Fantasy Book Club discussion

272 views
General fantasy discussions > What cover qualities catch your eye?

Comments (showing 1-50 of 98) (98 new)    post a comment »

message 1: by Chris (last edited Nov 30, 2011 11:09PM) (new)

Chris Galford (galfordc) | 31 comments Cover art is one of those key facets of a book that, often enough, don't get quite the attention they deserve. While many poor examples of cover art abound, the consensus on what makes a "good" cover seems to vary greatly, depending on the person asked.

Some authors go for a minimalist style - see the U.S. editions of any of the Song of Ice and Fire novels...they're little more than a dragon, a title, and Martin's name prodding us in the eyeball. But of course, he has the advantage of a name that speaks louder than any image - it's the name people recognize, and once they do, that's what's likely going to sell his books. Some feature a figure, a design...like on Brent Weeks's "The Black Prism." Still others go for a more involved image...the classic concept (for fantasy at least) of a scene, be it from the book or no, that sings the book's fantasy roots out to the crowd.

For my own upcoming work, The Hollow March, I've opted for the latter. Robin Hobb's novels are also a fine sample of this method.

Recent conversations have had me greatly pondering the effectiveness of each style, though. In one such discussion, for example, I saw a number of people voice concerns regarding a popular novel from earlier this year - "Ready Player One," by Ernest Cline. Not a fantasy example - a sci-fi one, rather - but do bear with me. This was a cover that went for the minimalist method. Red cover. Yellow text. And well - that's it. Very plain. The concern voiced, of course, was that with such a cover (as shown here), people that aren't already fans would likely walk on by. It doesn't scream sci-fi. It doesn't leap out at the eyes. It's relying on the name to do the talking.

But how effective is that?

More importantly - and forgive me for taking so long in getting to it, but here at last are the discussion questions I put before you all - what makes a book sing to you? What makes it leap out at you, supposing you didn't know who that author on the cover was? What catches your eye long enough to at least pick it up for a deeper consideration?


Woolfie  Silverbane  (Nightlightknight) | 51 comments I normally like book covers that aren't too detailed, for example the cover of the adult version of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows gave off a sense of menace and mystery without compromising artistic interpretation of the main characters. I usually prefer the KISS rule, 'Keep it succinct Showoff!'


Jim (JimMacLachlan) Pretty, shiny, colorful, mostly naked women...
;-)


Jean Hontz (Majkia) I pick books by recommendations. Covers are completely irrelevant.


Traci I'm attracted to covers that aren't too realistic. I loved the book The Black Prism but I didn't like that the cover. (Even though I will admit it's attractive). I also didn't like the covers for The Night Angel books. I don't like the generic covers with a man or woman holding a weapon. They don't stand out. I don't like the 80's cover look. Like Gardens of the Moon.
I'm not sure what I like. I like character shots without detail, from a distance or hooded. I like plain covers with symbols like ASoIaF. I like scenery of nature or a picture of a place from the book.
Covers I like:
The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2) by Patrick Rothfuss Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1) by Steven Erikson


Jim (JimMacLachlan) Seriously, I don't remember a time when I didn't like looking at the covers of my father's SF & fantasy novels. They were bright, shiny, exciting. Frank Frazetta's covers on the Lancer Conan books really got me wanting to read, though. He left them out one time when I was just old enough to really read them & I did. What boy could resist covers like these?
Conan the Warrior (Book 7) by Robert E. Howard Conan  Conan the Usurper (Book 8) by Robert E. Howard


message 7: by Kevin (last edited Dec 01, 2011 05:44AM) (new)


Traci Jim wrote: "Seriously, I don't remember a time when I didn't like looking at the covers of my father's SF & fantasy novels. They were bright, shiny, exciting. Frank Frazetta's covers on the L..."

