Evolution of Unfathomed Coverart


Well-Known Member
Aug 19, 2013

I thought I'd run through the evolution of the coverart for Unfathomed.

As I was ramping up for the release of Unfathomed (or Uncharted as it was then), I already knew I wanted a Tom Edwards piece.

For those who don't know him, Tom is simply one of the most spectacular digital painters in the world. His work is renowned for vibrant use of colour, having cool designs within, great typography and being of the highest quality.

So, having contacted him and booking a slot - it came down to figuring out what would be on there.

To do so, I sent him three scenes from the book which I thought would make for interesting cover inspiration. He pretty much immedietly indicated one of them (definetly a good choice as the other two were pure thriller material, whereas the one he identified brought the SF into it).

So then it became a case of figuring out how that would look.

As I had a couple of months until my slot came up, I sketched out this:


Yup, that's as high tech as it got for me. My notes were something like - The ship on the left is the most adanced cruise ship in the world. The ship on the right is a real life Arleigh Burke class destroyer. (I also sent him some an image of one for referance). In the centre, it is a mysterious, unnatural column of cloud.

And then it was time to wait for the slot.
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On the first day, I received the rough painting for the cover. This was less about it really looking like the final form, and more about getting the concept right.


Even this rough I thought this was pretty awesome and it definetly proved the concept that what we were thinking would work. We discussed abit about what the ship on the left would look like. The ship on the right we were obviously constrained by real-life, but still wanted it to look cool. I loved his spooky lights. And we knew it had to be brightened up a bit.
So a couple of days later, we were out for a meal when my phone chimed showing I had an email. And this was in my inbox:


Needless to say, I was gobsmacked. To my mind, it captured the scene better than I ever could of imagined. It was actually increadibly difficult to offer an opinion beyond "Wow!". Tom's design of the Atlantica was perfect, looking both SF yet something which could be built in the next few years. The Ignatius (the ship on the right) looked awesome and provided an excellent juxtaposition to this by being something which anyone would recognise as a contemporary warship yet also being cool and seen in a new way. The mysterious cloud looked great, and the strange light... oh the strange light - piercing and unmistakably unnatural.

Once I was able to look at it with a critical eye (which took a while!) we discussed tweaks. We had to show that the Ignatius was much smaller than the Atlantica but still have it balancing the picture. We wanted to show moverment with the ships, so a bit of a wake was needed. We thought we'd try making the light more of a shaft going up the image. We also wanted to reduce the width of the cloud column for the benefit of just the front cover image.

I also realised at that point I had to have a title change for legal reasons. (A seperate discussion, but probably one worth raising so people don't potentially fall foul of anything)
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And then this arrived:


To my mind, this was perfect. It captures the SF, it captures the thriller aspect and it captures the mystery which underpins the story.

I think Tom's amazing work speaks for itself and I can only hope my novel does it justice.

And, he's a damn nice guy.

If you want to see more of his art and covers:

It's amazing to see how your original sketch was turned into such a detailed image. Love the design for the Atlantica. :)

I wondered how you came across Tom Edwards - then noticed in his portfolio that he'd also done Nick Webb's covers. Good call - IMO this one is one of his best.
Thanks for the rundown Ralph, and Tom's work is amazing. Well done to both of you, the cover concept and execution is awesome. Can't wait to read it.
It's wonderful to see it brought to life.

He really excelled on the design for Atlantica. After the best part of two years imagining what she looks like and then seeing her... an indescribable feeling. I'm not sure which scene will feature in the next book's cover (it only being an opening scene and a series of bullet points at the moment!) but I can't wait to see her from other angles.

He did the cover for Explorations too which again, is simply gorgeous.

I don't think it's any coincidence that many of the books with his coverart on feature in the bestseller lists.
Man, that sucks big style. I'll call in and brighten up some other days... or more likely bore you until you buzz for security to come frogmarch me out.

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