Final cover for Abbey of Death. Like it?

Thank you to all who voted on my new cover!

The response was really fantastic – the best I’ve had so far from you guys here and also on my mailing list, so thanks, I really appreciate your help with this. I honestly expected there to be a clear winner but in the end it was about a 50/50 split with many saying they liked the cleaner lines without the rosary, while lots really liked the interest the beads added.
So…I asked my designers to come up with something I hope will appeal to EVERYONE! Check it out below, I think it’s the ideal blend of both previous covers.

the-abbey-of-death-final-final

On another note now, Wolf’s Head (book 1 in the Forest Lord series of course) is just 99c on Kindle USA for a few days, and the German edition of Knight of the Cross (Ritter des Kreuzes) is only €0.89 as part of the Amazon.de #indielesefestival promotion.

Cheers all!

Blood of the Wolf COVER REVEAL!

As ever, my cover designers came up with something striking and I hope you all like it. For once I didn’t do a crappy sketch, I just told them what I wanted and this is the final result.

There’s some symbolism here and anyone that knows the Robin Hood legend will know how it ends so, since this is the final book in the series you can make up your own minds what the cover is saying. Let me know what you think please, I’d love to know your thoughts on how this compares to the other covers since it IS a little different…

 

blood of the wolf

There’s no point asking me questions about how it will all pan out, because I honestly do not know myself yet. I’m working hard on it and it should be finished by this summer but I have no idea what will happen as I work. Just as an example, I was writing a scene tonight and, totally out of the blue, a whole new plotline presented itself – it literally came out the mouth of Robin and has opened up an idea I’d never thought of before!

So if you want to know how it’s all going to end -don’t ask me!

You’ll just have to read the book when it comes out around July/August.

To whet your appetite here’s a little extract from the scene just before that one I was working on tonight. As ever, totally unedited, this is straight from the manuscript and you might recognise a couple of guys here…

Philip watched in surprise as the arrow tore past his face by quite some distance and, from the sound of it, buried itself deep in a tree trunk.

“The bastards are shooting at us,” he muttered, turning, one eyebrow raised, to look up at Eoin.

The giant’s eyes widened as another arrow sailed past them at an almost leisurely pace – clearly these villagers were no crack shots – then he lumbered forward, placing himself in front of Philip and using his bulk to shepherd his friend backwards, into the safety of the trees, like some great mother hen.

“The bastards,” Philip repeated, shocked at the organised resistance they’d met. This had never happened before when they’d visited a village and he cursed Robin Hood once again. The man was a thorn in his side that he’d need to remove sooner rather than later. “Attack them,” he ordered, waving his hand forward distractedly. “Show these peasants what happens when people stand up to us.”

His men needed no further encouragement.

The bald headman had retreated behind a building when the shooting had started. His furious voice could be heard castigating the man that had loosed the first, wayward arrow – both for starting a fight that might have been avoided and, more importantly, missing the target.

The arrows continued to slam into the trees though, and the outlaws waited, judging the best moment to charge, before, at last, half a dozen of them sprinted towards the village screaming unintelligible war cries.

Philip watched as an arrow – probably more by luck rather than any skill – hammered into one of his men, spinning the unfortunate backwards, howling in rage and pain and effectively out of the battle.

The other five of his followers made it to the village and were met by a similar number of locals, led by the headman with his war axe.

Fascinated now by the melee, Philip stared, rapt, as the big, bald man brought his weapon down on the head of an outlaw, then used his foot to brace himself as he tried to free the blade which had become trapped in the dead outlaw’s skull.

He wasn’t fast enough though, and an attacker hammered the blade of his sword into the headman’s torso. The blow was a powerful one and it sent the headman reeling backwards although the ill-fitting mail shirt he wore absorbed most of the force so no blood was drawn.

Philip’s eyes flickered on to the next of his men and he cursed inwardly as a villager, face scarlet and terrified, landed a lucky blow with his crude hammer, smashing the wolf’s head’s eye socket into a bloody mess.

His gaze moved on again and this time the view was more pleasing.

Mark’s toothless mate, Ivo, was competent – skilled even – with his sword, and he skewered one of the villagers before drawing the crimson blade free and moving  to hack at the next in the defensive line.

Look out for the Blood of the Wolf pre-order on Amazon around June, and please keep the reviews for the other books coming, they really do help.

Cheers

Steven

1starchery picturesRotW final FINAL! smallerblood of the wolf

 

My cover art vs the finished article…

As an indie writer I have to sort out my own cover art. Thankfully I have some great professionals who can take my rough ideas and ridiculous sketches and turn them into the great images you see on the final product.

Below is my original idea for the Friar Tuck and the Christmas Devil cover. It was sketched in my diary when I was out at work and, as you can see, I hadn’t even decided on the final title at the time. To be fair, since this novella is part of the Kindle Singles Programme, Amazon offered to have a cover sorted for me, but I’d already commissioned this, and I wanted the continuity with the other books so… we went with this.

I asked for the blood stains and the holly berries to be a very striking red, while the holly leaves had to be very green. The colours symbolise the novella’s overall theme of death (winter, and the Christmas Devil) versus life (the new green of Spring, and Tuck himself).

