New Orbit Cover Art! (and some notes on cover design)

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Here is the new paperback cover for Theonite Book 2: Orbit. It will be available for purchase on Amazon on May 15th, as part of my May Anniversary Special.

REMINDER: on May 15th (the same day this cover goes live for the paperbacks), the Orbit ebook will be FREE on Amazon! Bookmark the page so you don’t miss it!

Orbit Covers
Orbit’s original 2017 cover (left), and a preliminary version of the 2018 Anniversary Special cover (right)

I was overworked and a bit world-building-happy in 2017 when I designed Orbit‘s original cover. Something that I’ve learned in the intervening year is that you shouldn’t try to communicate the whole story through the cover. Trying to tell the story through the cover design is, in fact, a horrible idea that leads to a lot of clutter and confusion.

I was certainly conscious of this idea when I set about designing a new cover. But it wasn’t until I looked at Orbit’s new cover next to its old one that I realized that they illustrate this principle beautifully.

The original cover tries to communicate everything about the story. Everything. Here’s a brief rundown of all the design elements at play:

  • The gold of the space station
  • The hands, representing Duna’s reversed racial hierarchy and the light, representing the supernatural powers that most likely created it
  • The symbols around the central circle, representing the different kafonu and theotypes (with the manga koro and tajaka symbols near the top, and the senkuli and littigi symbols near the bottom)
  • The stars used throughout the story to represent confusion, disorientation, and uncertain orbit
  • The fish of the Kaigenese flag, providing a visual representation of two beings orbiting a central force
  • The sun of the Disanka flag – another celestial body, a literal point of orbit, used as a metaphor for Robin and later Daniel
  • The spear and shield of the Sizwean flag, representing the power of the tajaka koronu like Zankare who enforce Duna’s hierarchies
  • The Kaigenese, Sizwean, and Disanka symbols all encompassed in the four-petaled flower of the Yammanka flag, representing Duna’s current world order
  • The multiple circles in the design, representing a universe uncertain of its center
  • Oh, and the background pattern is a gold version of the one described on the Dakkabana hospital floor. It contains Yammanka symbols for health and vitality.

And that’s just counting the super surface level symbolism, disregarding more open-to-interpretation stuff like ‘what if the fish represent Hiroshi and Nagasa?’ It’s madness. It’s way too much to reasonably expect someone to unpack at a glance.

Here’s what the new cover has to say:

  • Magic!
  • Africa!
  • Space!

It communicates the most basic elements of the book’s content (probably enough to let a potential reader know whether or not they would be interested) and doesn’t demand that you bust out your literary degree to make sense of it.

The one thing I don’t love about the new cover is that it’s so basic that it’s hard to tell who the featured character even is.

Fiki. Just in case anyone was wondering. It’s Fiki.

I would hope a reader could identify her by process of elimination. She’s too young to be Zankare, too dark to be Daniel, too female to be Kente, too skinny to be Koko, and… well… not Joan or Izumo for obvious reasons. Honestly, Cover Girl’s facepaint is way more boring and minimalist than any of Fiki’s usual looks, but any attempt to make it more accurate to the book would have cluttered the image with too many competing colors.

The new cover will be available on Amazon, May 15th.

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