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  • Writer's pictureC.E. Groom

A Tale of Two Covers

Creating the art for the print and ebook editions of The Sword and the Spark

You might have noticed that the cover art for the ebook version of The Sword and the Spark is different from the print version--or maybe you didn't notice, but now that I'm pointing it out, you're thinking, "Hey, you're right! Why is that?" Well, I'm here to answer that question, and to do so, we need to go back in time to August of 2021, back to when a novice novelist was nervously awaiting edits to her very first novel while simultaneously awaiting progress on the cover art she had commissioned with an equal amount of anxiety. After all, despite the phrase, "Never judge a book by its cover," we all know that the cover creates a book's first impression, and a great cover without a good book is tragic waste of good art. Thus, it was stressful period on two fronts.

The idea of a cloaked, hooded, bearded Mace Ealdor holding a bloody sword in his right hand (with missing pinky finger) had always been the main cover image in my head, having been inspired by classic Star Wars posters featuring a menacing Darth Vader and the frequent use of a bloody sword in artwork for Macbeth; and since those two characters were my story's main influences, I wanted to pay homage to that imagery. The other two figures I wanted to show were the characters who would grow to become my tragic hero's primary antagonists, but I needed them to be small, dwarfed by the looming figure of my main character despite being a source of light in the image. The artist, an incredibly talented man by the name of Frank Fradella, delivered amazing renditions of all three figures, but he and I were both faced with a dilemma when it came to the composition of those characters on the cover. The final image needed something to clearly define the division between the protagonist and antagonists, as well the proper use of light and darkness, but what? And how?

The answer came in the form of the decision to have a wraparound cover for the print edition, which led to the idea of a constellation of stars in the shape of a sword to represent the magic system in the novel, which led to moving the two smaller characters onto the back cover on top of the starry sword, which created the perfect depiction of opposing forces: the protagonist on the front, and the antagonists on the back. Boom! Now, the print cover was perfect!

However, the ebook artwork still needed to be a single front cover, and I still wanted all three characters in that artwork. Frank then took the starry sword that was behind the two figures on the back cover and moved it with them when he put them into position in the foreground of the front cover so that it overlapped the guard of Mace's sword. It was a stroke of genius! The stars illuminated the two figures in the foreground and created the ghost of a second sword upon Mace's shoulder; once again, the opposing forces were clear, with the light of the stars between them. With two different compositions of the same three characters, the same story was being told in the cover art for both the print and electronic versions of the book, and I was a truly delighted author.

Since the book's release, both versions of the cover art have been used extensively to market the book, and the response has been more than I could have imagined. Readers do judge a book by its cover, so never underestimate the true value of a great artist and collaborator when it comes to designing that first impression. And don't be afraid to try something different, like having two covers for your debut novel. I'm so glad I did!


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