“Stick a bloody great sword on the front…” and other fantasy fiction cover art thoughts

To distract myself during the edit of The End of Magic, I’ve been indulging in cover art fantasies, wondering what wonderful images might grace the cover of my novel.

I’m quite old-fashioned in my tastes, so if it were down to me the cover would look something like this…

magicians gambit

Cover art by Geoff Taylor

Look at that! I mean look at it… You could just step through and join the adventure.

I have very fond memories of escaping into the Belgariad series in my youth and these covers for the UK Corgi editions blew my tiny young mind, but it’s not the ‘80s and I need to think commercially and not indulge in nostalgia.

But if you fancy a wallow here’s my Pinterest board…   

The key retailer for fantasy fiction in the UK is Waterstones who, along with the indies and libraries, are great for spreading word-of-mouth so my cover art will need to appeal to them. I just happened to be near Waterstones in Piccadilly with my daughter Emily and we decided to see what covers had been picked by the staff to adorn their tables. What follows is a fairly random selection of covers that caught my eye…

GODSGRAVE

Design by https://www.micaelaalcaino.com/

Illustration by https://kerbyrosanes.com/

There’s a lot going on here – there’s a wolf, there’s a crow, there’s a sword, ooh, a cat! – but it’s very striking and the combination of black and blue on white works really well, especially on a table piled high with mostly black and red covers. You want your book to jump off the table, catch the eye, and this one certainly did that. I particularly like the bold shoutline, “Conquer your fear… buy one get one half price.” It’s rare to see such brazen marketing in fantasy these days.

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A DEMON IN SILVER

Design by http://cameroncorneliusdesign.com/

Who doesn’t love a glowing sword (that’s got tangled in some curtains)?! Again, this really caught my eye, though it maybe a little too YA for my book

IMG_3367

THE GREY BASTARDS

Cover illustration by http://rostant.com/illustration/

Design by Duncan Spilling https://uk.linkedin.com/in/duncan-spilling-39a0a05

Ooh, he looks mean… and a bit pale and peaky. Oh no, wait. He’s an orc! Excellent. It’s a little too moody for my book and feels more of a US cover than a UK one though not too American for Waterstones, clearly…

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Here’s the US cover for the curious…

grey bastards

A GATHERING OF SHADOWS

Design by https://twitter.com/julialloydJLD

There’s lots to like here: The placing of the author’s name and title could have been a right old mess, but it really works here along with the review “Fantastic”, which is exactly what you want for a fantasy book! I want to avoid swords and daggers on the cover of my book (there’s a fair amount of swordplay, but it’s not that kind of book), but I loved the combination of red, black and white.

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NEVERNIGHT

Design by https://twitter.com/ccbookdesign?lang=en

Illustration by https://kerbyrosanes.com/

Same series/author/illustrator as Godsgrave, but I can’t resist that black on white styling. Looks great on the table and we all love birds, birds, birds on the cover…

 

… okay, maybe there are too many at the moment. Maybe lay off the birds for the time being? My book has a few messenger pigeons, but not crows or ravens… Hey, maybe fantasy pigeons will be the next big trend? … No, maybe not…

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THE CORE

Bloody hell! The stuff of nightmares looking straight at you on this one.

Another illustration from http://rostant.com/illustration/ though this was based on a “Demon model” by http://millenniumfx.co.uk/ who make models for Hollywood movies.

I bet that wasn’t cheap!

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ASSASSIN’S FATE

Design: http://www.dominicforbes.co.uk/

Illustration: http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/blog/cover-story/

Calligraphy: http://www.stephenraw.com/

Much more like it, but all those specials like gold foil cost a lot of money – only the big brand authors get that kind of treatment – and they credit a calligrapher! Pricey and most likely way out of my budget…

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THE DEATHLESS

Design: http://www.dominicforbes.co.uk/

Illustration: https://www.artpad.org/

Striking in its simplicity and memorable. I keep noticing it in stores and online. Too sombre in tone for my book, but great cover art with a sense of epic scale.

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A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS

Illustration: https://www.toddlockwood.com/

I really like the tone of this one. A classic case of I would buy this book just on the basis of the cover… and we all want a cover like that, don’t we? And the diagram points make it feel like a book that may exist in the world of its own fiction. I have griffins and wyverns in my book, but they’re not as central to my story as they are here.

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ROTHERWEIRD

Design: http://www.leonickolls.co.uk/

Illustrations: http://www.sashalaika.com/

I’m getting a Rivers of London meets The Witchfinder General vibe from this, and a great sense of location. It’s not quite right for my book, but I’m filing it away for another project.

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LADY OF MAGICK

Design: Christina Griffiths http://www.bookdeluxe.net/section216431.html

Ooh, a book with the word ‘Magick’ on the cover (albeit spelled differently). Emily picked this one out. It may be a bit too YA for me, and there’s another bloody bird on the cover, but this is simple and striking and not the usual swords and dagger stuff.

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BLOOD OF ASSASSINS

Design and images: https://the-parish.com/

I like this a lot and yes that’s the author RJ Barker on the cover! (I’ve since learned that this is a lie, but I’m going to leave it here to show the world that RJ Barker is a great big fibber!)

Again, a bit too moody for mine but I really like the design.

