up but had no idea where to look for fantasy. Thinking about it, my only other outlet for such stories were Greek/Roman myths. I remember having a copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology that was a constant companion for any car trip during elementary school. I guess having the internet means there is always a place to get advice on such things. Maybe?

The other reason I didn’t read much fantasy is I never liked their covers. Well, maybe never is a hard term, but it was hard to find something to like. Most over the covers I remember seeing just looked ridiculous and like they would be more at home on a bodice-ripper than on a fantasy epic. It was embarrassing. I remember not wanting to read my copy of the Lord of the Rings books at school because they just looked so ridiculous. They were the 50th anniversary editions, and even today looking at them just makes me wonder who thought these would help sell the books.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good fantasy covers out there as well. Especially some of the simple and stark designs that seem pretty common as especially eye catching. And there is something about the covers that came out maybe a generation or two before I was born that I also really like. Maybe the 1980’s were just a bad time for fantasy covers? All that said, when it came time to start working on the cover of my book I had a lot to consider.

I have my likes and my dislikes. Then there are the “rules” of what a cover needs to do. then there is, of course, the limitations as to what can actually be done (either for production or budgetary reasons.) First off, while I do like that stark covers I was talking about before, I didn’t really want one for my book. I wanted art. And not something that looked overly photoshopped. That is another thing I’ve seen in a lot of covers. A picture or image that gets touched up and some lettering slapped on it and it is a cover. Sure, there are some great examples where this looks good. But on the whole… well, let’s just say that wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted art that looks like it was created by a human hand. And I knew just the human.

This might be the first rule I broke. My wife is an artist. Maybe I should say amateur artist, but in the same way that I’m an amateur writer. I like her stuff. It is colorful and warm. It uses color pencils and it makes me smile. I might be biased and I don’t know if it will fit the image of what a book is supposed to look like. But I like it. I think it looks great and I can’t wait for the final touches to be put on the art so we can make this book available.

Together we worked on an idea we both liked and made a few decisions together. We talked about what cover rules do we want to ignore (notice how small the name plate is) and whether or not so much cover and so little computer art is okay. I’m saying yes. We’ll find out. I wanted something that stands out, that looks different and that says a person drew this. And yes, I’m worried that people won’t like the cover and that it won’t work. Just like that I’m worried people will have the same opinion about what is beneath that cover. In the end what is important to me is that it is a cover I like and that will always put a smile on my face when I look at my book.

It is still being finalized, but here is a photo. I think it looks snazzy.


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