Good art is important. It is in our instincts as animals, evolved through the pressures of millions of years of survival, to judge everything first by its cover.

Cover Art

Cover art is important because people will judge a book by its cover. Like many truths of our reality it’s pointless to complain that people do judge books by their cover, or try to brainwash people into not judging books by their cover, what you should do is to fix your bad covers. Everything here will be getting nice covers, likely painted by me. I’m working for one for Depth now. It’s totally rad. Expect it possibly by chapter 20 being published.

Cover art is not enough. Why only stop with cover art? Make more art! Make games! Make a bunch of extra media!

I sort of don’t want to rob people of their own creative visions for characters, but I know it’s far more important to give people a grounded visual idea of what characters and places are meant to look like visually. So art must happen, and it must happen early on. Some of the feedback I get from my writing is that I don’t spend enough time describing characters, that is also part of my desire to let people imagine them on their own, but this is the wrong thing to do and I’m trying to correct it as having strong mental images is more important than giving creative room in readers as having no solid mental image of characters can be devastating to keeping up with characters. And with supplementary art it can help people to maintain mental images of characters.

Great covers and key art is something I am seeing light novels do really well. Some really impress me. Very beautiful. Or maybe that it’s the outstanding works which get such high quality covers. In any case, the great art does work to impress me and give me a solid mental image.

Many covers from the same genres look the same. It’s a fact of trends and managing expectations. When enough books/games/movies use a certain design language, you had better at least lean on that design language if you want to communicate to existing audiences that your thing will appeal to them too. These kinds of patterns can even be region specific. UK book readers may have different expectations vs US readers books of the same genre.

Some of that expectation management is annoying BS, though. Consider how Nintendo of America changed the cover art of so many games vs the Japanese versions when publishing in the US. They might have focus tested covers to more likely perform better over here, some covers they went with may now be iconic in their own right, but the US versions still sucked compared to the originals.

So that’s a bit of a warning. Don’t obsess too much about conforming to expectations of what patterns you must follow. There are more important things you need to worry about, such as if your cover can attract eyes at all.

I’ll share a secret that’s not so secret. You can inexpensively focus test covers yourself for how attractive they are. Use an ad platform like Facebook and buy ads with the same text but different cover art and see which ones get the most clicks. We do this with our games too, and it can help you figure out which kind of key art works to get people interested. Facebook is unfortunately useful because it unfortunately is very good at tagging people based on their interests, so you can target those people very precisely and see how your assumed market reacts to your marketing.

Another not so secret secret is that strong emotions get people interested. These can be positive, negative, aggressive, whatever, as long as it’s a strong emotional reaction being shown / conveyed it’s going to out perform something more boring. Yeah, that’s why so many game app icons are of people screaming. It works!


Maps help to give visual / geographic context for story telling. They say… look what’s over here left to explore… or… this is how it all makes sense. I think some smart people have said some good things on why maps are great. If you can include a map without damaging your story, do it. You can always include only partial maps. Having a map of the inside of a house can be good enough to start with while introducing more maps / diagrams over time.

Maps don’t have to be perfect. They need to be good enough. There are many ways of making maps, and they are all valid as long as they can be understood.

Maps don’t always mean like a map of land masses. They could be a map of a town. Or a diagram of various concepts. Or how characters are related - a family tree, or a relationship tree. It’s this kind of extra material that is interesting and useful in building context visually and externally. The more you do of this supplementary material is probably better. If you’re publishing digitally, then there’s really no reason to limit what you include as long as it does not break the flow of your story telling. You can always include spoilerish art later on linked in chapters after the event.


Characters must have appeal. They must have a hook, a charm, an ideal. Expression sheets for characters seem like an easy win to build visual ideas for fans and help them realize the greatness of characters. Forget the people who complain about tropes or *ists or whatever, we have to make the best characters we can! Make them beautiful, make them ugly, make them strong characters with character! Yeah, they have all been done before, because they are all based on human pillars of truth. We can still make our own characters that rock and make them look awesome too. Go back to rock-and-roll! Be brave! Have guts! Tell the losers who are only trying to distract you to fuck off! You’re making art here. You are the boss!

Character appeal is something eastern artists are knocking out of the park. While western artists are getting obsessive about making only ugly characters without any genuine appeal. No one wants to look at that. The self-sabotage serves an evil purpose of subversion. Make it stop! Listen to the truth within you, make appealing characters! Invoke the ancient gods within you and become their voice! We will always strive to!


I like anime and manga styles. But I have my own style, which I illustrate with which is distinctly western. I might try to make something more of an eastern look sometimes. Depends on the project. Sometimes the eastern look may be most appropriate. Don’t let a style bother you, otherwise you are someone who judges a book by its cover. :^) Don’t let the “official” representations prevent you from thinking up your own ones. We can all be editors here to improve the works for our own enjoyment.

Yet you still must have some care for your market and if the style you are using may either draw them in or alienate them if your goal is to reach a wide audience and meet their expectations.

And before anyone cries about me doing manga / anime style: the popular eastern cartoon style was originally developed from western cartoons. It’s completely fair to adapt it back in the iterative process of cultural exchange. I don’t care what some may say otherwise! I’ll use my creativity how I want and pull from anywhere in my visual library how I want! Just like everyone else does. No one owns these general ideas or style or whatever. If they did, they wouldn’t have to use emotional black mail to try to stop you from using them.

It’s, like, beautiful

Good key art, however it exists, needs to speak for itself. If you put some art in a gallery, it should be good enough to make people say it’s good in some way without a tl;dr block of text next to it explaining why it’s good. When you have art that is that good, then you can use it as a complementary piece of media to present along with your book. And your book can then elevate that art in the minds of your fans even more!

That’s what we’ll do. We will strive for the best and keep improving! That’s what I want for you too! Keep making art!