Girl too. :)
I do love pulp covers.


message 9: by Leah (last edited Dec 01, 2011 06:53AM) (new)

Leah | 56 comments For fantasy, I like covers that depict a scene from the book. I love getting to that part in the story and then looking at the picture on the front. I also like when all of the books in a series have the same cover style by the same artist. I also really like the art for Daniel Abraham's Long Price Quartet. I haven't read them but I like how the cover doesn't scream fantasy to me. Also, the different "seasons" are each different colors.

For scifi books I love the cover art for Leviathan Wakes. The title is big and modern, there are lots of colors, and there's a huge vessel on a backdrop of stars. The cover, to me, looks like scifi art instead of a book cover.


Dana | 37 comments For me, beautiful artwork is what catches my eye first. That is what will make me pick up a book and read the back. I'll pass over a plain book with just the title on the cover unless I've already heard something about it. Charles de Lint has some beautiful covers on his novels.
The Mystery of Grace by Charles de Lint

I also think it's important to have the covers match in a series. Nothing annoys me more than to have my books not match on my shelf. Every last one of my books from ASoIaF has a different cover style.


message 11: by Chris (last edited Dec 01, 2011 09:53AM) (new)

Chris Galford (galfordc) | 31 comments Jim wrote: "Seriously, I don't remember a time when I didn't like looking at the covers of my father's SF & fantasy novels. They were bright, shiny, exciting. Frank Frazetta's covers on the L..."

Fair enough. Action shots like those'll hook a kid quicker than anything. Oh, Conan. Think that's the style Forgotten Realms is always relying on with people like Salvatore and such as well - the hope the intensity will draw a fellow in. Pulp covers are always great for that...

And yes, the girls aforementioned will likely always help.

Traci wrote: "I'm attracted to covers that aren't too realistic. I loved the book The Black Prism but I didn't like that the cover. (Even though I will admit it's attractive). I also didn't like the covers for The Night Angel books..."

B'aw - no swords, no swords at all? Meaning you don't like my cover, Traci? It's got lots of pretty nature in it! No hoods, but a more silhouetted style to the characters, too... Oh, but worry not, for I tease. Generally I'd agree on the 80s cover front - in sci-fi even more so than fantasy, but that's neither here nor there. And while I wasn't a big fan of Black Prism's cover either, I thought it fit nice as an example of that particular cover style - though it is a style that's won acclaim in some circles.

There's a lot of factors that make a cover "stand-out." We may not even know them all ourselves before we see that perfect cover...

Also, I'd certainly agree on the stylistic front, Leah and Dana - if it's a series, one certainly likes to have continuity, and not just with the reading. Drastic art variations could lose that certain "feel"...


Joshua Simon (JoshuaPSimon) | 48 comments Traci wrote: "I'm attracted to covers that aren't too realistic. I loved the book The Black Prism but I didn't like that the cover. (Even though I will admit it's attractive). I also didn't like the covers for T..."

Good choices!


Traci Swords can be okay. And I actually like your cover. The ones I mean are the ones that look like paranormal romance but aren't. But I can't think of any to show.


Hayley (Applesticker) | 10 comments I love covers that really show the fantasy aspect of it - so a dragon, a wizard, even the warrior with the sword would tend to represent fantasy fiction.

I'm also a fan of a scene (like most of the Harry Potter ones) on the front because (like Leah) I like to get to that part and then realise what it is!! :)

Also (and this probably sounds quite childish, but whatever), I like sparkly covers, something that will stand out on the self in the book store, but will also stand out on my bookshelf at home a look pretty... :P

I really like the look of yours, Chris!!! It definitely gives of a magical, fantasy vibe, but also a darkness, which I generally like (and, as I assume it's more adult fantasy than children's, would distinguish it as part of the former and not the latter). :)


message 15: by Elise (last edited Dec 01, 2011 12:04PM) (new)

Elise (ghostgurl) | 567 comments Well dragons do catch my eye, I can't deny that. It's my weakness. :P Also airships too. But besides that I don't like gaudy covers. This cover for Gardens of the Moon makes me cringe Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #1) by Steven Erikson. It looks more like a Harlequin romance novel than epic fantasy. Covers with landscapes are nice, the kind that make me want to just jump in that world. Also as a whole I prefer UK covers to U.S. I find most covers for urban fantasy are really off putting.


