The Aeithar Series - Cover Art

With any project I undertake, I am just a little bit of an OCD control freak, and when it comes to The Aeithar Series I am even more so...

Obviously I wrote the book content, but I also designed the maps, did all the page layouts for the print versions, and did the page layouts for and created the eBook versions.

So it should come as no surprise that I designed the covers too, despite my graphics skills being sub-par at best!

However, in all aspects I also sought the opinions of others, gathering feedback on what they liked and didn't like, and considering all suggestions I got. Several of the key parts of The Internal Wars came from suggestions of others. Getting as much feedback as possible makes for a better book!

So I'm hoping to do the same with the cover art. I've already had some feedback and suggestions, but I could really use a lot more!

One of the key things to remember about The Aeithar Series is that it is a series, or rather three intertwined series, and so the covers need to reflect that. They need to have an overall theme they adhere to, and a uniform look. Ideally there should be something about them that also indicates the progression from book to book.

But before I get to the covers themselves, I need to discuss something that is just as important, and in fact a key factor in the cover design: the Series Icon!

What is the series icon?

Well, this is...

That is my attempt at creating art, and now you know exactly why I need you!

If the icon is too dark or too bright, use the and buttons next to it to change the gamma. For an animated explanation of the Series Icon, click the button.

Mouse over any of the individual icons for the book name.

If the animation doesn't work properly on your browser, please let me know how it went wrong (eg it was misaligned) and which browser you tried it on (eg Firefox 20.0.1). They all do things slightly differently, and I've finally got it working on all the browsers I've tried, but it's bound to still not work on others. So much for standardisation!

The Icon is an important concept for the artwork. It contains several elements:-

The Cenotaph.

The stone-like pillar behind the central set of icons is the Cenotaph, a monument to the fallen. The spiral ring around it links each story chronologically, and represents the cyclic nature of their history. They go to war, the winners expand into a new area, tensions rise, and they go to war again.

The Colours.

Each series has its own colour, gold for History, deep sky blue for Expansion and crimson for Zeal.

The Icons.

Each book in the series has its own icon.

For the History series, they represent a weapon from that period: I've used a sword for the iron age, a crossbow for middle ages, a gun for contempory, a futuristic gun for the early future, a DNA helix for the middle future, and a religious text for the far future.

For the Expansion series, they represent the boundary they overcome: the mountains, the sea, space, genetics, and the dimensional divide.

For the Zeal series, they represent the driving force behind the upcoming war: jingoism, resources, revolution, divided opinion, and religion.

The religion features in all of the books in the second (upper) half of the series, which is why the book symbol appears in several of them.

The icons are ordered from the bottom (first books, earliest time periods) to the top (final books, latest time periods).

The Series Icon appears on the back cover of the book as well as the website.

The Aeithar Series - The Book Covers

Ok, with the basics out of the way, onto the book covers themselves...

I covered the icon first for one simple reason: I'd ideally like each book icon to be prominant on the cover of its respective book.

My initial design simply featured the icon itself:-

I have to say I'm actually quite fond of these covers. I like the simplicity of them, and they're quite eye-catching in my opinion.

However, they might be a little too plain, plus there's no clear flow from one to the next, so my second main design featured the starting map from each book:-

I haven't actually done the official map for the third book yet, so the above is purely a thrown-together example, and doesn't show up very well as I've yet to add detail to it.

Including the map not only relieves the plainness, it also adds two significant elements to the covers:-

1) It shows the area they're fighting over, which is the core of the story.

2) It shows the progression from book to book. The area of the first map can clearly be seen in the lower right of the second map, which can in turn be seen in the lower right of the third.

Inside the books, the second and third maps actually have waves on them, to show the sea, which looks great for them but I'm not sure I like it on the covers. Still, the whole point is to find out what others think, and so here are the covers again only with the waves on the maps:-

Part of me likes the waves, part of me doesn't, but overall I think I prefer without.

Just to show the colour schemes at work, here are two each from the other series...

Sadly, I chose those four, and the three from the History series shown above, because they're the only ones that aren't completely terrible.

All the others can be seen by clicking the relevant book icon on the main site, if you're feeling masochistic...

The Problems I Need Help With

First and foremost, I'd like as many opinions as possible on the three variants of the three History books' cover art. Which you like, which you dislike, reasons on both counts would be very handy! If they were the only options, which you'd go for and why.

Secondly, I really need ideas for an improved Series Icon and improved covers!

As I mentioned, I do really like those first three History covers, to me at least they look really good and feel very effective. However, most of the other icons are pretty poor, and the other covers even worse!

So, what might I use instead as icons for any of the rest?

Another problem that's been nagging at me since I did the covers with the maps is how I'd follow that up for the Expansion and Zeal series? Theoretically I could keep to the same idea, have the icon for that book over the relevent map, but I have to say my first attempts didn't look great... Perhaps with better icon ideas they would though!

Any thoughts you might have for cover art would be most appreciated!

