Tuesday 25 June 2019

The Big Eight-Oh oh oh oh

I've been doing this for a while now with posts to celebrate my first book, Prince of Thorns, turning 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and now 80 ... as in 80,000 ratings on Goodreads.

This time the milestone has fallen just after the release of my latest book, Limited Wish. The Impossible Times trilogy which starts with One Word Kill concludes in November with Dispel Illusion.

So, what exciting topic will I broach for the milestone 80K?

Let's talk covers!

Recently there was a bit of internet fuss by Czech readers who weren't all impressed by the cover reveal for Red Sister by my Czech publishers:

Some of them remonstrated with me. How could I allow this etc etc. In the end the publishers decided to go in a different direction and this is now the cover:

The discussions revealed considerable misunderstandings about how much input traditionally published authors have on their covers. I'm currently running a cover contest in the 5th SPFBO, and these covers come about in the way many readers imagine that traditional publishing works. The authors choose their artist, ask for something specific, there is a to and fro, and the final product is hopefully something they feel ownership of. 

Things in traditional publishing are very different. When my first book, Prince of Thorns came out, the first I heard about the cover from the publisher who provided it was an email saying "here's your cover, we hope you like it".  As it happens, I really did. It was a fine piece of art from the excellent Jason Chan who went on to provide covers for 6 of my books and internal art for my special edition omnibuses. 

As a more successful author my opinion is canvassed to a greater degree by my US and UK publishers but still it's nothing like what happens with self-published authors.

With overseas publishers (of whom I have dozens) in 99% of cases I'm not told when the book comes out, what the title is, or shown the cover. I find out when a reader sends me a link.

Two things to remember, however. Firstly: I'm not paying for the art. Secondly: My publishers know a lot more than I do about what sells in their market.

Emotionally, the cover is a statement about the author's art. The author wants one they like. Obviously.

Economically, the cover is a sales device. The publisher (and the author) want to sell books. Since the publisher has bought the rights and made a significant financial investment both in the advance to the author and the costs of production, they sensibly take hold of this important factor in the success of the book. They know that the author is good with words. They have no reason to believe that the author is an expert in covers.

And it's true. I'm not an expert in covers. Indeed I often don't have strong opinions when I am asked for input at the early stage or to choose between options at a later stage.

The UK Book of the Ancestor covers changed character through the course of the trilogy but it wasn't me driving those changes. I had no objection to the Red Sister hardcover cover. I didn't campaign for the change to the paperback cover. I like both. Readers, however, often voice strong opinions in both directions.

When considering what might be on the cover of One Word Kill I never even thought of just the title. My mind was wandering across D&D paraphernalia, dice, maps, characters... None of it really jumped out at me as "yes, we must have that". And when 47North came up with the text-only idea I was very pleasantly surprised. It somehow captured the era and seemed to invite readers in without loading them with preconceptions. The images I'd been thinking of would have turned away some readers whose biases reviews now tell me that that text overcame. So bravo to the publishers.

 I'm not a control freak - I'll leave them to do what they do best and stick with what I know. Sure, sometimes the results won't be great, no cover is universally loved, but then again, neither is any book! Some of my covers I love. Some not so much. You won't catch me telling you which is which. And in all cases my thanks go to the artists for their skill and hard work.

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Friday 21 June 2019

SPFBO 2019 - Cover Contest!

Each year I run a cover contest for the SPFBO entrants. Each blog choses its 3 favourite covers from their pool of 30 entrants. The 30 favourites collected from the 10 blogs are then voted on in separate ballots by the bloggers and by the public.

The public vote is of course a bit of fun and subject to all the issues of brigading and cheating that online polls often are - though our anti-cheat software is more effective than the raw poll results might lead you to believe.

We did this in 2018, 2017 & 2016 too.

Interestingly the 2nd place cover in the public vote got no votes from the blogs. And the 3rd placed cover in the blogger poll came 20th in the public vote!


Gold Medal (8 votes)

Artist: Felix Ortiz.     Designer: Shawn King.

Silver Medal (4 votes) 

Artist: Mon Macairap.   Design by Streetlight Graphics.

Bronze Medal (4 votes)
Artist: Jenny Zemanek.

