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6th Annual Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: Cover Contest

Blue Book by NeONBRAND (covers detail)

“I may not know much about art, but I know what I like.”

That is the punchline of a Monty Python sketch in which the Pope and Michelangelo argue over the merits of Mike’s version of The Last Supper, a painting that contains 28 disciples, a kangaroo, and Jell-O for dessert. The line has always hung around in my head because it perfectly captures my own feelings about art (I’m an utter dilettante) as well as the subjectivity of everyone’s reactions to it.

When it comes to cover art, some designs cast a perfect spell that make the reader snatch the book up and flip it open. In this age of electronic book browsing, covers have to work on two levels: they must be eye-catching as thumbnails and as full size—an extra challenge for the cover artist, to be sure. Yet whose eye will be caught ultimately depends on the reader, not the artist. Art is subjective, after all.

Today marks the start of the sixth annual SPFBO, and we’re kicking it off by announcing our nominees for the cover contest. Each member of the Fantasy-Faction team chose their five favorite covers and scored them one through ten. Our spreadsheet magicians then got together and factored the number of scores each cover received into a weighted average that translated into the book’s ranking so that the final tally included not only which book got the highest score, but which got the most votes. Thus, we quantified our qualitative, subjective reactions. Here we reveal our top three covers (who will advance to the overall cover contest) plus three runners-up. Every book in this group had a score of 7.5 or higher, and all received 3 or more votes.

The Runners-up

6. Dragonvein by Brian D. Anderson

  • Raw average: 7.67
  • Number of votes: 3
  • Weighted average: 2.56
Dragonvein (cover)

We thought the dragon on this cover was really cool, and the way the light shines on the man approaching the beast perfectly draws the eye. Likewise, the spark of light highlighting the title is a nice touch. The spooky jungle background is intriguing and hints this might be a different sort of dragon tale.

5. Dragonseer by Chris Behrsin

  • Raw average: 8.17
  • No. of votes: 3
  • Weighted average: 2.72
Dragonseer (cover)

Several judges thought this cover was “nearly perfect,” and it received the second highest score overall. The gears, flintlock guns, and goggles promise a “rip-roaring steampunk adventure” so well that the subtitle is almost redundant (unless it’s a clever nod to the lengthy, top-line plot summaries of 19th-Century book titles).

4. The Clay Queen by Ono Ekeh

  • Raw average: 7.50
  • No. of votes: 4
  • Weighted average: 3.33
The Clay Queen (cover)

When you look at this cover full-size, its gorgeous details shine through, from the sparkles in the presumed queen’s curls to the etched symbols below the title. The play of light and shadow on the woman’s face hint at a story filled with mystery, intrigue, and beauty.

Our Cover Contest Selections

The Bronze

3. Blood Under Water by T. A. Frost

  • Raw average: 7.75
  • No. of votes: 4
  • Weighted average: 3.44
Blood Under Water (cover)

A cloaked figure stands aboard a gondola on a murky canal that, judging from the title, likely has a corpse or two lurking in its depths. With a mysterious emerald tower looming in the distance, this cover promises cloak and dagger action along city streets rife with magic and intrigue.

The Silver

2. The Madness of Hallen by Russell Meek

  • Raw average: 8.38
  • No. of votes: 4
  • Weighted average: 3.72
The Madness of Hallen (cover)

The fierce, bright beauty of our highest scoring cover captured the votes of half our judges. The storm brewing over that mountain sets an ominous tone that makes one fear for the young woman staring into the frozen wastes. The image succeeds in making you mad to find out what she’s looking at.

The Gold

1. Immortals by Joshua Smith

  • Raw average: 7.66
  • No. of votes: 5
  • Weighted average: 4.22
Immortals (cover)

The cover that garnered the most votes beautifully captures the spirit of epic fantasy. The light shining through a canyon promises a quest that will test the mettle of the band of adventurers in the foreground. The scale of the people relative to the city and landscape suggests our heroes will meet many a daunting foe.

– – –

And that wraps up our sixth year of choosing our favorite covers from our SPFBO batch. We send our winners forth to the next round with high hopes the other judges will love them as much as we did.

Title image by NeONBRAND.

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