Every fantasy lover knows the magic of a trilogy. When designing book covers in general, many things need to be taken into consideration as it is. You need to be able to portray the feeling of the book, without giving too much away, you need to balance images and text, choose colours and fonts to enhance the story and, depending on genre and audience, much more. So designing a series of continuous, connected book covers really only makes this a harder job.
My most recent series I’ve designed for is KJ Taylor’s Southern Star trilogy. It’s an especially special trilogy because it’s the third trilogy in a saga of three spanning generations of narrative, and this scope is a significant aspect of all three books’ design. Luckily this is not my first series of book covers. The extra element of design you need to hold onto when doing a series is cover continuity. What you design for the first book needs to set the tone for the rest of the series. Will it be a colour, a symbol, an art style or something else that will hold through all the books? The first one is the hardest because once it’s published, you’re stuck with the theme you chose.
For the Southern Star books there are several elements that are carried across. Firstly is the background. With the almost woodcut-style image, the background being old paper akin to a parchment map, I had laid the foundation for the covers to come. The first book was a paler parchment, a little crinkled, the second, darker and more worn, and the third will follow the same pattern leading to an increasingly darker toned series of books as they progress.
Next is art style. As the griffins on the covers are all hand-drawn by me, style and placement are much more personalised than you’d find on a cover with just stock graphics. The woodcut-style image of the griffin not only has continuity of style as I’m drawing them, but also lends itself to the map-like background. Continuity is important in cover design, just as much as it is in the writing of the books.
Lastly is the title text. I’m a sucker for books that, when placed next to each other on a shelf, all line up in some beautiful way. I like the styles to match, the text distribution to be even and for the eye to easily look and see a connected collection of books. So for me, title, spine and any other major text must be in the same spots on the book, especially on the spine. My best example of this is Shayla Morgansen’s Elm Stone Saga books, which have a single branch arching over the spines as one.
A trilogy or series of books is a huge outpouring of skill and effort to write, and it’s only right to dress them properly. Designing a cover for a series is more than just making a nice-looking cover; it’s starting a family of covers, whose genetics travel down the line of books, pulling just enough from inside the book for the outside to sing, and sing the same theme all the way through.