Evolution of Snow Queen’s Cover Art

I get asked about cover art fairly often.  How is it designed, how much input does the author get, etc.  I spoke to Scott Fischer, the artist for books one, two, and four in the princess series, and he generously agreed to let me share his sketches and the finished art.

The process started late last year, after my editor Sheila read the manuscript.  During our chat about revisions, she took a few minutes to discuss possible cover ideas.

I should note that this doesn’t always happen.  I had no input into my first few covers, and not all editors want authorial input.  My contract gives me zero control over cover issues, which is the norm.  (See here for a very different, very painful publishing tale which includes cover problems.)

In early November, I e-mailed Sheila some notes about the characters and setting: not a set of instructions, but brief descriptions to help the artist.  For example:

Talia: Talia hates the cold. She’s wearing a heavy jacket, but keeps her hands bare for fighting. She’s darker skinned, with black hair she keeps pulled or tied back. At one point near the end, she carries a [REDACTED]. She’ll be in boots, and possibly a scarf as well if that doesn’t obscure her too much. Being Talia, she also carries half an armory on her person.

Scott mentioned that these have been helpful.  In his words, they’re “detail specific, but not too controlling.”

On Monday, January 4, Sheila sent me the first sketch.  Have you noticed a pattern here?  There’s no direct author-artist communication; everything goes through the editor, and I suspect that’s for the best.  I might be the brilliantest writer on the planet, but that doesn’t mean I know squat about art or about what makes a successful cover.

Here’s sketch number one.  Click for a larger view.

Sheila didn’t like the stars, and wasn’t happy with the poses for Danielle and Talia. I pretty much agreed with her, though I liked the overall layout, and thought this had the potential to be the best cover in the series.  I also suggested that the castle wasn’t quite right for the book, but this was a minor nitpick.

Snow’s sword isn’t precisely accurate to the book either, but you know what?  I like it.  I think it’s more important to have a good, attractive cover than it is for that cover to be 100% accurate.  (I’d fight over major errors, or the whitewashing of a cover, but not something like this.)

Sheila e-mailed Scott, and a day later we received the second sketch.  (Scott is fast!)  The stars were gone, and I liked Talia’s pose a lot better in this one.  I’m also really liking that the  characters don’t feel posed the way they have in previous covers.  This is an image that tells a story, and I love that!

That palace was still nagging at me. Sheila said she thought it had too much of an SF feel.  But we were close!  I’m a little curious where the cover text will fit, but I figure that’s DAW’s problem to figure out.  At this point, I really couldn’t wait to see the finished version.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait long.  Scott turned in the finished art on Monday the 10th.  I’m still talking to my editor, and there may be some minor tweaks, but this is pretty much final:

What do you think?  I’d love it if other authors could weigh in on the cover art process.

My thanks to Scott, both for producing yet another awesome cover, and for permission to share his work.  Check out his web site or his Facebook page.  He’s also got a children’s book out called Jump [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy], which — in addition to being available at the usual outlets, was packaged with boxes of Cheerio’s.  And he’s a musician.  This is a man who’s clearly exceeded his quota of coolness.