Hello everyone! As most of you know, I’ve been interview most Book Cover of the Month winners. Click on each month to see those interviews. December. January. February. April. I wasn’t able to reach the artist for March, but here’s the announcement for it. I never could find anyone to talk to for May, but here’s the announcement for that. Here we are with June’s winner though, the man who designed For Steam and Country!
Without further delay, let’s get right to it!
First off congratulations on your cover winning my blog’s Book Cover of the Month of June.
Thanks, Matt! So, uh, I never received my winnings…I was told there’d be money involved. I’ve got bills, man, and a cat to feed. Just kidding, just kidding.
It was quite the surprise to see it was in the running and the support it received. Made me a very happy artist/designer. And happy to see someone who so thoroughly enjoys cover art/design — that, obviously, means a lot to me.
When did you get in to art?
Oh you know, the usual story of being snatched by the creatures under my bed as a child and thrown into a tiny, dank cell and forced to draw every day… Huh? Only me?
Honestly though, like most children, I was always drawing growing up…but when other kids moved onto other interests I continued on drawing. I can remember making up my own Power Rangers and Ninja Turtles characters (my mom actually painted the Turtles on my bedroom walls — she’s the one I have to thank for passing down the art gene), and then I discovered Spawn later on and began copying the art from those comics and others I’d sneak out of my brother’s room — he’d eventually give me his whole box so I’d leave him alone.
So yeah, basically I’ve always been into art.
How long have you been creating covers?
I’ve actually only been creating covers since maybe the end of 2014. I worked on my first cover in 2013, but it wouldn’t be until the later part of 2014 that I secured a position with a publishing company (Ragnarok Publications) and began doing the design/typography for their covers…and the rest, as they say, is history.
So I’ve really got a special place in my heart for Ragnarok — without Joe Martin and Tim Marquitz (great author by the way, if anyone reading this hasn’t checked out his work, do that now) taking a chance on me I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t know all of the kickass authors and industry professionals I do now, and who knows where my career would be…
What got you started in creating covers?
Since becoming a bibliophile around the age of 15 I’ve wanted to work in the book industry. I used to say I didn’t care if I were the mail-boy, as long as I got to work for a publisher. There’s no graphic design jobs around here so I kept reaching out to publishers and finally one brought me in, Ragnarok Publications. I gained a lot of experience with them, and they eventually introduced me into experimenting with photo-based art, which I’m really enjoying at the moment.
Do you prefer one medium over another?
As far as physical art I’m mainly a graphite and pen type.
As far as covers go as a medium I do enjoy the character-focused pieces (urban fantasy mostly), but I’m real partial to fully designed covers as there’s just something intriguing about them, an extra sense of wonder at where this idea came from, what was the designer thinking, what are they trying to convey to potential readers, and sometimes the “Whoa, how’d they do that.”
Do you have someone who inspired your own work? If so, who? Why?
I can’t really say that I do. I gather inspiration from all over and try not to focus on any one thing too much. I will say, though, that I really like the design work on oldschool fantasy covers — even the over-the-top ones manage to hit the right fantastical mood and leave me wondering how I could work some of its elements into my own designs.
What makes you choose to work with an author or not?
Well, I’ve had a couple horrendous clients in the past, so I know a couple signs to watch out for. One thing I’ve noticed though is everyone I’ve work with in the book industry have been fairly easy to get along with, and they’re usually very appreciative and supportive.
What do you look for in a great client?
I’m looking for a sugar-client (kinda like a sugar daddy, or sugar momma, but not gender-specific) who can sweep me up in their arms and deliver me from the dreadful day-job…huh…oh, sorry, wrong type of client.
For art/design clients, most times I don’t really know until I’ve gotten a little ways in, but if they’re appreciative and respect my work and opinions then I’ll do whatever I can to help them. And once I get one of those clients I try my best to keep them! heh
What are some of your pet peeves about clients?
Haha, hmm let’s see if I can think of some without pissing anyone off…
I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it when someone tells me how easy a task will be…like they think I can just make a couple clicks and *poof*.
And, should go without saying, but any type of unwarranted hostility is a surefire way to end our working relationship. I put up with that for years from one client, and I’ll never do it again.
