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Cover Art For The Book of Transformations – You Decide

You can have any cover you like, as long as it’s one of these two. Here we have a cover art draft for The Book of Transformations, the third book in the Legends of the Red Sun series, and there are two different crops of the artwork. I repeat: this is a draft. It is not finished: it’s low-res, the character isn’t quite set into the picture properly, and the final will be much more detailed and painterly, to bring it in line with the others, but first we need to decide which crop is better. Neither my editor Julie nor myself could come to a thorough conclusion, so we thought we’d put the question out to the blogosphere. I think I prefer the close-up version. So what do you think?

Oh the figure here is Lan, a new character: she’s a transwoman, and one of the leads of the novel.



By Mark Newton

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

61 replies on “Cover Art For The Book of Transformations – You Decide”

First one – although you get to see more of the city in the background in the second (and you know I’m a sucker for a city), the second one looks vaguely like a cover for a “Teach Yourself A Martial Art For Girls” dvd πŸ˜‰

The first is more striking, which I guess is what matters most. But I personally find the city the most interesting, so I like being able to see more of it in the second. Can she be close up, but the background zoomed out? Hehe. Compromise.

As others, I prefer the landscape of the second one and the close up. The “setting” is very important in your books (even if it’s an “artist point of view” on your world) and I prefer to see more about it on the cover.


I do think the first one is marginally preferable over the second. Mostly because we see less of the regrettable cover model.

Gone may be the young Boris, but in his buff place has come, to shake the World of the Red Sun to its knocking knees…

Keira Knightly wearing pyjamas. Bum, bum, bum. With a gratuitous bondage faux-leather fantasy cuff thrown in for more street cred.

Fear her mighty underdeveloped yoga position!

Nice city at least.



Yeah, it’s partly the pose that throws me. What exactly is she supposed to be striking/blocking with those pipe-stems and her body facing the other way?

Stance? Don’t get me started on the stance.


Because these things matter to you, I’ve been wondering since I saw the cover about the “race” of the character, Lan. Brynd was easy as he was an albino, which comes across more or less universally understood. I find you’ve thought these things through normally, and I enjoy learning more about your process – hence the cheeky question.

Is Lan supposed to be of any particular ethnicity (of the world of Villjamur of course)? The outfit suggest a sort of east asian nod but the model seems much more vague, i.e. rather blandly caucasian. A white Top Shop model wearing vaguely oriental nightwear, or a vaguely oriental United Colours of Benetton model wearing a ninja costume?

I know it’s just cover art, but now I’m curious.


@Eric and Tom: I suppose that particular stance might work if she were preparing to elbow someone standing behind her.

I appreciate the realities of the industry and all, but I do wish we could just have all that architecture and the interesting light effects. The previous hardcover art was *interesting* – this is not.

@Asihwarya – here, here. It’s like the vampire books and dark fantasy and sci-fi etc are all being taken over by Mills and Boon models…

I know that nearly all publishers are loathe to use properly painted covers – but oh, how I MISS them…

Option 2, because you can’t appreciate the dancer’s body-popping properly in option 1.

Should be an interesting novel, what with Lan driving her mobile disco van across the land.

Oh wait…

But seriously, I know Mark that as an author you have little choice in the matter, and even the publisher has limited options when faced with the pressure from distributors, salespeople, and booksellers, but both of these drafts are foul. Yes, they are drafts, and sure, the hot disco ninja hasn’t been blended in properly, but they both look like some awful paranormal romance. Possibly with vampires.

Which is a shame.

…also, while I think about it, I assume by transwoman you mean she is a male-to-femal transgender (unless transwoman means something else in the Red Sun universe, in which case I apologise for misinterpreting)?

If so, then it’s a shame an actual transgender model isn’t being used on the cover. At least she doesn’t look like she is to me. Again, I suppose distributor/salesperson/bookseller opposition would be too strong.

I just checked in again to see if anyone at all liked the second cover so well done to Aidan for admitting to being a massive wronghead. They are both rotten but the second one is dire (and Eric and Adam make good points above).

Well then. That’s fairly unanimous, I guess! Thank you all for the comments so far. As I keep meaning to stress, this is a draft, and we’re showing you this at an early stage of the process. The final quality will not be like this at all, but we need to make such decisions about the finishes soon.

Adam – she is indeed transgendered, and it’s not for me to say whether or not the model is also transgendered. That doesn’t matter. As far as I’m concerned, Lan is a woman.

I agree with that the first one is the better, but I also agree with some of the criticisms of the character image. While I’m not a fan of the current trend of modern looking people (with swords or whatever) so prominently on the cover, I can at least conceed that this is the current trend and my opinion won’t stop it. But in this case the cover literally looks like you have some modern model posing in front of blue screen – it looks terribly cheesy as a result (like some bad b-movie). In the very least, she needs to be blended in some way to make it seem like she is actually part of it in some way and not just a model in front of blue screen.

Neth – I said it at the top and I’ve mentioned it in the comments. This is a draft. The character has not been set into the image. We need to decide which option to go for before that can happen, else it’s a waste of the artist’s time.

The first. That’s a gorgeous cityscape, in either version.

I agree with the other commenters, though – the contrast between the figure and the background is jarring, unless the “blending in” will treat her only as a photoreference. Also, her pose is too tentative and static. It doesn’t say “warrior”, it says “teenage girl posing for cameraphone pic”. And whilst I like that she’s looking directly at the camera, the “peeping up from under her fringe” thing is getting old.

I’d pick the first cover but I have to be honest – I really don’t like the pose; I got a definite flash of Urban Fantasy.

I love the city backdrop, the spikes on the towers lead me to believe that the city we’re going to will be pretty dam exotic!

I’m glad that this chance is being taken – hopefully many more browsers will pick up the novel specifically because of the cover art, and that’s the name of the game. πŸ™‚

If I could add anything else it would be this: Lan needs weathering, if you know what I mean. πŸ™‚

I would probably go with the first one. However I still think it’s a rather cheesy cover art. I think that your incredible books deserve some incredible art! πŸ™‚ Not this generic stuff…

I’ll be totally honest: neither. If I didn’t already know of you, I likely would shelve you in the “never to be read” bin in my head based on those covers. I honestly do not understand why they’re trying to market you as a writer of cheap, dime-a-dozen paranormal romance ebooks. That’s not what you write. They don’t do that to China Mieville, so why your publishers feel it is necessary to do it to you is beyond me.

If I had to make a choice, I’d go with the one that puts more attention on the landscape. Most likely, though, I’ll wait until an edition with a more appealing cover comes out and buy that, even if it means importing it from another country.

What’s with the character-on-cover hate? If I hadn’t already gotten hooked by the first book, I’d pick up the third book on the basis of the cover.
Background says interesting fantasy world, action pose (even if it’s a bit of a weak looking one) says that somewhere in this book is a character that kicks ass, so plenty of thrilling romps impending.
(Besides, *everyone* knows it only looks like urban fantasy if there’s a bare midriff and tattoos. πŸ˜› )

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