Edgelanders, by Jennifer Melzer
“When Princess Lorelei of Leithe overhears her fiancé’s plot to murder her on the way to their wedding, she does the only smart thing: she runs.
Into the Edgelands, the savage, woodland home of the legendary U’lfer, a race of fierce wolves who walk as men, she knows she is as good as dead, but she would rather be torn apart by werewolves than die by Trystay’s hand.
A young U’lfer warrior named Finn catches her scent on the wind and finds himself possessed by an unnatural desire to shield and protect her from that which hunts her. From the moment he first sees her, Finn knows she is his. He feels her heartbeat, knows her soul, and he will do anything, even suffer exile from the Edgelands to be with her.
But there is more to Lorelei than meets the eye. She is like Finn; there is U’lfer blood in her veins, a beast beneath her skin she never knew was there. The answers she seeks lie south, in the frozen tundra of Rimian, where a village of people just like her have been waiting for Lorelei to come and save them since before she was even born.” via Amazon.
So, I have a big pet peeve with some book covers. I refer to as this element as “pseudo-humans.” These are covers featuring 3-D rendered human beings, usually created in Poser. The program Poser was originally intended to provide artists with models to use as drawing references, but they’ve now become pervasive design elements in DIY book covers. I can’t stand them. They’re lifeless and plastic and I don’t see how a reader would feel drawn to such a cover as there’s no expression of emotion in the characters depicted. I cringe every time I see one. Yes, I understand that especially in Sci-Fi and Fantasy, it can be very difficult to find stock imagery with certain types of costumes, and doing a custom photo shoot might not be within the budget, but… Yeah, I just can’t with them. It might be my thing, but I can’t stand them.
Enter Jennifer Melzer, a writer I’ve been familiar with since my first days of podcasting. I thoroughly enjoyed her book, The Goblin Market, so I already knew going in what an incredible writer she is. This is why I was so very, very sad to see this:
That said, when I was approached to do the second book in the Serpent of Time series, my first course of action was to see if she was up for a complete series redesign, beginning with the first book. I couldn’t, in good conscience, not try to convince an author I greatly respect to fix something I really didn’t feel did her story justice. We went back and forth for a while about my pseudo-human issue, and I think the tipping point finally came when I saw her post on FB that a reader of hers compared Edgelanders to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Bingo! We have our jumping off point.
Authors so often see their work in a very small frame, and may cut themselves off at the knees by assuming only a certain niche audience will enjoy their books (I may be guilty of this myself, whoops). By comparing Edgelanders to Outlander, that wonderful reader gave me a great way to illustrate how Jennifer might not be leveraging all of the potential reach of her book. The Outlander series covers are very neutral as far as genre fiction goes, and are very widely read by both Romance readers and Fantasy readers and Historical Fiction readers… and on and on. Their covers are welcoming to all readers, which is everything an author should want in a cover. At my suggestion of this style, Jennifer relented and away I went, super excited to breathe new life into her book.
I love the result of this process, and I think it will definitely help her in reaching a new audience that might have not given it a chance before. My favorite little bit is the leaves around the horns of the stag, as the end effect gave them the look of cut paper. This was achieved with a special effect brush in Photoshop, applied in multiple layers with different shades of green and adding drop shadows and blending modes to each separate layer. The image still retains the High Fantasy quality that’s important to the story, along with the title being slightly reminiscent of the typography used on the Dungeons and Dragons books (the market she was originally aiming for). This style is also very easy to carry over to the second book, Sorrow’s Peak, which I should be able to show you soon as well.
I’m super grateful to Jennifer for trusting me with this and I hope the change does well for her!