Judging A Book By Its Cover

The last few weeks have been spent communicating with a very talented book cover designer, William J. Kenney, who has designed the book cover for At The Walls Of Galbrieth. I am quite amazed how someone who has never met me or understands how my brain works (disclaimer: not that knowing me will guarantee that either), can interpret my jumbled explanations into a cover, far better than anything I could imagine.

I might be bias here, but I think epic fantasy book covers (and also sci-fi) must answer to higher standards. My social justice-themed novel, The Accidental Activist, is based on a photograph that I took in San Francisco’s financial district. The cover artist did an amazing job, but it is still based upon something real.

Claudia McKinney, the artist who designed Amanda Hockings’ book covers, designed the cover to A Gardener’s Tale. The different concept from the first edition is amazing and, I believe, a big help in raising my sales levels. My publisher told her that he wanted to stress the strong Pagan theme and earth spirituality running through, she came up with a number of excellent options.

Designing book covers for a series is an additional challenge and, given that there are three, maybe four books in the Wycaan Master series, I now feel I have clear picture of how I imagine William will develop each cover. What I find interesting is that it doesn’t always have to be intricate. Christopher Paolini’s covers are not detailed, but still instantly recognizable. As each new cover was announced, my sons and I shared a collective gasp of anticipation.

 The question I want to pose here is what constitutes a good epic fantasy cover? There are some covers that I just sit and gaze in wonder, often several times when I pick up the book to commence reading. So, please also share your favorite fantasy book covers. Let’s make a Top Ten: over to you… 

Next week – the official unveiling of the book cover: At The Walls of Galbrieth – Wycaan Master Book 1.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He has written three epic fantasy novels and the first, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, is due out in January 2013 by Tourmaline Press. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

7 comments on “Judging A Book By Its Cover

  1. Just wanted to share two of my favorite covers:
    The first is just an appreciative thanks to Tor for commissioning new covers for the WOT series e-books. My favorite of the new covers is for Book 4 by Sam Weber http://bit.ly/RTBPwO. I really think he did Mat justice with this artwork (he’s not just a rogue stumbling into misadventures).

    The second is the cover for Michelle Sagara West’s The Broken Crown http://bit.ly/RTBPwO. Not only is it just beautiful, but artist Jody Lee chose the moment in the book where Serra Diora finally strikes her blow, releasing all the tension that’s been building since the murder of her household and loved ones. I went so far as to contact Jody Lee to see if there were prints–or anything–for sale, but no luck.

    Oddly, I picked two covers in which there are artist’s interpretations of faces–which I usually really don’t like. For example, the original WOT series covers really turned me off: all my heroes were short, with strangely-proportioned arms. Sometimes it’s nice to have epic/classic/vague, like the mass-market paperback cover for The Wishsong of Shannara http://bit.ly/RTFw5Q.

    Thanks for the topic!
    Jennie Alice

  2. The cover for A.E. Marling’s ‘Brood of Bones’ by artist Eva Soulu always leaves me drooling… http://aemarling.com/?page_id=160

  3. […] now with At The Walls Of Galbrieth. This week, the internal formatting was finished and sent in, the cover joined somewhere in the publishing process, and sometime in the next few days the ebook will be […]

  4. My favorite book covers are the Hobbit and LOTR covers that Tolkien painted himself.

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