Cover Design: When good Ideas and Reality Collide

So, how is the cover of the next book coming, and how did it get there? Fine, and after some thought, because Saul and I based our ideas on the original cover for Hubris.


What we wanted to do was keep some elements, but not end up with Cover Part 2: The Sequel. A series look without the hard template of the Elizabeth books, for example, you might say.

So we batted around a few ideas. The first two or three got discarded because they were too complicated, didn’t convey the ideas of the story, or just went “thud” with one or the other of us. We decided to keep the dragon, a planet, and some sort of DNA/genetics hint.

So, what about two dragons fighting in front of a planet?

Nope. Not at thumbnail, and it sounds too much like a fantasy cover, and I know how that goes.

It's great, but it says fantasy. Oops, live and learn.

It’s great, but it says fantasy. Oops, live and learn.

So how about two kinda-Asian dragons chasing each other or fighting above a planet? And what colors, because it needs to signal that there are two main antagonists. (OK, there are three if you count the Prince Imperial, but two sides to the main argument that is the core of the book.) The very rough initial draft is below, and gives the general concept of what we were considering.

Planet? Check. Basic colors? Looks good.

Planet? Check. Basic colors? Looks good.

Saul asked about the specific lay out of the planet, one of the Azdhag colony worlds. It’s not that important, because the action takes place in the main city and at an ag research station, neither of which are precisely located. Since the Azdhagi live in a more-or-less Earth like atmosphere and biota, Saul played around and developed what you see.

Now about the dragons . . .

Very, very rough, very in need of shaping and polishing, but it works.

Very, very rough, very in need of shaping and polishing, but it works.

They didn’t work. The problem is one of scale. What would make a fantastic LP album cover, an OK CD cover, and a cool art-book sized book cover, turns to mush once you get to an e-book sales website sized thumbnail. The dragons just didn’t fit, or they had to be stripped of all detail and we had snakes. Which is still a cool idea but not really what the book’s about. So Saul kept the basic colors, and the idea of the dragons fighting. He also added the helices, looking back to the DNA component of the original design, and also to the primary cause of the Azdhagi’s problem, the unanticipated effects of modifying the silent genes.

So we have a cover idea the 1) looks back to the first of the two books without being a direct copy, 2) signals sci-fi, 3) hints at several of the story elements, 4) also ties into the Cat Among Dragons idea as a whole, even though it takes place several hundred year-turns before Rada Ni Drako ever sets foot on Drakon IV. And the elements tie the book title and author and series info together, forming a nice whole.

For more on cover design:

There are a whole bunch of links on my blog, and a goodly number of articles at MGC about covers. The finished covers link to Amazon for those two books.


2 thoughts on “Cover Design: When good Ideas and Reality Collide

  1. As a free opinion, and only worth the cost, the dragons get too blurry in thumbnail, because they’re too dark compared to all the other elements. The typography, the purple, and the planet are the only things that stand out. Have you thought of making the lighter-color lines on the dragons the same brightness as the electric-purple accents?

    • Thanks. 🙂 I’ll pass your observation along to the gent doing the cover. He’s still a few steps from the final version, so I anticipate more changes and tweaks.

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