Developing a Cover for Print - Develop a Concept

Someone recently asked me how my cover artist and I, Walt Barna, developed the characters that are on my cover for Brother, Betrayed

I explained that I sent Walt descriptions of each of the characters with pictures I found on-line that were close to each brother. This is what this correspondence looked like:

First Correspondence:

"Here's the details: 
    Three riders riding/galloping forward through a forest they are unfamiliar with - conifer or leafy forest - not detailed in this part of the book. Nothing outlandish. 
    The setting is an ancient kingdom, predating known history, but they show a cultural mix of medieval and arabian clothing. Be creative! I was not to specific on their dress. They carry swords and are wearing riding cloaks. Actually considered having them having their cloaks on their heads and shadows covering their faces to add to the dark and foreboding mood (my book is a tragedy, the title is Brother, Betrayed). 
    The eldest riding in the middle, is kingly, blonde and a little stern (19) and he rides a war horse (never described the color in the book - maybe white?). 
    The middle brother (18-17)  is charming, strong and dashing. He has long curly black hair (I don't care if it is drawn back) and rides a wild black stallion. 
    The youngest (16) has shorter black hair, is curious and likes books, but I really don't want him to be a dweeb- he is my protagonist - maybe also describe him as pensive and deep. 
    The weather is early spring and chilly so they are clothed semi-thickly. Their cloth is plain but their arrogance betrays their true nature.
Like I said, their culture is unique. Be creative. :-)"

Concepts for the horses:

"I want the three horses galloping towards the foreground. Syah's horse is a brown mare, Oman's horse is a large war horse. Fasime's horse is a wild black stallion."

Concepts for the brothers:

     "Syah has dark, short hair and dark eyes. He is shortest, but still around 5’6”. He has a thin-to-medium build, but compared to his brothers he is small. He carries a one-handed sword. He also keeps his journal and maps. He is 15-16 at the time of their journey. He rides a calm, strong mare, red/brown in color.

     Fasime has dark, longer curly hair. He has amber eyes. He is medium build, he hunts with a bow and tames horses. He also carries a two handed sword. He is charming and high-spirited. He is 17-18. He rides a black, wild stallion “black like crow’s feathers” named Lightning.

     Oman is the eldest and is kingly. He is slightly more muscular than Fasime but they are close in height. He has lighter brown hair and brown eyes. He is 19. He rides a warhorse, I didn’t specify the color."

Concepts for the setting, mood, and clothing:
"Really like how there is an eerie glow of light from back in the forest."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The cover depicts a scene early in the book when they are exploring their kingdom. Here is the scene where they change out of their royal clothing in order to sneak out of the capital city as commoners:

     The youngest nodded. “It’s time,” he said, reaching for the fastening of his riding coat. His brothers did the same. Luxurious dyed cloth was replaced by plain, worn clothing. The brothers gazed at themselves, and at each other, observing the transformation that had overcome them with such a simple change as their clothing. Privileged, deserving, and protected became common, unnoticeable, and valueless. But this transformation pleased them. They packed the fine cloth tightly into one of their sacks, then stood staring at it.

     “We leave all titles behind us from his point onward,” the eldest declared. He took the dark cloak Fasime handed him and tied it around his shoulders. They mounted, pulling hoods over their heads, completing the disguise. Oman started his horse down the alley and the others followed. As they turned into another street, they all held their breath, anticipating their journey might come to an abrupt halt when someone recognized them. But as they passed the workers and merchants, they smiled, realizing no one bowed or curtsied to them, no one noticed them except to move out of the way of their horses. 

 Early Sketches:
"I love it! Just one major change: Fasime's horse on the left needs to be more wild. Here is some more information on him: The stallion's name is Lightning. The king's horse mated with a wild mare. She was captured, but after the colt was born she was killed during a storm. The colt escaped and wandered the forests for three years. The opening scene to my book is after Fasime tracks and captures the stallion, he tames him. He is not as large as Oman's horse (whose was PERFECT by the way) but not too crazy/scary looking."

 Early Drawings:

Here is a scene when they are traveling the woods, Syah has the charge of keeping watch. They often tease Syah, but protect him as well.

     Oman nodded. “Fasime, we had better start our slumber. It will be a long day tomorrow. Syah, wake me soon; I will be the one coming to my senses in the middle of the night. And… wake me if you…”

     “If I hear anything, if I see anything suspicious, or smell something odd that could be likened to ogre’s toenails, yes, yes, I know.” Syah mimicked Oman’s tone. “Now get some sleep,” the youngest said.

     “Hear anything?” Oman started the teasing again.

     “Just go!” Syah commanded. They laid on blankets near the fire. “Good night,” Syah whispered. The forest forgotten around him, Syah watched over the low, hot fire as his brothers’ eyes slowly closed. Dusk darkened to deep night beyond the fire. Then he was sure they slept, seeing their chests slowly rise and fall, and their bodies eased and still on their blankets.

     The burden of keeping the watch was heavy upon the young prince. His sleeping brothers put their trust in him for their very lives. But did they know?

     He would give anything, everything to protect them.

Early Covers:

 Changed the colors to more cooler tones. Added font for ebook cover.

 Completed Cover with Fonts:

 A special thanks to Walt Barna for bringing my characters to life. Here's a picture of him holding his copy of Brother Betrayed:
Find out more about Walt Barna on his page: link

Walt will also be doing the cover to my next book, Flight Moon. Here's a hint at the next concept: it has a dragon on it :)


  1. Very cook blog. I like seeing all the pictures.

  2. The cover works really well for the story and the fantasy genre of the book. He's a great artist and it's fascinating to see how the process works.
    PS really enjoying the book--on Chapter 9 :)

  3. Thanks Joan! It's interesting to look back and see how it progressed.

    Ross - thanks! The process was very enjoyable. I'm so glad you're liking it. It always makes me nervous when a doctor reads my writing... like they'd figure out something deeply wrong with me - lol.

  4. I love reading about the process behind your cover!

  5. This was a truly fascinating blog! Thank you so much for taking the time to share all of the details with us. Walt IS an amazing artist!