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Embarassed to admit it…


Cover for

If you saw me reading this book somewhere, would you be embarrassed for me? And yet, it was a pretty good book. So why is fantasy book cover art even more mortifying to bring out in public than romance novels? Check that, AS mortifying?

I am a fantasy book addict. I’m pretty sure I’ve at least TRIED to read a majority of fantasy novels you’ll find at any store. I’m always looking for another good one, especially series, because the idea that there are seven more books in front of me over 800 pages long fills me with a delight unlike any other. But almost every time I pick a new one up, I immediately rip off the cover and take it everywhere naked, because a redheaded dude with horizontal hair is not something I want to explain to anyone. Even when I was like, 12 and reading the first “Wheel of Time” series (that needs to go away and die somewhere. Please Mr. Jordan, wrap it up) I would look at those disproportionate little gnome-like human figures that the awful Darrel Sweet cooked up for the books and shudder in embarrassment.

So, why do publishers insist on using this kind of cover art? I think it’s like Hollywood. They have “theories” about sales, and what their targeted public expects, and they don’t ever give them anything different. Thus, it’s a spiral of self-fulfillment. I read an interview with Jaqueline Carrey, author of my favorite “Kushiel’s” trilogy, and I learned that the authors have little say in how the cover looks. For her latest book they insisted that a woman figure be put on the front, even though the main character is A GUY! Do they really think fans of her books will not pick it up if there’s a guy on the cover, or a guy with a girl? Do they think we’re that stupid? She’s the author who spent upward of a year or more of her life creating this thing, let her use her brain and figure out what she’d like for the cover!

And, back to the original topic, look above at “Name of the Wind”! His hair is defying gravity and he’s got a phallic lute-neck coming out of his genital region! WHY OH WHY?!?! This book was actually pretty good, I want the next one, but please do better next time! Mr. Rothfuss, stand up for your character and at least give him the dignity of not have a phallic lute neck coming out of his genital region!

Thank you.

  • Ben

    Having worked in a bookstore, I’ve shelved a lot of books with cheesy coverart. Check out Sandra Hill’s “The Enchanted Viking”. It features a Kevin Sorbo wannabe with Fabio hair, no shirt, gesturing with a ‘come hither’ crook of his finger.
    In Sci-Fi there was the “Arthur C Clarke’s Venus Prime” series. The artist, Jim Burns, did the covers for all six volumes. With each new volume his instructions for each successive book were to ‘make ’em bigger’. In volume one our heroine starts out as a 34C with a loose fitting space suit. By volume six she’s at least a 38DD in a spray on space suit. It’s a well known adage that SEX SELLS.

  • Josh

    Fortunately, not all fantasy novels are so embarassing. My prefered Dragonlance Series have covers that are usually indicative of what can be found within. The art isn’t necessarily fit for framing, but I also don’t have to explain Loot-Wang to anyone.

  • That’s true, the Dragonlance covers are pretty good and in the spirit of the books. I thought the first Kushiel’s trilogy art was really nice and Sean Russell always has nice landscape-type covers. Robin Hobb has nice art too. I guess it’s a question of LEVEL of Cheesiness. I mean, Conan covers were awesome because they went all the way with the cheese. I’d love an oil painting of Conan on my walls actually πŸ˜€

  • Stefan

    So I’m not the only one wondering… got some old SF/fantasy books here (20+ years old, from the friend of some relative or so..) that are just… awful. One with a rambo-like guy and a girl more or less before his knees, both on a pile of what looks like alien corpses.. and there was nothing in the book close to it.
    Anyway, the new covers for the Discworld series (by Terry Pratchett) are actually pretty good; and the books even more so. So if you are in the mood of some (often pretty funny) fantasy stuff, check it out.. said it to many people already, and those that listened usualy thanked me afterwards ;). It is a series, but in most cases you don’t need to know all the previous books, although it often makes it better (since you do know the history of the Commander of the City watch if you read the older books; if not, he is just the Commander, and it still works). But be carefull, I think there are now more than 30 books out there.. so it might take a while.

  • kehn

    (previously commented in your RPG entry b/c I am a WoW/BtVS nerd who was geeked to find that you used to play WoW)

    Anyways, agree totally about the yuckiness of the bare-chested himbo with the phallute (now, a bare-chested 38-18-26 vixen wrapped around her golden harp… but, I digress πŸ™‚ )

    But.. and I’m speaking as someone who’s not at all well-versed in the fantasy genry, if you really ARE looking for 800-page fantasy epics, I *cannot* highly enough recommend A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. You may very well have heard of it, as it’s fairly well-known series with a spin-off CCG and board game and possibly an HBO series in the works. If you haven’t… this is EPIC, and everyone I know who has read the series is engrossed by it.