The blogger poll is given in full HERE.


Gold Medal (167 votes)

Artist: Mon Macairap.   Design by Streetlight Graphics.

Silver Medal (137 votes)
 Artist: Rebekah Haskell.   Design by Vivid Covers.

Bronze Medal (133 votes)
Artist: Felix Ortiz.     Designer: Shawn King.

Covers with 100+ votes (in order) - 7 votes separated these 5 covers!

 The public vote is HERE. You can still vote but the winners were selected using the scores at the time the blogger poll concluded.

Here are the finalists from the blogs:


Thursday 13 June 2019

SPFBO 5 - Phase 1

Read about the rules on the call for authors page.

It's tradition that I make a Wordle out of all the titles:

Our average title appears to run along the lines of "Children of the Shadow Dragon" or "The Dead Raven's Blood-Sword".

& here's our name-based gender break down:
slightly more male than usual - 2017 was our femalest year. Initials are generally used more by women.

Reviews etc are linked from the books & listed here as they occur (most recent first):

Booknest find the final finalist!
Fantasy-Faction name the 9th finalist!
The Fantasy Hive name a queen bee - the 8th finalist!
The Hive has no honey for another semi-finalist.
Another semi-finalist stung by the Hive.
The Qwillery pick the 7th finalist!
Fantasy-Faction review and cut Nite Fire.
Lynn's Books pick the 6th finalist!
The Hive tell another title to buzz off.
River of Thieves reviewed on Lynn's Books.
Thoughts Stained With Ink announces the 5th finalist!
On the Hive Uncanny Collateral becomes collateral damage.
The Blade Within is reviewed on Lynn's Books.
Vortex Visions reviewed on Lynn's Books.
Lynn looks at a book with a very long title.
Never Die is reviewed on Lynn's Books.
Kitty G chooses her finalist!
From the Shadows of the Owl Queen's Court is reviewed on Lynn's Books.
The Rockstarlit Book Asylum choose the 3rd finalist!
The Rockstars review their remaining titles.
Kitty G chooses her last semi-finalist.
Thoughts Stained With Ink pick a 3rd & final semi-finalist.
More Kitty cuts.
Fantasy-Faction cut to their last three.
Thoughts Stained With Ink pick a 2nd semi-finalist.
Kitty G cuts some more titles.
Rockstarlit Book Asylum's final semi-finalist.
Thoughts Stained With Ink pick a semi-finalist.
Rockstarlit Book Asylum's 3rd semi-finalist.
Booknest choose their final semi-finalist.
Rockstarlit Book Asylum's 2nd semi-finalist.
Fantasy Hive pick their final semi-finalist.
Superstar Drifter choose the 2nd finalist!
Rockstarlit Book Asylum's first semi-finalist.
More feedback and cuts from Lynn's Books
Another semi-finalist and more eliminations on The Qwillery.
The Dark Sea Beyond is reviewed on Booknest.
The Rockstar Lit Book Asylum reap for a 4th time.
Booknest choose a fourth semi-finalist.
Shadow Hunter reviewed on Booknest.
Booknest pick a third semi-finalist.
Fantasy Hive pick a fifth semi-finalist.
Booknest review Spark City.
Booknest review A Child Of Great Promise.
Five more whittled away by Fantasy-Faction.
Superstar Drifter hold their final choppening.
Since Never is reviewed on Booknest.
Winter of Swords reviewed on Booknest.
Throne reviewed on Booknest.
Booknest choose another semi-finalist.
Fantasy Book Critic are the first to announce their finalist!
Booknest reviews The Golden Unseen.
Booknest reviews The Six And The Crystals of Ialana.
Booknest reviews Ghosts Of The Sea And Moon.
Booknest reviews The Thief And The Demon.
More books considered on Lynn's Books.
Booknest review Sir Edric and the Plague.
The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen is reviewed on Booknest.
Kitty G chooses a third semi-finalist.
Kitty G chooses another semi-finalist.
Another update from Thoughts Stained With Ink.
Fantasy Book Critic review two semi-finalists.
Fantasy Book Critic choose their final semi-finalist.
A fourth semi-finalist for Superstar Drifter.
Fantasy-Hive find another semi-finalist and axe more titles.
Kitty reviews and cuts three more books.
Kitty G video reviews The Sword of Kaigen.
Rockstar Lit Book Asylum reviews Kings of Ash and Bone.
Four more hived off, and a 3rd Hive semi-finalist found.
Five fall forever from Fantast-Faction.
Five more cut on the Rockstarlit Book Asylum.
The City of Locked Doors reviewed on Booknest.
Another one down on Thoughts Stained With Ink.
Kitty G's first video reviews of phase 1!
Five more titles looked at on Rockstar Lit Book Asylum.
A forty year old book is reviewed on Superstar Drifter.
Four more books get stung at the Fantasy Hive - 2nd semi-finalist named.
Booknest choose their first semi-finalist (also new reviews linked).
Another one bites the dust on Thoughts Stained With Ink
The Qwillery review a semi-finalist.
Fantasy-Faction factor five fatally.
Five titles cut on the Rockstarlit Book Asylum.
The Qwillery choose a second semi-finalist.
Thoughts Stained With Ink taste tests three more.
The Qwillery cut five titles and name a semi-finalist.
Another two face the axe on Thoughts Stained With Ink.
Lynn's Books reviews The Lore of Prometheus.
Small Worlds is reviewed on Booknest.
On the Rockstarlit Book Asylum Timy talks about 5 DNFs.
Superstar Drifter reviews Theft of Sapphire.
Feedback on the first 6 of Lynn's Books' books.
Fantasy Book Critic review The Fox And The Hunter.
Esme chooses a semi-finalist on Superstar Drifter!
Rose in the Dark is reviewed on Superstar Drifter.
Kitty G introduces all her books.
Fantasy Book Critic announce the first semi-finalist of the year!
Booknest review The Raven Master's Revenger.
The Crumbling Kingdom is reviewed on Superstar Drifter.
Booknest review Children of the Dead City.
The Brightest Light is reviewed on Superstar Drifter.