Joshua Simon (JoshuaPSimon) | 48 comments Elise wrote: "Well dragons do catch my eye, I can't deny that. It's my weakness. :P Also airships too. But besides that I don't like gaudy covers. This cover for Gardens of the Moon makes me cringe [bookcover:Ga..."

Believe it or not the original was even worse as it had a character that was supposed to be Sorry leaning against the horse if I remember right.


Traci That cover kept me from reading that for the longest time. Hate it.


message 18: by John (last edited Dec 01, 2011 01:20PM) (new)

John | 30 comments I love the cover for the prince of thorns.
It's what caught my eye when I first saw this book on the recommendations page.
Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire, #1) by Mark  Lawrence


Chris Galford (galfordc) | 31 comments Elise wrote: "Well dragons do catch my eye, I can't deny that. It's my weakness. :P Also airships too. But besides that I don't like gaudy covers. This cover for Gardens of the Moon makes me cringe [bookcover:Ga..."

True story. I do remember seeing that for the first time and going, "Really? This is what people are talking about? Okay..." Thankfully I had friends to prod me into actually looking beneath the cover on that one. Also: the original was worse? Frightening concept, that.

And Hayley - thank you! Glad you liked it. You would be correct as well - distinctly more adult than YA or anything of the like. But hey, I don't think anybody will judge you for admiring a sparkly side to a cover. To each their own in that regard, and all that.

I, at least, merely judge vampires that sparkle. That judgement usually involves a touch of fire. *cough* But hopefully nobody in turn burns me at a pyre for saying that.


Bridget Bowers (bridgetbowers) | 57 comments I like my covers to be simple. The more that is piled onto a cover just makes it a distraction for me. I want something that depicts in some way what the story is about and the title and author. Some covers seem to want to pack too much information on the front.

I've never had a cover completely turn me off from reading a book. I always read the back to see just what is going on to give it a fair chance.


Krista, Ambassador of Shimmy (FindYourShimmy) | 55 comments What a great topic for discussion!

I have to give this a lot more thought but off the top of my head I'd say I'm attracted to covers deep in color (deep blue, purple, black) with at least one of the following

1.) an aesthetically pleasing character (this is, of course, entirely based on my own visual preferences and biases)
2.) something sparkly (you can never go wrong with sparklies)
3.) something that makes me go, “Huh?”

As I quickly page through my GR shelves, I also find I'm more drawn to character images rather than pictures of real people. Of late, I'm also drawn to the color red.

A few covers I've been drawn to in the not-so-distant past:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern Everneath (Everneath, #1) by Brodi Ashton Would-Be Witch (Southern Witch, #1) by Kimberly Frost The Child Thief by Brom The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet by Reif Larsen Darker Still (Magic Most Foul, #1) by Leanna Renee Hieber Angelology by Danielle Trussoni The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson


Traci I bought The Child Thief, fouth book from the right, from cover alone. Good book. Interesting. But the physical book itself was beautiful.

Another book like that. Not as entertaining. But I loved the look and whole package of it was Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs One of the best book layouts I've ever seen.


Woolfie  Silverbane  (Nightlightknight) | 51 comments Traci, I'm with you there on unrealistic and fantastical covers, I too bought The Child Thief based on it's cover and the fact that it was a reworking of a classic, I love my reworkings and reimaginings me:)

I also liked The Book of the New Sun, Volume 2  Sword and Citadel (The Book of the New Sun, #3-4) by Gene Wolfe and The Book of the New Sun, Volume 1  Shadow and Claw (The Book of the New Sun, #1-2) by Gene Wolfe


message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 01, 2011 05:51PM) (new)

Chris wrote: "Cover art is one of those key facets of a book that, often enough, don't get quite the attention they deserve. While many poor examples of cover art abound, the consensus on what makes a "good" cov..."