    It eschews a lot of the conventions of high fantasy in that magic doesn’t play a prominent role and is largely inspired by European history (like the War of the Roses and the Crusades) The characters are all very human, very memorable and rendered in shades of grey. It’s a huge cast but you’ll care about each member of it. I’m not gonna lie – the books are pretty violent, at times heartwrenching and most of all *long* – but with good reason… sh1t HAPPENS in them.

    I don’t want to get into more specifics for fear of spoiling anything. Just… give it a chance. The first book in the series is “A Game of Thrones” – check it out! πŸ™‚

    oh and…

  • kehn


    …and no half-naked amazons or he-men on the cover art. There! Reason enough to read the books!

  • Gah that’s my total favorite series! I think the next book has been delayed for like what, 2 years or something?!?! It’s killing me! Did you read his other stuff? He has a series about cards, I can’t remember what it is, Game of Cards or something. Oh ya, I can Google it. Wild Cards. That’s it.:D

  • kehn

    read “Dying of the Light” (his first sci-fi book) but not much else – I guess I’m trying to keep my palate (sp?) clean for when “Dance with Dragons” DOES come out. πŸ™‚ I think I’ve heard of Wild Card though. And… I think you HAVE TO audition for that HBO series should it ever come to fruition!!! Some redheads come to mind: Catelyn Stark, Melisandre, or Ygritte…

  • Michael

    I’m guessing that the Publishing Industry wants potential buyers to judge a book by it’s cover. I myself readily admit to being attracted to a book if I find myself intrigued by the artwork. Michael Whelan is one of my favorite artists (he did the covers for Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series) and if I see his name on the cover, I’ll most likely give the book a once-over. My favorite author, though, is PC Hodgell. Her God Stalk series is extremely well written with deep characters, lots of action and extensive back stories. I just can’t put it down, lol! πŸ™‚ Happy Fourth!

  • OMG I love that book! I have it on my shelf in the “if I could ever get a movie made…” pile. I’ve read that, and the sequel, Dark of the Gods, but I haven’t gotten anything else by her. But I just looked and there’s a third in the series, “Seeker’s Mask.” Must order!

  • Michael

    Yeah! Jamethiel Priest-Bane Rules! *ahem* Sorry, went all fan-boy, there. Seriously, though, after Seeker’s Mask, which really goes in depth into the intricacies of Kencyr Society, is To Ride a Rathorn. Miss Hodgell also wrote a collection of short stories about the Kencyrath, Jame and the House of Knorth called Blood and Ivory. The books are hard to find but all very worth reading. Yes, I agree, they’d be great on film. Or, even a graphic novel, too!

  • Paul

    Felicia, if you haven’t tried Steven Erikson’s Malazan series, you should really check it out. Can be hard to find in the States, since they are published in Britain, but the first volume is out in the U.S. now. There are already seven 800-page books in front of you, and another on the way πŸ™‚
    Oh, and the cover art isn’t quite as bad as all that!

  • Oooh, thanks! I just plopped the first one into my Amazon shopping cart. I like to store stuff in there and then buy like 15 things at once. I have to say the cover is prettty horrific, but I think that’s because it’s an American cover. The British covers look much better. Why is that?!?

  • Paul

    I don’t know why the British covers are better, but in my opinion, its mirrored in the quality of the writing. I just love so much of the stuff that is coming out of Britain right now: Erickson; Peter F. Hamilton; John Meaney; even R Scott Bakker when I’m in the right sort of mood.
    Hamilton is on fire over the last decade, with two different SciFi world settings, and epic series in each of them.

  • Edgar

    Ok seriously… seriously…

    Felicia Day’s Book Club… Go Go Go, Do it!


  • FYI, the Wheel of Time series is set to be completed by the handsome and talented Brandon Sanderson, since Mr. Jordan died before finishing it. Brandon was hand-picked by Jordan’s widow and is a huge fan of the series, and he’s a really good writer (see “Elantris” and “Mistborn”), so it should be a fitting conclusion. πŸ™‚

  • Christopher Mac

    Yeah . . . fantasy novel covers are NOT known for their ‘m@d pwnage’. Except for this one:

    I don’t care WHO you are, your inner geekage comes leaking out through your pores when you see that. ‘m working on my own fantasy novel right now, hoping I’ll get a cover like that when (and if) I’m published.

  • Awhitney

    It is sad that authors get little to no say in the cover art. I’ve been looking into the publishing industry as of late, and I -was- considering hiring a digital painter to do a cover just so I can ensure that it’s not some atrocious… well, loot-wang fiasco. Sadly though, I was told by an Agent that even if you have some awesome art the publishing company probably wont use it for legal reasons and they want to stick to the artists they know.

