Home » Covers, Fantasy/SciFi » Fantasy Author Terry Goodkind Wants Everyone to Know How Much He Hates His New Novel’s Cover Art

Fantasy Author Terry Goodkind Wants Everyone to Know How Much He Hates His New Novel’s Cover Art

27 February 2018

From i09:

Terry Goodkind—best known for The Sword of Truth series—has publicly apologized after posting scathing criticism of the cover art for his latest book, Shroud of Eternity. The author eventually laid the blame on his publisher, Tor Books, but the artist who created the cover says it’s not good enough.

Goodkind recently wrote a post on Facebook calling his latest fantasy novel, “a great book with a very bad cover. Laughably bad.” In the post, Goodkind invited his readers to share their thoughts about the cover in a poll (which currently has almost 14,000 responses), saying he’d pick 10 random commenters to receive a signed copy.

. . . .

Part of the Sister of Darkness: The Nicci Chronicles seriesthe cover art Goodkind criticized shares a similar look to the series debut, Death’s Mistress—no surprise, as they both share the same artist, Bastien Lecouffe Deharme. He’s a notable artist known for his work on Magic: The Gathering, but he’s also created book covers for several publishing houses, including Tor Books, Random House, Del Rey, and Orbit Books. Deharme said he was shocked when he found out what Goodkind had said about his latest work.

“[A friend] sent me a message that I found in the morning when I woke up, telling me that Terry Goodkind was using bad words to describe my artwork,” Deharme told io9. “I am a very confident person. I have had a long career, long enough for me to be able to take that… but this behavior is just not acceptable. Not only for me, but for all the artists that could be in the same situation.”

Link to the rest at i09 and thanks to R. for the tip.

Here’s the cover mentioned in the OP.

Here’s the cover for the first book in the series.

Covers, Fantasy/SciFi

42 Comments to “Fantasy Author Terry Goodkind Wants Everyone to Know How Much He Hates His New Novel’s Cover Art”

  1. Goodkind has explained that he objected vehemently to the cover before it was released. The artist’s defense is that he delivered exactly what he was instructed to deliver.

    Of course, the book is tradpubbed. Tor. Worth remembering.

    He sort-of apologized:


    • If my choice, as an artist, is between satisfying my employer–the art director–and satisfying the author–who isn’t paying me… you know, I’ll satisfy the person paying the bills.

      I don’t know what you’d expect the artist to do otherwise? Seriously. This issue is properly between Goodkind and Tor. Dragging the artist into it is a “punching down” move. “Hey, I can’t take it up with the publisher, so I’ll take it up with the artist, who didn’t have a choice.”

      • Where did I say I expected the artist to do anything?
        I pointed out the full context, including Goodkind’s half-apology. That’s it.

        Now, if you are asking, given that he didn’t call out the artist by name, I think the artist would have served his interests just fine by remaining above the fray and saying nothing.

        But then, as I say below, I don’t think it is a particularly good cover and “I gave them what they asked for” is a pretty thin excuse. Did they ask for a static cover of stiff, bored, lifeless people just posing for a camera? V

        My standards for good SF and Fantasy covers include the likes of Frazetta, Boris, Whelan, and Gray Morrow, among others. Dynamic covers that fit the stories. That cover does not strike me as something he should be featuring in his partfolio. Just my opinion.

        Now, I’m just a reader and not an artist, but I used to be under the impression that good illustrators took some time to familiarize themselves with the material they are promoting. If nothing else, to avoid flaps like this. Goodkind is hardly the only cranky author out there who shoots his mouth without thinking.

        This is hardly the first cover flap I’ve seen.

        (Three armed women, race bending, cliche designs, anachronisms galore.)

        Most covers are merely forgettable. Unoffensive. Truly great covers are few and far between. Even rarer are the really awful ones. This one will be forgotten soon enough.

        • Art is subjective. I think it’s a fantastic cover, moody and powerful, and conveys “serious fantasy novel” very well. Just like not all scenes in a book need to be dynamic and action-packed, not all art–cover art included–needs to be full of motion and bright contrasts. I think this piece is strong compositionally, and mysterious. I like it.

          Since I am an artist, I can tell you that, no, most of the time good illustrators do not have the time to read the books they’re assigned to illustrate. Even if they did, they are not good judges of what makes a book cover a good *marketing* tool, as opposed to a good piece of art. That’s what the art director’s for. The art director distills the assignment to a set of directives that will result in a cover that sells the book to the intended audience. A great piece of art can be a total failure as a marketing tool. You learn that the hard way, when you start doing your own covers.

