I’m happy to report I’ve finished another draft of The Worth of Words. I’d like to take a quick moment to thank my Alpha Readers: Ben Duke, Grace, and Eduardo. Your feedback was invaluable, and I’m so glad you all liked this version. Your input made it possible to take this story one step closer to being what it needs to be.
I’m awestruck with WoW. It’s a thrill to see where I was and where I am now, and stories like this help me feel like I’m on a level I hadn’t previously reached in my time being published. When I get the story out, I hope you all feel the same way I do about it.
I’ll send WoW off to Sara for a developmental edit. In the meantime, I have two new submissions forThe Power of Words anthology to edit and make a decision on. I also have another draft of a previously signed author’s contribution. That’s how I hope most of February goes. I’d like to get the Beta Draft of Repressed done by the end of March. If I maintain this pace, I should be working on Betrayed (Oneiros Book Two) in June. I’ll step away for the anthology, but there won’t be that much more once I select the last few authors and start layout and design. If you’re still interested in contributing, please feel free to send a submission. I won’t close submissions until I’m ready to go into layout and design.
I just wanted you all to have a quick glimpse regarding where I’m at in this passionate pursuit of mine. I hope to have one of my usual book reviews up next week, but the timing worked out to put this update on Wednesday.
The most fun for me was talking to the other venders. It’s always fun meeting artists and venders, but this time was a particular pleasure. I ran into a few acquaintances, which is always nice because it allows me to catch up. I made some progress on Worth of Words.
Oh yeah, I sold some books! For those curious about the financial feasibility of conventions, well, I didn’t sell quite enough to earn back what I paid for the table (let alone what it cost to purchase the books). The thing is though, if I don’t do conventions, I don’t sell any books. The investment is on building familiarity, building my newsletter, and getting my work out there. Those are all things I accomplished. I still only have two physical books to work with and three titles available. Things will improve as I keep at it. Last year, I didn’t do that many events, and my sales reflected it. While I can’t point to many sales, what I can say is I’ve almost sold more books in two months this year than I did in all of last year (I’m only 20 sales away from that mark).
I say this because it’s important anyone getting their name out there understands it takes time. I’ve always advised that the more patient (and probably successful) author waits until he has three books before he publishes. It creates momentum and lets readers know you’re not going anywhere. None of the math made this any less fun or successful when considered with a longer, more strategic mindset.
I let that affect me far too much in my first year, so much so that I didn’t do many conventions in year two, and that made things even worse. I believe in this plan, and I have the regular sales to prove it. Doing conventions on a regular basis is the right way to go.
The other thing that matters are the reviews. The more books I sell, the more likely I am to see reviews. The reviews I’ve gotten are mostly positive. Of the 35 reviews I have on Amazon, only three of them (9 percent) are two stars or fewer. I’m not even sure I have any one-star reviews. Of the 41 reviews I have on Goodreads, only three of them (7 percent) are two star or fewer. Yes, there are some repeats, but there are also some originals, and I’m simply providing data to those thinking about publishing or becoming authors. What this means to me is that the people who read my books like my books. That encourages me to keep putting the books out there, and I hope it encourages you to do the same. No, I wouldn’t do it the way I did it if I could do it over. But I’m fixing that this year and next year (four titles in 2017 and at least three in 2018).
On the other side of this equation is how much fun these events are. Like I said, Farpoint was a blast just talking to people and getting to know the other venders, and you all saw how much fun I had at Animorecon. The rest will work out in time.
My next convention is Awesomecon, which I’ve been to every year since I’ve been published. I’m doing my “Self-Publishing for Unwary Authors” panel again (folks seem to really like that one). I may even get another. I see a lot of folks at that event, and I can’t wait to meet more.
I’ll keep updating it, but it’s important I make clear this post is more about perspective than it is about immediate gratification, which is true of being an author. I want any hopeful authors to be informed, and I the conventions, readers, and newsletter subscribers to know just how much they mean to me. I hope this accomplishes that goal.
Cull received 578 total votes.
Because February only has twenty-eight days, The four runners up get a second chance next month. They are:
Trial of Chains by Sohan Amad, Gravitas by Ben Mason, Symphony of Fates by JC Kang, and Burn the Ashes by Heather Shahan.
For Davis, he doesn’t have to stress over another “tryout” bracket. He’s in the main Book Cover of the Year Bracket. Let’s look at the summary for his book.