To save you having to go back to the main page, here's a brief bit of info about each book:-

The Internal Wars: Iron Age setting, only basic tools and weapons, the discovery of magic and the beginning of warfare.

The International Wars: Medieval setting, appropriate tools and weapons, magic and warfare are well established.

The Intercontinental Wars: Modern setting, contemporary tools and weapons, magic is slowly being rationalised into science.

The Interplanetary Wars: Near-future setting, early science fiction tools and weapons, magic is a science now, and the new religion Erudition is based around it.

The Interspecies Wars: Mid-future setting, advanced science fiction tools and weapons, Erudition is a major factor.

The Interdimensional Wars: Far-future, high-concept tools and weapons, Erudition is the main controlling force in Aeithar lives.

Across The Mountains: The Aeithar escape their initial mountain-locked confines, and have a whole new continent to explore.

Across The Sea: The Aeithar manage to overcone the treacherous seas, and have the rest of the world to explore.

Across The Horizon: The Aeithar leave their world, and begin colonising their solar system.

Across The Genus: The Aeithar leave their solar system, and encounter alien races.

Across The Divide: The Aeithar breach the Dimensional Divide, and encounter a new reality where the old rules no longer apply.

For The Glory: Rebuilding an army, especially one so decimated, takes time. Time that needs to be bought, by confronting your enemy with diplomacy instead of swords.

For The World: Industry requires resources. Resources on a grand scale. While heads of state wade through trade negotiations, others have more direct means of ensuring their supplies.

For The Cause: First came the idea. Then the whispering, the meetings, the book. Planet by planet, Erudition is spreading. And the less the people have, the stronger it takes hold.

For The Answers: That aliens are different is not the issue. The real problem is that they aren't different enough. The very definition of who is Aeithar is becoming blurred.

For The Gods: Can Purity be measured by degrees, or is it an absolute? Can higher understanding succeed where base language has failed? Can Erudition bridge the gap with the Divide?

Other Cover Concepts I Tried

While brainstorming cover art ideas, I tried several other things, some my ideas, some at the suggestion of you helpful folks.

Some I managed to do a poor concept art of, others I didn't even know where to begin. For example, it was suggested that the cover to the first book, The Internal Wars, could feature a battle, with the frontmost character holding a sword outlined in gold. I liked the idea, but never even got close to a workable example!

One suggestion I did get somewhere with was having an outline of some figures behind the icon, which I tried with the map full size and smaller.

Another idea I was keen on was integrating the icon into the picture.

I know, I know, the arm looks really wierd holding the sword like that, but as it was just a quick concept art I didn't want to go to all the trouble of re-drawing the sword at a different angle, so just shrunk it and connected the arm to it. As a bit of trivia for you, that is in fact MY arm and hand! I was having trouble getting it right, so I took a photo of me holding the pole of the vacuum cleaner and traced it.

Another thought was superimposing the icon and text over a picture. This is just some random picture I grabbed off the Internet after ten seconds searching to make an example with, I know it doesn't work at all, but with a proper picture it might...

Using the icon doesn't necessarily mean having it look like an icon. Here's the Across The Horizon cover done with the picture I traced the back half of my example above from...

That's actually really nice, but obviously I couldn't use it as it's someone else's picture that I just turned into a drawing, it's just here as an example of possible ideas.

So, what ideas do YOU have?

Thanks a lot for taking the time to read this page, and sorry for subjecting you to my 'art'!

If you'd like to offer any feedback or helpful suggestions, either email me if you have my address, or use the form below.

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So, what exactly does this represent?

Well, this is my attempt to explain the entire concept of all three series in a single image. Not an easy prospect!

The central column represents a cenotaph. That is, a monument on which the names of those fallen in war are recorded.

This is because War is the central theme of the History series.

The icons on the central column represent the chief weapon of the war of that era. The timeline starts at the bottom with primitive weapons, and works upwards.

Click the icon to continue.

So, what exactly does this represent?

Well, this is my attempt to explain the entire concept of all three series in a single image. Not an easy prospect!

The central column represents a cenotaph. That is, a monument on which the names of those fallen in war are recorded.

This is because War is the central theme of the History series.

The icons on the central column represent the chief weapon of the war of that era. The timeline starts at the bottom with primitive weapons, and works upwards.

Likewise, the Expansion series timeline starts at the bottom, and works upwards.

As does the Zeal series.

Finally, the spiral thing...

The History series forms the centre of the whole Aeithar series...

Each book in the Expansion series follows on where the previous History book left off...

And each book in the Zeal series leads into the next History book...

Thus if you were to arrange all the books in chronological order, the Expansion and Zeal series spiral around the central core of the History series.

The image as a whole represents the fact that The History of the Aeithar is cyclic.

They regularly have wholescale wars.
Each war is followed by expansion.
Then the zeal builds back up.
This leads to another war.

And so The Aeithar Series forms a spiral through time.

Hope that
clears it up! 8-)