For those that don’t know me, my name is Michael J. Sullivan, and I’ve written an epic fantasy series, The Riyria Revelations. Because I originally self-published, I was able to create the covers myself (and live out both of my dreams at once). My goal was to tie all the books together as a series, and not scream “self-published” in the process. I wanted them to look like anything coming out from a “real publisher” and I think all in all I achieved my goal.As some of you may have heard, the series was picked up by Orbit and they are re-releasing the books as a trilogy and as such the covers were recreated as follows:
For those that don’t know, traditionally published authors really don’t have a lot of say when it comes to cover design. The publisher sees this, as they should, as a marketing function, and focus on designs that will sell the best. Usually by the time an author gets their first peek, the publisher is already pretty far down the road toward completion. Oh sure, little tweaks can be made here or there, but the overall concept is pretty much set in stone…artists have been commissioned, other departments have weighed in, and in some cases covers are even vetted with major retailers. I’ve actually heard of covers being redesigned based feedback from a powerful bookstore chain.
To be one-hundred percent honest, I’m not a big fan of characters on book covers. There are several reasons for this, but first and foremost I want readers to be able to conjure their own idea of what the characters look like. After saying this you might conclude that I’m not happy with the Orbit covers…but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if I was in a bookstore and saw both on a shelf, I would pick theirs up first, which just proves my point that they know how to create covers that compel readers.
The Orbit covers convey, much better than mine do, that The Riyria Revelations is traditional epic fantasy. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing, but they reveal more about the series than mine do. From the Orbit covers I know there are two main protagonists: Royce and Hadrian. I can also see battles and castles in the background that tells me more about events that I can expect. All in all I think Orbit’s covers are very professional, and if you get a chance to see them on a shelf with other books, you’ll see that they really stand out from the crowd.
The quality of Orbit’s covers really didn’t come as a surprise to me. In fact, cover design was one of the criteria I used when selecting a publisher (yes I actually had several publishers interested in the books). I encourage you to look at some of the other Orbit covers. They are some of the best I’ve seen, and no one else produces such consistently high levels of quality as they do.
So was it difficult for me to have someone else do my covers? You might think so, but the truth is I’ve had the best of both worlds. I’ve been able to put out the books with covers of my own design and have them elevated to another level through the vast resources of a larger organization. The process was actually a very smooth one, both because I knew the books were in capable hands, and I already had “my shot” at what they should look like. I couldn’t be happier with the way everything turned out.
It’s an old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover…but we all do so. I’ll admit that I’m a cover coinsurer. I’ve actually bought some books that I’ve never read just because I’ve liked the covers. It’s from the cover that first impressions are made, and I’m just happy that whether self or traditionally published, my covers have had a pleasing exterior. Of course it is the interior that really matters, and hopefully people will like what they find inside after all I like to think my books are more than just another pretty face.