Spent an hour this afternoon having a chat on Skype with a talented fellow who does illustrations for book covers. While we were talking, he roughed out a possible cover for me to look at, and his prices for a self-publishing author are very reasonable — no more than I would pay someone for covers based on stock photos.

I’m not sure I’m going to hire him, though. I had presented him with an idea (which I thought and still think was pretty spiffy) for a single image that I could use on the cover of an omnibus edition ebook containing all four novels in the series. Somehow, without a word from me, he started talking about doing four separate covers. I didn’t correct him — I let him roll with it. I was curious what he would come up with.

The cover he roughed out was a chalice for The Firepearl Chalice — and that’s not a cover that would be hard to do by manipulating a stock photo. He suggested unifying the four covers with a decorative border that would be the same for all four, but in poking around on Amazon I’m not seeing any fantasy novels at all whose covers use a decorative border. He didn’t talk about color schemes or font choices. And he didn’t mention turning an ebook cover into a print cover, which is pretty standard stuff for cover designers to think about.

Last but perhaps not least, I read somewhere recently that redundancy on a cover is a waste of space. The example being, if your cover shows a person with fangs, you don’t need the word “vampire” in the title. That would be redundant. So if you have a novel called The Firepearl Chalice (and no, the title isn’t going to change), possibly putting a beautiful chalice on the cover is not necessary. Maybe instead you want the ruins of a city overgrown by jungle (an important setting in the book), or Kyura falling off of a high ledge as a dragon leaps toward her, its wings spread.

I didn’t mention this possibility to the artist. I may follow up with an email to him. I haven’t given up on the guy, I’m just trying to weigh all the factors.

I’m seeing quite a few fantasy covers lately that have centered static objects. (If you’re curious, do a quick search on Amazon for Will Wight’s Cradle series, Patty Jansen’s Icefire trilogy, or The Midnight Sea by Kat Ross.) That’s what a chalice or the Leafstone Shield would look like on the cover.

The alternative in the fantasy genre seems to be stock photos of people and mysterious but probably not very story-related backgrounds. (The Change by Teyla Branton is as good an example as any — again, easy to find on Amazon.) A cover should be simple, I get that. But maybe a static object isn’t good, or maybe it shouldn’t be centered. One expert said, “Centered design is good. When we judge whether people are attractive, one of the things our brain looks for is symmetry.” That’s certainly true. Evolution has equipped us with that instinct. And yet, another expert advises that when having a photo of yourself taken for your website, you want asymmetry, not symmetry. Symmetrical face photos, this expert suggested, are boring. I’m pretty sure that’s true too. So maybe my original idea of an asymmetrical cover design would be better than stampeding with the herd.

Or maybe an all-white cover with a gold decorative border and no image at all. There’s an idea. It would stand out. And hey, it worked for the Beatles. But that was a long time ago. I’m showing my age again.

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