I've finished populating the map for my world. Finally. I had to read through the second novel to pick up any stray place names. I always hate it when you read book one of a series that has a large map, and some places are blank, but in later books, the author has put something there. It makes me feel like the world is randomly rewriting itself.
Granted, that's exactly what the author is doing. "Oh, let's have the hero gallivant off to Northern Shake-and-bake for this latest adventure. I'll have to make up the whole culture that lives there, but I can do that."
As a reader, I dislike when there wasn't at least a modicum of effort put forth to name everything on the map ahead of time. Certainly, I don't expect a full three page description of the land, its inhabitants, their culture and ways of making a living, and how dangerous it is to those on the western edge by the Swamps of Haze and Fog. But a place name on the map would really be nice. A casual reference like "I'm not an uncultured Carthan, Lord Faahr. I know how to use a knife and fork. Now pass that glazed pumpkin, or you'll see how I use them to impale your arm," would be fine.
Mmm, glazed pumpkin. Now I'm hungry.
Maybe a small, stylized pumpkin next to the dot that reads Cartha would be nice, too. They could probably use some, so they can practice with their knives and forks.
I do like map illustrations. The map for The Wicked Heroine will have a few sea monsters on it, since ocean hogs the spotlight in its design.
One of the things I found myself staring at in the map for Jim Butcher's final (?) Codex Alera book, First Lord's Fury, was the pair of lines that traced every shoreline. It gave a fine, finished touch to the whole map. I doubt I'll get something as nice on my map, but since I do have a brazillian miles of coastline, it would definitely help!
You know, fitting landscape-oriented maps into books isn't a pretty job. The pages support portrait maps only. Either you have to crank your head every time you refer to a single-page map, or you get the map spread over two pages (which is much easier to read). But then you have to deal with either a large gap between halves of the map along the spine, or you're practically tearing out the pages to see what necessary detail has gotten wedged in that dark little crevice of folded space.
Is there any two-page map that's balanced between these extremes? I might read a new book just for that.
On framing: surely a map is always better with a frame, right? Not necessarily. For fantasy, you want a frame that displays the map with a medieval quality, or no frame at all. If you get a frame around your map that shows up like a photo-corner tabs from the nineteen-thirties, you'll probably raise a few eyebrows.
If they even notice them. I admit, I rarely looked at the how of a map before trying to draw my own. I suppose it comes down to whether anything stood out as negative. If nothing catches the reader's eye in a bad way, then you're probably fine.
I suppose those people blessed with the gift of drawing, sketching, painting, etc (which I am most decidedly not) would notice these maps more than I have. So it is to you gifted ones that I must offer this advance apology for the surely-amateur work my map will appear as, despite the best efforts of my publishers.
If you find yourself overly sensitive to crap maps, then please skip over that page when you begin reading my book. If the compulsion to look becomes overwhelming once you've started reading the first few chapters, then I trust you'll be able to handle your own disappointment. But keep in mind that I wrote The Legend of the Shanallar duology without a map a'tall. So I expect you can read it without one as well.
Unless you're terrible with directions, like my sweet grandmother, who always gets confused outside her small home town as to which way is north. Then you might just have to Suck It Up, and use the thing anyway.