          It’s actually a pretty rare artist who has the time to familiarize themselves with the story they’re doing a piece of work for. Particularly for an author with a oeuvre the size of Goodkind’s.

        • Frazetta and Whelan are great. I have a Frazetta calendar hanging behind me and Ruth will live forever in my mind as Whelan painted him.


          Just as writing trends change (Dickens and Melville anyone?), so to do covers. New tech, new artists, new marketing trends (remember that one, ART is as much a BUSINESS as all the writing inside the book, and much more maligned) all inform the changes between styles of cover that come out. As an author about to publish (self) I want the art to be good yes, but I am first going to ask if it hits the marketing points that will help sell the book in TODAY’S book selling environment.

  2. It’s not that the artist is bad, but that they might have been the wrong artist for the job. Like the one that’s great at doing cowboys and horses doing a cover for space. Just another reason to self publish …

  3. They’re not that different… in fact, I think I prefer the latest book cover over the first. Kind of a rotten way to get publicity.

  4. I wonder who he’ll hire for the cover of his self-published book….

    • Not sure he’ll do it again. He sold FIRST CONFESSOR to TOR.
      His venture into self pub might’ve been just a ruse.

    • Interesting. Much easier for Tor to change an ebook cover.

    • Yeah, I like the ebook cover better, if the regular one doesn’t accurately represent the character. Better to leave it mostly blank and let me imagine it myself than to get a poor representation stuck in my head.

  5. At $10 for the first ebook and $15 for the subject one, no cover is going to make me purchase. If I cared enough, I’d go to the library.

    ETA: space.

  6. Seem to have skipped linking the OP. Considering the source, maybe not a bad thing…

  7. One thing I notice about the latest cover is the high heels on the girl. Those must be hell to fight in.

    • At least the artist didn’t just put fishbowl helmets on a cowboy and his horse! (I’m going to make a sexist remark and guess that the artist has never worn heels, or they would have known that they’re no good on rough ground. 😉 )

      • Boots with heels are great if you’re riding horses in a saddle with a stirrup. Like most fantasy people do. That heel doesn’t strike me as outrageously high for walking in, and it looks great to ride in. Since heels originated as riding boots (ancient ones, way back with the Persians) I don’t think this is a ridiculous thing for a fantasy woman to be wearing.

        • Ah, but there’s not a horse in sight. Once again, this was a clash between what the writer envisioned and what the publisher had the artist actually do.

          I haven’t read either book, but I can understand the writer being upset if the covers show her holding a weapon she never touches in the story itself (or an outfit/shoes/scene the writer never put her in.)

          Just another advantage of self publishing, getting the cover you actually like/want.

          • Right, there’s no horse in sight, but why does that mean there’s no horse? How did she get to this place? There’s no town, so it’s not like she was born there. There’s such a thing as taking the scene too literally. It’s a fantasy novel, most fantasy novels involve people riding some kind of animal as transportation, ergo: boots with heels.

            Having said that, I totally agree with you about having more control over your covers being a perq (and sometimes a hair-pulling irritation) about being indie.

            • And Goodkind at a minimum pretended to self publish one book. With his history he should’ve known to negotiate some cover input if he cares that much about them.

              • Suburbanbanshee

                Um… I’m looking at a larger copy of the cover, and I’m still not sure that’s a woman.

                I mean, maybe my eyes are old, and obviously a heroine does not need huge boobs and exposed skin… but are we sure that’s a woman? She doesn’t stand like a woman.

                Now, if you get really close to the enlarged versions of the covers, it does look like a female character is present from her stance, but you can’t tell at all on the smaller version. I thought that was just a longhaired guy.

                Seriously, I’m puzzled. The difference between male and female characters is usually glaringly obvious in art.

                Maybe there’s a lack of high contrast shading? Maybe that’s why it fades into a sort of blur when small?

  8. Terry Goodkind intended his post to be about Tor’s decisions, but it came across to many as about the artist, which is really too bad.

    The rest of the series wasn’t with Tor, so presumably they decided to re-brand this new spin-off.

    When I saw the new covers, my initial impression was they were for a new light fantasy series. Maybe something Pratchett-like. When I found out they were supposed to be related to the Sword of Truth series… well, they just don’t look at all like that series.

    Now he’s got people who haven’t read it one-star’ing the latest book with comments obviously related to this controversy. That kind of mob action isn’t a fate I’d wish on any author.

    • Interestingly enough, he didn’t tag Tor in his initial comments (I can’t find the Twitter links, I’m on a work computer right now). He tagged the artist directly. I’m thinking if his issue was with Tor for not listening to him, he should have directed his vitriol that way. Instead, he threw a legion of people at a professional artist who did his job.

