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YouTube Livestream 10 ()
#1 Copy

Questioner

The Bulgarian cover for Rhythm of War is the result of a contest. Despite how great Michael Whelan's covers are, would you ever consider such a contest for an American Stormlight Archive edition? If not Stormlight, maybe any other series?

Brandon Sanderson

It would be very hard for me to not have a Michael Whelan cover (you guys know me and Michael Whelan stuff) for Stormlight Archive.

For anything else, I could imagine that happening. Thing about it is that, in a market as big as the United States, it seems like it would be a tougher sell, both to the marketing market. And to an extent, it's a little bit... not "insulting," but imagine being an artist who's worked their whole life, and then we're like, "Yeah, we're gonna open this to a contest to people, instead." Just doesn't work the same way. So, I would be hard-pressed to imagine that happening in the States. There are so many fantastic illustrators earning their livings doing these covers, that asking people to submit free covers?

It works in Bulgaria because they have a very small print run. They are a small country. They do a thousand copies of a lot of the things. And they engage the fan community, and I think it's wonderful, and I think it's delightful what they did. And I was fully approving it. But it just doesn't feel like the right thing to do here. Where we have a huge budget, right? Like, that's the difference. In Bulgaria, they can't pay very much for a cover. I mean, they don't pay me very much for the books. That's okay. But here, we have an actual art budget. And that's what employs professional artists, a lot of them; that's where they earn a living.

Shadows of Self Newcastle UK signing ()
#2 Copy

Questioner

Books were published in sort of different territories and different countries, obviously there's always different covers for different regions. So America has like a certain style of cover which is very different from what we have over here. How much input do you have into, sort of, the artist, who is chosen and do you have a favorite sort of style of cover for your books?

Brandon Sanderson

Very good question. So, I don't necessarily have a--how should I say--I get to have a lot to say these days over cover artists. I could ask for a cover artist, if they're available, they'll get them for me, and things like that. Not in my early career, but now. The trick is, in the UK, we use the same cover artist for everything and this is the big difference between the UK market and the US market. The US publisher likes to change with each series to a new cover artist, to say "look, it's a new series". For the UK, they distinguish a new series by the color scheme, so you'll notice all the Mistborn books have a blue swirl, whereas all of the Way of Kings have a red, or orange-ish tinge to them and, you know, Elantris has the green and things like that. That's how they do that. They like that all of your books look the same on the shelf.

UK also likes--how can I put it--classier covers *laughter* and that leads to, in some ways, some covers that I think are fantastic and some that are just a little generic, because they try to go kind of classy, if that makes sense, and so you just end up with not much on the cover. The US covers vary a lot more. I've had my worst covers of, you know, among US covers, and I've had my best covers because the US likes to do this painting of some sort of scene represented, almost more of a movie poster for the book, so some of those get really cringe-worthy. They just get--Like my middle-grade series, the Alcatraz books, oh those covers in the US were dreadful. In the UK they were very stylish and with like some iconic picture on them, but in the US they were, oh, so bad. But The Way of Kings, the painting, the US painting's one of my favorite covers I've ever had and I actually went and bought that painting itself, but I have a soft spot for Michael Whelan, he's the artist of that. 

Oathbringer Leeds signing ()
#3 Copy

Questioner

What's the character on [the UK Oathbringer cover]?

Brandon Sanderson

That is Jasnah. I think. I am almost 100% sure.

Questioner

I wasn't sure. There's a bunch, there's a few different characters that could all fit, so I wasn't certain.

Brandon Sanderson

I sent the same description of the scene near the end with the wall to both artists and that's basically what they came up with.

YouTube Livestream 1 ()
#4 Copy

Bruno Santos

Of all your books, which cover is your favorite?

Brandon Sanderson

The cover of the original Way of Kings. Because of the meaning Michael Whelan's pictures and paintings have in my life. The fact that I got a Whelan cover, it so iconic for me and for Way of Kings.