“A modern fantasy with a touch of noir, a dash of detective thriller, and a sprinkling of humor throughout. A really fun debut novel.”–Steve Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of MONSTER
Janzen Robinson is a man torn between two worlds. Five years removed from a life as an apprentice to a group of do-gooding heroes who championed the fight against supernatural evils, the once-promising student is now a package courier going through the daily grind, passing time at a hole-in-the-wall bar and living in a tiny, run-down apartment on the south side of Cleveland, Ohio.
Then fate (or a case of bad timing) brings him face to face with a door that’s got his old life written all over it. From the ancient recesses of unyielding darkness known as the Abyss, a creature has been summoned: a Stalker, a predator whose real name is forbidden to be spoken aloud. It’s a bastardization of the natural order, a formidable blend of dark magic and primal tenacity. Its single-minded mission? Ending the life of a fiery, emerging young witch.
Thrust into the role of protector, a role once reserved for those he’d lost years ago, the out-of-practice “Artificer” not only has to return to a life he’d left behind, but must relive that painful past while facing down the greatest threat to come to our world in a century. Janzen will have to journey through the magical underbelly of the city and not only stay one step ahead of an unstoppable monster hellbent on destruction but try and figure out why it’s been brought to our world in the first place. Past wounds are reopened as Janzen looks to old friends, a quiet stranger, and his own questionable wits to see them all to the other side of this nightmare that may cost him his life and, quite possibly, the world itself.
I’ve added Blunt Force Magic to my TBR. (For those who are new to the deal, I buy the Book Cover of the Month to read and review in the future. I buy all the winning covers. I’ve already bought December’s book.
Here’s Davis’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.
I’ll try to find out who did that cover. I’m still behind my interviews, but I’m hopeful my vacation can give me a chance to get caught up.
The February Book Cover of the Month is all set, and that contest will launch March 1. Things are finally going to get back to normal after the end of the year.
I will continue to identify and select covers for each day from Amazon’s New Release section for fantasy and science fiction. If you follow and like my Facebookpage, you can see what covers will make the bracket.
Spolier Free Summary: Dawn of War IIIby Robbie MacNivenis a novel from the Warhammer 40,000 series. A wandering planet approaches the normal universe. A prophecy of a great spear, which can be found on this planet, brings Space Marines, orks, and eldar into an epic clash. Most want the spear, but a special few realize that spear can never fall into the wrong hands. Even they don’t know what the weapon truly represents. This was my May Book Cover of the Month winner.
Character: I was at a severe disadvantage jumping in on this book. With so much going on, there wasn’t a lot of character in this book. Don’t get me wrong, there were a ton of characters, but there wasn’t much development. I don’t know how many I can name without help. To me, this is a sign of a book with weak characters. While I assert any book should strive to help the readers connect with the characters, I do understand that these particular characters have probably already been established. I only finished reading this a few minutes ago as I type this, and I can only name Macha, the eldar. The Space Marine was a real bad ass, but all he did was pretty much Hulk smash through the whole book, which is cool if I’m watching a movie, but it’s not so great in written form. My instincts say 1) fans of the series are going to hate me, and 2) My opinion on this subject would be vastly different if I were to start at the first book in the series.
Exposition: This was great. We got what we needed, and I’d argue that every single speck of exposition was carefully analyzed. What I remember reading couldn’t have been done another way in my opinion.
World building: This had some of the same issues as the character had. I’ll say I thought this was better, as MacNiven laces details about the world into every aspect of his writing. I’m not sure about most of it, but as I read, I know what I need to know. I’m not emotionally invested in the information, but I did gain a solid view on how the universe worked.
Dialogue: Neither disappointing nor impressive. It flows well. It’s a little limited for my taste, but I think I view novels differently than fans of this series.
Description: This was fantastic. Every action had a level of detail that added something to the scene. This is especially true during the (many, many) fight scenes. Still, I’d say this is MacNiven’s strongest skill.
Overall: This was pretty much non-stop action and mayhem from cover to cover. It didn’t have much in the way of character development, which means it’s probably a great part of the series, but it’s not a good book to start with. If this were Anime, I’d love it. The action and description is perfect for fans of the video games, so if you’re more interested in hack and slash, this is the book for you.