  9. Eh, Terry Goodkind has always been a pretentious jerk. The main issue seems to be that Nicci wears a dress and never uses a sword- she’s a sorceress. The artwork itself is perfectly good. It seems a trivial sort of issue since this is a spin off of Sword of Truth novels and anyone who has read those knows who Nicci is and what she’d look like already. For anyone not familiar with her, I doubt that it would matter to them what she looks like on the cover as long as the story is good. Of course personally I doubt that it is.

    • Me, I’m not buying it anyway (Price, MacMillan) but I see his point. It is a pretty bad cover. Sure, the artist is technically competent but the composition is bad. To me it says three bored millennial cosplayers standing in a garden waiting for their flutes of champagne.
      If were attached to an indie YA fantasy nobody would be defending it and instead they would be flaming it as amateurish and generic: tough chick in heels with a sword? Check. Long haired Elvish guy? Check. Generic warrior dude? Check. Only thing missing is old geezer in a cloak.

      The ebook cover at least is generic high fantasy and pretty. It says nothing which is better than sending the wrong message.

      Even pretentious jerks can be right once in a while.

  10. > this behavior is just not acceptable


    I think the artist has lived in an echo chamber for too long.

    No matter what you do, *someone* is going to hate it. And when that someone is another businessman whose work got yoked to yours, that’s a review you should be listening to, not trying to squelch.

    • When someone contracts me for a piece, I pay attention to what they want me to do, because they’re paying the bills. Anything else is bad for my bottom line.

      Tor told him it was fine. He listed to Tor’s art director, who was paying him. I don’t see why he needs to also listen to Goodkind, whose ire should be directed at Tor for not giving him more editorial control over the covers, if he cares about it as much as he seems to.

      • This is the problem with having a middleman who won’t listen to the author’s opinion on the cover for his own book. One of the big things that attracted me to indie publishing was having control over my own covers. (Or, more specifically, who I hire to create them and the direction I give for creating them.)

    • I think where Mr goodkind went wrong was that he criticised the artist rather than the publisher, who gave the artist the information he needed to design the cover.
      He sort of acknowledges this in his apology,, it’s a bit like those people who complain in Amazon product reviews that the product didn’t arrive on time.
      I would imagine it’s like asking a friend to pick up a sandwich from a sandwich shop, that friend coming back with a tuna sandwich and then complaining to the shop that you don’t like tuna.

  11. I think that’s great cover art. The artist is really skilled, and it says ‘fantasy novel’ to me. And I love the doubled triangle composition, and the fact that Goodkind’s name is at the top of those triangles, and pulls you down to the title of the book at the bottom, is very cool. *thumbs up*

    Is it true to the contents? I don’t know. But a lot of artists don’t get almost any information on their assignments from their employers. “Fantasy novel, protag is a pale-skinned blonde girl, should have stone statues of warriors in it, don’t make it too garish, go.’ Blaming the artist for not getting it right assumes the artist had enough information to go on in the first place, and they often don’t.

    Covers like that are not cheap, and it’s a good piece of marketing, in that it clearly and attractively communicates the genre. I can understand ‘I wish it was perfectly what was in my head,’ but you know, unless you’re paying the bill, your ability to kvetch is limited. If it’s so bothersome, maybe Goodkind can learn to draw. 🙂

    • “If it’s so bothersome, maybe Goodkind can learn to draw.”

      I feel like that’s unnecessarily condescending. All he’d have to do is choose to indie publish and put in the work/money to hire an artist himself, and be sure to give the artist whatever direction he thought was needed. The options aren’t “take what you get” or “do it yourself”.

      Still, I don’t think Goodkind is completely unreasonable to complain about the cover of his book if the business he partnered with to produce it showed so little respect to him as the creator of the work as to utterly disregard his expressions of hating it before it was published. If he said all this to them already, as someone upthread says he did, then Tor can’t be at all surprised that he’s complaining about it publically. If it was the other way around and the publisher was unhappy with what he’d produced under their agreement, they’d do much worse than complain on the internet about him. He’s probably complaining because he feels helpless to do anything else.

      As for the artist, yeah, it’s not the artist’s fault that the author doesn’t like it. But the artist needs to put his big boy pants on and realize that if he’d cared what the author thought, he should have consulted the author as well as the people who were paying him. Since he didn’t, he shouldn’t take the author’s opinion as a personal insult, much less insist that he do *more* than apologize. If someone doesn’t like your art, they’re allowed to say so. Suck it up and get over it, if you’re not going to make the effort to make it something they’ll be happy with in the first place. “I want you to say you love my work but I’m not going to do any bare minimum communication with you to see what you want or like to try to make you happy.” No. Can’t have it both ways. The artist’s response should have been a shrug and, “Well, he didn’t pay me for it, so what do I care what he thinks?”