290 entries cut so far!

red = cut
dark green = semi-finalist (also marked with a +)
bright green = finalist

T.M Rain - Full Dive
Sakina Murdock - A Bagful of Dragon
Nicholas Hoy - Guardian Blood
Gareth Lewis - Song of Thunder
Alicia Wanstall-Burke - Blood of Heirs +
Luke Tarzian - Vultures
Ashley Capes - The Fairy Wren
Cynthia L Schneider - Nite Fire +
Thomas Fleet - The War of the First Day
Aiki Flinthart - Iron
J.F Rodgers - Astray
Melissa A Joy - Keys of the Origin
Joyce Reynolds-Ward - Klone's Stronghold
Robin Stephen - Brinlin Isle
A.C Cobble - Quill
Keith Blenman - Necromantica
Lauren L Garcia - Catalyst Moon
John Walters - Caliban's Children
Sybrina Durant - Journey to Osm - The Blue Unicorn's Tale
Marc Vun Kannon - Ghost Killer
Richard Writhen - The Angel of the Grave
Anna Sikorska - More Than Bad Intentions
Joan Marie Verba - Sword of Queens
Jaime Mauchline - Guns of Liberty +
Katie Baker - The Keeper and the Compass
Kat Cotton - Demon Child
Watson Davis - The Lich's Heart
G.J Reilly - Inquisitor
Abigail McKee & Lorri Moulton - The Magic of Burrows Bay
Perry Morris - Children of the Blessing

Fantasy Book Critic
Ben Meeks - Petrified
Andrew Butcher - Fear the Wolf
John Bierce - Into the Labyrinth
Christian Corbitt - Exhumations
Casey White - Silvertongue
Phil Williams - The City Screams
Linn Tesli - The Fox and the Hunter +
A.C Spahn - Enchantress Undercover
E.M Markoff - The Deadbringer
Geetha Krishnan - Ayana +
William C Tracy - Journey to the Top of the Nether
Randall McNally - Shadowless +
Shanna Bosarge - Devian
Levi Jacobs - Beggar's Rebellion +
J.A Andrews - Pursuit of Shadows +
K.B Benson - The Harvest
Kelly Marsden - The Shadow Rises
H.G Chambers - Windwalker
G.S Scott - Cleansed
Allison Pang - Magpie's Song +
Andrew Hall - Children of Shadows
L.K Evans - Grayden
Nancy E Dunne - Wanderer
Justin Bloch - The Stolen Karma of Nathaniel Valentine
Carol Ann King - A Keeper's Destiny
Jon Ray - Gorp: Goblin Janitor
Andrew Hiller - A Halo of Mushrooms
Eldon Thompson - The Ukinhan Wilds
D.K Holmberg - The Dark Ability
Hailey Griffiths - Starheart