As usual, I’m sharing what reviews I find for my books. However, this review is special to me. You see, Joshua Robertson is someone whom I respect a great deal. He’s a brilliant writer, a well-respected member of the community, and someone I consider a mentor. When I saw that he’d started reading Caught, I felt a degree of fear. I feel it when any of my author friends read my work, but I’ll admit that I was slightly more nervous than I had been. So when I saw his five-star review for the book, I had to let out the breath I’d been holding since it appeared on his “currently reading” tab.
Some of you might recognize the name. You should, I read and reviewed Anaerfellfairly recently. I can say first-hand that Mr. Robertson is a busy man, so even seeing him take the time to read my book was an honor. The fact that he liked it has me on cloud nine. I’d like to take this chance to thank him now. Thank you, Mr. Robertson.
First off congratulations on your cover wining my blog’s 2017 BookCover of the Year! How does it feel knowing people thought your book cover was the best of all the year’s winning covers?
It’s an unbelievable compliment. I’m so flattered and honored. I want to thank everyone who voted for supporting and appreciating all of the various artists.
When did you get in to art?
It’s been a lifelong thing. Since age three, at least. My mom was incredibly encouraging, always ready with paper, pencils and crayons to draw with any time I ever got bored. It just became my default activity, then grew from there. My mom just kept encouraging me, then my friends and teachers as well, all the way up to college at the Art Institute of Boston.
How long have you been creating covers?
I took a few cover design classes in college, but my first professional cover was actually for my own novel, Carnival of Time, in 2011.
What got you started in creating covers?
Soon after publishing my own novel, my good friend Chris Philbrook started planning his zombie apocalypse series, Adrian’s Undead Diary, and he came to me for the cover and interior design. His story was wildly successful, and I gained attention from there.
Do you prefer one medium over another?
For book covers, I prefer a graphical design done with digital art like the Colony Lost cover, or the covers I’ve done for Chris’s Reemergence series. For character and creature illustrations, I prefer starting with pencil, then finishing the lines with ink and coloring with Copic pens. If you’re not familiar with Copics, they’re really fun. Like a watercolor brush in marker form. Very vivid and blendable.
Do you have someone who inspired your own work? If so, who? Why?
I’ve been inspired by so many different artists. I could probably list hundreds, but some of my favorites are Brian Froud, Tony DiTerlizzi, Terryl Whitlatch, Mike Mignola and Gabriel Rodriguez. I love artists who have an understanding of human and animal anatomy but also how to manipulate overall shape and form to evoke different impressions. Little distortions and exaggerations, as well as careful observation and subtle detail can all radically change the way a creature or character comes across.
What makes you choose to work with an author or not?
Stylistic fit is an important issue. As in: does my style fit what this author is looking for? I feel the need to be respectful of an author’s vision, and be realistic about what my strengths and weaknesses are as an artist. If an author is willing to spend money on quality art, but needs a look or style that isn’t my strength, then I have to be honest with them, rather than wasting their time or money. Nobody wants to turn down good work, but you can’t build a reputation on disappointment. Sometimes you just have to say “Hey, this really isn’t my thing. I think you may need to look for someone with a different skill set.”
What do you look for in a great client?
The other part of the equation is that the respect has to be mutual. I always strive to respect a book’s author as the first and last authority on the way their creation is represented. But I also expect a certain amount of respect for artists as professionals as well. For example, if an author comes to me (or any other artist) looking to get a professional grade cover but then offers to pay with “exposure,” they’re not really respecting that art is real work worth paying for. The best clients are those who know what they want, or are at least able to recognize what does and doesn’t work for them, and who also respect their artists as fellow professionals.
What are some of your pet peeves about clients?
It’s important to remember that not every artist is capable of creating the kind of image you might have in mind. Artistic styles and techniques vary tremendously, so take a look at the artist’s other work. If their other covers are similar in style to what you need, then they’re probably a great fit for you. If all they do is colorful, slightly abstract paintings but what you need is a gritty black and white photo, you should probably look elsewhere. This is definitely something you want to be clear about early on–long before any money changes hands.
What would an author need to do to work with you? Do you have a link to your standard rates, or do you negotiate fees by author?
I’m always more than happy to talk to people about cover work, whether it’s to set up a new client relationship or just to help them figure out what they need to be looking for.
