Best Served Cold Artwork

November 15th, 2008

Take THAT. Pretty much the final cover for the UK edition of Best Served Cold. I should point out it’s a hardcover release, though, and you really need to see the whole wraparound, which looks like this:

Mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Click on it to see it in all its glorious detail. Go on. Click on it. You know you want to. Even that’s a long way from doing it full justice, though, I have to say. The final version will have the title and the edges of the author-name foiled, probably in chilly gun-metal grey, then the sword and coins embossed and the text debossed. Plus it will be printed on that textured paper for which my previous books have won most of their acclaim. You really have to see it wrapped round a book to get the full effect. You have to handle it, stroke it, caress it, lick it. Well, not the last one, necessarily, that’s just something I like to do.

And that’s not even a proof cover, it’s just a good printout. The book isn’t actually Best Served Cold, in case you’re wondering. It’s Julia Gregson’s East of the Sun. Long story. Anyway, it’s designed to be of a piece with the new covers for the mass-market editions of the trilogy, that they may all beckon to prospective readers from the shelf, together.

In case you’re wondering, I fricking love it. I feel that it expands on the tone set by the previous covers, and establishes something of a unique identity for the books as a whole – a brand, even – which has got to be a good thing. It communicates a lot about the feel and the content – and a real sense of action and violence – without straying into the difficult ground of literal cover art. It manages to be classy and pulpy at once. I think overall the covers achieve the extremely difficult trick of being entirely un-generic, striking, and standing out from the crowd of fantasy artwork while at the same time not seeming to be deliberately NOT FANTASY. I think that’s what fantasy covers need to try and achieve, these days, ideally – to not alienate the hardcore fantasy fan while still appealing to the more occasional reader.

It involves the work of no less than six people. Original concept from Simon Spanton (I believe), expanded upon by my editor Gillian Redfearn, who then put the brief together and assembled the team to carry it out (kind of like the A-Team, but with more artistic accumen and less mercy), and co-ordinated the project. The sword was painted by weapons expert Didier Graffet, the map was drawn by map-master Dave Senior, adapting my own scrawl, then the whole was combined and made to live by designer Laura Brett (also responsible for the First Law covers), who added the spatter, coins, parchmenty effects, and lettering. At various stages a pedantic asswipe interposed himself and made everyone’s lives a misery. I won’t say who, but there’s a clue on the cover itself…

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed that it features a map quite prominently. But Joe! I hear you cry. Aren’t you the anti-map guy? Is there a whiff of hypocrisy about this blog today? Well, maybe. I’ve always had a foot in both camps on this issue, and with a tighter and more defined setting for this book it seemed to make sense. Plus I don’t hate maps, I just hate rubbish maps, and this time around there was the opportunity to make sure it was done right, both factually accurate and with some artistic flair. But more discussion of this later, maybe, because for those who give a toss, next week will be Best Served Cold artwork week, in which I will discuss the evolution of cover from twinkle in publisher’s eye to fully-realised proof in exhaustive detail…

Posted in announcements, artwork, news, process by Joe Abercrombie on November 15th, 2008.

20 comments so far

  • TeichDragon says:

    /me LOVES!!!!!

    Now all I want is that your german publisher uses that artwork too!

    Hey – of course this means they have to publish a hardcover-edition. 😉


  • Yaseen says:

    dude, that cover is awesome!

  • Elena says:

    mm, can’t wait to caress it and lick it. that sounds almost as exciting as reading it will be. BETTER be. 🙂

    i just have one question: why are you referring to a color used for the text on your fantasy book cover as “gun metal gray”? isn’t that a bit anachronistic, since you’re not writing steampunk?

    ha ha just picking on you, since i couldn’t find a comma splice to point out instead. really, it looks great. one thing: is this what the US cover will look like, too, or will i have to it to get this bad mother?

  • Anonymous says:

    A map?
    Well…. OK, if you must and so long as it’s an accurate map of somewhere that doesn’t feature in the story.
    You’ll then get more reviews as cartophiles pile in to complain bitterly of Abercrombie’s mappist perversity. They’ll rubbish the wrapper but love the book.
    Joe wins again.


