A Tale of Four Covers

August 8th, 2007

Covers. We all know about the dangers of judging a book by ’em, but it’s amazing how many people do. I imagine that most publishing folks would agree with me that they’re the most important marketing tool when it comes to selling a book, especially by an author who may *ahem* not necessarily yet be a houeshold name. This is why the publisher likes to remain in firm control of this key element.

For those of you who are unaware, we authors (even unlike me, proper, big-selling ones) have no contractual say in the covers of our books. Of course, it behooves our editors to seek our opinions and take some notice of them, lest we become tetchy and difficult. Just as it behooves us (strongly behooves, in fact) to take careful note of our editors opinions about the text, lest we be dropped by our publisher.

A great deal of work goes into the covers for my books, therefore, before I ever get close to them. Some, I’m sure, would even say more work than the inside of the book, but that’s another story. So the first version of the cover for Last Argument of Kings that I saw looked a little something like this:

Loved the background. Loved, it, and still do. For me it maintained the basic theme of the other two books (which I’d always liked, despite having nothing whatsoever to do with the idea) while adding more colour, more sense of action, more impact. I was a lot less sure about the lettering. Hard to take in at a glance, which is always a worry, and just the slightest bit, for want of a better word, girly. The big vase of flowers on the ‘L’ I found particularly ill-advised. I wanted to go less Jane Austen and more Frederick Barbarossa on the font, prompting this response:

Once I calmed down from my towering rage on seeing my first name spelled wrong, I realised that it was a definite improvement. The ‘L’ was now much more butch, but had lost legibility somewhat, and had slightly the appearance of an overgrown climbing frame. I also felt that there was a degree of twee about the whole thing. A touch Yorkshire tea-house menu although, admittedly, a menu blood-spattered and on fire.

Plus there was that issue of foil to consider. The previous covers had both featured some shiny stuff to hook in the jackdaw-like fantasy fan. Could we not give ’em the old razzle-dazzle this time, too?

Now we were really getting there. The whole thing was bursting with testosterone. I feel more manly just looking at that bad boy, don’t you? (Ladies need not reply).

Of course, I’m a pedantic git (as Gillian, long-suffering editor, and Laura, long-suffering designer, tell anyone who will listen, mostly each other). The lettering on my name was still perhaps somewhat spindly. The ‘L’ was perhaps now too scintillating in comparison to the rest of the text, and the gold needed to be spread out around the other letters to give the whole thing a valuable flavour. Also, the sharp-eyed among you may have noticed that there were still some letters near the bottom of the page, just below my name, left over from whatever document Laura had torched to make the background in the first place.

This version came in today, and I’m sure will be very close to the final one. The foil has spread out and become a darker and more sinister bronzy colour, the mysterious letters are gone, and my name is now bold as Boromir. The finished version will be on textured paper, and the lettering and certain parts of the burned surround will be de-bossed to give it yet more depth. Mmmmmmmm.

Thanks Gillian. Thanks Laura. Job done. You could sell any old rubbish with that round it.

Now to start whining about the back cover …

Posted in artwork, news, process by Joe Abercrombie on August 8th, 2007. Tags: , ,

6 comments so far

  • Icarium says:

    Well, must admit i agree with you on that gradation, the last cover looks a lot better than the first and really nice.

  • Aidan Moher says:

    I always love seeing the creative process behind things like the covers of novels.

    The little changes here and there sure make a difference and I feel that the cover got stronger with each interation… though I did kinda like that “girly” writing from the first version!

    A Dribble of Ink

  • Anonymous says:

    Just you wait until you see the back cover before you start whining about it!! 🙂


  • J.G.Thomas says:

    I saw the flowers and style of writing of the first cover and for some reason it reminded me of Prince Ladisla.

    Really interesting to see the evolution of the cover art, and there is no doubt the most recent is the best.

    If the book itself has as much blood and fire in it as the cover does, then we should be in for a treat…

  • Tom Lloyd says:

    Love the new cover; still not completely convinced about the first L, think its shape is lost by the extras, but aside from that nothing but healthy envy in this corner! ;0)

    Not that I’ve got anything to complain about of course!

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