I really, really like the cover my designers came up with, and so many people have told me this is my best artwork so far. All the previous books had a figure on the front – Robin Hood for the Forest Lord novels and Sir Richard-at-Lee for Knight of the Cross. With this one I decided to go for something different. It worked well!

The designers have my ideas for the next, final Forest Lord novel, Blood of the Wolf, and I’ll share it with you as soon as they complete it. Hopefully it’ll be as striking as all the rest and, perhaps, symbolic too…

 

real friar tuck

Mine is the one on the left…

My cover designers, More Visual, have created fantastic artwork for people like David Pilling, Anna Belfrage, Gordon Doherty and Patricia Cornwell. If you need a cover, get in touch with them!

patricia cornwell coveranna belfrage new bookgordon doherty legionarydavid pilling invasion

Need a cover designer? Q&A with More Visual

Today I’m talking to the guys that have created all of my fantastic covers. If you’re an indie author and need a striking image that will attract readers then you should really check this out and get in touch with More Visual Ltd once you’ve read the interview!

morevisual

First of all, you’re a two-man team, is that right?

Yes that’s right, we’ve been working together for nearly ten years now so we have a great working dynamic. I think it makes us both stronger to have another set of eyes critiquing our work.

How long have you been designing book covers?

I [Olly] started when we were at our previous company, so about ten years ago. Richie (Cumberlidge)’s been doing them for over 15 years.

Did you study art at school/college? What inspired you to become a designer?

Stunning cover for one of David Pilling's great books

Stunning cover for one of David Pilling’s great books

I did Art and Design at college and also went on to do photography as well. In fact, both of my brothers are graphic designers as well and my dad studied graphic design at college, so I guess I was inspired by my own family in a way, it’s sort of in the blood. I’ve always loved playing around with graphics, manipulating images, drawing and sketching ideas, I feel incredibly lucky to have a creative job, especially one where I work with writers. I find my clients very inspiring too; their excitement about their books and ideas is often the best inspiration for my design work. There is nothing more satisfying than when you create a cover that does justice to an author’s idea and helps with the book’s success.

What’s the cover you worked on that you personally like the best?

That’s impossible to answer; I usually prefer whatever I am working on at the time. Seriously I could not pick out one cover. Some I like because they fulfilled a challenging brief, some I like because they are technically strong, some I like because the book’s premise really caught my imagination and I am pleased with the artistic outcome. I can’t pick a cover I like best, but I can say which genre – personally I prefer working on sci-fi and fantasy the most. It’s a genre where you really have to be innovative and imaginative to make a cover stand out.

The Knight of the Cross cover for the Audible version.

The Knight of the Cross cover for the Audible version.

Have you ever read any of the books you designed a cover for? If so, what did you think of them?

I read a lot, but I am a sucker for older classics like War of the Worlds, Day of the Triffids, I Am Legend and Dracula. But yes, sometimes I will end up reading a book because I have felt very close to the cover design, or because the writer’s idea really intrigued me. But look, you can’t ask me to start reviewing my clients! I think they all deserve their success; it can’t be easy to write a whole book.

How does the process usually work? Obviously, for my last couple of books I emailed you a sketch of what I wanted and you brought it to life, but the cover of my debut novel, Wolf’s Head was just an idea I gave you and you did the rest. How do authors normally work with you?

I do like it when writers send sketches but it can be even more challenging than a blank slate. You have an idea but I have to make it look as good as it does in your head! It’s quite good when someone knows what they want it gives me a good starting point, as long as I can get an insight into what they’re visualising. Other than that, I just work with written descriptions and sketches with a general plot line to the book.

Has anyone been a real pain to work with (no names needed, just the story!)?

Everyone’s different really and everyone has quirks that are challenging and enthusiasm that’s catching. If you’ve been writing a book for some time and you have lived and breathed the characters and architecture of your novel, it’s hard to pick a visual for the front cover which explains your book and which is understandable to someone glancing at it on the shelf. Sometimes I have to point out that my client needs to step back and not try and explain the entirety of the book in the cover, ideally you want something visually appealing that will bring your reader to your book.

Was my sketch for The Wolf and the Raven the worst an author has ever sent you?

To be fair, a lot of the sketches are quite similar to the one you did! It’s fine; it gives me a good idea of what you want, which saves a lot of time. And if you can’t draw, remember that I couldn’t write a book.

My wonderful concept art for The Wolf & The Raven...

My wonderful concept art for The Wolf & The Raven…

How does it feel when you hold a paperback with one of your covers on it? It must be pretty cool to know thousands of people all around the world have your artwork in their houses!

Yeah definitely it’s good to see it printed, although nowadays quite a few are just seen online.

What other services do you offer? You had a vinyl decal made for me using the Wolf’s Head text for my guitar which was great – what other stuff do you do for authors? Posters? Business cards? Flyers? Mugs?

We originally started out doing stationery, point of sale and brochures whilst doing the covers at the same time. Although we try to specialise in the covers, we can provide other services from printed material to even websites.

