First Look at Land of the Beautiful Dead

I got my cover in! After working with the artist all day on several designs, this is what we came up with. Constructive feedback is welcome (which means if you hate it, please tell me WHY).


46 responses to “First Look at Land of the Beautiful Dead

  1. And if we love the cover too much for words and cannot wait to put our paws on it when it’s gonna be on the shelves? I, for one, adore it.

    • Thank you! I’ll be sure to pass that on to the artist!
      Edits are continuing, greatly slowed by the fact that I dislocated my shoulder a few days ago (I rather spectacularly broke the socket of that shoulder back in ’98, so recurring injuries are both sadly common and incredibly debilitating) and trying to work under the combined handicap of an incapacitating sling and pain meds is proving hilarious. Past experience tells me I’ll be more myself in a week. I am literally on the last chapter before we begin the read-through with my betas. I am really pushing for a Halloween release (having just said that, I’m sure no one will see it until Easter).

  2. If I wasn’t already a rabid fan this would catch my attention. I like the background and intense woman. Not crazy about the drippy letters but don’t hate them. Not sure this was helpful but those are my 2 cents.
    Hope your shoulder feels better!

    • Just goes to show different tastes, lol. I made my poor artist send me dozens of different fonts before I picked that one. I kind of like the prettiness of it against the harsh overtones of the image, but I will take your 2 cents and see if it grows!

      As for my shoulder, one of the side effects of my condition is that I am very slow to heal anything (which in turn leads to recurring injuries). It’s a vicious cycle. Writing is one of the few jobs I can do at my own pace (and without getting out of bed), so thank goodness I enjoy it. I wrote all of Cottonwood in two weeks because I was too weak to do anything else. Just lay there in bed, staring at the ceiling until I had a scene solid and enough energy to roll over. I’d write as long as I could stand it, then collapse again and stare at the ceiling. After two weeks, I had enough strength to stagger out as far as the computer and type everything up. That took another two weeks. The final word count between that first draft and the final copy was less than 500 words difference.

      I can only tell that story with a sense of awe and the nagging mental whisper that I should really be at Death’s Door more often, because I get so much more DONE.

  3. I’m with Kendra on the letters. They distract the eye a bit. But otherwise I like the atmospheric look.
    Hope you feel better soon.

    • Thanks for sharing your feedback! I’ve had a lot of comments about the font, justifiably so. I had no idea they would become so illegible when the image shrank because I work with words and have no idea how reality works outside that extremely limited sphere.

  4. The intense eye shadow on Lan’s model makes me wonder about the state of post-apocalyptic makeup, but I really like the way it’s not the traditional post-apocalyptic color palette. My assumption upon looking at it would be more “underworld” than “zombies,” but I don’t think that’s a detriment.

  5. Oh man. I am a huge fan, but that is a terrible cover. I’m so sorry. The fonts are exceedingly amateur and it looks badly photoshopped together. Please don’t take it personally but as a reader, I wouldn’t know what was going on in the cover and wouldn’t buy (if I wasn’t already a huge fan)

    • You’re not hurting my feelings. I asked for feedback. Thanks for sharing yours! The font will be changed and I will make some adjustments to the layout, particularly where the top of the girl’s head got eaten by a text box.

  6. I really like the background and title font but I have to admit that I don’t usually like it when characters are depicted in detail on a cover. The writer gets to describe the characters’ appearances however they wish but there will always be some room for reader interpretation/visualization. This is usually an asset since a writer can say “this character has a kind face” and the reader will imagine their image of what that would look like (which is obviously different for everyone). Once you slap a character on the cover however, that is all a reader will see whenever they visualize that character in any scene.

    When a book is made into a movie, I am always surprised by the stark contrast between the movie characters’ appearances verses the ones I had in my head. The obvious specifics will all match up (hair color, relative height, complexion etc) but it’s almost impossible for words to convey the nuance of a person’s features so everybody fills in the blanks with what they want.

    The few times I’ve seen a movie prior to reading the corresponding book, the characters have always appeared in my head as they did in the movie and, in a weird way, I don’t think I connect with the characters as well since they are wholly external creations. When I have no visual reference on the other hand, I feel a deeper connection to the characters. I assume this is because I had at least a partial role in their creation by filling in the nuances with physical features, mannerisms, postures, and expressions that have meaning and resonate with me since I involuntarily pull them from my subconscious to flesh out a character as I get to know them.

    I know that this genre has certain criteria and tropes associated with its covers but I think Gann’s cover is a great example of how to show characters without giving them full visual depiction. That’s just my two cents and I’m no expert so feel free to completely ignore it if you disagree.

