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Enchanted

The author says:

Hi all, need some direction. My book is a fast-paced high fantasy book heavy on the sorcery, (no swordplay) with the world-building of an epic but the feel of an urban fantasy set in an enchanted, no-tech locale starring a father and his young son.

I’m not sure which book covers I should be using for guidance. High fantasy ranges from swords or symbols on the cover (GRRM) to landscapes/strangely lit arches (Wheeler) to characters looking mysterious (His Dark Tidings, etc). Other faster-paced, character-driven tales like the Palace Job or Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld use an illustrated group of mysterious people standing about looking tough with swords that look like stick figures when shrank down on the Amazon sales page. But there’s no swordplay in here, just lots of magic and enchanted trees. Did I mention this is a work of high Christian fantasy? Not so much book 1 but the rest of the series, yes. So which subgenre should I use as a guide for covers? O_o

The current blurb, which needs rewriting in case my rant above wasn’t enough:

Evil rises in the enchanted forest. One untrained mage and his son must stop it, if they can.

Start No Fires. Carry No Weapons. Do No Harm.

Those three rules safeguarded countless travelers through the enchanted forest—until they didn’t. One boy’s murder ripped open a gateway allowing evil to enter. Now no one is safe from corruption.

Enchanted trees take Sarn to where the forest failed to uphold its rules. Seeing a dead child gifted with the same magic as his son unhinges Sarn. He vows to find out the truth no matter what the cost. But his gift is untrained and finding answers won’t be easy. Sarn must balance nights serving the Rangers with days dedicated to hiding his son from the dark forces stalking them both.

When Sarn’s masters demand he abandon the quest, he faces an impossible choice—doom the ghost whose murder endangers them all or die from the backlash of breaking his word. With the odds stacked against him, can Sarn fix anything or will all be lost?

Nathan says:

I think the biggest problem is that the way the (completely modern-looking, BTW) father and son’s silhouette is shown makes it look like this is a story about things being done to them (usually the premise of a contemporary suspense novel) than them doing things.  I think a father/son high fantasy is novel enough that that’s what you need to play up here.

Other comments?

Comments

  1. Have you considered looking at the Christian fantasy bestseller lists for comparables?

    Christian fantasy:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/6190468011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_digital-text_1_6_last

    Religious Science Fiction and Fantasy:
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/158440011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_digital-text_2_5_last

    You should also try to nail down the sub-genres of the books you’re looking at for cover inspiration: while the ones you listed are all fantasy, they have different sub-genres, which drive the cover choices. For example:

    Song of Ice and Fire, Kingfountain: political fantasy
    The Palace Job: heist novel
    Kings of the Wyld: parody of getting-the-band-back-together books

    Palace Job and KOTWyld have groups of people on them because those types of story are ABOUT the group of people. Books with one symbol or one item (sword, etc) featured prominently on the cover have that object or symbol as a central motif for the book.

    Nathan’s point of making the father/son prominent makes sense given what you say, as it sounds like their relationship is the central point of it. Given that, I’d suggest a closeup of a man holding a child’s hand as a central image for your cover. (especially because it’s hard to find medieval/fantasy stock photos of a man and boy. I found one and it was so goofy I’d never use it.)

    I’d avoid featuring the green-eyed dude as it makes the book seem like its primary thing is about him, instead of the father/son. If he *is* a central antagonist and important to the theme of the book, then he should be mentioned in the blurb.

    If you can’t find a good enough central image, you may need to look at upping your budget and commissioning an artist.

  2. I don’t hate the concept and it’s presented well but the guy and kid look too modern day in jeans and sweatshirts with modern day hair. they don’t look medieval even in silhouette.

  3. Yes, as my colleagues are saying, the modernity of the silhouetted figures is just a little too obvious. You want them to look medieval, the figures need to have more flowing cloaks and robes and the like, optionally with pointy hoods or hats. Apart from the Vikings, most people back then weren’t able to spend much time on hygiene, which is one reason why they wore so much outer clothing: to cover their ragged hair that they were fortunate to be able to shear once or twice a year, and to contain to however limited a degree the foulest of their body odors.

