Sunday, February 12, 2012

Covering Crown

Most of you know by now that the Riyria Revelations was not originally published by Orbit. The series actually faced a very long road taking turns being self-published, small independent published, self-published again, and finally traditionally published through Orbit. These changes can perhaps be best followed by the changing covers of the first book of the series—The Crown Conspiracy.

Initially I never intended to publish the books for money. Before ebook readers were invented, when Amazon had only recently started turning a profit, I had decided to just post my books online for free download. I never sent them to a publisher, never sent a query to an agent. I had given up on that waste of time. I was going to write and put them on the Internet, feeling this was better than in a drawer.

I built a website and created this cover for the first book, which at that time I called Heirs to the Throne.

In all the time I had it on the Internet, I doubt a single person ever read it.

Then my wife found me an agent and I took the site down. My agent wasn’t thrilled with the title. Turned out no one was. I pondered the options for days until I settled on The Crown Conspiracy, that everyone agreed was much better.

When my agent was unable to get any traction, and eventually quit the industry for personal reasons, Robin and I set in motion plans to self-publish. This was still before the ebook evolution and we were saving up for the printing and warehousing costs. In the meantime I created this new cover that played off the new title. 

My daughter hated it  having a bias against computer generated art. Turns out she had a point, but the point became moot when before we could implement our plans for self-published world domination, I was offered a contract by AMI a small, independent publisher.

They inquired about what I would like to see on the cover. To give them an idea I pulled some images off the net, most by Alan Lee and sent them this concept art: (you'll notice that Nyphron Rising was at that time entitled Legends and Lore.)

They liked the look and feel and hired their own artist who returned with this sketch. 

I became concerned. The castle was too imposing, more like Dracula’s, the river looked like Harry Potter’s scar, and there was an aqueduct where the Winds Monastery should be. I also couldn’t figure out where they planned to put the title. With Robin’s encouragement I did a cover painting of my own and sent them this:

Which in their wisdom they changed to this:

After financial problems caused AMI to return the rights to me, I then had no choice but to self-published, but this was the Spring of 2008. 

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Amazon released the first generation Kindles on November 19th 2007, but after selling out in five and a half hours, the devices remained out of stock for five months. Kindles became available in April 2008, the same time Ridan began selling the Riyria Revelations.

Then in 2011 I signed a contract with Orbit Books, changed the title, and work on the covers began all over again. This was the first cover idea I saw back in February of last year. A far cry from the simple, subtle landscapes that I created. 

Eventually this was paired down to the more shelf/series brand friendly:

And this is where we are today except that Royce and Hadrian have escaped and gone international.  Orbit’s UK arm produced this cover using Orbit’s original art.

But I have presently signed foreign language rights contracts or have deals pending with: The Czech Republic, Russia, Poland, Spain, France, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Denmark, and most recently, Bulgaria.  The first of these covers have been appearing as the books are finally being released overseas.





Funny how many different ways a single book can be packaged.


  1. There's a lot to like here, and if you recall I held out for the 6th book with the Sullivan cover so I have the complete set. That said, I really like the cover on the French version, last image you show. Nice!

  2. Another great French cover - they really need to start poaching some of their artists in the UK and US...

  3. It's fascinating to see the evolution of these covers, and how far they've come. While I actually quite like the second one you created (which your daughter hated), it certainly doesn't have the "shelf appeal" of the final covers.

  4. I'm new to the series, finished The Crown Conspiracy this morning on the way to work. It's quite fun, light and easy with a fair bit of swashbuckling to keep the pages turning. It is interesting seeing the evolution of the covers. I kind of like the newest one, with the picture of Hadrian solo. He tends to be the character that gets the most time front and centre in the 1st book anyway, so it makes sense that he's the one the cover focuses on. I hope to continue to enjoy the series as I make my way through it.

  5. Another like for the French cover. Thanks for sharing these. It's fun to see different covers for the same book.

  6. The Spanish cover looks really out of place, but I love the 80s feel of the French cover.

    Late convert to the series, but thoroughly enjoying it so far. :)

  7. This was a fascinating read. It's nice to take a peek into the inner workings of the publishing world. I have often wondered about my own book covers and how much freedom publishers would offer me in creating it. Thanks!

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