The Return of a Gritty Dark Fantasy
With the revival of my debut novel, Through Rain and Missing Mantaurs, or TRAMM as I affectionally call it, one of the (many) things that has always weighed upon me was its cover. As the blog post title says, covers can make or break a novel. And oh boy, can they! I’m not the only author who’s struggled through this.
Covers define the story inside. It should instantly provide the mood, and convey the genre of what you’re about to read. Sometimes that doesn’t always happen. As you can see below:
Here are the covers to the 2013 first edition, and the 2015 second edition of TRAMM. Now don’t get me wrong, these are GREAT covers, created by professional designers, but they don’t match the tone of the genre, and will probably leave you wondering what kind of story the book would be.
With these two particular covers, I actually provided the graphics instead of letting the designers do their thing. This happened for two reasons. 1) I won’t say I was a complete control freak, but TRAMM’s older covers were too based on imagery of the story that was inside my head. 2) With no mentor or writers to network with, I had no direction and had to figure a lot of things out on my own.
The first edition of TRAMM was published alllll the way back in 2013. In 2015, I created the second edition with a new cover, and added at least ten to fifteen thousand more words. I don’t have a record of the exact date, or even when, but soon after, I unpublished it. Stupidly of course. Why? Because I’d thought its uniqueness had been a failure. I never gave it a chance because I didn’t know what I was doing.
THE NEW COVER
Here is the updated cover of TRAMM. Isn’t it fantastic? Why does this cover succeed? Because it tells you upfront what the story is. Something dark and mysterious in the realm of fantasy. While I did share important information about the story, I stepped back and allowed the artist to create. I… *snort, chuckle* stepped back and allowed them free rein. Get it? Okay, okay, I know, really bad joke.
Synopsis: Pony is a bipedal half-breed centaur with no desire to waste tears on a past she can’t remember. She’s busy enough with her mail routes and package deliveries. Or floundering through hot-cold love affairs with the high class courtesans Mardyth and Lullaby.
The mundane drudgery of her life shatters when Konstantine Bywater takes over as Lightfoot Delivery’s new boss. He asks questions she can’t possibly answer, and stirs up the tragic past better left dead and buried.
But running away is no longer an option. Not when Kon and his minions accuse Mardyth massacuring the centaur hamlet fifteen years ago and stealing her away.
With her lover’s life at stake, Pony won’t stop until she uncovers not only the truth of Mardyth’s innocence, but the truth of the past as well.
TRAMM is a dark fantasy not for the faint of heart. It’s about loss. Family found, and re-found. In a society most different. Fantasy should be fantastic. Daring and bold, leading you to places and ideas unexplored by the masses. Pushing the boundaries of both the imagination, and the heart. Interested? You can preorder the ebook here at your favorite online retailer.
And speaking of covers, I thought I would throw in a bonus. Here are the first and second edition covers of The Phoenix Embryo. Embryo was published back in 2013. (Yes, again, when I didn’t know any better.)
The second edition/current cover is on the left–that’s the painted adult phoenix with the egg. I LOVE this cover. Unfortunately, my artist retired after only three paintings created in a 7-9 book series, but that’s a story for another blogpost.
The first edition cover is on the right–the photoshopped chick with the lavender and cinnamon bundle. I didn’t get a say in what the first edition cover (feel) looked like–that is, I did want certain elements, but it was just a disaster from the very start. While I love the title graphic, and certain aspects of the photo-realism, it’s still a bit…odd. This first edition cover brings back that question: What is it? while the painted cover easily speaks of a fantasy novel.
Find Your Cover
So what’s the lesson? Don’t be afraid to communicate with your designers (Like I was!) And don’t be afraid to reject (politely!) something you’re unhappy with (Embryo first edition cover.) Again, I had no idea what I was doing, and thought changes weren’t permitted.
Most designers are willing to work with you. They often provide two or three free-of-charge options to go in a new direction before they start charging for their time. They want you to be happy with the results.
Most designers should ask you, or send you a brief questionnaire to fill out about your characters and themes. And if they don’t, send a descriptive paragraph about your work to get them started. Keep it to a page or even shorter, as we’re just trying to convey that idea or a mood on the cover, not the actual story. Bullet points can work well. Check the designers FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for more information. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, ask! It’s okay to ask!
And most importantly, study other covers in your genre. The more current the better. Use Google images, if you need to. Covers evolve over time. Covers are eye candy, and it’s the first thing a reader will see, so you’ll want something to draw their attention.