The Face of Our Fiction

So last week I got an early look at a preliminary sketch of what will eventually become the cover of Kings of the Wyld.  It was, in a word, awesome.  I can’t show you yet, however, or I’ll be hunted down and killed by the design team at Orbit. It was drawn by Richard Anderson, who, in case you are unfamiliar with his work, is FRIGGING INCREDIBLE at his job.  Here’s some examples of cover’s he’s done in the past.

I know.  Amazeballs. But more on that in a moment.

“Never judge a book by its cover,” said someone, somewhere, at some time or another, and something tells me this person read a lot of shitty books.  Because yeah, you often can judge books by their cover, just as you can (again, often) judge a bottle of wine by its label, and a person by how much ice they put in a single malt scotch (hint: don’t put ice in a single malt scotch!).

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, and it should be noted that I am absurdly nitpicky when it comes to book covers–and titles too, for that matter.  Although a bad title title won’t necessarily turn me off, a good title can hook me in an instant.  Examples of these are Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora, Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant, and Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning. Another recent release with an extraordinary title is V.E. Schwab’s This Savage Song. Seriously, how beautiful is that?

On a similar note, a great cover has me at hello. Here are some examples of covers I dropped my literary panties for the moment I saw them.

The first is Peter Newman’s The Vagrant, next is The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, and the last is Sebastien DeCastell’s Traitor’s Blade, and as their covers correctly suggest: these books are awesome.  In fact, seeing the stunning art for Traitor’s Blade on twitter a few years back and resolving to read the book because of that is indirectly responsible for me landing a literary agent–and thus a book deal.  So yeah…that cover literally changed my life for the better.

Which brings us back to my own. Due to my ‘fixation’ with fantasy books and their covers, I was justly skeptical that I would love (or even like) the art representing my own novel. I think book covers are largely responsible for whether or not someone picks up a book in the first place. Us fantasy aficionados (well, most of us, anyway) are inured to blazing swords and screaming wizards adorning the face of our fiction, but to many readers–no matter how emphatic a friend’s recommendation–this is hugely discouraging.  The trick, then, is to strike a balance between intriguing the genre’s general readership while not alienating those willing to take a chance on something new.

Which is why, on the day my editor told me that Orbit had secured Richard Anderson to do the covers of my series, I was (almost!) as deliriously happy as the day I signed a contract with them in the first place.  You see, I’ve been a fan of Richard’s work for a long time. I first fell in love with his art while playing Guild Wars 2, which is one of those rare video games where the developers didn’t use the vision of its concept artists as ‘inspiration’–they used it as the actual world.  Granted, Richard isn’t the only talented artist this game features, but his unique style is everywhere, and is a key reason why, though several years dated, the game is still breathtakingly beautiful.

gw015

I took that picture in-game. My character’s name was Lastleaf, which I ended up using for a fairly prominent character in Kings of the Wyld. Since then, I’ve picked up several books bearing Richard’s art without knowing who he was or that they shared the same artist–until the day I bought Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades and Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire at the same time and went, ‘Hey, I have a problem here!  I’m addicted to Richard Anderson covers!’

By coincidence, the day after posting a picture of these two books, I had an offer on my series, The Band–and with it a magnificent editor/publisher who, knowing my odd fear of fantasy book covers, went above and beyond to make damn sure I will be as proud of the outside of my book as I am of what’s inside.  My ‘addiction’ persists, however: In past months I’ve purchased Michael R. Fletcher’s Beyond Redemption (which I recently gave a very favourable review) and Wesley Chu’s Time Salvager, which is in the queue and is apparently excellent (I cried reading the acknowledgements, so that’s a good sign). Both have Richard Anderson covers.

Needless to say, when Kings of the Wyld hits shelves in February, it will be among the very best company. I hope it sells well due to word of mouth, but I can rest assured that its cover alone will be enough to endear it to many browsing book-lovers.

‘Hey Nick,” you may wonder, ‘Will you post the cover here when it’s finally finished?’

You’re goddamn right I will.  I will post it everywhere.  I will print it out and distribute it on flyers in the street.  I will hire a team of sky-writers to replicate it in white smoke on a blue sky. I will look at it…well, for the rest of my life, probably…in awe and disbelief, wondering how I got so lucky.

As any parent does, I suppose.

Thanks for reading,

Nick

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