  • daft sod says:

    hardcover editions? Aren’t those the blighters that rip deep holes into your budget and make your arms go numb from reading because they are so heavy?

    The artwork is fanbleedintastic by the way…

    PS just wanted to show off my usage of bleedin as an infix

  • James says:

    It’s definitely a good cover, in keeping with the theme of the other novels (as you say) but managing to have its own feel. In fact, I think it might be better than the last ones…and it certainly hits the right balance between being clearly genre but not too pulpy.

    Impressive stuff, overall.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow, what a nice cover! And it features a map… 😉
    The only question now is: when will you put up a map for your first law trilogy? I hope yesterday 😀

  • Anne-Elisa says:

    gaaah! Why must your books always be so pretty and lush? Kudos to all persons’ involved designed this cover, it’s definitely a gorgeous one!

    – Etrangere

  • Dave Ellis says:

    That just became my desktop background. It’s bloody brill!! Two thumbs up.

  • Anonymous says:

    thats sexy

  • Jebus says:

    Heh, had to laugh when I saw the map.

    Cover looks amazing. Guess I’ll have to buy the hardcover version to make sure I get it all to look at and not some bastardised paperback version. From paperback, to two trade paperbacks and now to hardcover – you’ve moved up on my “must purchase” list into the lofty heights of hardcoverdom alongside Erikson, Martin, Lynch, Feist, Pratchett, and Esslemont. Congrats! Some of those guys are actually quite good.

  • ron says:

    that’s one seriously kick-ass cover!

    now that i think of it, i realize BSC’s like the only book i’m really looking forward to right now..
    better not to dwell on that as it’s still a long way coming..

  • Absolutely stunning and beautiful art. Congrats! 🙂

  • Well it seems to be going down rather nicely. My thanks to everyone for the positive comments. Some specifics…

    It’s the UK cover. Orbit are working on their own idea for the US release, which will also be a hardcover, though I believe they’re considering this one too. No final decision yet.

    Daft Sod,
    Not a great deal heavier than a trade paperback, and an awful lot nicer, and if you look in the very bottom right corner of the full spread, you’ll see those philanthropic folks at Orion have priced the hardback at £12.99, which is the same price as the trade paperback of Last Argument of Kings. You can’t bleedin’ lose…

    2nd Anonymous,
    A map of the whole world won’t be any time soon, but never say never. Particularly if we can work the cost of getting Dave Senior to do it properly into a future project…

  • Afront says:

    I love it: a cutting-edge cover for sure!

    My British and I-don’t-do-fantasy sensibilities were a little shaken when I saw that Dutch Edition cover recently, but this one is fabulous: easily identifiable from a distance as a new Joe Abercrombie book.

    Also good to see the author name is now the same point size as and above the title 😉

  • Susanne says:

    Just to agree with everyone above: Love the cover. Beautiful. Gave me a bit of a piratey vibe! Not sure why, maybe just the coins? Anyway, I can’t wait to add it to the bookshelf…

  • Lou Anders says:

    Gorgeous, just gorgeous.

  • Anonymous says:

    The cover it great; I just bought the novel yesterday, but… why oh why do none of your books have maps INSIDE, Joe? Not that it's difficult to tell what's where, since you do such a good job describing things, but still… there's no substitute for a map in a fantasy novel. I thought it was genre law or something.

  • […] Back from holiday down in Devon, and I failed to win the David Gemmell Legend Award the other night, which went to Graham McNeill for Empire.  Curses.  But on the upside, Best Served Cold did win for cover art, so congratulations to the artists Didier Graffet and Dave Senior and the designer Laura Brett.  Talented people, and much deserved.  The one criticism you could make of their covers for that book is that they are too far apart.  A ha ha.  If you’re interested, you can read a little more about the development of that now prize-winning cover here. […]

  • phil says:

    Great cover joe great books f**ing leathel thay are
    on day2 of the herios ..ha great fun

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