We are doing a repackage of the Mistborn books, it's going to be hard to ever do that with Stormlight just because that first cover is so iconic and such a favorite of mine. It is interesting that both Elantris and Warbreaker's covers have become iconic as well in that there has never been conversation about changing those. But for whatever reason Mistborn, we change all the time. I doubt this is last the repackage we'll do; every few years we get new covers for Mistborn. Something about Mistborn lends itself well to us doing that. Maybe it's because we did once already by moving from hardcover to paperback, we changed the art style between the those two, maybe we are just used to it.

YouTube Livestream 16 ()
#5 Copy

Questioner

How much artistic license did Michael [Whelan] have when designing the cover [of Rhythm of War] and what your process is when working with him to get the cover vision that you're going for?

Brandon Sanderson

Our preference is to give artists a lot of leeway for personal interpretation. I, personally, believe any piece of fan-art or official art is that artist's vision of what they saw in their head when they were reading the book. And that's going to differ greatly from what someone else would see, and I like seeing those interpretations. I like seeing those visions. So we try to give quite a bit of leeway and flexibility to the artist.

For instance, Michael (being the consummate professional he is) sent, like, ten sketches of possibilities. And we had ones we liked the most, and fortunately they were the same ones that he liked the most. But mostly, we say, "These are all great. Which one do you enjoy? Which one are you most excited to paint?" And we move that direction most of the time. Isaac will usually have continuity comments, and we want to make sure that things are in continuity, but we give a lot of freedom to the artists. We don't really want to chain them down. We want art to inspire art.

And so, because of that, people look different in some of our official interpretations. And I think that's okay, because that's how artwork goes. We're not trying to match a really exacting style guide on the characters, usually. And that lets us have the cover art for the UK cover look very different from the covert art form the US cover, and even have different interpretations on the characters in different ways. We'll catch the big things. We'll say "put a glove on her" if there's a scandalous hand exposed. We'll say "this is what the patch looks like that should be on Kaladin's shoulder." Stuff like that, we will do, but we try to give a lot of freedom.

I really like this cover. This is my favorite of his covers since the first one.

Rithmatist Denver signing ()
#6 Copy

Kogiopsis (paraphrased)

How much control do you  have over the Words of Radiance cover?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Some. By dint of being fairly well-known in the industry. But I'm really fond of Whelan's work and more likely to pick a direction from concept sketches than push Whelan somewhere entirely new.

Kogiopsis (paraphrased)

Could you, for instance, hold firm for epicanthic folds on Rosharan characters?

Brandon Sanderson (paraphrased)

Probably yes, but most of Whelan's cover work has been figures in the distance for now so that isn't likely to be an issue.

Ad Astra 2017 ()
#7 Copy

Questioner

I just noticed stylistically the cover for Oathbringer is a little bit different. Is that still Michael Whelan?

Brandon Sanderson

That's still Michael Whelan. Yeah, Michael is really-- Michael is my favorite illustrator. I don't know if you guys know-- have read what I've written-- but I got into fantasy and science fiction because of Dragonsbane-- the cover of that. They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but it was Dragonsbane and then I went to the card catalog and found the next book closest to it that looked-- that was a dragon book. So I didn't know dragon books, and I found Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey, which also had a Whelan cover at that point. And I just kind of-- Whelan became my go to. He's gone through various art stages, you can go look. For a while he was doing these really sweeping landscapes, as you see some of the Dark Tower covers have that, and Way of Kings-- the original-- has that. And he's occasionally done figure studies, through his career. And then with this one we're getting like a color study really, it feels like to me, which is another thing that he's done. So I kind of feel like I've gotten three different styles of covers from Michael, which I really like. I actually think his Shallan painting from the inside cover of Words of Radiance is my favorite. But that one came about because he's like, "I felt like painting Shallan," and he just did. *laughter* "Do you guys want this? I just painted it." It's really funny because Michael Whelan, like, it's really hard to get him for a cover. I mean, you know his prices are way higher. And then when he just accidentally does another cover for you. It was very cool but kind of weird. I own The Way of Kings, like the actual original. I'm so happy, like I-- after all these years of admiring Michael Whelan I had to buy that one. So it hangs in my office above the fireplace.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#8 Copy

XavierRDE

I've seen you said you sent the same scene description to both the US and the UK publisher for Oathbringer's cover. Why choose precisely Jasnah?