Other than that, since entering the book world, I’ve been lucky to have very good and respectable clients. Authors can be crazy…ehh, let’s face it, they ARE crazy, but I’ve had the best time working with them.
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?
Easiest way is to just inquire via my website, stkkreations.com. I don’t have rates posted anywhere as it could cause some issues if they change and I forget to update them wherever they’re posted, and depending on the style of cover it can also alter the rate, but I’m always willing to discuss that and I’m fairly easy to talk to…I think…
How did you come to be chosen to create the cover of For Steam and Country?
I believe Jon heard (or saw) of me through some mutual author friends and contacted me inquiring of my interest in his new fantasy steampunk novel. I love the ideas and imagery of the genre so I was immediately interested.
Artistically, what were your goals for the cover?
I wanted to be sure I expressed the genre clearly but without overdoing it, and that I could create this character without it looking recycled (whether that be just your generic steampunk character, or overuse of stock — that last part should really be paid attention to as there’s a lot of covers out there that use straight stock photos so the end result is a slew of books with basically the same character on their covers…yikes).
How was Jon to work with?
He was a total jerk and constantly talked about my momma. Nah, seriously he was quite easy to work with. He didn’t have any excessive changes and he listened to my reasoning behind certain things I did with an appreciative and understanding ear.
What inspired the idea for this cover?
The general idea was Jon’s. He wanted to show the protagonist, a young female who knows nothing of adventure and the bravery it requires, but will quickly find out.
He gave me a few necessities, like the cape, sword, ship, obviously it has to look like a steampunk character, and other than that pretty much let me run free.
Can you walk me through the whole process of that cover? From commissioning to final product? How did you feel about it once it was finished?
Let’s see, the commissioning part is kinda boring: Jon approached me, rates were discussed and agreed upon, and that’s about it…pretty standard I guess.
Once all the financial business was taken care of, Jon gave me a description of what he was looking for, and I started gathering resources and pinning down some rough ideas of what I wanted to do. From there there’s a lot of extracting elements from other elements or backgrounds and piecing them all together into something new that you won’t have to worry about finding on anyone else’s cover.
In the end, I’d say I’m very pleased with how it turned out. I had a lot of anguishing fun making it and I think it was pretty well received.
Is it your favorite cover? If so, why?
It’s definitely one of my favorites. It’s one of the ones where I started getting comfortable with my style of character-driven covers, and the most complex one (roughly twenty photo resources were used on this one) I’ve done so far.
What can we expect to see from you next?
I actually just finished another cover for Jon, for his novella Gravity of the Game that will release in October.
I’m currently working on cover art for the sequel to Kirk Dougal’s Reset (very fun series for those who haven’t read it — detective story within a video game story). Those are a fun silhouette style.
I’m also working on design work (typography mostly) for a few different authors.
I’ve got a few projects I’m working on for Vault Books (a specialty press, look ’em up if you haven’t) for authors Dan Wells, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Larry Correia.
Basically, I’m all over the place haha.
Is there anything you’d like to say to readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read this little interview, I hope it wasn’t too boring and maybe even inspired a few of you to explore your creative side — the world can never have enough art.
Once more Shawn, 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, Matt! This was an excruciatingly painf…I mean, uh, very enjoyable interview! One of these days I’ll get better at talking about myself haha.
And there you have it folks. Shawn was fun to talk to. And he’s the only designer so far with two covers in the Book Cover of the Year Bracket (He was involved in the design of The Heresy Within). We’re so close to that bracket. I’m really getting excited about it. Until then…
The August Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. It was a slower month of voting, but I think that’s because the winner’s shock-and-awe first few days just worked for him. It’s always great to see the support these authors and artists generate. We had 3,122 votes. I want to offer my thanks to everyone who got involved.
This month was unusual in that one cover took the lead and never let it go once he had it.
The August Book Cover of the Month is…
Colony Lost by Chris Philbrook! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.
Philbrook (who owes us a jig) received 325 total votes. He more than doubled anyone else’s votes in pretty much any way you can measure.
Black Ruins Forest finished second, which means she’ll have another chance to be the Book Cover of the Month for September.
That said, Philbrook is the winner this month, so let’s look at his book.
