In my research into book cover design, I’ve become more aware of symbolism and what readers expect from a particular genre. Romance covers are known for their couples lost in longing embrace, while science fiction covers depict vistas of other worlds and spacecraft locked in laser battles. Let’s not forget fantasy—dark woods, blazing torches, swords and sorcerers. And dragons.
This post gives examples of covers with dragons as the focal point. Each book represents a speculative fiction sub-genre: a portal/man out of time/fantasy story, a post-apocalyptic tale, and a short story collection of both fantasy and science fiction. That a dragon can be used to sell different types of books says a lot about the power of such a symbol to convey wonder and magic, or the fight of good against evil. This is an element of cover design I’ll have to spend more time researching.
I’m also keeping track of the whys of my own book-choosing habits. Is it an intriguing cover that makes me push the buy button? A well-penned blurb? Here are three “dragon” books I’ve already felt compelled to buy and why I committed to the purchase.
Dragonvein (Book One) by Brian D. Anderson
Cover: A dragon stands in a dark glen, watching a soldier approach. Sunlight partially illuminates the beast. Its wings are extended, tail in an arc, one arm raised—all suggest motion. Has it just landed, ready to fight? Or was it startled awake, frightened at the possibility of an enemy in its forest?
Summary: Ethan, a soldier in the 101st Airborne (France, 1944) “is ripped from his world and transported to a land of magic, swords, and dragons. And though the Nazis are now far, far away, danger is closer than ever” with Eternal Emperor Shinzan destroying mages and exiling dragons. For Ethan to survive, “he must reach the dwarf kingdom of Elyfoss before Shinzan can find him.”
My Take: A man in a modern(ish) uniform and his seemingly passive approach to a dragon are both in contrast to typical fantasy garb and violent confrontation. The cover intrigued me enough to read the summary and buy the book.
The Island (Fallen Earth Book 1) by Michael Stark
Cover: A dragon with its wings extended waits on a rock in the surf and appears to be watching something (outside the frame). A sunrise or sunset paints the water with gold and light, in contrast to the dragon’s red hues and dark perch.
Summary: Experts predict a global pandemic as a killer disease sweeps across the world. While humanity hoards food and hides behind barricades, William Hill heads for an island, with its promise of peace and fond memories, to live out what’s left of his life. “He didn’t plan on becoming humanity’s last hope for survival, or watching over an old woman and an eerie little boy.”
My Take: The cover, with its dragon and vibrant colors, caught my attention and hinted at conflict (and maybe evil), but not enough to buy the book on its own. The summary sparked my curiosity, and a chance to read the first two (out of six) episodes for free made me hit the buy button.
The Very Best of Tad Williams by Tad Williams
Cover: A baby dragon hovers before a much larger version of itself perched on a verdant pinnacle. The landscape appears almost primeval, while flying creatures (perhaps dragons) soar in the distance beneath a blue sky filled with gathering clouds.
Summary: “Within these pages you will find such delightful and curious things as a strange storytelling vampire, two woefully-overmatched angels, a dragon in cahoots with a knight and a witch, an ineptly duplicitous fish, the loyal robot butler of Werner Von Secondstage Booster, and the Greatest Wizard of All (disputed).”
My Take: Who can resist a baby dragon? A look at the summary makes it plain the short story collection is a mix of fantasy and science fiction, but the cover did its job and sucked me in to buy the book (and the author’s name helped sell it too!).
What do you think? Would these covers compel you to buy the books?