Authors & Covers

I remember one of my seminary professors lamenting to us, his class, about the cover of his new book. I don’t want to get into specifics, but the point he made was that the publisher had chosen a photograph for the cover that didn’t fit very well with the very heart of his book. In fact, as I recall, it reinforced a certain shallow stereo-type that he’d been adamant throughout the book to reject. That was one of my first lessons in the limited power authors have over the publication of their own works. Another example I came across was a book where the title, though catchy and memorable, explicitly subverted the central argument of the book itself. In both of these cases, I can only assume that the marketing folks who worked on the packaging – like title and cover – hadn’t spent a lot of time in the text of the books themselves.

The cover for All My Holy Mountain has recently been unveiled on the series’ website, which you can link to here. As visitors to that site have seen it, some have reacted strongly, others not so much. Some like it, others not so much. All of them, though, seem to be engaging in the same speculative game of trying to figure out what it represents and what exactly “L.B. is trying to say” by choosing it for his cover.

Well, now you see where I’m going. I didn’t choose it for my cover, since ultimately, the cover wasn’t my choice to make. Throughout the process of writing and publishing The Binding of the Blade, P&R (my publisher) has frequently consulted me and asked for my opinion. I have appreciated that invitation to be involved, very much. However, my ideas have not always held the day, which is fair enough, since there are editors and marketers and the artist himself involved in the discussion. My main point here, then, is to say that it is a mistake to read too much into any cover, as they are often disconnected from the author, and sometimes from the book itself.

For those who are interested about my connection to the various covers in the BOTB series, I can say there are about 3 different levels of connection between my vision for the covers and what ended up being produced. For the third book, Shadow in the Deep, the cover is very faithful to the idea I suggested. Of course the details of the clothing Aljeron is wearing and the look of the Snow Serpent and things like that were up to the artist, but the essential elements of that cover represent the scene that I recommended for it. So, if you don’t like that one, I’m afraid I deserve some or most of the blame, because I championed that image. If you like it, I’m glad, because I also enjoy it very much.

The second level of connection would be represented in the covers for Bringer of Storms and Father of Dragons, where the covers are in a general way connected to my concept and vision for those books. Obviously, given the book titles, it made sense to have Cheimontyr and Sulmandir dominate those covers. And, to a certain degree, the portrayal of those characters – lightning playing off Cheimontyr’s hammer and the golden sheen of Sulmandir’s scales with the jagged scar on his underbelly – fits very well with how I’ve depicted them. In other ways, not important to mention here, those covers weren’t exactly how I pictured things or would have done it – but then again I can’t really draw or paint, so who am I to talk? In short, I think both of those covers are decent and passable, even if they aren’t all I’d hoped for.

The third level of connection to my vision for the book covers is one that is more of a disconnect, really. The covers for Beyond the Summerland and All My Holy Mountain don’t really correspond to my vision for those books, much at all. (Faithful readers of the blog already have seen the cover my friend Connell drew and know I liked it, but here I refer to more than the choice not to use Connell’s work.) Now, to be fair, the disconnect isn’t total. For both books, it was important that the covers have a summery feel, a more peaceful feel, and I believe both of them achieve those things very well. But, as for the specifics of what is represented, my own ideas were rejected in favor of what you see on those covers. Now, that isn’t to say the covers aren’t good or that you shouldn’t like them, but it is to say that even as an author, you win some and you lose some.

Obviously, assuming that I’m making a grand statement in any particular cover could be risky, as it might not even be a cover that I wanted in the first place. Consequently, my advice is to follow the old adage and to refuse to judge a book by its cover. What matters is the book inside, and if you’ve liked the series so far and want to see how it ends, then get the book and read it. If you haven’t liked the series, then even if you love the cover, I doubt that fact will redeem the experience for you.

Personally, I think that All My Holy Mountain is the best of the five books. That conclusion has nothing to do with the cover. Covers matter to the marketing of a book, and when the cover is sharp and appealing, it can be memorable for the reader, but really, it is the book itself that matters. In other words, feel free to like it or not like it, but I hope that all of you will go beyond the cover and read it, and then I will be eager to hear your thoughts, since my passion isn’t for the cover, but for the book inside.

26 thoughts on “Authors & Covers

  • I agree with the break-downs of your book’s covers. I like Shadow in the Deep’s cover the best, and so on and so forth. I’m not a huge fan of the newest book’s cover, but I still think it’s fairly good.