Seven hundred fifty years ago, human colonists left Earth and settled on the moons of the distant gas giant Ghara.
Civilization has flourished on Ghara’s fertile moons, but humanity’s drive to colonize and explore is still strong. Detecting plentiful mineral resources and a rich abundance of alien life on the nearby planet of Selva, the Gharian Colonists mount a dangerous expedition. Young newlywed marines Dustin and Melody will find themselves put to the ultimate test as they forge a way through fierce magnetic storms into an unknown and utterly alien world.
Tensions mount at home, as not all of the colonists support this mission and its high cost of resources, and many are outright hostile towards the Marines and scientists who are setting out to colonize the new world.
As the peace the four colonies have shared for almost 200 years starts to fracture, what the expedition finds on Selva might very well be the worst thing humanity has ever dealt with.
Here’s Philbrook’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.
I don’t know who the artist is yet, but I’ll see if Philbrook is willing to stop dancing long enough to introduce me.
The September bracket is still under development, but it looks good so far. It’ll kick of Oct. 1.
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.
With just about seven days left in this month’s bracket, I thought this would be a good chance to update you all on how things have been progressing. Things started off fast, but we’ve slowed down a bit.
2,433 votes the support has been nice to see, but some of these covers need your help.
Colony Lost by Chris Philbrook has taken the lead an run with it.
Most Voted on so far: Philbrook has the most round wins and the most votes overall with 288 total votes.
Least Voted for: Kaiju Wars by Eric S. Brown currently has the fewest votes (31). Fans of Brown should rally to help this cover get at least a bit more credit than that.
The Sweet 16 is the closest round so far. Half of those matches are within 10, but Philbrook is the story here as he’s got a commanding lead in every round, so anyone who wants to beat him needs to summon the followers by the dozens.
A quick reminder of how the tournament works. The easiest way to win is to have the most people vote for you in every round (like Philbrook). The trick is you have to have the most people vote you through in each round, all the way to the final. As an example, 10 people (the second most) have voted Blood-Stained Heir all the way to the championship, but that’s not enough because Norman can’t get past Black Ruins Forest (though he’s only four votes away). Just remember. It’s not total votes. It’s not simple championship votes. The winning cover has to have the most votes in each round of the competition.
So let’s take a look at the three covers that have the BEST shot at upsetting Philbrook.
Blood-Stained Heir can grab victory if he gets 23 people to vote him all the way through to the championship. (That’s assuming those 23 voters aren’t answered by voters of Colony Lost or Black Ruins Forest.)
Black Ruins Forest actually needs more championship votes than Heir. While Forest has what it needs to get to the last round, the cover is actually further behind than Heir. That said, if Forest can get 26 people to vote it all the way through, it’ll take the lead.
Lucky or Not, Here I Come is actually the third-closest contender if one looks at the bracket as a whole. It’s behind Black Ruins Forest, but not by much. That said, he’d need a massive show of overall support because he only has one championship vote so far. He’d need 33 people to vote him all the way to the championship in order to take the lead.
Getting 33 people to vote anyone all the way through would be a great start, but believe it or not, the 23-vote lead Colony Lost has in the finals is actually the smallest margin of victory he has. Anyone cover not mentioned above would need more than 40 unanswered voters to push the cover all the way to the championship, and that’s not nearly enough to upset Colony Lost in that initial round (Colony has more than 100 votes in that first round.)
This will be the only update for this type of bracket. It’s been an amazing tournament to watch thus far, and I hope readers continue to support their authors by voting, liking, and sharing the bracket with as many people as possible. You can vote at this address!
I was surfing the social media waves today when I noticed a few friends of mine have earned some recognition. I love it when people I respect get some props, so what better way to offer my congratulations than to post a brief announcement for them on my humble little blog?
Without further chatter from me, let’s spread the good news.
Anaerfell by Joshua Robertson and J.C. Boyd: Winner of the contest’s bronze medal in the Young Adult – Fiction – Fantasy – Epic category. Just to point out a humble/not humble fact. Every book I’m about to mention was a book I discovered by it’s cover. Anaerfell was put in my February Book Cover of the Month and is still one of the most voted on books in the bracket’s history. Joshua and I became friends during that bracket. To put a final touch on the coincidence, Anaerfell is actually next on my TBR list.