Brandon Sanderson

It's partially based on the scene I think that will look best being illustrated. Also, since book two had Kaladin, I thought it would be a nice change to make sure someone else was on book three.

Starsight Release Party ()
#9 Copy

Questioner

So on the cover for Alloy of Law, is it Wayne standing next to Wax?

Brandon Sanderson

Yes and Wayne has a gun. So, we saw that. We didn't think it was worth changing. We recognize that that's the way it is but it's mostly just because the covers aren't meant to be an illustration of the book; they're meant to be evoking the feeling of the book and we liked the feeling of the book. We didn't want to have to go back to do reshoots because that's an actually photography shoot. All of those books, he has actors dress up and do the shoots and then Photoshops it.

It wasn't bad enough to make us say, "Ooh you have to go reshoot this whole thing." But Wayne has just not realized he's holding a gun yet and dropped it. Someone handed it to him and he's like, "What? Oh!" but they got the shot right before.

ICon 2019 ()
#10 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

I will speak up... I do like the American cover. Some people don't and I can understand... there's like... a lot of people who don't like it say that it looks too sci-fi. And Stephan Martinière was a concept artist for science fiction movies and the book, the cover feels too sci-fi for a lot of people.

The Alloy of Law Annotations ()
#11 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

Chapter Eight

Wayne imitates a constable

Writing this Wayne chapter was a pure delight. It was here that I was finally certain that I had his character down, following the misstarts before changing to this version of the story. Here is also where I made the decision that I'd chosen right in expanding the short story to a novel. For me, a single viewpoint character often isn't enough to carry a novel. (Unless I'm doing a first-person narrative.)

Wayne, as a character, really grew into himself here. It is interesting to me how quickly he came together as I started working on this book. That first false start was awful—yet, once I started writing about him as a counterpoint to Wax, he just popped out fully formed, Athena-like, brimming with personality and strength.

I do worry that he'll overshadow Wax a bit—which is one reason why it's good to wait until chapter eight to give him a viewpoint. However, I think it is a matter of appeal. The two of them will appeal to different readers. I really like how the two play off one another and have different strengths.

By the way, I realize the cover has a problem with Wayne holding a gun. It wasn't worth complaining about, as I felt that there needed to be a gun on the cover to indicate the shift in the Mistborn setting. However, Wax's hands are both down low, so the gun really does need to be in Wayne's hand. Just pretend he's holding it for Wax.

Skyward Pre-Release AMA ()
#12 Copy

Himenss

Do you choose cover arts for your books yourself or you give your artist to choose. As for Oathbringer, why that particular moment with Jasnah was chosen? I like the cover, but I guess I wanted the see Dalinar , who would be more appropriate for this book.

Brandon Sanderson

With most books these days, I suggest scenes and take a more hands-on approach. Michael Whelan, however, is one of those that I generally step back from and let him do his thing and try not to meddle too much. I DID note to him, though, that we've so far not matched the book to the character. (Kaladin's book got Dalinar and Eshonai on the cover, while Shallan's book got Kaladin.) So it made sense, actually, to have Jasnah here.

West Jordan signing 2012 ()
#13 Copy

Brandon Sanderson

[Eshonai] I believe is one that Michael Whelan intended to be one figures on the covers, one's Dalinar, and one's Eshonai. But that scene is not 100% accurate from the book. Usually with book covers we are looking for a poster for the book, like a movie poster, which isn't necessarily an exact scene from the book. But I believe it's who it was intended to be.