Today, I want to talk about book covers.
There’s a lot written about how traditionally published authors don’t have control over their book covers. We have never disliked one of our covers, so we wouldn’t know but we are realistic enough to know that design of the cover is mostly out of our control, and that the designers who work on the covers do know what they’re doing.
We have generally been asked for input on our covers, and certainly asked if we like them.
As one editor I read once said, and I’m paraphrasing here, because I don’t remember the actual words or who said it, “What’s the point in putting out a book cover the author doesn’t like? If they don’t like it, they’ll bag the book.”
We love our all our covers, including the one for Stars Beyond, which is released in January next year.
Here’s a brief history of our input on book covers—possibly not accurate, as I’m writing from memory here, especially for the first two books, where all our records are archived.
Our editor asked us quite early if we had any thoughts about the cover. At the time, every US sci-fi cover we looked at seemed to be orange or red, and always had people on the cover.
We were both, Sherylyn especially, convinced Linesman was more of a blue book than a red or yellow book, so we mentioned that we’d prefer a blue cover if we could get it. We also said we didn’t necessarily want people on the cover.
If I recall, we were asked if we had any ideas for the cover, plus some key scenes that might make an interesting cover image.
One of the scenes we included was the briefing where Captain Helmo described the Eleven, not that they knew it was the Eleven at that time. A perfect sphere, the surface a deep blue-black (reflective, but that didn’t make it onto the cover).
We sent descriptions of the main characters, the various ships, and the first 50-100 pages of the story. We also said it would be good if the artist could include something that represented the lines.
Here’s the result.
Bruce Jensen, the artist nailed it.
The first book sticks in your memory. Second book, not so much. It’s all a bit of a daze, and again we don’t have the records to back it up. (We do, but they’re archived, and an effort to get out of archive.)
We think we sent the same sort of information. The first 50-100 pages, descriptions of characters and of ships, plus some scenes we feel might have made
Here we have the Kari Wang, being attacked. I say it’s the Kari Wang, for this one of the scenes we sent in. You might think it’s the Eleven.
Here’s the result.
Same artist, Bruce Jensen, and he nailed it again.
Now we’re starting to get into a time we still have records.
The publishers already had idea of what they wanted for Confluence to keep in with the other two books. For example, putting at least one spaceship on the cover.
Anne asked for elements particularly important to the story, any scenes that might work for a cover picture, and any suggestions to the artist on as to backgrounds or what the spaceships should look like.
We sent three suggested scenes here.
- A freighter attacking Confluence station
- The Eleven against five enemy battle cruises
- The battle where the Eleven arrives to help out when enemy ships are attacking a world.
Looks like Bruce chose number one.
They’re all amazing covers. We’re super happy with them.
Onto the next series now.
Same process. Anne asked for an outline, the first few chapters of the book, and ideas for cover art.
We thought this one was more character-based than the Linesman series, if that makes sense, because both books are all about the character, but this is about people, and body modding, and action.
We sent back keywords. Space opera, character-based, action, spaceships, space stations, body modding.
In this one we were less concerned that they might put people on the cover, so we sent back a lot of information about the two point-of-view characters, Nika and Josune. We also talked a lot about the genemod machines. Given that DNA was important to the story, we wanted something relating to DNA. We also talked about fights with people in business wear.
The three scenes we sent back were all fights. The first on the Hassim, with Josune and Roystan against Benedict’s people. The second at the space station where the crew of Another Road are collecting a genemod machine (for the calibrator). The third, the escape from Atalante station.
We rather expected people on the front of this novel—I mean, how many times can you buck the trend—but the trend seemed to have shifted away from people on the cover at all.
The cover was nothing like we expected, but we loved it anyway.
Artist on this one is John Harris.
Now we come to Stars Beyond.
This time, because of the rewrite, the editor didn’t ask for pages. She had a chapter-by-chapter breakdown. We gave a quick rundown of the story, and some image ideas. These included the vortex, Alistair’s eyesight, and the ability to seen into ultraviolet or infrared, genetics and gene modding.
We also said we loved the cover of Stars Uncharted, and that it would have been perfect for Stars Beyond as well.
We can’t tell you much more, for the book isn’t out yet, be we think the artist, Fred Gambino, has done a beautiful job.
If you’re still interested in cover design
Chip Kidd talks about some of his book covers for Alfred A. Knopf and why he designed them the way he did in a 2012 TED talk called What do stories look like? It’s worth a look.