Clothing Your Novel: The Process of Creating Cover Art

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As I always say, clothes make the man. Of course, it goes without saying that the sentiment applies to the fairer sex as well.  -Prince Charming, Happily Never After

Okay, I have a confession: I am one of those old dudes that happens to mourn the demise of the LP, not because I like to hear my music overlaid by the hiss and pop of vinyl, but because I loved to study the cover art while I listened. I think a lot of my current issues might be explained by how long I stared at that prism on the cover of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album contemplating the line, “You know there really is no dark side of the moon. Matter of fact, it’s all dark.”

Dark Side

I am also one of those people whose experience of a book can be shaped by its cover, and whose decision to buy a book can depend on its outward appearance. I was originally intrigued to read The Wizard of Earthsea, Elric of Melnibone and even The Lord of the Rings because of the books themselves, rather than from my knowing anything about the stories inside them. There is a beauty and artistry to well-made books that I find distinctly pleasurable. I also have noted that books I find a pleasure to hold become those books that I habitually reread. I read the1965 Houghton-Mifflin red-bound edition of The Lord of the Rings every summer for five or six years, and the feel of the leather cover and the smell of the volume still brings me fond memories.

EarthseaMelnibone LOTR

When Harper-Collins told me that they were going to do a print edition that combined my first two novels, Once Upon a Rhyme and Happily Never After, my thoughts immediately turned to the cover art. The original covers to my novels were designed for the world of thumbnails and ebooks, but for a print version I wanted something more classically fairytale. I was fortunate to run across an artist, E.C.T. Mills, with a lovely classic style and she, even more fortunately, agreed to work with me. I found the process of working with her on the cover art so fascinating I thought I would take you through the evolution of the cover for Pitchfork of Destiny.

To begin with I gave Ms. Mills some text to work from and a proposed set of elements: a dragon, a wolf and, given the title, of course a pitchfork. She came up with three rough sketches:

sketch 1sketch2sketch3

Although none of the sketches were precisely what I was looking for, each of them held elements I found intriguing. I liked the dragon’s head from sketch 1, I loved the wolf and overall arrangement of elements from sketch 2, and I laughed-aloud at the sardonic expression on the dragon’s face in sketch 3. I asked the artist to combine those features into a single drawing and we came up with yet another preliminary sketch.

Sketch4

Now I felt we were getting close. I focused on the details. I didn’t like the way the pitchfork was angled at the dragon. I felt the placement of the pointing claw of the dragon was a little awkward, and I wanted to see the dragon’s eye so the viewer could get a better impression of his expression. Ms. Mills took these comments and came up with a final sketch that I thought was perfect.

Sketch5

What remained was to make a final drawing and settle on colors. The artist came up with three color combinations split between green dragons (to harken to the cover for A Fairy-tale Ending), and blue dragons (to better match the description of the dragon in Pitchfork of Destiny).

Color1Color2Color3

In the end we all liked the last combination, a blue dragon and a brown wolf. Then it was a matter of arranging the text elements: title, Harper-Collins logo, and of course my name. I couldn’t be happier with the final result and want to thank Harper-Collins for humoring my quest for better cover-art, and E.C.T. Mills for her excellent work. I hope you enjoy both of my new works A Fairy-tale Ending and Pitchfork of Destiny, both inside and out.

Fairytale Endingy648

A Fairy-tale Ending is now available as an ebook, and comes out in print October 13th.

Pitchfork of Destiny is due for release as an ebook on December 8th.

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