Lynn's Books
Jeff Pryor - Strings of Chance
Graham Austin-King - The Lore of Prometheus +
Travis M Riddle - The Narrows
Chris O'Mara - Healer's Ruin
Liam Perrin - Sir Thomas the Hesitant and the Table of the Less Valued Knights
Clayton Snyder - River of Thieves +
Daniel Olesen - The Prince of Cats
Elise Kova - Vortex Visions
Rob J Hayes - Never Die +
Grace Bridges - Rotovegas
Phil Dickens - Orphans of the Dead
S.C Flynn - Children of the Different
John A Pretorius - Living in Times of Dragons
Angela J Ford - Realm of Beasts
Mike Morris - Cry Havoc
S.A Klopfenstein - The Shadow Watch
Aaron Hodges - Daughter of Fate
Jordan C Robinson - Ghost
R.M Garino - The Gates of Golorath
Benedict Patrick - From the Shadows of the Owl Queen's Court +
Randy Nargi - The Owl & the Dragon
E.M Neftelberg - The Young Practitioner
Jackson Lear - The Blade Within +
Diane Lynn McGyver - Shadows in the Stone
Laura Vanarendonk Baugh - Shard & Shield
T.S Valmond - The Courier's Code
Steven Smith - Edgehaven
Vincent Bobbe - Immortals' Requiem
Nikki McCormack - Dissident
L.L Thomsen - The Missing Shield

The Qwillery
J.C Kang - Masters of Deception
Virginia McClain - Blade's Edge +
Andy Blinston - Oblivion +
Lee H Haywood - A Wizard's Dark Dominion
Emerald Dodge - Sea of Lost Souls
J Lenni Dorner - Fractions of Existence
Eric T Knight - Stone Bound
Edward Nile - Bloodlight
Meg Cowley - Heart of Dragons
A.K Ponder - Quest
Jim Hodgson - Apprentice Quest
Eliza Raine - Skies of Olympus
Flint Maxwell - Knight and Shadow +
Kelly Blanchard - Someday I'll Be Redeemed
Adam Craig - The Pact
Nicole Zoltack - A Time of Turmoil
Huw Steer - The Blackbird and the Ghost +
Levi Pfeiffer - Litany of Wrath
Monica Zwikstra - Alban's Choice
Ash Toroid - Tooth Goblins
Patrick LeClerc - Broken Crossroads
L.K Engelmeier - A Shard of Sea & Bone
Paul B Kohler - The Borrowed Souls
A.A Warne - Heavy Dirty Soul
Lydia Sherrer - Love, Lies & Hocus Pocus
Rebecca Callahan - The Dark Yule
Blaine D Arden - A Triad in Three Acts
Sharon Van Orman - Lykaia +
D.P Prior - Husk
Barbara Gaskell Denvil - A White Horizon

Alex Raizman - Small Worlds +
Roderick T Macdonald - The Thief and The Demon
Eli Selig - Witch in Winter
Robert J Power - Spark City +
Jacob Sannox - The Raven Master's Revenge +
Peter Harris - The Silk Mind
Christopher Percy - Since Never
B.R Kingsolver - Shadow Hunter
Assaph Mehr - In Numina +
Jason Holt - The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen
Wesley Allen - In the Land of the Penny Gnomes
Phil Tucker - Throne
Tom Hansen - Igniting Vengeance
Matt Larkin - Tides of Mana +
A.F Stewart - Ghosts of the Sea Moon
Thaddeus White - Sir Edric and the Plague
R.A Denny - The Emperor's Harvest
Noor Al-Shanti - Children of the Dead City
Tracy Kozinski - The City of Locked Doors
Katlynn Brooke - The Six and the Crystals of Ialana
A.R Harlow - We Must Find Her
Karen Healy & Robyn Fleming - The Empress of Timbra +
Abbie Evans - The Gossamer Globe
Rye Sobo - The Dark Sea Beyond
Ellis L Knox - A Child of Great Promise
L.W Fells - The Golden Unseen
Vaughan W Smith - Pool of Knowledge
Ashley R Carlson - The Charismatics
Ryan Toxopeus - A Noble's Quest
Aaron Bunce - The Winter of Swords

