Monday, May 24th, 2010

Please Help Me Choose the Next Magicians Cover

We had a lot of trouble doing a cover for The Magicians. Not without good reason. I don’t think Viking’s art department had done a lot of fantasy before. And I have the visual sensibility of an eyeless cave creature. So together we made a great team.

As a result we went through five or six ideas that were interesting and cool and totally wrong for The Magicians. I wish I had a framed poster-size version of each one of them. They were great. But there was no way I wanted them on my book.

(By the way, unless you’ve done a book yourself, you may not realize that it’s inherently extremely cool that they even discussed options with me, as usually publishers just put a cover on a book and the author can like it or lump it. Except actually they can’t even lump it.)

Then Viking’s art director sent me a link. This link. It’s to the website of a French artist named Didier Massard. What Massard does is just insane.

Massard is a photographer. But not the regular kind. I’ve heard what he does called constructed photography or fabricated photography or tabletop photography. He actually builds models of things, in his studio, and then photographs them as if they were real. So what you get are hyper-real, hyper-detailed images that look strangely fantastical for reasons that aren’t immediately obvious. You think you’re looking at a painting, but you’re not. You’re looking at a real thing.

I flicked through a few different images on his site. Then I saw this:

It’s called Arbre en Automne. I picked up the phone to call my girlfriend, to whom I’d forwarded the link. Except my phone was already ringing. It was my girlfriend. We both said at the same time: I found it.

The Vikings liked it too. I actually became a bit obsessed with the image. I kept it on my desktop while I did my final revisions to the book. It was like he’d said in that one image everything I’d been trying to put in a whole novel (about 148,000 words). I wrote him a fan letter. He replied warmly, in charmingly broken English.

Then I called his gallery and tried to buy Arbre en Automne. In response I heard only the cold, plastic sound of my credit cards laughing at me.

But here’s the thing: now I’m writing the sequel to The Magicians, and I want to use another of Massard’s images. Partly to keep the look and feel consistent book to book, but mostly because his images rock. So I’m going to have to start planning now, to fit the book to the right image, and to lobby Massard for permission to use it.

So do me a favor. Head over to Massard’s site. Tell me what looks like a great cover to you. The cover of a book you’d want to read. I have a few ideas, but I want to know what you think.

[p.s. if you find Massard’s work interesting, check out the amazing making-of video under “Backstage.” Unfortunately featuring the worst video client ever.]

36 comments on “Please Help Me Choose the Next Magicians Cover

  1. Susan says:

    I haven’t read The Magicians yet (waiting for the paperback version), but I love Le Manege (1999). If carousels are inappropriate, I also like Le Marais (2006) and L’Oiseau (2008).

  2. dougfort says:

    I really like Le Marais if it could fit with the story.

  3. Claire says:

    Over half the reason I first picked up The Magicians was because of the cover, so I really appreciate that you’re putting so much thought into this.

    My favorites on Massard’s website are La Grotte, La Cathedrale, and Le Merais. But really, it doesn’t seem like you can go wrong with any choice. Le Merais is fanastic, though…and I do love its darker, more mysterious tone.

    Very excited to read that you’re working on a sequel – this is excellent news!

  4. Nicholas D. says:

    It is a pleasure to be of some small service, Mr. Grossman!

    I feel that the most appropriate option displayed on the site is “Arbre de Printemps” in order to preserve consistency of theme and ease of promotional layout design.

    1. Consistency of theme. “Arbre de Printemps” has continuity in theme and structure from the first book. While keeping a tree as the dominant image, the spring foliage symbolizes progression and the passage of time. However, the work is still murky and shrouded. Though the tree is undergoing a time of rebirth – and new hope – not everything is brought into focus. Mystery and intrigue remain.

    2. Layout design. Unlike “Le Merais,” “Arbre de Printemps” uses a light background similar to “… Automne” that will be easier to plot title, promotional lines, and the ever-important by-line. Yes, light lettering on a dark background works, but is slightly harder to read and thus marginally more likely to be overlooked by a casual reader. The heavy, embossed lettering of THE MAGICIANS is fantastic, and I would like to see it reproduced again on a light background.



  5. M says:

    there’s a style of photography called tilt-shift photography and it creates the effect where things are ‘miniature’ while they are actually ‘real’ (see http://vimeo.com/9679622) but this one is much more amazing since it’s not pseudo-miniature, it’s actual miniature.

    some people on another site were discussing which ‘tree’ this is in fillory. now i see that they were just wasting their time.

    after i saw the documentary ‘helvetica’ i became obsessed with the font, i think this is the only case that i’d suggest to stay away from that font. Select something that’s more morbid, and in the serif family.

    following suit with the theme of trees, Le Marais (2006) is the most intriguing one. Another reason being it’s very dark. Which when combined with the right amount of gloss can make an amazing cover.

    looking forward to it.

