Mountain of Whispers cover update
Posted on June 18, 2010 (Subscribe to Blog)
Back in October 2009, when I was getting ready to launch Labyrinth of Fire, I decided that a cover depicting a tunnel wasn't exciting enough, so I added a whopping great big dragon to the scene. It proved successful, and is the favored cover of most younger readers (rather than the foggy Island of Fog cover, which is mysterious but necessarily monster-free). With this in mind, I've added another whopping great big dragon to Mountain of Whispers.
(Note: this has since been updated)
Whether it looks real or not (and let's face it, dragons are in fact not real), I think it works better and should especially appeal to younger readers. As much as I like nice scenery, I understand that a little extra something is needed to make it look interesting.
When I was looking for a suitable dragon picture back in October, I searched the database at Big Stock Photo. It had to be a dragon picture I could use royalty-free and without copyright issues. There was really only one that I liked and could make use of, and that's the one now gracing the cover of Labyrinth of Fire.
Then, a couple of weeks ago (about eight months later), I went looking for another dragon picture. Big Stock Photo had added to their database so there was more to choose from. This time I was looking for a dragon in flight, and ended up with around ten possibilities that I hadn't seen before. None of them worked. I dug deeper, and finally found the one you see in this picture.
The funny thing is, if you zoom in and look closely, you can see that the detail is almost exactly the same. Both dragons I ended up using were created by the same artist. It's the same dragon.
The same species, anyway, and I never said which dragon appears on the cover of Labyrinth of Fire. It could be any of them. I always saw the labyrinth dragon as a little mean-looking, so I would say it's one of the adults. The one on Mountain of Whispers is a little more boyish-looking, and can be only one character.
I have a lot of fun creating book covers. I'm not saying they're perfect, but I like the process of finding a backdrop and a creature to put on top of it. I not expert enough to make the finished pictures look photo-realistic, but I think they're okay.
As usual I had to do some crafty jiggery-pokery with the original photo. I dropped out the garish computer generated background, mirrored the dragon, added a better tail (taken from another dragon; he won't miss it), and pasted it as a layer on top of the bookcover's mountain scene. Then I faded it a little, feathered the edges to get rid of some of the sharpness, faded his feet even more so they looked a little misty...
Because of the high contrast of the original image, the black shadows around the dragon's legs looked weird when lightened, so I had to "fill in" some of the original scaly skin color.
Anyway, it's all good fun. If I had my druthers, I'd commission a painter to do exactly what I want on all three covers. Funny enough, I met someone just the other day who would do a brilliant job with this – a real live graphic comic book artist by the name of James Lyle (www.jameslyle.net). In my pipe dreams, I would hire James to paint the covers and provide internal black and white illustrations as well. Oh, if only...
I don't like the new cover yet... but perhaps it will grow on me. :-)
Hmm, I wonder if less is more? What about this one.
All you need to do now is to change the title to Jurassic Park and you're spot on, Keith!
I think the general consensus (by all comments received here and elsewhere) is to go with a smaller dragon, so I've updated all the pictures. Thanks for the feedback!
I honestly don't like the dragon at all.
Just out of interest, how old are you, Jaime? Roughly, I mean. I mean, are you in the 9-12 age group, or older? The dragon-less cover seems to appeal more to adults.
It looks to me as though the dragon is a CGI added as an afterthought. Think I'm with Ming on this one. Oh, by the way, I'm 59!
I like the cover without the dragon as it looks more mysterious to me. Having said that, I think what puts me off the dragon is that it looks somewhat plasticky, like one of those little toys that used to come free inside boxes of cereal. Sadly, I'm considerably older than 9-12!
I'm in the adult age group and I don't like the flying dragon in the picture either. It looks a bit stuck on and fake to me (yes I know it's not real). A dragon perched on an outcrop might be a better angle?
Okay, so although the smaller dragon is better than the bigger one I had before, it's still too plasticky-looking? Fair enough. I like the "perched on an outcrop" suggestion, Su, but I'm limited to the dragon pictures I can use (ie, I really only have that one). There are plenty of dragon pictures online, but I can't just take any that I like, so am limited to ones I can buy. So I might have to go back to a dragon-less cover, or change the cover completely.
Thanks very much for your answers! :-)
Offering something a bit more useful than my flippant remark earlier, I prefer it without the dragon as well, though I don't really fit into the intended readership age range!
I think that the cover without the dragon looks good. But for the younger readers you can add something like the Jurassic park movie logo - a skeleton or just the head of the dragon along with the title of the book. Maybe the dragon head can be transclucent. The dragon in the cover above looks like plastic and doesn't look good.
When I showed my students the cover, they oohed and ahhed it. The dragon grabbed their eye more than a nice landscape shot. Yes, it looks a little tacked on, but my 5th graders loved seeing a character on the cover. I like it sans the dragon, but see the younger audience leaning towards the dragon.
Excited to hold the physical book in my hand.
Ran into a family at the library who switched schools. Their oldest loves the Pendragon series, and I steered them to your books. The mom and her son, always on the prowl for a new series to latch onto, sounded very excited by it. Hopefully, they'll check out your site.
When you say you might have to change the cover completely, you don't mean ... *pause for effect* ... change the cover completely? The current landscape shot looks just great, colour scheme and everything. If you drop the dragon, I think we can all live with that, but leave the rest as is! Unless you come up with something positively outstanding and genius-like, which is not beyond the realms of possibility.
So the dragon looks a little plasticky ... but I suppose you could argue it's no worse than the dragon on the cover of Labyrinth of Fire (that's not a criticism by the way!)
Spare a thought for all those novels whose covers have embossed elements - a monster here, a winged giraffe there. I often wonder how those embossed sections would compare to a straightforward painting, and whether that '3D' effect is supposed to add to the realism but ends up detracting from it. All in the name of catching the wandering eye...
But I think this new dragon looks better, and makes my other, smaller dragon look daft (or, as a few have said on the other website, like a bug has been swatted on the book cover!).
The only snag with this one is that it's not a high resolution dragon, so I'm going to have to see how it comes out printed. Or find a bigger one. I know where the image comes from and will try to get a bigger version. But for now, how does this look? I had to alter the contrast of the backdrop to better match the dragon, and I probably need to do some other bits of jiggery-pokery, but... am I getting there?
A much better dragon, but a problem here is the light source. Looking at the rocks behind, the sun is most likely high to the left. The shadows on the dragon unfortunately don't match this.
The tip of the tail against the rocky outcrop behind looks more of an 'overlay' than the rest of the dragon too. BUT, I do think it's a better idea...!
Yeah, I can easily mirror him so he faces the other way. :-) But first, I'm trying to get a better image, and hopefully one without so much contrasting shadow.
I've identified my labyrinth dragon, and the ones above, as the Millennium Dragon, which is part of Daz 3D Studio. They produce models, and then artists use the Daz studio to manipulate the models and create scenes. So, rather than try to use a final scene image like this one, I want to use the 3D studio itself and pose the dragon model how I want him (as above) with the correct lighting, etc. Then I can export the final image.
Darren, this 3D studio is FREE! They make money selling the models themselves. You can download and install the studio on either a Mac or Windows (but not Windows on your Mac as VMWare doesn't bridge the required video driver) and then you can buy the models. You can try "buying" free models first; they show up in your online account and you can download either Mac or Windows versions, which is great. I see a big future in book covers, creating scenes from the books, etc.... :-)