    PS I like the title font because it’s drippy like smears of viscous fluids which make me think of death/decay but it’s shimmery and white which is a complete contrast (much like the title itself… Beautiful \= Dead)

    • I agree with you one hundred percent on covers and characters, and it is certainly very true that some of the most successful books of the last decade have had very ambiguous cover designs, but they could market themselves in other ways. The reality of self-publishing is that there is so much competition out there and there is tremendous pressure to represent the genre on the cover. When I first set out, I designed my own covers (very, very badly) and they were all on the abstract side. Care and Feeding of Griffins, for example, had an egg. The Wizard in the Woods had an eerie looking cabin. The Roads of Tayrn MacTavish had a winding path in the forest. That sort of thing. When I buckled down and changed my covers to their present form, I saw the difference in my sales immediately. At one of the writers’ conventions I attended, I sat through a number of panels on what makes a good cover and when it comes to erotica/romances, you gots to put sex out there. I’m really pushing it with this one, because the girl’s eyes say less ‘Kiss me’ and more ‘I will stab you in the face’, but it’s still a female face.

      On a personal level, I think the stare coming off that girl is so intense and makes more of an impact (to me, anyway) than her physical features. And I love the font, but it does lose readability in smaller sizes, so it will have to be changed.

      Thanks for sharing your feedback!

    • I have to say I strongly agree with option79 here. And if the character must be depicted on the cover, I usually prefer it as a drawing, instead of photorealistic. For example, this model to me looks so much like Natalie Portman that I’ve already started imagining her as the main character.

      I really like your current covers of The Care and Feeding of Griffins and The Wizard in the Woods because the women are shown at just enough of an angle/in shadow, that I get to fill in some of the blanks myself.

      I understand the realities of the market you must follow though. Didn’t the original Scholomance cover show the pathway down into the mountain? I loved that, made me want to follow that path right into the school (which would have turned out terrible as I am a total lamb by nature).

      • Yeah, the original Scholomance cover was one of my favorites, too, but sales after changing covers skyrocketted. I can’t ignore that. Given a choice, I tend to prefer using body shots (like in LHoG) rather than faces, but in this particular case, I really wanted to show Lan’s character and I felt I got that best with a strong stare. She is not a “draped over some dude’s arm” kind of girl.

  7. I like the cover. My favorite thing about it is the images I see in the clouds. The old fashioned font with what appears to be claw marks through it helps make it eerie. I’m looking forward to reading your newest book. I re-read many of your other books while I’ve been waiting. I like re-reading because on a second (or third) read, I can slow down and savor the book. Sorry you hurt your shoulder. I hope it’s not too painful and you recover quickly and fully.

  8. The only piece of constructive criticism I have is that the top of the model’s head is literally chopped off right at the bottom of the word “Dead.” I don’t know if this was done to bring it in line with the font, or a play on the lore that zombies eat brains (and hence her skull is open). It just irks for some reason, but on the other hand, I didn’t notice it right away either.

    Otherwise, I really love the cover overall! The font is gorgeous, haunting and a little gothic in the way that it makes you think of dripping blood. Like Mag said, the mist and the image in it is intriguing. And I like that it doesn’t have the stereotypical zombie stumbling around in a daze in the background. Thank you for sharing, and I am so excited that a new R. Lee novel is imminent!

  9. Hi, R. Lee!

    I hope that thing about constructive feedback still stands. Underlying image is actually good, but I do have a suggestion about typography.

    When you finish your cover (get your finished cover back from artist), alwyas make smaller size and thumbnail size as well. I took the liberty of downloading and changing the size of this cover just to see if I was wrong:
    Amazon has “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought..” suggestion feature on every page (I’ll stick to books) and it usually suggests other titles by same author first and then some other genre related books. I clicked on link for Gann and there are all of your titles in suggestion feature: comparing to other covers of your books- title on this cover is blurry and unreadable in smaller size. Your name, on the other hand is clear. So, try changing font (there are some very cool drippy fonts), or using blending (different glow color?) and contrast option that will make title pop out out better with this font.
    This is just a suggestion since cover is a marketing tool and all that…

    On other hand, I am so excited about this book and I’ll buy it no matter what cover you slap on it.
    Sorry to hear about your shoulder and I’m sending positive, healing, painkiller ( 😉 ) thoughts your way.

    • It’s a very good suggestion and I’m glad you called my attention to it, because I honestly didn’t think of it. I really liked that font, but I was looking at it full-size and never thought of thumbnails. The artist and I are back to the drawing board fixing the girl’s head and looking at other fonts. Thanks again for sharing your feedback, because there is nothing worse than putting out a bad product with totally fixable problems.

  10. I love your books so much that if the cover was blank I would still purchase it. Your writing is just that addictive. However I must admit that the blurry font is not appealing to me for practical reasons; I have horrible eyes. I am one of those people who appreciate e-books because you can set the font to extra large. So the foggy letters are complicated for me. Also I am not sure if the top of the ladies head was cut off on purpose or by mistake. I dig the fog though, it reminds me of those ink blots that psychologist use to determine their patients level of crazy. Whatever cover you pick I am impatiently awaiting its arrival.