I love Frazetta's covers. They just look like you're going to go on a fun ride. I also love Michael Whelan's covers, such as this one. Sunrunner's Fire (Dragon Prince, #3) by Melanie Rawnand Dragonsbane (Winterlands #1) by Barbara Hambly or Greg Call's cover for Sword and Sorceress XV by Marion Zimmer Bradley
This one is cool too. Theft of Swords (The Riyria Revelations, #1-2) by Michael J.  Sullivan
I like color and people, lots of action if it's a fantasy or SF tale. And swords, I love swords.
I do like the cover art for your book,Chris, it makes me want to pick it up and look inside.


Traci The sort of cover that I mentioned before that I don't like Drink Deep Also Minion I don't like model poses.

But I do like the Dresden books
Storm Front by Jim Butcher Fool Moon (The Dresden Files, #2) by Jim Butcher Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3) by Jim Butcher


Jim (JimMacLachlan) Whelan's covers for the Collected Works of Roger Zelazny are fantastic. It's one huge painting stretched out across the 6 book covers.
Threshold (The Collected Stories of Roger Zelazny, Vol 1) by Roger Zelazny

Boris Vallejo had some great covers in his early days. Boris  Book two by Boris Vallejo
I'm not quite as fond of his later work & that with Julie Bell, but it's still very good.
Fabulous Fantasy Women of Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell by Boris Vallejo
Their comic characters are great. I love their Xmen.

While Vallejo's earlier subject matter was very similar to Frazetta's sometimes (a lot of similar paperbacks), his technique was very different. His paintings are so smooth & surreal. One book of his I read said he used oils & built up layers with tissue paper or something. It's been a long time, but sounded very time consuming, a perfectionist's art.

Frazetta's are usually raw & vibrant. Close ups of some of Frazetta's work reveal a bicep made with a brush stroke. I have several of his books & some of my favorites are those that are covers of the Conan & Wagner's Kane books. He also did the illustrations for Little Annie Fannie in Playboy for a lot of years. His watercolors were excellent. 'Golden Girl' is just awesome.


message 27: by Kevin (last edited Dec 01, 2011 06:53PM) (new)

Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 564 comments Traci wrote: "The sort of cover that I mentioned before that I don't like Drink Deep Also Minion I don't like model poses.

But I do like the Dresden books
Storm Front (The Dresden Files, #1) by Jim Butcher, Fool Moon (The Dresden Files #2) by Jim Butcher, Grave Peril (The Dresden Files, #3) by Jim Butcher

Then if only the artist's style, then what about the paperback covers that he did of the Mistborn Trilgoy?
The Final Empire (Mistborn, #1) by Brandon Sanderson, The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2) by Brandon Sanderson, The Hero of Ages (Mistborn, #3) by Brandon Sanderson



Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 564 comments Forgot about Steve Youll, who did all the great cover art for Bantam, including all the Asimov, the original covers for Song of Ice and Fires or Garden of the Moon, just to name a view, he did so many great cover arts.


Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 564 comments Also what about Michael Komarck who does all the great art work for George R.R. Martin from the Song of Ice and Fire trading cards, calenders, and new Wild Cards book cover. I feel like with his artwork its so realistic that you are part of the the action scene that he is trying to create.


Traci It was the reprints of the Dresden books I like. The orginals don't do much for me. I like the Mistborn covers alright though.
Speaking of Sanderson I love the cover for The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4) by Brandon Sanderson Almost sorry I got it digital instead of print.
I also like the redone Forgotten Realms books. They really needed an update. (IMO).
The orginals (I chose covers randomly)
The Crystal Shard (Forgotten Realms  Icewind Dale, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #4) by R.A. Salvatore Passage to Dawn (Forgotten Realms  Legacy of the Drow, #4; Legend of Drizzt, #10) by R.A. Salvatore The Halfling's Gem (Forgotten Realms  Icewind Dale, #3; Legend of Drizzt, #6) by R.A. Salvatore
The reprints
The Crystal Shard (Forgotten Realms  Icewind Dale, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #4) by R.A. Salvatore Passage to Dawn (Forgotten Realms  Legacy of the Drow, #4; Legend of Drizzt, #10) by R.A. Salvatore The Halfling's Gem (Forgotten Realms  Icewind Dale, #3; Legend of Drizzt, #6) by R.A. Salvatore


message 31: by Thomas (last edited Dec 01, 2011 08:31PM) (new)

