Sketching Concepts for Book Covers

I was recently asked on Twitter about my book covers for my mythical trilogy – The Chosen One of Allivar. How were they made? Where did the idea come from? I sketched art for most of my early life. I also wanted to become an architect, so visual imagination comes easy for me. I started with conceptual imagery, where I wanted a simple image to morph into various shapes, keeping the basic cover intact. Consider the following image:

In this image, which is the original sketch provided for “Rise of the Fallen”, I had in mind the body of a dove – the symbolic bird of peace. In its grip is a broken olive branch. The head is faceless, an emanating glow of light, which represents the creator of the heavens – The Unseen. The creator has seven perfect wings. In the foreground are the ten heavenly worlds he creates and a creature who becomes the chief antagonist. This is the image I supplied to the digital artist at Brown Books Small Press, the company I negotiated for private label publishing. To produce such a book cover would be too expensive, so the process became to select stock art and compromise. Here is the final compromise of the concept:

Notice it is not very close to the concept, but we were able to keep wings and eventually add two sinister eyes in the background. What we did keep intact was the image of a rusty metal door like that of a jail cell.

Here is the conceptual art to book II – “Bound to Forbidden Lands”. Notice the body has not changed, but now at the tips of the wings claws appear instead. There is now a menacing face topped with a crown, standing over the entrance to a valley – the forbidden lands. There is also two dragons, representing the guardians to the lands, and the clinched fists breaking from chains. The title to the book has a double meaning. Bound as in the direction of, and bound as one is when enslaved.

Here is the final compromised cover:

Finally, for book III – “Last Stand of the Living”, here was my original sketch. Notice the body is the same, but the head has been replaced with a three-headed war eagle. You will not understand this concept unless you read the story. This body now has seven wings and seven shields. Its talons are open to grasp its prey and is surrounded by weapons. In the forefront are the scales of justice and an hour glass running on empty.

Here is the compromised final cover:

Maybe when I get really rich from the story, I’ll commission a genius artist to fulfill my concept. In the meantime, life is about compromise.

So if you are struggling at an acceptable book cover, sketch to the best of your ability and supply to an artist, along with a narrative of your concept. Obtain the first draft, revise as often as needed, and compromise on the final output.

I hope this helps those that want a book cover to match the vision of their stories. Also remember that good authors provide clues, hints and imagery in their narrative for a reason. I promise if you read the entire trilogy, you will find yourself re-reading it to see what you missed.

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