BSC Artwork – Design

November 20th, 2008

Now that the elements were in, it was time for Laura Brett, designer par excellence, to work her magic and combine the whole thing into a classy yet pulpy, genre yet mainstream, commercial yet literary cover. I mean, how hard can that be?

This first effort already demonstrated the idea was going to work, which was a great relief, and the sword and map sit together and look good, but the scales were wrong, the map too big, the sword too small and square-on which made the whole thing look a bit disjointed, rather than an actual ‘scene’, if you will. So we played about with the arrangement. Or Gillian and Laura did, anyway, and the next version I saw was:

Now we were really getting somewhere. Already it looked pretty damn good. Laura had resized the map so it fitted on the front and back cover, which made sense, then added some extra atmospheric parchment down both sides where the blurb and obligatory moody author photograph would sit. I’d thought at one stage we’d need some table or backdrop for the map to sit on, but this worked just as well and was less intrusive. The sword now looked like it was sitting on the map, which until that point I’d feared it wouldn’t. The wine stains we weren’t entirely sure about, though. And by a freak of chance the sword blade was sitting over Talins, which is about the most important location on the map, so it needed to be moved a tad. Plus I felt, in an understandable push to make the title as readable as possible we’d whited out too much of the map behind. And, much though it amuses me to frustrate you map lovers out there, I thought it would be nice to make it usable as a map, and make the six key cities visible. I also wanted to add some coins, partly because it’s not just about murder, it’s about money as well, and also just to add something to the layer above the map, if you will, to balance up the sword and make it more of a scene. Therefore…

Laura just lightened the map around the lettering rather than whiting it out altogether, which allowed for a lot more of the map to be visible while still maintaining legibility. She also closed up the leading on the title (pressed the lines together somewhat) and removed the little spacer between the name and the title. In this version the blood seemed a bit static, the coins a bit of an afterthought, so some more coins were added and Laura got some much more dramatic, active looking spatter on the blood, giving the impression the sword had just been tossed onto the map following a gruesome murder…

At my ill-conceived urging we also experimented with the lettering, trying various colours and having a stab at a style that was closer to the lettering on the map, but that didn’t work at all, it just looked messy. With the background being a lot busier than it had been on the First Law covers, it was a lot better to go for something simple and bold, with maximum readability. Hence back to good old Casablanca Antique, which is the same font we’ve always used on the chapter headings on the inside of the books. I also felt we’d maybe gone a bit too far on the blood now, it was getting a little bit … Saw VI. I mean to say, it’s a very, very violent book, but even so. We dialled that back a tad, maintained the energetic spatter while removing some of the bigger blobs, shifted some of the coins around to balance the whole thing a bit better and…

Bingo. That is design.

Posted in artwork, process by Joe Abercrombie on November 20th, 2008.

12 comments so far

  • Steve Aryan says:

    Thanks for another fascinating behind the scenes look at how the new cover came about. It’s one of those things that I’m really interested in….and now I know. And thanks for the clues about six important cities. Hmmmm.

  • Pixel says:

    awesome. Bring the book out already!

  • Chris Allen says:

    Thanks for all the info Joe, it’s really interesting to see how all the elements come together to create an amazing cover. About the only thing you haven’t discussed is how the coinage will look, but I suppose a gold coin is a gold coin regardless if its decorated etc 🙂

  • Micahel says:

    For the quality of your output and your young age, I’m so happy to have an author I can follow and support for many years to come.

    The first 3 really grabbed me, made me a fan. But I think this novel is going to be something else.

    Great ideas with everything!

  • iamza says:

    I’ll say! That final cover really is something!

    (Also, I need to start taking covers off my hardcovers and laying them flat to see what design elements I’m missing when the cover is folded around the book).

  • mickymanga says:

    The people you work with are simply geniuses. I will be sure to get the hardcover version once the book is out.

  • ron says:

    i have to say this is one the most painstakingly elaborate cover designs i ever saw. quite impressive.
    kudos to you and the team!

  • Steve,
    My pleasure.

    There is the small matter of finishing the editing. Getting there now, though…

    The coinage has a faintly arabic flavour, since Gurkish gold features quite heavily in the text, but it’s been kept relatively neutral…

    Michael, Iamza, Micky, Ron
    Why, thank you.

  • Red Joker says:

    When I see the amount of effort and attention you put into things like jacket artwork, maps, and “minor” details… it makes me want to stab other writers in the face for their laziness. They think readers won’t give a damn that the cover is plain white with a cut-out figure pasted in the middle.

    Seriously loving the new cover. Laura Brett did the First Law too didn’t she? Very talented designer. 🙂

  • Red Joker,
    Don’t stab anyone on my account…

    Well, a lot more work went into this one on my part than into the First Law covers, just because the nature of the concept demanded quite a lot of input from me. But I’m lucky that my editor chooses to involve me (and perhaps even values my input). A lot of authors won’t get much involvement with the cover.

    And yeah, Laura is pretty damn good if your asking me … she did the First Law covers, and also Richard Morgan’s Steel Remains cover, I think, among many others.

  • Chris Bissette says:

    So I’m coming to the game late. I’ve literally – as in, five minutes ago – just finished reading The Blade Itself for the first time, and will be rushing out to by the rest of the series before work tomorrow. I came over here just to say thanks for a great read.

    Then I saw this awesome post about the cover design, and now I’m hooked. I’ll be harrassing these here comments pages in future.

  • Laura says:

    I didn’t know the new book was set in the world of The First Law, but as soon as I saw Talins I nearly whooped out loud.
    Such a great cover, beautiful in it’s own way.
    I love your writing and I’m definitely going to buy it on release day.
    I’m looking forward to some REAL fantasy I can sink my teeth into.
    Cheers for all the hour of entertainment you’ve already provided me with!

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