    (p.s. my pet peeve for reading is poorly chosen font, weird spacing, and awkward margins, masterpieces may have passed through my hands due to these poor choices :[ )

  6. Sara H. says:

    Hi Lev,
    We corresponded a few months ago when you did a reading at Pandemonium Books & Games, we have a mutual friend Jessie. Anyway, I love that you’re asking for opinions. Also, I just plain loved looking at those images. So gorgeous. I would have to say that Le Marais and Arbre en ete would flow the most with the cover of The Magicians but I also like Novembre, La Mangrove and Arbres et Rochers. I’m so excited for your next book!

  7. I agree with Nicholas.

  8. P. Tallon says:

    Le Marais (2006) + Le Chateau d’Eau (1993)… though maybe the latter is a bit too steampunk. But it has the solitary tree, a nice callback to the other cover.

  9. Rik Speed. says:

    La Cathedrale, or
    Arbres et Rochers, or


  10. Le Marais, La Mangrove, and La Grotte.

    Beautiful. There were more that I’d like to read a book about, but wouldn’t make for the best book cover.

    Good luck.

  11. Leverus says:

    This is incredibly helpfuly guys. You have no idea.

    I’d been focusing on ARBRE DE PRINTEMPS (theme of renewal!) or NOVEMBRE (not so much w/ the renewal) but now I’m rethinking. I’m getting really interested in LA CASCADE.

    And LE MARAIS. Though there are certain elements who believe that it is too Whomping Willow. But can anything be too Whomping Willow?

    I fricking love LE CHATEAU D’EAU. But @ P. Tallon, yeah, I don’t think it’s for this novel.

  12. Jessica says:

    I think sticking with the tree theme would be a great approach. Which is why Le Marais and Arbre de Printemps and Arbre en Ete stuck out to me. But which one you choose definitely depends on theme as far as I’m concerned. The autumn image from the book was beautiful but also had a bit of melancholy, and the idea of fall and a fall worked well in tying it in to the theme of the book.

    If the next book is quite dark, then I think Le Marais is great. But if renewal is your main focus, I think the springtime (Printemps) would be best.

    Then again, you could just break from the tree theme all together and take something that you think best fits the mood. It seems hard to go wrong with any of your choices.

  13. Leverus says:

    I like the tree theme! I’m going to try to stick with it.

    re: renewal, it depends a little on how the book ends up ending. there’s lots of brightness, and lots of dark …

  14. Tonya says:

    hm.. I like Les Grotte, Le Chateau d’Eau, and Arbres et Rochers.
    I also really like La Cathedrale, but since I’m a huge fan of CS Lewis, and you don’t *quite* stop short of pissing a bit on him in The Magicians, I can’t really recommend it for your book – it somehow doesn’t fit. I know that doesn’t make any sense. 🙂

  15. Alayna says:

    I love this guy! A book with La Cascade on the cover would thrill me.

  16. Paige says:

    I really liked La Grotte and La Cathedrale 🙂 I think you will make the right choice in the end because I love all of your cover art

  17. Laura Miller says:

    It really depends on the book’s content, but I’d want it to look significantly different, so I would nix Le Marais and Printemps on that count. I would worry about making the next book seem like a retread. The artist’s style provides enough continuity.

    I really like Le Glacier, but it would only work if some of the book involved snowy mountains. (Like, say, The Silver Chair.) Same with La Grotte and any potential cave scenes. I lean towards Abres et Rochers because it’s compositionally similar, with the long central vertical, but also different enough, as is Cascade. Le Chateau d’Eau totally reminds me of the South Pole section of The Magicians, but you already have a cover for that book.

  18. Church says:

    Nthing Abre de Printemps and Novembre as the obvious choices. If there’s no mention of winter in the book, go with Novembre. 😛

    Personally, I like Le Jardin. It feels more Kelly Link than Tolkein, which I think suits you. La Cascade is the other way ’round.

  19. Church says:

    Actually, what I’d like to do is use Abre en Ete and stick all the cover copy in the small light space next to the tree. It’d be a stand-out cover in comparison to the usual formula, but your publisher would never go for it.

  20. austin says:

    While I think any of the “arbre en xx” series would work, my personal inclination is toward “Arbre en Printemps,” as it is visually similar to “Arbre en Automne” but still distinct.

    My second favorite is “La Grotte,” because it has the same feel to me as “Arbre en Automne” (desolation, quietude, a hint of magic) but looks totally different, if you’re looking to definitively separate them.

  21. P.J. says:

    I like Le Marais if the tone of the second book is darker because it almost seems like a dark mirror image of the first book’s cover.

    Similarly, Arbre de Printemps would be quite nice if the tone of the book is, in fact, happier.

    I feel like the tree in Arbre en Ete is too similar. The trees in La Folie and Le Manege are extremely similar, but work in an odd way because there are two prominent trees instead of one (somehow indicating a sequel) and the seasons are different. However, the pictures have distinct elements (the gazebo and the carousel respectively) that would make your reader look for objects that don’t appear in or have any relevance to the book.

    All things considered, I guess I’m leaning towards Le Marais most of all.

