Category Archives: cover art

Which path do I choose? (#SFWApro)

I didn’t anticipate finishing the latest draft of Southern Discomforts would leave me so flummoxed?

Since I finished Now and Then We Time Travel, my tale of elves in a small Georgia town has been my primary top-priority project. Combine them and I’ve had a Do This First project dominating my time for around 2.5 years. And before that I had my Demand Media articles, which took up quite a bit of time because they were a steady-paying gig.

Now, though, I’m done with time travel until I get the galleys back from McFarland. And I won’t resume work on Southern Discomforts until after New Year’s (that will give me time to digest the feedback from next month’s critique session). And my mind seems to be fritzing over which project should be top priority next?

1004560_10204616247502130_1245694977156814236_n(Art by Kirby, inks by Ditko. Not only a good metaphor for finding the path, I think it’s a neat cover. All rights with current holder)

Martinis, Girls and Guns is the one I’ve worked on most this week, but I don’t want to set aside all my fiction until it’s finished. I hate it when I have to set aside fiction, and as MGG is a self-published project, I don’t.

Should I resume work on a different novel? Which one? Or maybe lots of short stories? Should I concentrate on writing some paying articles for a bit?

Fortunately I haven’t let my uncertainty paralyze me. I got in a full week of work (or I will have by end of day) so I can afford some navel-gazing. And perhaps by the time I start next week, my navel will have answered.

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Filed under Comics, cover art, Now and Then We Time Travel, Sex for Dinner, Death for Breakfast, Short Stories, Southern Discomfort, Time management and goals, Writing

Paperback covers I like (#SFWApro)

The woman wearing a man’s shirt or pajama top was a common erotic image back in the days when everyone (supposedly) waited until marriage. And wore pajamas. I love the way this cover explains it: sure, she’s in his bedroom in his pajama top, but she’s hiding from a killer! No sexual subtext here, look away, look away.

james-meeseI enjoy “random elements from different stories thrown together for a weird effect” covers such as this one. Art by Robert Engel.

robert-engleA peaceful yet eerie cover from Biro.


I just think this one looks neat. I read the book a couple of months back.

5207377I don’t often see covers try to depict people in motion. This one does a good job.

dailybAll rights to images with current holders. Art is uncredited except where specified.

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I Love Gervasio Gallardo covers (#SFWApro)

As I used up my review material yesterday, here’s a cover-art post. Gervasio Gallardo was one of the talented artists who worked on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line of paperbacks. I love his work, for example the cover for George MacDonald’s Lilith.


Or the spectacular sinking-of-Atlantis cover of Poseidonis.


Or bringing the pretty for William Morris’ Water of the Wondrous Isles.

Wondrous+postFor horror we have several Lovecraft covers such as this one here (though technically the stories are Derleth mimicking Lovecraft).

gallardo-survivor-1971And for a more fantastical mood, there’s Lovecraft’s Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.


As Clark Ashton Smith’s Xiccarph is a more alien setting than Poseidonis, a somewhat weirder, more alien cover.

tumblr_lxbspnwlSY1qhtuebo1_500This post has no purpose other than to say how much I love Gallardo’s art and to show you why. All rights to all images reside with current holder.


Filed under cover art, Reading

More people staring at me out of book covers (#SFWApro)

So I’m off from today through Monday so you’re getting some posts I already had handy, rather than the usual week-in-review, book roundup, etc. Starting with another look at cover art.

I’ve complained in the past how I hate covers which are just the protagonist staring out at me. But here’s an example of a staring cover that works, because the starer is so obviously a Bad Girl who “knew how to handle men too well.” Though if the best cover blurb they can offer is that Tulsa World thinks it “reads well,” I doubt the contents were memorable.

dailyb-1Next we have one that technically involves someone staring out at us but dang, I think it works just fine.

dailyb-2Next we have a cover which doesn’t grab me at all, but it’s worth noting for the text up top. Imagine a time when a privately printed edition would cost $15 a copy, and that was Serious Money.

dailybCover art uncredited on all three. All rights reside with current holder.

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Not so great book covers (#SFWApro)

First we have the cover to Woman-Hating Surgeon. The imagery is pretty “meh,” but it’s not so much the images as the title that grabs me —doesn’t waste any time setting up the premise, does it?

dailyb-2Then we have the cover for Adios O’Shaughnessy, with its hint of racial miscegenation.

dailybAnd then we have this cover by Gray Morrow (the art for the first two covers is uncredited). Much prettier, but the sexism of the Heroic Man Defends Sexy But Helpless Woman imagery hasn’t aged well (even though it’s also the kind of image that people justify reusing as Part of Genre History).

dailyaAll rights to covers with current holders. Images come from Books From the Crypt.

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Traditional publishing (and other) problems (#SFWApro)

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is writing a series on publishing contracts (hat tip to Walk of Words), so far posting Parts One, Two, Three and Four. The big takeaway is that you should read any contract carefully and get a legal explanation of whatever you don’t understand. And that includes things like contest rules and nondisclosure agreements: Rusch says in Part Four that one contest she’s entered in the past now has fine print requiring entrants — not just winners — give the contest group a large share of copyright.

Which leads to the other takeaway, that publishers and even agents are increasingly aggressive in sinking their fangs into your rights: even some agents demand a share of copyright now. Rusch makes the point that intellectual property is an asset: even if the publisher has no interest in reissuing an old book, keeping it makes the balance sheet look much more profitable. And while most of the publisher’s staff can move on if, say, a hedge fun buys up the company, we’re stuck with the contract and its obligations (this is not hypothetical. A writing acquaintance has told me of bankrupt publishers whose intellectual property wound up in the hands of banks or landlords, who, of course, have no interest in publishing it).

