Thus Spake The Creator

Guide Art and Cover Art

Q: What is your opinion of the cover art? 
A: I know that the covers are a hot topic for discussion, pro and con. I'd like to point out that I have had no end of letters saying that the reason they first picked up one of the books was the cover. 

Q: Robert, we're getting questions about cover art. Do you get to choose the artist? The theme? 
A: I choose the them... the theme, that is, and I give the cover art a general idea of the scene that I want. But then it's worked between him and the art department in NY. I do have some input and I have managed to get a few things changed to some degree. Rand, for instance, in the earlier books, was shown as no more than 5-10 or 5-11, and he is about 6-5, in my eyes.

Q: Speaking of illustrations, do you feel the cover illustrations to your books accurately reflex your characters and settings?
A: Probably as well as they could d without me doing the drawings. There is no way that someone else can do an illustration that gives exactly the image that is in my head: given the limits on how much description I can give Daryl Sweet when he's doing his cover paintings, he's doing a good job. The only way to do it better is do it myself, and I have no skill there! 

Q: I am in two online guilds based on the World of Time series, but I heard you have officially approved one; I have also heard you approved no guilds. Which guild, if any did you approve? (And why did you let Darrel Sweet do your book covers? The Armylin wants to know.)
A: I have approved several fan clubs who wrote to me and asked me to endorse them. I don't approve anybody exclusively. As far as Darrel goes, he was selected by the publisher.

Q: Hi, Mr. Jordan! I love your books! I have both the hardcover and paperback editions of all the Wheel of Time books. Can you please tell us why the cover to the paperback edition of A CROWN OF SWORDS is different from the hardcover? Thanks! 
A: I'm afraid that was purely a marketing decision. Tor Books felt that there were stores and outlets that would not accept a fantasy cover. And they seemed to have been right.

Q: Do you feel that the cover for THE PATH OF DAGGERS is accurate or inaccurate of the things inside, considering some of the past work? 
A: I think it's much more accurate than most of the previous covers.

With regard to the covers, both my editor and I have fought long and hard to get them to be the way they should be. And obviously with a high futility quotient. Countless descriptions of Trollocs, pointing out that Rand is approximately 6'5"--'6" tall, descriptions of the swords, of Perrin's axe, etc. The "dwarf Moiraine on a pony" problem was only the first, along with Lan being in armour and the Robin Hood clothes. I do not assign blame. On those occasions when either my editor or I have been able to speak directly to Darryl Sweet, the problems in sketches have been solved handily for the most part. (You did not realise that there were discrepancies in the sketches which never made it onto the covers, did you?) Sometimes you just give up after awhile; with Rand's height, for instance. After five books showing him as maybe 6' tall, I've simply bagged trying for the extra 6". As for the changing hair colours, I fear you must look to the printing process for that blame. When we see the cover painting, all colours are as we wish them to be, but then we must hope that the colours are reproduced with some degree of faithfulness on the actual covers. The expense of printing covers and/or dust jackets is such that no publisher is going to throw away a set and reprint simply because the characters' hair has changed colour.

Q: Do the portrayals of the people on the covers, match what you think they look like?
A: Yes and no. It's very hard to get an artist to portray someone just as you see them. If I were an artist, perhaps the covers would show the people EXACTLY as I see them. But since I'm not, we have to make do with me giving descriptions to the artist.

Oh, this was very interesting: a question about the artwork in the guide...
A: Well, the difficulty with the pictures was something that I did not discover until far too late, the artist who was hired to do the pictures... see, this was done by a packager. Someone who came to me, and done guides before, and came to me and said 'I would like to do this, and here is one I did for Marion Zimmer Bradley, and here's the one I did for Bob Silverberg, and here's the one I did for Jack Vance, and would you, you know..' I said alright, this looks good, and I called up these people and they said that things went well, but my publisher... the artist was hired to do a certain number of black and white drawings. And as soon as this guy got the package together he went to my publisher, my .. who said yeah, I'd like to publish this. And my publisher said 'No, I'd like to have color drawings, not black and white, and you want to do x number of drawings, but I would like five times as many illustrations. And that was all good, except that the artist contract... what I did not know was that the artist contract called for a flat fee. And the man who put the package together did not increase the amount of money that he was going to pay the artist. The artist was then asked to do five times as many drawings, in color, instead of in black and white for the same amount of money. His enthousiasm dwindled. [laughter] Now if I had known about this, I would have given the artist some money out of my own pocket, to get better pictures. I couldn't understand why the man who had sat in my study, and drawn such wonderful sketches just from my of-the-cup descriptions, was suddenly making drawings that seemed very... not very good. But... that was the reason.

Reports from signings

Oh he aslo made excuses for Mr Sweet?? er cover art guy. He said the publishers dont give him enough time a nd yes he did read Eye of the World before drawing the cover. He said mr sweet? is a slow ass artists but a good one.

Somehow, the topic wandered over to his Conan novels, and one of the booksellers said he had heard that the art department had serious debates as to whether the scantily-clad warrior-woman should be flung over Conan's  shoulder on the cover, or held tightly to his chest.  Jordan (dirty old man that he is) quipped that "over the shoulder" was the obvious choice, for perfectly mercenary reasons.  He then went on to say that if the cover art 
included some only partially covered buttock, that the book sold markedly better.  He also claimed that it made little difference whether it was the amazon's skin or Conan's, which got a rise out of the observers.  So I asked the obvious question: "Are you going to have a talk with Darrell Sweet about this?"  He gave a wry grin and said, "This is a different kind of series..."  But he did say that he has gotten several letters asking for Rand's butt to appear on the cover...

Someone asked how he chose the cover artist, and we got a nice long spiel with some previously unknown information.  Jordan and his wife went through bookstores picking out books based on their (if they liked it) cover art and finding out who did the cover.  It came down to two artists, Darrel K Sweet and Michael Whelan.  The deciding factor was that Whelan wants the manuscript to read for a year before he will deliver a cover, and they just couldn't wait that long.They are apparently considering a later reissue of the entire series with different covers, perhaps by Whelan, once it is complete.
Some stores simply won't carry fantasy, so all the books have been issued without cover art to expand the market. This came up in response to aCoS paperback being artless. Why we haven't seen any of these others without art, I don't know.

Sweet Criticism and General Commentary
* Rand is NOT tall enough.
* The Path of Daggers details are mostly right, at least.
* Rand has a different face on each cover.
* DKS has never done the trollocs right: "They are NOT hairy men with animal-like helmets." *

Detail problems with Sweet are due to communication difficulties; there is not much time or opportunity for input.
* Path of Daggers: "The Elvis cover."
* A Crown of Swords: "The pugilist cover."
* Lord of Chaos: "Take my room key, please!"

I was surprised by the candor of RJ's remarks regarding Sweet's covers.  At least we know he is just as  exasperated by them as we are.  If only Michael Whelan and Jordan had been able to work a deal out--man.  Talk about poster-worthy and collectible art.  

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