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“City of Ruin” – UK Paperback Cover Art

This is the cover for the UK paperback of City of Ruin. And here’s Brynd:

Artwork by Richard Jones.

Pretty, no? When I first saw this, I think I issued a technical and artistic musing that went along the lines of “F*ck me, that’s good.” I really like how Brynd looks – this was much more in line with my original image of him.

Feel free to copy this to your own blogs.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

36 replies on ““City of Ruin” – UK Paperback Cover Art”

He looks like a ladies hairdresser (only with a sword or two, obviously.)

Wish publishers would steer away from this obsession with main characters on covers.It messes with the reader’s heads. We can do our own imagining thanks, that’s what we’re here for.

Like it all…except for the hairdresser.

Thanks, guys.

Burt – book covers are meant to sell books. That’s their main job, as I’ve mentioned before. If they don’t do a good enough job, authors don’t get to write any more books – as simple as that. (Publishing is a business, after all.) We (my editor, myself, and the guys at Tor UK) all think this one will be highly commercial, as is the trend these days for covers featuring characters.

And aside from that, I also think Brynd looks pretty damn cool. I’m delighted he’s got fashionable hair, and not a mullet, or some weird-ass ponytail.


Can you share with us a little of the process of cover selection? I’m very curious.

Do you for example give your publisher an idea of what you’d like to see. Do they give you any choice of covers, artists, or approaches?

In other words, how much say do you the author have in the covers that come to both sell, and in a small way, define your books?

That said, while I’m glad you like it, I much, much prefer the cover of the UK/Hardcover version myself.



Hi Eric,

Well, my editor rings me up to discuss some ideas. For this, we seem pretty settled on their being a character. We’re all aware that for this genre, characters are hugely important in terms of sales (which allows me to have a career). We were agreed on that at the start, which speeds things up. For some other books, there may well be more discussion about what the essence is. (For the UK hardcover, we thought of the cityscape – but cities aren’t as popular as figures for mass market sales).

As Brynd is central – it’s his book – then he was always going to feature on it. So I emailed a description of Brynd, to be sent to the artist, Richard. Then he just got on with it really. The designer at Pan Mac will experiment with positioning and colour, but essentially that’s it. Pretty simple.

I realise I’m in the loop quite a bit, which is the sign of a good team at Tor UK!

Thank you Mark,

That was very interesting. Obviously things will differ from publisher to publisher and depend a bit on the relationship with the author, but I’m relieved to see that you have a fair degree of input in the whole process. Well done.

Best wishes and good luck.

Mark, i’m aware of this, but i’m also with Burt:

Whenever a publisher shows the face of a main character on the front cover it leaves a lingering bad taste in my mouth. It’s OK if the appearence of the character matches with my mental image, but much more frequently it jars.

Personally, if characters are shown, I’d go so far as to favour the dreaded hood, at least then the face is hidden.

In fact the more mysteriously the character’s lit, or not lit, the more likely I am to buy the book. Why? Because the mystery element fires my imagination – to me, that’s what book covers should be all about.

The book should be provocatively dressed, not buck naked.

Burt and Jo – I understand that a few people might not like that, but a publisher can’t build a business model on the aesthetic preferences of a few people. They have to please the people who go into book stores in their thousands and part with their cash. That way lies success…

I would love to actually know what numbers marketing is basing it’s ‘cover’ facts on. I doubt there are any. They likely just show the latest cover round the office and sees if anybody vomits.

Some books sell with ruddy awful covers, some have right pretty ones that sit gathering dust for years. Yes, they go with the trend, in other words, they follow all the other sheep about until all books look pretty much the same.

It’s business, yes. Depressing as hell.

I do find all the cover debate fascinating. I feel like I should be girding myself for battle every time we put a cover out there!

Mark’s 100% correct though, not only is the author heavily involved right from the initial concept but we also look at sales and marketing information as to what’s doing well at the time, what hasn’t done quite so well and also take on board any retailer feedback.

Retailers, for their part, will base their feedback on what’s been performing well for them so we do get requested to put characters on fantasy covers because characters on covers do well in this area. We’re all aware it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation and we do try to make covers fresh, innovative and eye catching without losing the core readership. But there will, of course, be some shared similarities with covers.

You could argue that it’s the same in any genre. Crime tends to have an atmospheric landscape with an iconic singular image, women’s fiction – either photographic or illustration, men’s action – heavily armed man, urban fantasy – underdressed female, usually with a tattoo and a lethal weapon!

Despite many readers thinking publishers are only interested in crass commercialism – we are actually fans of the books ourselves and try to put the best possible cover on a book that’s will satisfy both aesthetic and sale value. It’s no good putting a cover out there that everyone thinks is artistically beautiful but then no one buys it!

And everyone has a different opinion, some people hate cloaked figures with swords, others love them – we can’t please everyone. As publishers we have to take the common factor, the most popular opinion as demonstrated by a track record in sales figures and work with what we know.

But I do love this passion that readers demonstrate about covers. I can’t think of any other genre where there’s so much enthusiastic debate.

I’ve been threatening to do a piece about what’s involved in producing a book – from MS to bookshelf in twelve easy months…it might just be time to put it online!

“And aside from that, I also think Brynd looks pretty damn cool. I’m delighted he’s got fashionable hair, and not a mullet, or some weird-ass ponytail.”