•On the other hand, writer Ros Barber explains that given the added responsibilities involved in self-publishing — editing, getting a cover, marketing your book — she’ll stick with traditional, despite the limited income. While I wouldn’t rule out self-publishing at some point (something novel length, that is, rather than a collection such as Philosophy and Fairytales), I admit that marketing is not my strength, and the necessity is a huge disincentive.

•And then we have Mallory Ortberg writing on The Toast about publishers’ apparent interest in writers who are good-looking. : “Herr, for her part, acknowledges that an author’s appearance can affect an advance — ‘We look at all of that stuff’ — but insists, ‘We would have paid her the same money if she weighed 500 pounds and was really hard to look at.’ In other words, appearance doesn’t affect advances and contracts, except when it does. Ditto contacts (one interviewee says a writer being able to get a cover blurb from Amy Poehler was a big plus) and social media skills.

Which is not news, really. I remember back in the 1990s one editor at Daw saying one of the things he looked for in submitting writers was whether they’d networked enough they could promise a few big names would provide blurbs for the books. But it’s still disturbing for all of us who are not, shall we say, avatars of physical perfection, to know we might be judged on our looks as much as our craft.

It’s also one of the problems I have with arguments that we should kill copyright and let writers make their living off personal appearances and readings. Writers are not actors or musicians; public performance isn’t part of the skill set. A lot of people are too nervous (public speaking is one of the commonest phobias); a lot of people are just poor public speakers. Huge numbers of people don’t have the kind of presence or appearance that draws a crowd, or the kind of fame that will put butts in seats: I’ve made probably over a thousand on short stories over the years, but I seriously doubt I could earn that much by reading them in public. It’s a really good idea unless you think writers should be fine not making money. Which some people are.

•And here’s a depressing report that Ace and Roc are being merged in with their parent companies, and in the process not only are editors going but upper management will make “title cuts” — which Rusch in another article says some books simply won’t come out. It was depressing enough when Barbarian Books closed its doors before publishing Questionable Minds; I think having the title “cut” would be even more painful.

•To end on an upbeat note, here’s an unusual cover (don’t know the artist, all rights reside with current holder) I rather like.




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Filed under copyright, cover art, Writing

People staring at me out of book covers (#SFWApro)

After criticizing the cover work on Gold Throne in Shadow and Swords and Scoundrels in blog posts last week for being just Protagonist Stares Out of Cover (not the first time I’ve expressed my dislike for that) it occurred to me to make clear that I’m aware this is not some crazy new art idea fantasy illustrators just came up with the other day.


For example, this Retief cover from 30 years ago does exactly the same thing: Shows the hero staring out at me with very little indication what’s going on. The image doesn’t even indicate SF really—he might as well be hunting in the Alps or the Himalayas. Or the collection below showing Lord Peter Wimsey and his valet, Bunter and nothing else.

51mECe2vClL._AC_UL320_SR228,320_Neither image screams Buy Me but of course, both collections came out when the characters were established brand names—it’s not like someone’s going to grab up a four-volume omnibus who has no idea who Lord Peter is. The cover probably didn’t need to sell the book.

Then there’s romance. Romance covers like the one below focus a lot on the protagonist or the love interest because that’s part of what they’re selling—boy gets girl so boy and girl (or boy and boy or girl and girl) are important in a way unlike any other fictional field.


Of course there are also tricks than can make a protagonist/key character cover stand out in a way the ones I complain about don’t. Sex is an obvious one. Perry Mason novels were thoroughly G-rated (there might be adultery and trysts in motel rooms, but the messy details kept off-stage) but you wouldn’t know it from this cover.

2205878999_0ce5d5bb5eAnd that was subtle compared to Robert McGinnis’ covers for the Carter Brown (AKA Alan Yates) books from the 1960s. Which didn’t show much sex happening on the page that I can recall, but there was a lot of nudity and near-nudity and it was clear the hero was going to Do It as soon as the chapter ended (this sort of thing had a big impact on my tween mind, can you tell?)

sex clinicOf course, Sex Sells cover images tend to be sexist as hell too, so while I won’t deny enjoying the McKnight images, I’d just as soon not see my fantasy covers going that route any more than they do currently. Sexy Woman on Cover has a long tradition in SpecFic but it’s still sexist, which is why it became such a contentious issue a couple of years back.

Then there are covers which have the protagonist staring out at us but give us an interesting image too. For example, Frank Frazetta’s cover for the first of Lancer’s Conan books from around 50 years ago.

Frazetta-01-Conan+the+AdventurerEven without the sexism of the girl draped at the Cimmerian’s feet, this would certainly be a gripping cover. Or consider this Retief cover by Richard Martin, which shows a definitely alien SF setting, compared to the earlier cover above.

510PNN9D10L._SX293_BO1,204,203,200_-1Or there’s Michael Whelan’s cover below—also way more striking than the ones I mentioned this weekend.

510aUzpnKxL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_I’m not sure if my point is “See! I’m not just a grumpy old man who thinks covers were better when he was a kid!” or a more general, if random, reflection on cover imagery. But it did make for a pretty post, didn’t it?

(All rights to covers with current holders. My apologies to any artists I couldn’t identify).


Filed under cover art, Personal, Reading