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Conclusions…

I’m thinking something bright and clear with a lightness of tone. Maybe a cross between Godsgrave and A Gathering of Shadows. A lapis moon plays an important role in the story, so I like the combination of blue on white, but I also really love the dragon on the Marie Brennan… Maybe I should just shoehorn a ton of dragons in….? Gah!! So much to think about.

However, fancy-schmancy covers don’t just design themselves and to get something amazing will require a budget, so if you want to help me top-up please pre-order The End of Magic here.

Of course, there are plenty more books out there by amazing designers. Which are your favourites? Let me know below…

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The End of Magic – week 2

Another week passes and I’m currently at 35% funded with 73 wonderful backers. A big welcome to everyone who’s joined the adventure in the last week. Your pledges mean the world to me.

I’m also amazed to see that the ‘Be in the book’ pledges have sold out! Thank you Craig, Phill and Andy… I look forward to giving you all glorious deaths on paper very soon.

I’m currently hitting my target of 1% per day, and if we keep this up then we should be fully funded on 4th May, so if you’ve already pledged please continue to spread the word and let any fantasy fiction fans you know that the book is coming. Word of mouth is the best way to help make this happen. Here’s the link: https://unbound.com/books/end-of-magic/

We discuss The End of Magic and how Unbound work in this week’s episode of The Bestseller Experiment podcast. Have a listen here… http://bestsellerexperiment.com/unbound-and-the-end-of-magic/

 

 

GollanczFest 2015 – behold the awesome line-up (and, er, me!)…

GollanczFest 2015: 16th-18th October – Manchester and London

 

**STOP PRESS: LONDON AND MANCHESTER HAVE SOLD OUT, BUT THERE ARE STILL TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR THE WRITERS’ DAY ON SUNDAY 18TH**

This is going to be awesome, with an amazing line-up of authors including Joe Hill, Joe Abercrombie, Brandon Sanderson, Joanne Harris, Ben Aaronovitch and Sarah Pinborough, spread over four days starting Manchester and ending in London.

Day one: Friday 17th October, Waterstones Manchester Deansgate

I’m in the CLASS OF 2015 bit with Aliette De Bodard, Alex Lamb, Al Robertson and Tom Toner and it should be great fun…

Manchester - Room 1
Manchester – Room 1 (click to enlarge)
Manchester Room 2
Manchester Room 2 (Click to enlarge)

Day Two: Saturday 18th October, Waterstones Piccadilly.

This has officially sold out, but if you’re a lucky ticket holder, then I’ll be in the Class of 2015 bit again, with a slightly different, but no less awesome, line-up:  Antonia Honeywell, Alex Lamb, Al RobertsonTom Toner and Catriona Ward

London Room 1 (click to enlarge)
London Room 1 (click to enlarge)
London room 2 (click to enlarge)
London Room 2 (click to enlarge)

Day Three: Sunday 18th October, Waterstones Piccadilly – Writers’ day

This has just been added so grab your tickets now! If you’re a writer, this day is gold dust. If I weren’t already going, I’d be first in line for tickets. Top writers and agents (and, er me!) talking about their craft. Unmissable…

What a line up! (Click to enlarge)
What a line up! (Click to enlarge)

Friday and Sunday, Prince Charles Cinema screenings of Minority Report and The Prestige.

And after all that, why not kick back enjoy a couple of classic movies with introductions from Pat Cadigan and Joe Hill?

minority

prestige

Really hope to see you there. It’s going to be a blast.

 

The Robot Overlords will be invading Bradford next Saturday, 16th May…

Well, maybe not the whole occupying force… Okay, it’s just me.

As part of the Bradford Literature Festival I’ll be in conversation with awesome steampunk author David Barnett. We’ll be talking about how the film came about, and how it evolved into the novelisation. We’re hoping to be able to show some cool clips, concept art and behind-the-scenes stuff… it all depends on the availability of projectors and speakers and stuff… if not, I’ll have to do it via the medium of speaking and gesticulating. Don’t worry: I’m trained.

Click here for tickets. We’re on at 1-2pm at the gorgeous Waterstones at the Wool Exchange…

Gaze upon its beauty...
Gaze upon its beauty…

… a store I have very fond memories of as it’s where I first met Neil Gaiman. It was back in 1996 and I had dragged my poor wife halfway across the country to see what was then the only IMAX screen in the country at the National Media Museum to watch SPECIAL EFFECTS: ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, a kind-of visual effects IMAX sampler complete with a colossal Star Destroyer and King Kong falling off the Empire State Building. Hey, it was before the internet took off and you had to travel to see the geeky stuff back then.

By complete coincidence Neil Gaiman happened to be in town signing copies of NEVERWHERE.  I was kicking myself as I had a first edition of GOOD OMENS at home signed by Terry Pratchett and I wished I had brought it with me. Neil asked what Terry had written. “Burn this book,” I told him. So he scribbled a little retort on a Post-It note for me. I stuck it in the book where it still resides now…

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In a couple of years I was working for Headline Publishing and selling Neil’s books into the trade and I got to meet him a few more times (he would greet me with a smile and the words, “Ah, the fanboy.”) and, more importantly, I got to read a proof of AMERICAN GODS before most of the reading public, and I would evangelise to booksellers about it until they caved and ordered a dumpbin.

So, yes, happy memories… I hope you can join us and maybe we can make some new happy memories of our own.