    I also hate how most fantasy books just look the same… I mean, they all have some semi-pin up or semi-epic thing on the front, you know, battle or whatever, and they all have the same yellow/gold text with a similar to the same font that’s got curvy pointy ends with varying sizes for the more important letters… But I digress.

    Knowing some people, it’s a blessing and a curse. Some Authors probably don’t know jack about art and what should be on the cover, just like most people don’t really know what looks good/interesting- but apparently neither do the publishers.

  • Christopher: HELL YES. I say thumbs up to that cover, damn! I haven’t read Marco’s stuff, is it as good as the cover?

  • Christopher Mac


    John Marco is something of an up-and-comer in the fantasy genre. He’s only written six books (two trilogies), and how enjoyable his work is to you will largely depend on your taste. A lot of his readers prefer his Tyrants & Kings (commonly reffered to by the first book in the trilogy, The Jackal of Nar). A lot of those readers are more keen on interesting ideas than writing skill. I, for one, could not stand The Jackal of Nar – I gave it to a thrift store after only 100 pages. But he’s gotten better. His second trilogy (The Eyes of God, The Devil’s Armor, The Sword of Angels) is much better. His skill as a writer grows in those books, culminating into the emotional powerhouse that is The Sword of Angels. But that’s just my opinion. He’s working on getting another book, The Black Mirror, published, but on his blog he talks about the difficulty surrounding that. So . . . we probably won’t be seeing that anytime soon.

    On that note, I would recommend the second trilogy of books, The Eyes of God, etc. It’s not perfect, but I had a lot of fun reading those books.

  • Peter K.

    the Name of the Wind actually has two other covers, and both of them are much less romance novelish than this one. the one you have is the first one, and the publishers decided to change it, for much the reasons you give. One has a stone carving on the front and the other one a guy with a cape on standing in a field. Both of those are much better, especially the most recent one, which you can see here.

    The cover for his next book is also a lot better, it’s not embarrassing at all.

  • Peter K.

    the Name of the Wind actually has two other covers, and both of them are much less romance novelish than this one. the one you have is the first one, and the publishers decided to change it, for much the reasons you give. One has a stone carving on the front and the other one a guy with a cape standing in a field. Both of those are much better, especially the most recent one.

    The cover for his next book is also a lot better, it’s not embarrassing at all.

  • heh, he just linked this blog post, it’s pretty cool when someone famous reads your work. Nice blog by the way:)

  • I like the Sean Williams covers, too. This is a really cool book, but yeah, I agree about the “Fabio”-ness of the cover. By the way, came through Pat Rothfuss’ site linked to yours πŸ™‚

    I’m doing a Buffy catch-up … aka never seen any before, watching all online very naughtily πŸ˜‰ Looking forward to the series you’re in.


  • Amelia

    I started reading fantasy when I was pregnant with my first daughter (some people crave ice cream,… I craved imagination). I can appreciate the awkwardness in buying a book with questionable covers.
    However, I soon figured out that fantasy readers are the most dedicated, enthusiastic, and intelligent readers. I’m always looking at what other people are reading, and the best book discussions I have had were prompted by a fellow fantasy reader recognizing the cover.
    Don’t be ashamed. The other half wouldn’t get it, even with a s l o w explanation.
    The genre says it all: fantasy.

  • I cannot help but agree. When I have a hardcover I almost always take the cover off right away, although to be fair I also don’t like how they get in the way sometimes. Although as a male with orange hair (And hey, it could be windy) I am saddened by your attack on this fine orange haired person. For shame.

  • Alex

    Who cares what kind of cover art it has. If the book is good, its good. And people will find out. RR Martin is awesome and his cover art sucks too. What can you do? I think its part of the genre.

  • Katharina

    have you ever seen german covers?
    youd have to search forever but you’d rarely find any half-naked Adonises and bloody corpses and DDsized girls looking hardly 15 of age otherwise.
    Germans have a certain sense of style! for real!
    except you buy childrens books, they have mountains of fairys and gods and phΓΆnix and elves and stuff, but theyr at least dressed and not disgusting in appearence. And a book like the one up there wouldnt really sell at all in germany.

  • Alyndiar

    Oh! Do I know the feeling of getting into a good series of fantasy books! You start the 1st one with apprehension, wondering “Will it be good? Is it going to be worth reading?” And then, when you get hooked, eating the pages and drinking the story and ambience, like a drunk on a binge, unable to stop, or even slow down! You loose sight of time, you forget where you are, you don’t hear people talking to you anymore… You know you have to sleep at some point, but it’s just so good! One more chapter… for the tenth time! Finish the book, but you have to read at least the 1st chapter of the next one, just to know what happens…

    I guess only fantasy addicts can understand. And you, girl, are certainly a top grade example! Good for you and keep it up! This is the one drug that gives you more than it takes from you!

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