Magic Price by C.L. Schneider: Winner of the contest’s bronze medal in the Adult – Fiction – Fantasy – Epic category. A few years back now (has it really been a few years Cindy?), I was surfing the aforementioned social media waves when I saw the gorgeous cover. I sent a message saying as much. We got to talking, and I tried her book out. Here’s the review on THAT particular book. That book’s sequel was actually one of the best books I read in 2016. This book’s magic system is flat-out awesome, and Ian is an amazingly sympathetic character. If you check out the reviews, not the content warnings on this. There’s some steamy stuff in there. As if that wasn’t enough, Cindy plucked another medal from the contest!
Flash Pointby C.L. Schneider: Winner of the contest’s silver medal in the Adult – Fiction – Fantasy – Urban category. Flash Point was in my March Book Cover of the Month. I’ve read it. The review is actually scheduled to drop on this blog Wednesday. I didn’t read the book that won this category’s gold medal, but I’d stand behind how well Flash Point did. Flash Point is an urban fantasy with great mystery, action, and dragons. I’ve missed Dresden Files, and Flash Point filled that hole for me. Dahlia is a deeply complex character (a strength of Cindy’s). There are still four months left in the year, but this book is currently on my top three for the year.
These authors are wonderful people, and the books I’ve read are great. I expect Anaerfell to be equally enjoyable. Any time someone I care about gets credit or accomplishes something, I want to leap in the air an pump a fist. This is just blog version of that. If you haven’t tried these books out, add these awards to my firm recommendations.
August’s bracket has 31 plus The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson which is only the second book ever to get third chance at the title.
We’re doing another “vote all the way through” bracket. I think two weeks is the sweet spot. This gives people time to vote. I like to make sure people get the credit they deserve, so please show your support. Please vote and share as much as possible to get people a chance to pick their favorite.
As always, I’d appreciate it if you tag the authors and artists if you know them. I try to tag or friend every author I can, but sometimes it’s hard to track someone down. Max participation is a huge deal to me. The more people who vote, the more recognition these authors and artists receive, and I want this to be as legitimate as possible.
If you are the author, let’s remember to be good sports! 1) Please feel free to message or contact me at any time. 2) Please feel free to like, share, text, ask for support, and call everyone you know. I absolutely want max participation. However, if you’re going to offer giveaways or prizes, please offer them for voting, not just voting for you.
Also, while your summoning your army of voting soldiers, please make sure you ask them to vote in every match. Part of the idea of this is to get exposure to as many artists and authors as possible. By all means, if you can get 1,000 people to vote for your book, do it. Just please also send some eyeballs to the other matches.
A final note to authors and artists: I currently have links to the books’ Amazon pages. If you’d prefer I switch that link to sign up for your newsletter or like your social media page or whatever, just send me the link and let me know. I want this to help you. I want this to be as helpful as possible, so whatever you need me to do to facilitate that, just let me know.
I hope you keep having fun. Please, vote, share, and discuss as much as possible.
Spoiler Free Summary: This was the February Book Cover of the Month. I’ve already reviewed the December Book Cover of the Month, which you can find here, and the January Book Cover of the Month, which you can read here. In The Unleashed by Bentz Deyo, Leam Holt has already saved Harbing from destruction, but he begins this story with amnesia and in enemy territory. Trapped between two machinators, Leam is the linch pin for both of their plans. The forces of light work to free Leam, but they want to use him. The forces of darkness want to keep Leam, but they want to use him, too. What will he choose to do if/when his memory returns?
Character: Leam is a strong lead character. His conflict is honest and real. By the end of the book, I was furious on his behalf for the number of things done to him for the sake of either side’s plans. Leam is earnest, and that earnestness is compelling when he’s being trained and encouraged to do awful things. Those issues get expanded upon when he realizes how terrible his actions really are. I’d also like to mention Eloa, who steals the show from my point of view. She spends a good portion of the story trapped, but she not exactly helpless. Her arch hinges on that situation, and it makes me appreciate her. Gideon, the antagonist, also has in interesting story line that I wanted to learn about.
