Picking Their Brains: Book Cover Design

I had a wonderful time interviewing cover designer Jenny Zemanek earlier this month, so the topic I chose for Picking Their Brains is book covers! Indie authors had lots to say about this. I actually have three author spotlights coming up that go into more depth on the topic. Here are a few brief thoughts on cover design to get the ball rolling.

"I used thebookcoverdesigner.com, loads of different artists and prices ranging from cheap to not so! I paid about $35 US for mine tops. My only regret is the font I chose for the covers, but then it’s kind of become my thing. I’m already looking into changing them but it won’t be for several years." —Paul S. Lavender, author of Tales from Ashen Falls


"I’m not published, but I have done mock covers for when I want to post about anything I’m working on such as this one:

I think they give you something to work toward. As for what should go into it, something that feels emblematic of the story to you. If you can also get something that will draw attention and you get folk interested in reading it, then that’s extra motivation too."
 —Drew McVittie, The Scribblings

"I did something similar a while back as a rough up, to see if public domain images in a 'historical' style was feasible with IT skills I haven't used in a decade on some archaic software. It also looked better when running a scriv compile for my phone. Don't rupture anything." —S.D. Howarth, World of Sanctuary

"My first covers were a job lot. £60 for all three. Then I spent some time with paint and put some text on the art and called it done. I'm honestly amazed I sold even 1 copy. They looked awful. They were unprofessional. In the current market everyone would skip right on past. Your book is your child. It's a little bit of you you're pushing out into the world and hoping people will read and like. Why not give it the best chance of success you can? That includes hiring a great artist and a top notch cover designer. It doesn't have to cost thousands, but it should probably be costing you hundreds. Oh, and Shawn King is the best cover designer out there. Hire that man now!" —Rob J. Hayes, author of The Ties That Bind series

Which books would you be most likely to pick up? 

It sounds like a common temptation for indie authors to create their own covers, but it doesn't always work out and can be difficult to create one you're happy with!

More cover design advice coming tomorrow as we continue exploring this challenging arena...

Review: Blackest Knights Anthology

Honor is just a word.

Throughout fiction, there have always been heroes who have fallen from grace. Champions of honor, decency, and order who have become villains through some traumatic event or a deep personal flaw. Blackest Knights is a collection of 19 tales by some of independent fantasy's best authors that follow a collection of those heroes who fell to temptation. From tales of bloody-handed hypocrites to space pirates, you'll find some truly fascinating works within.

Contains fiction by: David Niall Wilson, C. T. Phipps, James Alderdice, M. L. Spencer, Paul Lavender, Ulff Lehmann, A. M. Justice, Matthew Johnson, Matthew Davenport, Frank Martin, Allan Batchelder, Martin Owton, Richard Writhen, Jesse Teller and Michael Suttkus.

5 of 5 stars! 

Sometimes you need a reading palate cleanser, a book to reset your mind and ignite your enthusiasm once again. This anthology did that for me. Phipps has done a wonderful job compiling this collection. The theme works really well. The flow from one story to the next feels natural, with just enough variation to keep it interesting without feeling disjointed. It feels like a set of stories and not a random collection, each dark and entertaining, with a great variety in pacing and style. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There are 19 stories from 15 different authors. Some humorous, some filled with tension, it's a perfect mixed bag of styles and approaches to the theme.

Some of the stories that stood out for me were: "Red" by ML Spencer, "The Structural Engineer" by Ulff Lehmann, "The King and the Witch" by Frank Martin, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" by Allan Batchelder, "Honor is Just a Word" by CT Phipps, and "The Land of Rott and Cur" by Jesse Teller.

I highly recommend this for any fans of dark fantasy who are interested in sampling the works of some of the best indie authors you'll find. I applaud Phipps and all the contributing authors for this excellent addition to the current selection of quality fantasy anthologies.

You can find it here on Amazon or here on Goodreads.

Interview with Author Megan Mackie

I recently reviewed The Finder of the Lucky Devil, the first book of Megan Mackie's Lucky Devil series, and had so much fun reading it! I'm really looking forward to reviewing the sequel in the upcoming months. It's an intriguing alternate universe to delve into. Here's more about her process and future plans:

What inspired your world building process?
For this particular world, I asked myself the question, what would it be like in modern day Chicago if magic was out in the open and has always been. All the ideas developed from there.

Who are you writing for and why?
Myself, first most. I write stories I wanted to read, ideas I wanted to see in print. Those who know me know I have opinions and often when I read or see some other idea that I don’t agree with or if I can see how an idea that was taken as a matter of course, but in fact is destructive, I want to change that in the only way I can control, by offering a new one in it’s place in my writing. The most common thing I hear from people about my stories, is that they were surprised.

What do you do to recharge your creative energy?
I don’t know yet, I’m working on that part. Taking care of myself seems to be a big part of it. When I’m rested and feeling good, the words flow easier. When I’m sick, tired, stressed, hurting, the words stagger out and are sad and lost and uninspired, but strangely enough, when I go back to reread those words, they aren’t too far off the mark, so they are worthy any way.

What reactions do you hope to inspire in others?
Honestly, I hope they get excited to go grab the next book, to keep dwelling in this world I’m creating a little longer. I hope they want to reach out to me and talk to me about my books and my ideas. I hope they seek me out at the cons I visit and want to talk to me in person.

Where is your writing taking you?
Right now I’ve started Book 3 of my series and I even did an outline, then immediately it went off the rails. So I suppose I’ll let you know when I get there.

For more Megan Mackie online:

Facebook: @MeganMackieAuthor

Twitter: @MeganMackieVO

Instagram: MeganMackieauthor