Thomas Knight (thomasaknight) | 96 comments As far as fantasy cover art goes, I like something that defies the norm. I see so many covers on fantasy novels that are depictions of a scene in the book, and frankly, it kind of bores me. I like something a little more contemporary, elegant, and eye grabbing. Of course this is tough to accomplish, but coming up with any good cover is tough.

What I don't like:
- Boring fonts that look like stock fonts.
- Stock pictures.
- Plain colors with no contrast.

What I do like:
- Something I can identify with that particular book or series.
- Clear, easy to read text with carefully chosen fonts that fit the theme.
- Rich, vibrant, contrasting colors.


Jim (JimMacLachlan) We had a lot of fun analyzing the cover of A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny this year. If you haven't read the book, it's a lunatic scavenger hunt for clues. Each day is a chapter told from the POV of a dog. Not until you're halfway through does the ultimate goal even start to become clear.

Trying to figure out who was who on the front cover was fun & interesting. Two of us wrote to James Warhola asking questions. He's the nephew of Andy Warhol.


Chong (chongjasmine) | 18 comments A good looking cover will entice me to check up more on a book. I started reading wheel of time because the cover art of a dragon reborn, wheel of time book 3, is beautiful in my eyes.


Traci New or old covers of Wheel of Time? The new ones are beautiful to me.

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1) by Robert Jordan The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time, #2) by Robert Jordan The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time, #3) by Robert Jordan


Traci New or old covers of Wheel of Time? The new ones are beautiful to me.

The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1) by Robert Jordan The Great Hunt (Wheel of Time, #2) by Robert Jordan The Dragon Reborn (Wheel of Time, #3) by Robert Jordan


Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 564 comments Traci wrote: "It was the reprints of the Dresden books I like. The orginals don't do much for me. I like the Mistborn covers alright though.
Speaking of Sanderson I love the cover for [bookcover:The Alloy of Law..."


I love the original Dresden covers, there is no style I know like it. I love it especially because its one of those rare books in fantasy that does not show feature any characters on the cover.


Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 564 comments Traci wrote: "It was the reprints of the Dresden books I like. The orginals don't do much for me. I like the Mistborn covers alright though.
Speaking of Sanderson I love the cover for [bookcover:The Alloy of Law..."


I love the original Drizzt covers. Those make me actually feel like I'm playing a game of D&D.


Traci Yeah, they do have a D&D look. My problem with them mostly is the way the artist drew Drizzt. Before I started to read the series I thought it was about an aging hero. Especially some of them.

My "favorite" :
Starless Night (Forgotten Realms  Legacy of the Drow, #2; Legend of Drizzt, #8) by R.A. Salvatore

The updated cover :
Starless Night (Forgotten Realms  Legacy of the Drow, #2; Legend of Drizzt, #8) by R.A. Salvatore


Kevin Xu (kxu65) | 564 comments Traci wrote: "Yeah, they do have a D&D look. My problem with them mostly is the way the artist drew Drizzt. Before I started to read the series I thought it was about an aging hero. Especially some of them.

M..."


R.A. Salvatore said that the Drizzt in the first cover looked almost like Peter Jennings.


Traci Lol. He kinda does.


