The Cover Sells the Book (or SFF Artists)

therobotsofdawnI read sci-fi and fantasy most of my childhood, mainly from three sources:

1) Reading books on friend’s recommendations

2) Browsing the bookstore and reading cover copy (back sans kids when I really had time to browse)

3) Hitting the classics (like Brave New World or Fahrenheit 451) when school required something more intellectual

And sure, I noticed covers at the bookstore, but sad as it may sound, I never gave much thought to the cover artists. My selections at the bookstores were generally based on (1) the back cover copy; or (2) whether a book was face-out or not.

otherlandSo what cover changed it all for me? This one. Otherland by Tad Williams. Now that cover made me want to own the book and run my hands over the sheer glossiness of it all.

After I devoured the book (and while I patiently waited for Tad to finish the next books), I found out more about the artist.

Michael Whelan

Turned out in addition to these beautiful Otherland covers, Mr. Whelan had been illustrating SFF covers for years, many of which I’d read and just never known. Dark Tower series. Foundation series. Space Odyssey. Gunslinger.

Here’s my thought on publishing SFF: You know you’ve made it when Michael Whelan illustrates your book’s cover.

instrospectionIn the meantime, I started taking down my average prints around the house and buying limited edition Michael Whelans. Some of my favorites include:

Passage: The Avatar
Passage: The Red Step
Shonto’s Garden

Got a favorite SFF artist? I’d LOVE to know!


PJ Hoover hopes to write a VR book as awesome as Otherland someday.

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Filed under P. J. Hoover

8 responses to “The Cover Sells the Book (or SFF Artists)

  1. Personally, I don’t like the art covers usually. I prefer the interesting photographs, such as The Forest of Hands and Teeth, A Great and Terrible Beauty, or the like. That said, the cover art for Dust of 100 Dogs was just brilliant and the best cover art I think I have ever seen.

  2. Hey Beth! I’ve heard art for MG, photo for YA. And adult SFF seems to be mostly art, also. Of course these are all generalizations, but yes, good point about D100D. This was totally a YA, but was an art cover. Actually more of a graphic design cover.

  3. Parker Peevyhouse

    That cover for Otherland is pretty cool. Interesting title too.

    Currently, my favorite cover artist is Alvaro Tapia,who does the Swedish Harry Potter covers.

  4. Splatter

    So true on the Michael Whelan thing. It is my dream to have him do a cover for me someday…

  5. CynRyn

    Michael Whelan is my #1 favorite artist of all time! I discovered him when I started reading the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey (coincidentally my #1 fav author) and I, too, now own some of his non-cover artwork prints. Included in my collection are the Snow Queen and Summer Queen:

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