My "Wolf's Head" Jackson Randy Rhoads guitar with custom decal.

My “Wolf’s Head” Jackson Randy Rhoads guitar with custom decal.

What are some of your own favourite book covers (ones you didn’t design I mean)?

I use to like those point horror book covers when I was about 12. You know the ones I mean, the they looked a bit like those illustrations by Drew Struzan (Star Wars, Indiana Jones poster artist). I really like the front cover to the hard back version of The Martian by Andy Weir, the one where the astronaut is being blown through a sand storm.

the martian

Do you take inspiration from other places, like album covers?

Probably more from film posters I’ve always been intrigued by them; I’m always looking at apple.com/trailers and Imdb at the new film posters. Saying that, I really like the photography and imagery that Storm Thorgerson created for Pink Floyd, Muse, Biffy Clyro and Mars Volta album covers.

Pink_Floyd_-_Dark_Side_of_the_Moon

Storm Thorgerson’s iconic (and wonderfully simple) cover for Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”.

Thanks to Olly for talking to me. I think you’ll agree the covers these guys come up with look fantastic. I’m pretty sure a large part of Wolf’s Head‘s success was down to the great artwork.

If you’d like a quote for your own project, you can find the guys HERE.

This incredible cover was the one that caught my eye when I was looking for designers. Gordon's books are also great reads!

This incredible cover was the one that caught my eye when I was looking for designers. Gordon’s books are also great reads!

Rise of the Wolf COVER REVEAL! And an update…

After getting some feedback from a couple of early beta-readers, yesterday I emailed the first draft of the new book off to my editor. So, assuming she can look at it in the next few weeks I SHOULD be on track to publish it sometime in June. So, with that in mind, here is the cover! I’m really pleased with it, it’s the best one so far in my opinion and could even work as a poster or flyers (if anyone could make use of posters or flyers let me know and I’ll see about getting some printed).

The original sketch I sent to the designers bears little resemblance to the final art they created (if you want to see that hilarious first sketch keep an eye on my Facebook page, I’ll probably post it there sometime, just for a laugh). Huge thanks to Chris Verwijmeren for help and advice on making the archer look as realistic as possible)!

RotW final

So, I’m waiting on a reply from the editor and, in the meantime I’m going to start work right now on another novella, similar to what I did last year with Knight of the Cross although this will be more straight-up historical fiction without the Lovecraft elements. Friar Tuck will be the star this time around and it’ll be set around Christmas time. I’m really looking forward to writing it, should be a lot of fun!

Once that’s finished, and Rise of the Wolf is published, I’ll probably begin work on the final novel in the Forest Lord series…I have some plans for a completely different series of histfic books though, set further back in time than the Robin Hood books and I might start the first of those next…Anyone have any thoughts on that? Would you prefer me to finish off the Hood story, or would you be happy for me to do something totally different before I round off The Forest Lord tetralogy?

Post your thoughts here, on my Facebook page or use the CONTACT button and be sure to tell your book-loving friends.

Thanks everyone, I hope you’re as excited about these future projects as I am!

Self-published/ indie authors? What do you think of them and what can we do differently?

Question for you all: self-published/ indie authors – do you read them (other than me, obviously!)?
I must admit, although I’m one myself and I like to think my books are alright, I DO still feel pleasantly surprised when I read something by another indie and find that it kicks ass and isn’t riddled with childish spelling errors. It’s a stigma that is hopefully being eroded as people like Kevin Ashman, Gordon Doherty and Mel Sherratt sell increasing amounts of books, gain more critical acclaim and in some cases win deals with the likes of Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer, but it’s still definitely an issue for authors like me.

lbf 2

Mel Sherratt and myself at the London Book Fair in 2014.

I employ professional cover designers for my artwork and an incredible editor who’s worked with people like Jilly Cooper, Bernard Cornwell and Ben Kane to try and make my books good value for money but for every indie that does that, there’s certainly one or two that don’t think it’s worth the money (or simply don’t HAVE the money to employ professionals) and just put their books out in what’s essentially an unfinished state. It makes all of us look bad.

Things are changing though – even traditionally published authors are starting to put out books on the side that their publishers maybe didn’t have a place for. Glyn Iliffe continued his fantastic Odysseus series without a trad-publisher, Douglas Jackson put out his War Games by himself, and my favourite book of of 2014, A Day of Firewas self-published by the authors. It gives us all a real freedom to try things we might otherwise not have been able to (my own novella Knight of the Cross, for example, was a fun spin-off I’m sure a traditional publisher would have had no time for).

Glyn Iliffe, author of the excellent Adventure of Odysseus series.

Glyn Iliffe, author of the excellent Adventure of Odysseus series.

So…have you read any self-published books recently and if so – were they any good? Were they worth the money?
And most importantly…what can we, as authors, do to convince readers a self-published book is worth a punt?

Cover art for The Wolf and The Raven is here…

I won’t share it just yet, as it needs a couple of minor tweaks, but it looks great! This makes it all seem real now – the sequel to my first novel is almost ready to go…March/early April, fingers crossed is the expected publication date, but there should be a pre-order available on Amazon before then so please do check back here often to find out what’s happening!