Kernos | 393 comments I really like the covers Janny Wurts did for the original hardcovers of The Wars of Light and shadow. The standardized format used on the new editions are much inferior, IMO.


message 42: by Lin (last edited Dec 02, 2011 11:46AM) (new)

Lin | 7 comments I always use the "tube test" for deciding whether its a good cover for a book - ie can you read it on the tube without getting weird looks. If not then it's going to put people off

But when buying for myself I completely ignore it. It depends on mood really - sometimes I will totally be in love with a typical sword and sorcery cover, yet other time I'll prefer minimalist and pretty

I always love John Jude Palencar's covers (Newford, Samaria, Kushiel, Sevenwater). And the new cover for Green Rider made me buy it instantly Green Rider by Kristen Britain


Sandra  (Sleo) | 2229 comments Kernos wrote: "I really like the covers Janny Wurts did for the original hardcovers of The Wars of Light and shadow. The standardized format used on the new editions are much inferior, IMO."

Me, too.

I RARELY buy a book because I like the cover. On the few occasions that I have, I've always regretted it. I'll find a book I want to read because someone who's opinion I respect likes it or because I read the description and think it's something I might want to read. THEN, when I see the cover, I might say, "Oh that's beautiful!" or "Oh that's gross!" But that's about it. Sometimes I get annoyed by covers that are obviously not about the book, or portray the MC in ways other than the book describes. I mostly get interested in covers if it's a series that I love, or if it's a book that I love. Then I'm interested in the covers, or in what the author looks like, or extraneous things like that.


Traci This reminds me. My grandmother reads Harlequin romances and she gets so mad when the models don't match the author's description. Well one book showed a completely bald man on the cover. But she read us a paragraph of the book that the heroine ran her fingers through his long dark hair. ;)


Traci Have you replaced books when you like the new covers better? I do for favorites. There are some books that I have bought three or four times.


James T Kelly (jamestkelly) | 1 comments I think a striking cover can make you pick up a book and a poor cover can discourage you from giving it the time of day. I guarantee a lot of self-published authors aren't getting the sales they should because of poor cover art.

My tastes vary but the epitome of cover art has to be John Howe's covers for Robin Hobb's Royal Assassin series. Just beautiful, traditional fantasy images that really fit the feel of the stories. I could talk about them all day! But the reason they stood out is because they were just good art. They weren't hackneyed or stereotypical images of muscled heroes with hoods and swords and a brooding scowl; I find that to be a major turnoff!


Joseph | 764 comments My favorite cover artists are probably Michael Whelan Anackire (Novels of Vis, #2) by Tanith Lee and Thomas Canty Thomas the Rhymer  A Romance by Ellen Kushner.

Here are a couple of other memorable covers:

The Colour Out of Space by H.P. Lovecraft The Dying Earth (Dying Earth Series #1) by Jack Vance The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe

I do sometimes pick a book off the store shelf and look at it based on the cover, but there always has to be something in the description or in what I see flipping through it to get me to actually buy it.

And what's going to happen to cover art in this brave new era of ebooks?


message 48: by Joseph (last edited Dec 03, 2011 09:24PM) (new)

Joseph | 764 comments And here's a counter-example where if I hadn't already known what was going to be in the book, I wouldn't have touched it with a ten-foot pole:

Tumithak of the Corridors by Charles R. Tanner

(I'm not sure if you can tell from the thumbnail, but it looks like something that was doodled in crayon in someone's 10th grade geometry notebook.)


Chris Galford (galfordc) | 31 comments Joseph wrote: "And here's a counter-example where if I hadn't already known what was going to be in the book, I wouldn't have touched it with a ten-foot pole:

Tumithak of the Corridors by Charles R. Tanner

(I'm ..."


That is...yes, that is an atrocious cover. If I passed that in the book store, I would just keep walking unless I already had a previous recommendation...Good samples of both ends of the spectrum, Joseph.


Jasmine Me (Jasmineme) | 126 comments I have a tendency to add books with flying people on them, you know people with wings and everything (I love flying, if I ever have a choice of a super power this would be it ), I don't read them, but I sure like the look of them :)
Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1) by Becca Fitzpatrick Eternal (Tantalize, #2) by Cynthia Leitich Smith Bloodring (Rogue Mage, #1) by Faith Hunter


« previous 1
back to top