  11. Only problem I see is that the letters are so fuzzy (out of focus), when this is shrunk the title will be illegible.

    I am so happy you have another book out. Gann is one of my favorite books ever.

    • Thanks for your feedback! The font will have to be changed. Looks great in full size, but I didn’t realize how blurry it would read when it shrank down because I do not think very well on pain meds.

  12. To be honest, you could just have your name and book title on the cover and I’d still punch a heifer in the boob to buy your book. I know the real magic’s on the inside.

    That said I’m not too crazy about the font. Too drippy and bright maybe? Also the top of girl’s head is cut off.

    Sorry about your dislocated shoulder. Sounds like a rather painful injury to have.

    • Yeah, the font looks great at full size at home, but looking at it in any smaller size…ya know, like how it will look when I sell it…I think that may have to change. Thanks for your feedback!

  13. I agree about what others are saying about the font. Very blurry and hard on the eyes. And yeah, there is that top of the head issue, lol. But other than those, it gives that eerie vibe. Totally can’t wait until it’s released! So glad I stumbled upon you from a recommendation on another authors page on Facebook. You have a real gift with story telling and characters. My husband just finished Last Hour of Gann after I pressed him to read it and he thought it was an awesome book.

  14. I hope this doesn’t make you too mad but I like your books so much I am actually going to be honest and sling out a critique.

    The entire cover page looks extremely amateur. Amateurs can make cool things obviously but this is neither well done, professional, nor original. I love your books and you are a great author but you are going to lose a lot of potential money if you use that cover. That’s all there is to it. If you want to be taken seriously and introduce new readers to your work, get a different cover design. The font especially is atrocious but all of it should’t feel so discordant and “photoshop layering technique.” I don’t know what artist you are working with but they should not have either A) supported this cover or B) suggested this cover. This cover is shooting yourself in the foot and it cheapens your talent.

    • Thanks for your feedback! I’m not mad, although I can’t really say I agree with everything you say. Ultimately, I put my name on this cover design because I liked the way it looked. The artist and I are still working on ways to implement some of the suggestions we’ve received and we’re happy to consider any constructive criticism.

  15. I like the mist but not the girl or the font. The girl is too jarring, too HD compared to the mysterious ghostly image. The font reminds me of a Hammer horror movie.

    Why don’t you set up a contest for your readers to design their best cover? You could pick the one you like best and reward them with an advantance copy of the book. I bet there are tons of talented artists that would love the chance.

    Personally my favourite cover of yours is The Last Hour of Gann.

    P.$. I’m very excited LOBD is almost ready.

    • Just took another look at your cover design and I think it has grown on me. Lol. You should really just follow your own instincts.

      • Thank you for sharing your feedback, both of them, lol! I’m glad the cover has grown on you, because I really, really like that girl. It’s somewhat disheartening that all the elements I fought for the hardest are the ones being most heavily criticized, but that’s why I asked for feedback! It’s also why I write words and don’t design covers.

  16. I like it! It’s prob third best cover of your books.
    1st medal goes to The Army of Mab – kiss ass flaming chick? Check
    2nd medal goes to LHOG – cause it’s so sexy that you can use an acronym for it

    Fave part is the ambiguous looking creature in the smoke cloud background. Very creepy but stylistic at the same time. I like the girl, she looks appropriately pretty to be cover girl material. If she looked like she was half dead or grottie and disheveled , I’m not sure it would grab people’s interest that are randomly kindle browsing based on covers.

    Crossing my fingers for Halloween release. Have you ever dressed up like one of your characters? I think I’m going as Doc Brown from back to the future because this year it’s 80’s movie themed and I’m NOT wearing spandex so that really limits the you from most of the decade. Sorry tangent , BUT I chose the theme next yr and I’m going with Famous Book Characters …. Maybe I’ll sew me up a Flaming Lady costume based on your Mab cover 😉

    Take care with the shoulder! I hear getting that ultrasound stuff on that is great once it starts healing!


    • Thank you! I loved the smoke, too. I’ve always liked covers that are more abstract, but I’m in the minority. Apparently, most readers want to judge a book by its cover and most writers want to sell books, so…

      I never have dressed up like one of my own characters on Halloween, actually, although now that I think of it, that is a neat idea. Kind of unfair, as I doubt anyone would “get” it, but who knows? Talk about an ego stroke if someone actually did…

  17. I really don’t like this cover. I read hundreds of books each year and spend quite a bit of time browsing Amazon looking for new reads to fill the gaps between my favorite authors release dates. As many of you know there is a substantial amount of garbage on Amazon kindle trying to pass a books. They are absolute crap… Crappy stories… Crappy writing, plot? What plot? Serious grammar issues and editing… What editing? Anyways I’ve noticed a lot of these books have the same cover designs albeit there are slight differences such as back grounds or maybe the guys wearing a red Cape instead of blue etc etc. It feels like they all went to the same do it yourself site where u can use preselected images and design your own cover for a low bargain price. Well this cover has that same feeling… Like if I browse Amazon long enough I will find her staring at me from another cover on some turd of a book. I hate being so negative and I hope I did not offend. When I think about LOBD I keep seeing Teyha and the butterflies. That would be a beautiful cover. Even something similar to the artwork you have posted after that deleted scene on your website would be fantastic.

