Shroud of Eternity: Of authors and illustrators

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Shroud of Eternity by Terry GoodkindDid you hear the one about judging a book by its cover?

Over the weekend, fantasy author Terry Goodkind unloaded his frustrations over the cover art for his newest novel, Shroud of Eternity. It seems he wasn’t consulted on the artwork used for the book jacket — which is commonplace in publishing, but more on that in a bit …

SHROUD OF ETERNITY is a great book with a very bad cover. Laughably bad. So let’s have some fun with it. Tell us what you think of the cover in my next post (the poll above) and we’ll pick ten random entries to win a signed copy of the hardcover. We’ll pick the ten winners on March 1st. Everyone’s welcome to play. Just cast your vote and post a comment.

The illustrator, Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme — who’s done work for Wizards of the Coast that can be seen in Magic: The Gathering as well as illustrating books by Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick and Chuck Palahniuk — chimed in, calling the Goodkind for his not-so-kind behavior:

It was nice working with you Terry. What you are doing is totally disrespectful. As if I didn’t create those covers accorded to exactly what I was told to do.
In my entire career I have never seen an author behaving like that.

And Goodkind pushed back.

Bastien, we never worked together. I’ve never met nor have I ever even spoken with you. We’ve never exchanged a message before today. And I never told you what to create for this cover. All of that was between you and the publisher. I think there’s been enough pot-stirring for one day.

While the social media tiff’s origin seems frivolous, and Goodkind’s brand management skills could use some restraint, the whole Shroud of Eternity affair has exposed a longstanding rift between creatives that deserves to be discussed in the open.

It may be common practice to separate the content from its presentation and, therefore, marketing — but should the author’s vision be discarded solely on the basis of business considerations? I know that if I was coming out with a novel, I’d want it to sell — but I’d also want a say in what it looked like. Maybe I’ve held a mental image of this creation’s crude physical form for some time. Doesn’t that deserve to be considered?

Goodkind later made an effort to, if not apologize, at least acknowledge his insult was insulting, and admit that the illustrator’s work has merit and that his own problem is really with the publisher:

“I’m reading some of the comments being shared and I want to clarify a few things. The contest and poll below, is poking fun at my own book. The artist is obviously an exceptionally talented creative. The problem is with the publisher. I created the poll as a way to poke fun at the cover art, because it is a poor representation of characters within the book. Characters I am deeply passionate about. It’s impossible not to be emotional about such things, when I’ve spent the last 30 years of my life devoted to their every nuance.”

Is it enough? Only the artist can say. His statement is that he’s moving on:

“This person attacked me, and I said my part. I remained correct all the way in front of this despicable behavior.

“The rest of the story will unfold privately, between adults, as it should have been the case from the start.”

As for the author’s original issue, his manner of airing grievances leaves a lot to be desired — but his core complaint, easily lost amid the furor, is one that matters. Science fiction and fantasy novels like Shroud of Eternity are more than their covers, but those covers are also more than mere marketing. Everyone, from readers to authors, artists and publishers, would benefit from a more professional, symbiotic relationship that recognized this, and treated it as more than drugstore dressing.

Maybe that’s just a fantasy.

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