I do negotiate fees by author. That intimidates some people who were hoping to just see a quick price list, because not everyone knows what to expect. What it really means though, is that there are a whole lot of different approaches to designing a cover, and I want to help match up your needs to something you can afford. Authors come to me with a wide variety of budgets, and once I get a general range of what they’d be able to spend, I can suggest different approaches and find out if any of those fit their needs.
How did you come to be chosen to create the cover of Colony Lost?
As I mentioned earlier, Chris Philbrook is a great friend of mine. We’ve known each other since high school, and he kind of jump-started my cover design career by recruiting me to work on his first books. I’ve done almost all of his illustration and design work since.
Artistically, what were your goals for the cover?
I wanted to capture the spirit of the book. There’s a darkness, but also a sense of hopefulness in the middle of that. The black background and menacing mouth/guns/creature imagery are counterbalanced by the bright color scheme, which also reflects the colors of the strange auroras that shine over the planet where the action takes place.
How was Chris to work with?
Chris is always fantastic to work with. He’s very specific about what he wants and needs, but also very willing to flex and try out suggestions that I might have. He’s also very clear when something isn’t working for him, so I never have to waste any time pursuing an idea that isn’t going to work.
What inspired the idea for this cover?
I’d been talking to Chris about doing another graphical cover (flat shapes & colors, rather than photorealistic images). He actually suggested the idea of creating a scared/menacing mouth using silhouettes of story elements, and I love the idea.
Can you walk me through the whole process of that cover? From commissioning to final product? How did you feel about tit once it was finished?
We started just throwing ideas around, with me doodling on a piece of scrap paper. I was talking about silhouettes of guns and creature parts, and he had the great mouth idea. I went home later and started making various silhouette shapes to move around, and tried arranging them in a number of different ways. Colored background with blackened mouth. Black background with color inside the mouth shape. Different proportions and sizes. We kept going back and forth, with him letting me know what was working and what wasn’t, and me fiddling with whatever wasn’t quite right until we had something we were both excited about. That’s the best possible outcome–when the author and artist are both really jazzed up about the final product.
Is it your favorite cover? If so, why?
I have to admit that while I feel really good about the Colony Lost cover, it’s not my favorite. That might go to another of Chris’s books–Tesser: A Dragon Among Us. That was one of my first seriously graphical covers, and I’m still crazy about how it worked out. Plus I just love dragons. I will confess to having a tremendous dragon bias.
What do you think it was about your cover that fans liked so much?
It’s bold, it’s got stark contrast and bright color, and the image is (hopefully) arresting and elicits curiosity. Is the mouth screaming in fear or attack? What kind of strange guns are those? What sort of monsters are all of those limbs connected to? Those are just my own impressions, but whatever the case, something clearly worked and I’m very grateful for that.
What can we expect to see from you next?
It’s safe to say that I’ll be bringing you more Chris Philbrook covers soon. The guy’s crazy prolific. I’m legitimately jealous of that. He’s got more Reemergence novels coming, more Adrian’s Undead Diary stuff. There might be more Colony Lost on the way, and he’s always cooking up new stuff, too. The guy’s head is packed full of nightmares. But they’re fun nightmares.
Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?
Keep reading. Keep supporting the authors and artists that you love, whether it’s with purchases, votes, or reviews (authors LOVE reviews). Most of all, I want to say thank you. Your appreciation matters, tremendously.
Once more Alan, I just want to thank you for spending time to do this interview. Your cover was great. I look forward to seeing more from you.
Thanks so much. This is a terrific honor.
It was such great fun running this competition. I’m overjoyed at the response it received in its first year, and I hope that continues to grow. Artists almost never get credit for the work they do, and I want to build something that truly recognizes them and the covers they create.
Please continue to support this award by voting, liking, and sharing it with your friends. If you’re convinced to vote because you had one friend or author you liked in one month, keep voting in other months. Try to remember that every one of these authors and artists put in a ton of effort.
I’m honored to have Mr. MacRaffen as the first recipient of the award, and I look forward to making a few more.
I just wanted to share this very kind four-star review for An Unusual Occupation. I’m so happy I made each part available. It’s allowed people a chance to try Bob’s story, and so far, they’re enjoying it! This review was kind and constructive, and I’m so grateful. I hope the reviewer tries out the rest of Bob’s story, and maybe Caught. Regardless, I’m honored she tried my work at all, and thrilled she liked it. You can read the review here.