    • The reality is, I do have to use stock photos. I’m an indie author and I can’t afford to commission unique artwork to use as my covers. So while I appreciate what you’re saying and agree that it can be discouraging to see the same image as I’ve used on a different author’s work, what can ya do? Thanks again for your feedback, though! I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinion!

  18. I absolutely love all your writing and was so excited to see this! I love the cloud. I also love the girl, just not sure about placement. Both fonts I think you should change. The title font is too distracting and it automatically makes me think of amateur horror writing and not your intelligent in depth exploration of characters and worlds. I also think the author font needs to be changed. You deserve better than a default font. It seems amateurish also. Regardless of the cover, I’ll still pre order or buy at time of release! My favorite cover of yours is Last Hour of Gann and The Scholomance. (stunning girl)

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback! Yes, the fonts are being replaced with a title that’s actually legible and an author’s name that’s less generic. I need to listen to my cover artist more. She kept pressing for an author font that was, for lack of a better word, more enthusiastic about being me, but something in me just squirms every time I see it. I am not an extrovert in person and even less so on paper, it seems.

  19. I’m a huge fan of yours. So I promise I’m only commenting because I really want to help and the cover drove me so crazy I couldn’t resist writing something. And I’m so sorry if this is irritating and long. Really, feel free to ignore me.

    I’m sure you’ve changed the fonts and some of the pictures but I think the things that don’t work have to do with general guidelines for graphic design. They’re super simple aesthetic things.

    Usually in book covers, signage etc things follow some nominal form of hierarchy in terms of importance.

    I think in a lot of book covers it’s the title, then the author, and then the background. So your eye notices the title first, the author second, then the beautiful details of the background.(Although with certain authors it’s author first, title second etc, like Stephen King’s books.) Sometimes the hierarchy is subtle, the fonts can all be the same size but one is more dramatic or in a sharper color than the other. Or you can choose to have both title and author equal in importance in both the same font style and size.

    I feel the main problem here is that all of the parts of the cover compete with one another so nothing really stands out, which is why it looks so muddled.

    Your title and author are about the same size in font but different styles and the title is actually behind the background while the author is in front of the background even though, based on the font style, the title should be more important. You also have both super crisp modern font and images with softer more dreamy ones which makes it seem a bit schizophrenic. Graphic design is all about balance, keep as few variations as possible to make it simple and approachable for the viewer.

    A really simple way to fix this is to: move the title to the front layer and enlargen it; shrink the author font size at the bottom (I’d choose a font either a bit closer to the decadence of the title or make it much much smaller and softer); and then use photoshop to dim and soften/feather the HD brightness of the girl to give it a darker more sinuous quality and so it’ll complement the clouds in the background.

    I’d also center the title so it lines up with the font at the bottom. If you want to use a complicated font, it’s better to center it to make it easier to read. A disjointed title placement AND a complicated font make it much harder to read at a quick glance. I’d also play a little with the font of the title. Longer titles that span several lines can be fun to work with. For example you can use “Land of” and “Dead” in one size and then “Beautiful” in a much larger one. Some examples of people playing with font here:

    Okay, my 50 million annoying cents on this subject is done!!! Sorry, the TL;DR version is center the font, and keep everything consistent stylistically?

    • This is very good feedback, and I’m very glad you took the time to spell out all your suggestions so thoroughly. I can’t answer each individual point, mostly because some of them have already been changed (changed the font of the title and so forth), but I will say that I struggle with communicating my ideas for cover designs and that if the end result appears muddied or overcomplicated, it’s entirely on me and not my excellent artist. As for centering the font, when we tried that, everyone I showed it to, including me, HATED it, because it looked so unbalanced. Maybe with a shorter title, the centering would be more aesthetically pleasing, but with a long title with varied word lengths like this one, the centering was just a mess. Staggering it was the only thing we all actually agreed on looking good.

  20. I love everything about it except for the font your name is in. It’s too plain of a font for me personally. But otherwise I love it! I CAN’T WAIT TO READ THIS BOOK!!

      • So is mine! Or rather, it isn’t according to my birth certificate, but I’ve celebrated it on Halloween for so long that literally everyone who knows me, including my father and sisters, have forgotten my other birthday.

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