Exposition: I actually could have used a bit more in this sense. This is the second book in a series, and I think reading the second book took away from the story. I grew to like Leam, but a lot of his arc depends on the reader already knowing what’s happened. That made it hard for me to connect, so if any of this book interests you, I’d strongly recommend buying and reading the first before you move on to this story. I’m of the opinion that doing so will limit questions and issues that I had.
Worldbuilding: Despite the fact that I wasn’t really sure who some of these people were and why they mattered, one thing Deyo did do was ease the reader into this world and magic. Where the characters didn’t make much sense early on, the world grew on you, and that made the book a bit easier for me. There were some aspects I wasn’t sure about, but I’m not going to hold the fact that I didn’t read book one against book two.
Dialogue: The dialogue worked, particularly in regards to developing character. A lot of my connection to these characters formed during conversations. Deyo used this technique with pretty much every character. What made it work is the dialogue didn’t feel like a forced infodump. Instead, you learned about the characters’ pasts and their personality through genuine, realistic conversations.
Description: It’s honestly been a while since I read this particular book. I got backed up with reviews and reading, so I’m not sure how fair I’m being to the book in this regard. What I’ll say is I remember the actions the characters took and how they felt about them. I don’t remember much about what any of the characters looked like or what the settings were like. I remember appreciating the detail in the magic system and some of the intense scenes, but the overall description felt a bit vague in terms of the characters.
Overall: This story was enjoyable by itself, but I think people would like it more with the context of the first book. Leam’s story was the most compelling part of the book. His arch is emotional, touching, sad, and tragic. I’ll admit this book wasn’t so good that I’d insist on going back and reading the first, but I’m glad I read it. The magic system is cool, and this plot has a nice little cat and mouse sort of “Spy vs Spy” feel that I really enjoyed.
The July Book Cover of the Month bracket has just wrapped up. This turned out to be the second-most voted on tournament in the nine-month history of the bracket. It was great to see all that participation, and fun to watch the leads change hand. We had 5,750 votes. I want to offer my thanks to everyone who got involved. We don’t get those kinds of numbers without a lot of people getting involved.
Five different books took the number spot at one point or another in the tournament, but one had the championship spot when the time hit 0:00:00.
The July Book Cover of the Month is…
The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes! If you’re curious about how I felt about the book, check out the Facebook post that I posted when this book first landed on the bracket, here.
Hayes received 260 total votes. It actually finished fourth in overall voting, but it won where it needed to (the semifinal and final). He beat The Queen of Swords 26-14 in the Final Four, and he beat The Girl Who Could See 15-8. The Girl Who Could See did manage to tie a record. First, she had the most votes in the tournament. Next, she finished as the runner up, which means she is only the second book ever to receive TWO extra chances to become the book cover of the month.
That said, Hayes is the winner this month, so let’s look at his book.
This is the 2017 self-published re-release of The Heresy Within by Rob J. Hayes.
As any warrior will tell you; even the best swordsman is one bad day away from a corpse. It’s a lesson Blademaster Jezzet Vel’urn isn’t keen to learn. Chased into the Wilds by a vengeful warlord, Jezzet makes it to the free city of Chade. But instead of sanctuary all she finds is more enemies from her past.
Arbiter Thanquil Darkheart is a witch hunter for the Inquisition on a holy crusade to rid the world of heresy. He’s also something else; expendable. When the God Emperor himself gives Thanquil an impossible task, he knows he has no choice but to venture deep into the Wilds to hunt down a fallen Arbiter.
The Black Thorn is a cheat, a thief, a murderer and worse. He’s best known for the killing of several Arbiters and every town in the Wilds has a WANTED poster with his name on it. Thorn knows it’s often best to lie low and let the dust settle, but some jobs pay too well to pass up.
As their fates converge, Jezzet, Thanquil, and the Black Thorn will need to forge an uneasy alliance in order to face their common enemy.
Here’s Hayes’s Facebook page. Give it a like if you’re curious about him and his work.
I don’t know who the artist is yet, and I’m a bit behind with interviews, but I’ll get back on that soon since I’m nearly done drafting Repressed, a novella featuring Kaitlyn from Caught.
The August bracket is still under development, but it looks good so far. It’ll kick of Sept. 1.
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.