An illustrator has hit back at bestselling fantasy author Terry Goodkind after the writer suggested the cover art for his book was “laughably bad”.
French artist Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme said that five years ago the comments Goodkind made about his cover art would have “broken him”.
Lecouffe-Deharme created the cover for the American version of Goodkind’s Shroud of Eternity, published by Tor Books, published last month, but the author described it as “laughably bad… a great book with a very bad cover” on his Facebook page.
The artist, who has created covers for authors such as Philip K Dick, Clive Barker, told The Bookseller he had been frustrated by Goodkind’s comments but “humbled” by the supportive reaction from the literary and artistic communities.
The controversy began on 23rd February when Goodkind wrote to more than 200,000 fans on his Facebook page that the book “is a great book with a very bad cover. Laughably bad. So let's have some fun with it”.
The American author asked fans to reveal their views with the chance to win one of 10 hardbacks of the book and posted a poll asking if the cover was “laughably bad” or “excellent”, which has already attracted more than 20,000 votes.
He later edited the original post to read: “Not the artist's fault, of course. The quality of the artwork is terrific. The characters are not represented well and that's the responsibility of the publisher.”
Lecouffe-Deharme, who is based in the US, responded to the comments on his own Facebook page, saying he was "appalled" by Goodkind's remarks.
He told The Bookseller: “I woke up one morning to find an email from a fan of Terry Goodkind letting me know that the author was conducting a poll to shame my artwork on his book cover. Because it was Terry Goodkind, I am aware of how famous he is, the question was, 'should I just be quiet about it and would it hurt me even more if I speak up?'”
The illustrator revealed that his main reaction was that “I was lucky that this happened to me now because if it had happened to me five years ago it would have broken me”.
“I have never heard of this sort of thing happening before,” he said. “A lot of people from the artistic community said they had never heard of it happening before either. I found it completely disgusting behaviour.”
The illustrator said the cover closely resembled that of Goodkind’s first novel in the series, with the same characters in the same world and “no one said anything bad about” the previous one. He dismissed the suggestion that all cover artists should read the book itself, which he described as a denial “of what our professional conditions are”.
He said: “We are not paid to read the books, we are paid to make art that matches the requests of the client. And the client is the publisher. We follow the directions of the art director. Nothing justifies Terry for calling out the art publicly.”
On 25th February, two days after the poll was launched, Goodkind posted a lengthy comment on Facebook which said the artist was “obviously an exceptionally talented creative” but that “the problem is with the publisher”. He described the cover as a “poor representation of characters within the book” and said it was impossible not to emotional about such things.
He said: “In no way do I feel the quality of the art is rendered poorly. For any misunderstanding, I apologize to the artist, his friends, and of course my own community here. Before becoming a writer, I was a working artist myself. I was a painter, sculptor, and I restored antiquities. It's a difficult path and I hold the profession with the greatest reverence.”
He described his poll as an attempt at “gallows humour” and revealed that he, along with many others, “all expressed our dissatisfaction with the character representation of the artwork and we protested the printing” before publishing but were over-ruled by the publisher.
Lecouffe-Deharme said he was delighted by the supportive reaction of other artists and authors, as well as the response from Tor Books.
“I do my work on my own and that is the case for many artists so when you get attention and decide to answer it, and the community was so with me, sending me all this support, it was humbling,” he said. “I would almost thank Terry Goodkind for giving me the chance to experience this.”
He said Tor Books, based in New York, was very supportive of him and the first email he received following the saga was from the publisher’s art director who wished to carry on working with him. He is now discussing “next steps” with his agent.
Goodkind has sold 719,659 books for £6,160,211 since Nielsen BookScan records began. Shroud of Eternity is published by Head of Zeus in the UK.
Tor and Goodkind have both been approached by The Bookseller for comment.