Kitemaster Cover Evolution

When I prepared Goblin Tales [Amazon | B&N | Lulu] I had two pieces of cover art in mind, and had a relatively easy time getting permission to use one of them. Working on Kitemaster & Other Stories has been a very different experience. The image I originally hoped to use was unavailable, so I decided to commission a piece. I spent a long time browsing DeviantArt. A lot of artists weren’t taking commissions, but I found one whose portfolio looked good, and it turned out he was someone I knew who had done some goblin fan art a while back.

So I contacted him, gave him a description of the project, including a copy of the story “Kitemaster,” and we were off and running. I wanted something light-hearted, since these would be some of my fun stories, and something that clearly positioned the collection as fantasy. Within a few days, he sent me four sketches. (Click on any of the thumbnails for larger views.)

All four had their charm. I decided against the lower left sketch, because it looked like my protagonist Nial was sleeping. Too passive. The top two were nice, but lacked a fantasy feel. So I went with the lower right pic for a starting point.

The next sketch showed up with a built-in block for the title text. I liked the picture, but thought Nial looked like she was falling instead of running or flying. I also looked at the birds from the first sketch and asked about putting some dragons in their place, to emphasize the fantasy feel.

The third sketch fixed Nial’s pose and added dragons. I gave the okay, and it was time to start filling in some detail.

This brings us to sketches four and five below, where Nial’s clothing gets colored in, and we start to see the finer details. Some of the things I e-mailed about at this point were the kite’s frame and maybe changing the dragons from green to red. I also asked him to remove the kite’s tail, because it looked a little too cutesy with the pig-tail curl.

At this point, I’ve been staring at this thing and poking at it in Photoshop so long I’m having trouble seeing it anymore. I think I like the red dragons better, but I’m not 100% sure. Here’s a mock-up of a possible cover design:

It doesn’t feel like a traditional commercial cover … somewhere between that and a comic book cover, I think. I like it, but like I said, I’ve been staring at it for too long. I’m happy with the font. I like that the title and name are legible at small sizes. Overall, I think the image accomplishes what I wanted.

So what do you think? Details like the kite string over the title will get cleaned up in the final version. I’ve got at least one more round with the artist, so I can request further tweaks as needed. Red dragons or green? (ETA: Or each one a different color, as suggested by a friend?) Would this image make you look closer? Any and all feedback is welcome and appreciated.