  • Well, though I’m glad you enjoyed the SITD cover, I wasn’t arguing it was the best, necessarily, only that it was the one that most closely resembled what I’d envisioned and argued for in my discussions with the publisher. As for the new cover, I’m glad you like it. Hopefully you’ll like the book too…

  • To tell the truth, I’m not in love with it. I, however, definately follow the don’t judge a book by its cover advice. I am in love with the first chapter posted and that’s all that really matters to me.

  • Im not sure as how well it describes the book as its not out yet to read. However i do like the cover in itself. The cover art for your books are probable my faveroit of any books ive ever read.

  • I loved the SitD cover. I also really liked those of BoS and FoD. I still like the covers of BtS and AMHM, but I recognized right away that they didn’t show much attention to the books themselves, at least compared to the others.
    And I would never try to judge a book by its cover, yet it is rather disappointing to see the ending of such a wonderful series not given what I think is its “due” in cover art.

  • hmmmm….so now that the cover’s done does that mean AMHM might be out sooner then June? (ya can see I basically have a one track mind)

    I like the cover and I love the kitties!!! SO CUTE!!!

    though I wonder how many Christian bookstores are gonna give problems since the guy is technically half clothed…..

  • L.B.,

    How about getting your friend Connell Byrne to create alternate covers for the entire series that we could download and print to replace the Elmore covers. They could be like a dust jacket and would give us a better connection to your vision of the BOTB world. Just a thought.

  • It’s a good thought and I’d love to do that, but he painted a fair size painting which he then digitally reproduced and added graphics to in order to get the “mock” cover we made as a proposal to P&R, and that would be an expensive process to make covers for all 5 with no $ from the publisher to cover expenses…

  • My favorite cover was Beyond the Summerland; however, Bringer of Storms and All My Holy mountain are my least favorite.

  • Thanks, L.B., I’m glad you took the effort to post this blog. I know tons of fans, including myself, primarily DID judge the book by its cover, forgetting all technicalities.
    I appreciate your interest in the readers’ perception of all aspects of your books. To be interested in how people perceive and/or apply what message you do (or do not) convey is truly a godly attribute.

    Thanks again, I enjoy your books, and I’m looking forward to June…

  • Would you be willing to describe for us what your original vision or suggestion for the cover of the fifth book was?

  • I’d rather not. Maybe some day after the book is out and the cover that is and the cover I wanted can be compared with knowledge of the book in the background of that discussion.

  • I’m terribly sorry, for this is out of the ordinary and quite random…but how do you figure out the names of the characters? Like Cheimontyr and Sulmandir? Joriaem was my favorite name and I’ve always been intrigued with fantasy names.

  • No need to be sorry – I get asked this a lot, and I don’t have a good answer. Some questions have specific origins, others just “sound right.” A few places, here and there, I’ve given examples of some of the names and their specific origins, but I’ll just give one here.

    In “Les Miserables,” the main character is Jean Valjean, which I think is a cool name, and so with a little adaptation, there was “Valzaan.” Voila!

  • I have loved fantasy names as well, identifying with Taylor there. Jean Valjean is an awesome name, I agree, and I can totally see how it could turn into Valzaan! I write stories, just for a hobby, since I’m only a teen, but I know what you mean when some names seem ‘just right’.

  • Don’t say “only a teen,” as most adult writers were once, “only a teen” who wrote as a hobby! Keep it up, and who knows, maybe I’ll be reading your books one day and posting on your blog, saying, “remember me, I wrote those fantasy books a long time ago…”

  • Thanks for the encouragement!! And hopefully, if it is in God’s Will for me, I could become an published fantasy author! One question though: Do you ever get writer’s block?

  • I do a lot of pre-planning and outlining, so no, I’ve never had writer’s block in the classic sense of staring at a blank screen and thinking, “hmm, what now?” There are definitely times where the story flows well and easily, and times when it is slow and hard, but I don’t know if that is really writer’s block.

  • That’s a good idea to outline the story…I mean, I have a summary of what I’m writing…but an outline sounds much more organized.

  • I know how your friend drew an example picture for Beyond the Summerland. Do you think he could sketch another one for All My Holy Mountain? Just wondering.

  • I don’t think so. The picture I posted was from a painting he did, which took time and art materials that I wouldn’t ask him to “donate” again – as he didn’t end up with the job of making the covers.

  • On the outlining comment, I’d agree that it is a VERY good idea. I’m writing a “book”/story as well, K.K., and I actually get writer’s block a lot. Mostly because I didn’t know where I was going outside of Ch. 10, and I liked to just sit down at the computer and free-write. Sometimes that seemed to make it flow more, and sometimes I just got stuck. Outlining is a good idea; I think I just lack the patience to plan that long : )

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