      • I don’t know how your comment about the artist having to put ‘big boy pants on’ is any less condescending. The artist was hired by a director to do a job to the director’s specifications, and the artist delivered. He was under no obligation to a third party to also consider their wishes, particularly if those wishes might have conflicted with the person actually paying him.

        As for Goodkind, I don’t see how the proper response to ‘my business partner isn’t listening to me’ is ‘let me punch my business partners’ contractors for not magically doing what I want them to do, when I’m not paying their bills.’ The grown-up response to ‘Tor won’t listen to my concerns about my cover art despite my repeating requests’ isn’t ‘I’m going to attack the cover artist,’ it’s ‘I’m going to go find a publisher who will listen to my concerns.’ Involving the artist is rude and unprofessional. It’s taking out your frustrations on someone who isn’t involved, except as another victim of the lack of communication.

        If he wanted to complain about it publicly, the right way to tweet about it would have been ‘ONCE AGAIN TOR DOESN’T LISTEN TO ME ABOUT MY ART.’ Because that puts the blame where it belongs.

        • “The artist was hired by a director to do a job to the director’s specifications, and the artist delivered. He was under no obligation to a third party to also consider their wishes, particularly if those wishes might have conflicted with the person actually paying him.”

          Exactly. Which is why he shouldn’t be throwing a hissy fit about getting his feelings hurt.

          I haven’t gone and read all that Goodkind said, but from what some are saying upthread, it sounds like he was trying to make the point about Tor, not the artist, and it was maybe taken the wrong way. I agree that the correct response is to find a new publisher (or do it himself), but given this particular circumstance, I don’t think everyone should be piling on him for expressing his displeasure publically, especially if he was making it clear that it was directed at the publisher. (And to the extent that he directed it at the artist, I agree that he shouldn’t have.)

          Artists (of all types, including writers) need to understand that “I don’t like this art” or “I don’t like this art in this context” are not personal attacks against the artist, nor are they (as simple statements in and of themselves) something that the speaker has any obligation to apologize for, much less make whatever amends the artist thinks he deserves.

          • Did you *look* at Goodkind’s tweet? If he was trying to make a point about Tor, he failed. And if he’s as good an author as people claim, he shouldn’t be *that bad* at making a point.

            Goodkind is the one transgressing against the rules of professional etiquette by attacking the artist for work the artist did in response to an art director’s requirements when the person he’s upset with is the art director. I don’t know why we’re blaming the artist for being surprised and upset by it, when we should be blaming the person who’s being rude. I, too, am surprised and upset when people are rude, because courtesy exists for a reason.

            This has nothing to do with “He thinks my art is bad” and everything to do with “He’s yelling at me for my art when the reasons he doesn’t like it have nothing to do with me.”

          • I have, in fact, read what Goodkind said, and if he’s blaming Tor and not the artist, he’s a dreadful communicator. I suspect that this is because Tor has some power over him, at least financially, and the artist doesn’t, but that means that he’s lashing out at someone who’s a safe target. Which is understandable in a cowardly way.

            Sure, it’s his right to say whatever he wants about the artist, so long as he doesn’t break libel laws or the Twitter TOS. But it’s my right, too, to judge him as a petty, vindictive, and above all unprofessional individual for doing so. And I can’t see why, if it’s okay for Goodkind to lash out at the artist because he’s upset, that it’s not okay for the artist to be similarly blunt in his disapproval of Goodkind’s childish behavior. It goes both ways, surely.

      • Pretty sure the artist doesn’t care what the author thinks, beyond the fact that Goodkind has publicly screwed with people’s perception of how the business of putting a cover on a book operates. I would bet that when the artist made the picture, he was worried about what the publisher PAYING HIM thought.

  12. Goodkind doesn’t know how lucky he is. I’ve had friends with major publishers who have had a fat romance hero, a heroine with three arms, and a historical romance with the heroine wearing contemporary Jordache branded jeans. I have plenty of other horror stories in other genres.

    In my own case, I’ve been able to negotiate changes because of my first name being misspelled, a genre inaccurate cover–thriller cover on romantic suspense, and a really embarrassing and funny misplacement of a hand.

    Here’s a link to the cover I called “The Galactic Grope.”


  13. Bad form. Terry was neither good nor kind in this instance.

  14. How much of this is really about Terry Goodkind reminding people that he has a new book out?

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