Orbit's Chart of Fantasy Cover Art 2009

Last year, Orbit Books had a bit of fun by rounding up a huge swathe of 2008’s Fantasy novels and compiling a graph of the cliches used in the art. Now, they’re back at it, taking a look at the covers for 2009’s novels and comparing them against the novels in 2008.

It’s interesting to see that nearly all the categories dropped off (Maps, Hobbits/Dwarves/Trolls/Ogres, and Guns are the only categories to see an increase in 2009), suggesting, perhaps, that we actually saw a bit more variance in the cover art released in 2009. I think we’re all shocked by how low Hooded Figures ranked; though, if they took out the ‘hooded’ part and added in ‘hired college student wearing a cloak, labelled with a tramp stamp and/or looking menacing‘ to the list, I’m sure it’d rank near the top. I do like those ‘dark covers of meaningless’, though. We could use more of them, and maybe even add in a ‘light cover of meaningless’ or a ‘colourful cover of meaningless’ while we’re at it.

It’s an interesting, humourous look at the trends in the industry. It certainly shows that cliches are alive and well in the hearts of readers and the minds of graphic designers and marketers everywhere. Also of note is that Orbit Books will be compiling a similar graph based on the titles of novels released in 2009, which should be of equal interest.

  • Sarah August 16, 2010 at 10:14 am

    That is an interesting graph. It’s kind of neat to see all the trends laid out like that. Maybe I’m a cynic (there’s no “maybe” about it), but I’ve come to the conclusion that covers stopped being unique a while ago…

  • James August 16, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I am in total agreement with dropping the ‘hooded’ bit from ‘hooded figures’ and all for changing it to something more accurate and inclusive of all character portrayals.

    Orbit said:
    “1) Hooded figures: Not as many hooded figures as you might imagine, but early indications suggest that this category might explode in 2010.”

    Change the hooded figures bit and this is quite true. A quick scan over Orbit’s releases for 2010 gave me 28 ‘hired college students wearing a cloak, labelled with a tramp stamp and/or looking menacing/carrying an umbrella‘ and 11 headshots, which are just as bad.

    Give me more dark/light/colorful covers of meaninglessness, they certainly are better than the many covers featuring a random person posing as a character, be it this photorealistic nonsense or artist interpretation.

  • RedEyedGhost August 16, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    I want to know what “the top fantasy novels published in the previous year” means. How many novels did they look at? How many books fit into many different categories? Did they use only UK or US covers or a mix of both?

    While the graph looks interesting, it could be easily manipulated without knowing a lot more about what data went into creating it.

    “Over the next few days we’ll be releasing a number of charts that show what she found. ”

    Hopefully the charts they promise will be more enlightening.

  • aidan August 16, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    As far as I know, they used only US titles that are tracked by Bookscan. No idea how many total novels were counted, though. You’re right, though, that, like any statistics, they could be easily manipulate. Still, I think Orbit are just trying to have some fun, rather than make any sort of point. They’re not out to trick anyone.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Aidan Moher, Brendon Doran. Brendon Doran said: trends (cliches) in fantasy cover art 2008-2009, glowy magic on the downturn, less damsels in distress ;) http://bit.ly/b8S6hD […]

  • Alex August 17, 2010 at 8:12 am

    We looked at 380 books from each year, drawn from the top-selling US fantasy titles on bookscan. That said, we also own shares in swords and dirigibles…. so….

  • […] […]

  • Lauren P. August 31, 2010 at 10:10 am

    i concur…we’re not out to trick anyone, or make any serious scholarly claims…i find it surprising that so many people didnt get the joke. i mean, come now, guys, read the commentary. we’re having fun here!