    That’s also why the moderately long-haired fellow with all the rather evil-looking energy crackling between his fingers looks more like an appropriately medieval man, albeit a rather shady one. More to the point, considering that your description suggests this story is going to be told mainly from the point of view of the protagonists, having so much emphasis on what looks to be the antagonist misdirects your target audience’s attention to him from the father and son who are supposed to be the main characters. If that guy playing with all the sickly-green glowy stuff is actually supposed to be the protagonist, well… (A) you don’t need to have him on the cover more than once and (B) some milder blue or white or yellow energy and a friendlier expression on his face would greatly improve everyone’s first impressions of him.

    As my colleagues have also pointed out, you may need to be a little more specific about the genre too: what age group are you targeting here, and how mature is the content intended to be? Obviously, this isn’t kids’ stuff if you’re dealing with such grim n’ gritty subjects as a child’s murder most foul and creeping evils that threaten the innocent, but are we talking about subtly mature content as seen in The Shack (the rape and murder of a little girl driving the plot being all off-screen) or are we talking more chillingly explicit stuff like the grotesque atrocities of A Clockwork Orange (including a lot of scenes which Stanley Kubrick’s controversial film adaptation actually had to tone down significantly from the book)? To be more concise, is this story young adult, or just plain adult?

    Being “high Christian fantasy” as you put it doesn’t automatically answer these questions. If you’ve read the Bible in any depth at all (especially such hair-raising accounts as the ones given in the book of Judges), you know it was never intended to be mere children’s literature. So too, even if the functional magic in this story serves as a kind of family-friendly firearm in place of the much messier business of physical combat with bladed weapons, even bloodless violence can get pretty disturbing in certain contexts (as repeatedly demonstrated in Disney’s animated television series Gargoyles, of all places).

    The reason I ask these questions is that the maturity level determines a lot about which way you should go: the more family-friendly it is, the more saturated the colors should be and the cleaner everyone and everything on the cover should look (even if you do have to engage in a little artistic license about how much hygiene would really be possible in your characters’ specific circumstances). The more mature and less family-friendly, the more washed-out and polarized the colors should be and the more ragged and hard-bitten everyone on the cover should look. That’s the way the maturity spectrum for fantasy novels typically works.

    As it stands, in addition to looking too modern, your father-and-son silhouette suggests a more family-friendly approach while the sinister anything-but-family-friendly guy generating all that sickly green energy looks like he might have immigrated into your story from Game of Thrones. To get the attention of your target audience, you’re going to have to choose between one or the other of these elements. Mixed messages will only confuse your prospective readers.

  4. I don’t mind the cover … but perhaps instead of the father and son (standing), maybe a dead body in that ‘magical lighting’, to make it appear that the person doing the magic is seeing the evil that has occurred?
    (I’ve taken it that the person doing the magic is either the father or the son).

  5. Yeah…the silhouette is definitely 21st-Century, and it’s extremely distracting, yanking me out of the cover.

    Another comment is this: I am given to understand, though I don’t have statistics on it, is that (predominantly) green covers don’t sell. It may well be true; if you flip through Fantasy novels, even those with heavily forest-based concepts (were-this, were-that), you don’t see a lot of green. (This is also true in the haute fashion industry; you will almost never see a red carpet dress or photo shoot dress that’s green. Interesting, no?)

    So, I’d think about altering that glow/forest mini-scene. And yes, the modern silhouette has to go, unless a modern father/son are indeed the protagonists. Is Sarn a 21st-century Ranger? Or not?

    I personally don’t respond to this cover, at all, but other than my comment about the silhouette and the green, I’m not sure why. I’m not in love with the evil overlord guy…I wish I could pin it down more, but I can’t. If it comes to me, I’ll happily recite the reasons.