  22. Bruno says:

    I’d get L’Oiseau or Le Marais, depending on the themes in the new book. I liked La Folie too, if you wanna keep your trees green and all. Novembre is another beatiful one, but i think it would be kinda empty for a book cover… And also L’Éléphant, but only if you can put one in the story =P

  23. Emily says:

    I vote for Le Chateau – I think it’s a beautiful photograph, and I think that it has a stark contrast to the cover of The Magicians. Rather than life and warmth, there is a sense of isolation and coldness. I find both very appealing. I don’t really like the darker, more sinister images (like Le Marais). What attracted me to The Magicians was its fresh and bright cover. Although Le Chateau is cold, I feel that it has a sense of simplicity and mystery rather than something dark and foreboding.

    And personally, I would go against a ‘tree’ theme, because in my opinion it’s too predictable.

  24. Melissa says:

    Unless the second book is much darker than the first, I wouldn’t choose Le Marais… but that’s the only tip I can give you. All of the photos have such a mood implicit, it’s really hard to choose without having read it… but they’re gorgeous. And no pressure, but you know which ever you choose is going to work as a big hint for the rest of us, right? hehehe
    *Is not at all helpful*

  25. hannah says:

    i like la grotte and arbre en hiver and le chateua d’eau and la cathedrale

  26. Jez says:

    I’d go for La Grotte, or possibly La Chateau d’Eau! Though if you had to stick with a tree, I can see Arbre de Printemps complimenting the first image very nicely too.

  27. * says:

    And I sort of like this one: http://www.noemiemainguet.com/massard/maquettes/roulotte.html – keep in mind that there are more of his works than presented on his website!

  28. Jen says:

    They are all amazing, but my concern with picking the cathedral or the lighthouse, is that a reader is going to wonder why isn’t there a lighthouse prominently figured in this book when there is one on the cover?! I guess I’m literal like that.
    My two favorites are: Novembre to continue the tree theme from fall into winter; and Le Jardin because it’s wacky and makes me think of the overgrown garden Quentin walks through to get to Brakebills.

  29. trish says:

    I really like La Mangrove, and La Cathedrale, though I kind of like following this tree through the seasons, so Abre de Printemps would be a next logical choice. I see, however, that far more artistic eyes have provided their opinion. 🙂

  30. Dan Wilson says:

    I finished The Magicians last night at 3AM. I picked it up on a random Costco adventure the day before and tore through it like crazy. The tree called to me at Costco. It was a little 6 Feet Under, which as a show really kinda tripped me out, and simultaneously intrigued me, so I had to pick up your book. Ultimately it was the word Magicians with that image that drew me in. It was odd and warped in Costco’s fluorescent lights and now that I’ve read it, I love that I found it there. The juxtaposition is priceless.

    Arbres et Rochers 2002 is a great leaping off point – an unattainable height to reach for or fall from. It’s a nice place to launch from at the end of The Magicians. The fact that it is barely revealed as a glimpse of something swirling in the fog is pretty profound. It calls to mind towers – castles in the clouds – there are only so many of them – barely enough to go around. The fact that trees will grow there – that living things can survive or thrive in such environs is pretty hopeful, precarious, and amazing.

  31. Niles says:

    Le Palais Mogol or La Grotte seem like they would work the best for me.

  32. […] almost a year ago now — we talked about which of Massard’s images would work as a cover on this blog, and a bunch of you mentioned this one as a contender. And now it’s here! The system […]

  33. Ajdo says:

    Sory(and lucky for u i guese) my english is not as it should be.

    I hawe just one coment/wish:

    PLEASE,PLEASE,PLEASE,stop writing(omg what a word for your masacakre of fantasy) things like magicians.
    I hawe newer read so stupid thing,and i read what 14-15 years old lovers of fantasy write.The book is such a mess i dont ewen know whee to begine…no i speachles.U are an insult to Hary Potter(that alone should be reason enough to stop u from writing,but u r basicly copying that crap),U deare to include Roger Zelazny in that horible thing of yours(omg!)And alll the other autors u copyng(Just traying,unsuccessfuly afcorse)is a crime.
    Only good thing from your so called writing is,that it must be put as exsample how not to write.Please stop!

  34. Leverus says:

    Another satisfied customer.

  35. Tanya says:

    Hi Lev! I’m so thrilled to have found your website. Your book (well, both “The Magicians” and the follow-up, “The Magician King”) have popped up on various recommended lists, and I can’t wait to get started. I’m also really excited that you and your publisher/editors chose Didier Massard’s work for both covers: I knew I recognized the images! I’ve really loved his gorgeous dioramas (they’re so sophisticated that I feel like there has to be a better word for it, though!), having found out about him in 2007. I haven’t read your books yet, but I get a sense that Massard’s photographs and your fiction are a great pairing. I look forward to diving into the magical world of your novels.

    Cheers from California!

  36. ventilatore says:

    I really like looking through a post that can make
    men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me
    to comment!

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