So, what do you think of the cover of the hardback then? Brynd looks completely, utterly different.

Adam – that doesn’t bother me. Why should it? It’s a different technique. I thought it was good at the time, of course, but then I saw this which is much better.

Burt – the facts are essentially the bestseller charts (most of which contain covers with figures on the front) and the opinions of major SF buyers in the book chains – Waterstone’s or Amazons – who usually want to sell books, because their livelihood depends on it. I mean, do you really think that publishers do what you describe, when they’ve sales targets, deadlines, shareholders, huge industry pressures, competition for shelf space in a shrinking industry? Just because you don’t like the photo doesn’t mean that you should have that attitude to the industry – they’re made up of professionals (for the most part!) who work hard under tough conditions.

And Julie: yes, what you said! 🙂

To give you an insight into our marketing information: we have a database called Bookscan which is available to the whole publishing industry. This tracks ISBNs run through the tills so tells us how many books have been sold for specific authors. We then take this into account when looking at packaging books.

It’s a really long and involved process putting a cover together. We go through numerous drafts which involve opinions from the sales and marketing teams and feedback from the retailers and authors. It’s far from just slapping a cover on the front.

As I said above, I’m a fan of the genre myself. I adore my job, am passionate about my authors and the books I publish – as is any editor in the trade. We don’t settle for half measures and we don’t just chuck any old cover on a book. I’m sure you all take pride in your job and make an effort to do things well – I do as well.

I love that editors and publishers are made out to be these evil entities…we’re all people, doing a job and doing it to the best of our abilities in a tough market and under difficult circumstances!

Not that I want anyone’s sympathy! I get to work on books all day in a genre I love. My job rocks!

Ace cover 🙂

I think it’s incredibly annoying when it’s clear that the artist doing the cover has no clue about the characters they are portraying – I’ve read so many books where I look at the character on the front and think ‘Who is that?’ because the have absolutely no resemblance to any of the characters in the book. But when done well, characters on the cover are great – and Brynd is looking good here!

To be fair Mark, I don’t have an ‘attitude’ because I dislike a photo.

I have it because I’m IN the industry…and I obviously can’t explain any further than that.

I’m sorry to be so cynical. I truly admire anyone who isn’t, and hope you never catch the disease.

If you really are bothered by a particular piece of cover art there is a very simple solution.
Buy the hardback. Remove the dust-jacket. Everybody’s happy.
Personally I like it – Brynd looks hot (that’s what you were going for, right?)

Burt – It is, but it’s a heck of a time drain. Are you on there? Your IP address (according to WordPress) suggest you’re in Coventry, but I’m not sure if I’ve any followers from Cov! Used to live there for a year – interesting place.

Vick – thank you for saying Brynd is hot! I’m glad someone thinks so. 🙂 I know someone who collects hardcovers but takes off all dust jackets. Very odd behaviour…

I like the hardcover version a lot better, but then (as you are well aware) I absolutely loved that cover.

I don’t know if this cover would tempt me to buy the book, but I do think it does a good job of signalling its genre while still being unusual. Pretty purple, pretty moon, and so much better looking than the NoV paperback!

Aishwarya – yes, I remembered you loved that.

Aidan – I like it, but then at times I’m remarkably simple and think “Hmm. Purple. Cool.” But it’s closer to the tone I had in mind – that is when you factor in a red sun…

I do wonder if Burt has a good point – for if you’ve already read a novel, that is. If you then go on to see a different representation of the novel, or characters, which you’ve been led to believe is different by an earlier cover, then it can be disorientating.

The only thing that bothers me about the cover is that I can’t keep from imagining Brynd wearing a bike helmet.

At first he looked just like a surfer dude dressed for Renfair, but now I can’t see him as anyone but a young Boris Johnson.

“Have at ye, bendy-buses, from the blue heart of Torydom, I stab at thee!”


The point for me is this, the picture on the cover dictates precisely how you should see the character.It’s like casting a film, I want to chose my actors, I don’t want a single one cast for me. It’s a tiny point, I know, and a personal one.

The other point being, as seen on Twitter, that the best selling fantasy books all have characters on them, but in market deluged with books with characters on them what exactly are you proving with this? If they ALL have them on there’s no real choice anyway. That’s like saying you can have beer or beer, because we’ve only got beer.

Oh, I’ll have beer then.

Burt – Fantasy covers have either featured a figure or a city or a landscape on them for what – 60 years or more if you include the pulp mags? That’s as long as the genre has been around. I’d argue that there has seldom been much choice throughout history. Slight variations in trends come and go, of course.

I take your other point about wanting to cast your own actors.

I can see Burt’s point about having a character on the cover influencing your mental image of them (in the same way as seeing a film adaptation can make it harder to imagine the characters looking any other way) – but that said, I can appreciate the difficulties of coming up with fantasy artwork.

I mean – if you’ve got a book about New York, you’d put a picture of something New York-y on the front. A book about a reading group might have a pile of books on it, as an abstract idea of what it’s about. But with fantasy, you’re dealing with a different animal and presumably have to come up with a way to convey atmosphere, tone and a sense of the world – and if you’ve got a character-driven story, a character makes sense. I suppose you could say the same about any work of fiction, but for some reason, fantasy artwork strikes me as being particularly tricky.

Terry Pratchett’s covers are a good example of what I mean: you know exactly what kind of story you’re getting when you see them on the shelves, and what tone to expect.

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