    Oh, lastly–oddly enough, the cross bar in the H, in “Enchanted” kinda looks as though the father figure has a tail. You can probably fix that with some kerning, leading changes, etc., but I kept seeing it and then couldn’t unsee it.

    Sorry I don’t have better comments for this one.

    1. Eh, you might see some green on a cover done in earth tones, but that’s more of a rich dark “earthy” green than a vaguely nauseating fluorescent glow like this. The Sickly Green Glow, as noted, is strictly for bad guys. About the only advertising I can think of that uses it for a protagonist is some of the movie posters for Reanimator, and the morality of the titular character for that trilogy was always rather… dubious at best.

      As to why you’re not into the “evil overlord guy” (as he certainly looks to be) on this cover, maybe that’s because (as you may have already guessed) he’s already been done? I’m pretty sure this stock image has been used on other covers already, albeit with the original glowing orb rather than the wispy swirls of nimbus we’re seeing here. As I say, he’s appropriately medieval, but not the particular medieval guy I would want to use for a cover to this particular story.

      1. …more of a rich dark “earthy” green…

        Yes, that’s exactly right. I’m not kidding about the green; if you spend an hour, and flip through fashion rags, slideshows of fashion shows, OR, flip through magazine posters…guess what you won’t see? Green. Google “Movie posters 2017,” and look at how much green you see. Almost no. The movie “Jungle” has it–how could it not?–along with “The Forest,” (ditto, how could it not?), but other than that, at most, it’s an accent color.

        Try the same thing with book covers. Sowwy, but…Green is not a seller. I do not know why.

        Hitch

        1. At least it sounds like nature settings might get a partial pass on green. Fortunately it’s just the promotional end of the art. I wonder if green just isn’t flashing enough for advertising, too much of it in nature to draw attention well.

      2. Oh, and yes–I’ve seen evil guy with the green glow EVERYWHERE. Very offputting.

        And I concur with whoever made the comment about “The more epic version.” Of what? Did you release an earlier version that was decidedly less epic? And the placement makes it look as though you’re talking about you, not the…story? Cover? Title? Novel?

  6. I had a thought that might work. maybe change the silhouette to a boy’s soul (I’m imagining a figure of boy being wispy around the edges as if it were disintegrating. Maybe even a boys head/face) instead of father and son. (you can probably find a useable picture of a crying boy easily) or maybe even use a reaching boy and show a solid mans hand reaching for him. Not the entire boy, just a faded quarter face shoulder arm all disintegrating into wisps and the solid guys hand.

  7. I am rarely a fan of silhouettes. One problem is that unless they are absolutely unambiguous it can be difficult for a potential reader to understand what is supposed to be going on.

    This is even more especially true in this case where it is important to understand immediately what these figures represent. As someone else pointed out: there is absolutely no indication of “mage and son.”

    Aside from the obvious fantasy element of the main figure and the ball of light he is apparently conjuring up, I really don’t see anything that conveys any of the specifics you say sets your novel apart. Indeed, in spite of the fact that these two are apparently the central members of your cast, you have relegated them to less than secondary place on the cover, instead focusing on whoever that central figure is supposed to be.

    Rendering those two characters instead of silhouetting them would almost immediately make them the focus of the cover, since the eye would naturally tend to not only go to the center of the cover, but to anything emphasized by the bright blue sphere, the hands and the gaze of the large figure. That would make your characters central to the cover rather than afterthoughts. As things stand now, the eye goes to that area…and there is nothing significant or informative there.

    (The “enchanted trees” would be a nice visual element—but they don’t read well in your cover at all. In fact, I only realized they were trees after I read the description and went back and looked.)

    By the bye, I would have second thoughts about the placement of that “more epic version” since it would seem to apply to you.

  8. Honestly, I think this has potential.
    Maybe with a different font and a subtle re-coloring would do it more justice, perhaps something akin to this.

    https://i.imgur.com/UuJvg4V.png
    (Obviously, I’m not a professional. Just a general sketch)

    That said, as the previous commenters said, green may not be your best choice.

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