The Science of Cover Art

This makes me die a little inside.

Old adages hold that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Shouldn’t—but the simple fact is, most of the world does.

The cover art of a book, like a title, provides the first impression of a work for passing readers’ eyes. Ideally, you want them to sing a sort of siren’s tune for anyone with an interest in your genre. Either it hooks, or lets them go. As such, covers require as much care and craft as the book itself. Finding a match between artist and writer is key—especially at a time when so many just turn to “stock images” for ease, and to help get their words out to the world all the quicker. Cost efficient, perhaps, but terribly impractical on the originality front.

More to the point, it occurred to me the other night, amidst a flurry of snowy imagery, that for all the introductions to my book, one key detail I’ve left out to date is the identity of my cover artist. Well, I’ve given credit where credit’s due on the cartography front, so I don’t think it’s too big a shift of gears now to take us into the artistic fore.

We are presently proceeding through the draft stage of the picture process for the novel—the snowy flurry I mentioned actually solidifying in the form of 9 lovely “roughs” one Matthew Watts struck up for me  several days ago.

Watts is a talented artist from the UK. He actually runs a little blogger site to host some of his works, usually in the earlier stages of drafting. Lot of dark work, lots of grit—a perfect fit, I do believe, for this dark little spot of fantasy I’ve crafted. (And to give you an idea of his talent, I offer up this particular bit of landscaping for your viewing pleasure: Please note that particular picture is what he can do in about 15 minutes—a sketch, and a bloody fine one I do believe).

Many great cover artists applied, and truly it elated me to see such a kind and extensive list of willing applicants, but the stars aligned with Watts, and all the pieces fell into place. Now he’s working on a bit of wintry goodness for me, given that “The Hollow March” (spoilers!) will be largely encased in ice. Alright, so that wasn’t much of a spoiler, but hey, it made you jump didn’t it? Anyway, after a good bit of time spent pondering over the options, it looks like everything’s really coming together well. We have down which characters we want to use, and the generalities of scene structure.

In other words, the field has been narrowed and now I’m anxiously awaiting the next stage in the pictures’ development.

While I’m not going to showcase all the choices (or which ones quirked my eyebrows best), I figure it’s only fair to give you a little sample of possibility, so here’s just a few of the drawings Matt sent me, with a reminder-proviso that these are merely the rough sketches. Detail, color…these things come later.


Cover concepts ©Chris Galford for the purposes of "The Hollow March;" and Images ©Matthew Watts, artist.

What do you think?

14 thoughts on “The Science of Cover Art

    • Glad you liked. Interesting to see where people’s tastes have gone…hopefully you’ll all like the piece I’ve settled on at this point, though. I will say it’s none of the four above…

    • Too true. A cover, like a good title, can make or break a sale to a lot of people. It adds dimension that people want – to skimp in that area is only to undermine one’s self! Thanks for your input.

  1. In Cover Selection 1 — I too love 2 and 3, with 2 the best. So we commenting 3 so far are agreeing.

    But then again, 1 is nice too… Decisions, decisions, eh? 🙂

    I would totally judge your book as worth peeking in.

    You are AWESOME talented. And I get to know you. Lucky moi!


    • Thank you for the kind words. It comes out in December, and I’ll be posting a preview a little later this week…so hopefully your peek tickles your fancy! And yes, decisions….so many of the buggers rampaging through my life at the moment.

    • Oh you’re not a spoiler, Ruth. The whole purpose of the post was to get people involved and take on some opinions, after all! #1 was definitely a slick drawing, but I’ve decided on something outside of these four for the final cover – hopefully you’ll enjoy what comes of it. I’ll be sure to post a copy of the final edition once we’re a little closer to publication.

  2. Pingback: Cover me Irresistible « Wrestling the Muse

  3. I’m going to break with the other comments and agree that while these four options are slick, each is either missing an element that would grab me as a reader or is slightly off in the composition.

    I agree with the others that the quality of the art/sketches is indeed superb.

    I will watch your process closely for inspiration in my own cover art endeavors over the next few weeks.

    As a matter of fact, I meet with my cover artist over the Thanksgiving holiday to generate some initials sketches that will become an oil painting and then various sized digital files.

    Good luck with your book launch!

    • Agreed, good sir! While each was lovely, I thought they were missing that certain extra draw…a focus point as it were. They seemed to say, through the characters and the mountains, “This is what I’ve struggled through,” but did not seem to have that honed “This is where I am going,” aspect. Glad you enjoyed the art itself though, and I’d be honored if you kept swinging through. Lucky, on your end though, that you get to meet your cover artist in person. My artist (Matt) lives over in Britain, while I’m landlocked here in the old USA, so I miss out on that particular pleasure. Fortunately, the e-mail contact is swift, efficient, and has provided no problems!

  4. Pingback: The Hollow March: Finalized Cover « The Waking Den

  5. Pingback: Cover me Irresistible | Kim Koning

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