Kitty G
Alex Lang - Gloomwalker
Toby Frost - Up to the Throne
M.L Wang - The Sword of Kaigen +
Jonathan Auerbach - Guild of Tokens
Sarah Buhrman - Too Wyrd
Kevin Wright - Monster City
Sarah K.L Wilson - Summernight
Palmer Pickering - Moon Deeds +
Sarah Chorn - Seraphina's Lament +
Ben Galley - Chasing Graves +
Taya Okerlund - The Spec Set
Jeramy Goble - Briz and Bayla: The Bronze Age Bounty Hunters
Resa Nelson - The Dragonslayer's Sword
Rob Rodgers - Devil's Cape
Shane Simmons - Necropolis
Jacob Peppers - A Sellsword's Compassion
Tao Wong - The First Step
Aidan Russell - Road of the Lost
Vincent E.M Thorn - Skies of the Empire
Kristen S Walker - Riwenne & the Mechanical Beasts
R.G Long - Sword of Ruyn
J.M Riddles - Torn Apart
Lazette Gifford - Raventower & Merriweather
Michele Crow & A.A Warne - Concealed Power
Parvathi Ramkumar - The Grove of the Sun
Rafael Hohmann - SunRider
Mark Huntley-James - Hell of a Deal
Lina Jubilee - Succubus Lips
Val Clark - Lost
Eddie Skelson - Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies

Thoughts Stained With Ink
Raymond St. Elmo - The Book in the Bottle
Alexander J Vincent - Children of Mytrea
Jason Parker - Chasing Portals
Christopher Mitchell - The Queen's Executioner
Steve Turnbull - The Dragons of Esternes
Jude Fawley - Plumbess Seg
Marina Ermakova - Terrestrial Magic
Caroline Thaung - A Quiet Rebellion
Angela Boord - Fortune's Fool +
David Reiss - Fid's Crusade
Dale Harker - The Farmer
Joel Manners - The Martyr's Blade
Matt Moss - Alterlife
Noelle Nichols - Shadow's Hand +
Krista D Ball - A Magical Inheritance +
Craig A Price - Dragon Sword
Richard Nell - The God King's Legacy
Kevin Potter - Shadow of the Overlord
Olga Werby - Twin Time
David Perlmutter - Honey and Salt
Emma Shelford - Free Dive
Troy A Hill - A Cup of Blood
Rhett C. Bruno & Jaime Castle - Web of Eyes
Peter Thomson - A Walk in the Wild
Marniy Jones - The Seal of Throkar
Simon Clairvel - Journey Through the Innerverse
Mary Fan - Flynn Nightsider and the Edge of Evil
Christopher Clark - The Humming Blade
Cheri Lasota - Petra
Erik Henry Vick - Errant Gods

Vince Moneymaker - Realm Source
Ian Lewis - From Legend
Jeffrey Hall - The Crumbling Kingdom +
Carol A Park - Sweetblade +
Jaleta Clegg - Dark Dancer
A.J Lancaster - The Lord of Stariel +
Darian Smith - Kalanon's Rising

Terry Graves - Ravens' Will
Eileen Mueller - Ezaara
Emily Martha Sorenson - The Keeper and the Rulership
J.E Porter - The Innkeeper
G.L Breedon - The Dragon Star
Jason Russell - Quest of Kings
D.W Hawkins - Child of the Flames
Jordan Rivet - The Watermight Thief +
Michael Ripplinger - Yesterday's Demons
Lee Gaiteri - Below
Edward M Erdelac - The Knight With Two Swords
Joseph Daniel - Theft of Sapphire
Jordan Short - The Skald's Black Verse
Diane Duane - The Door Into Fire
Marina Finlayson - Changeling Exile
L.S O'Dea - Lake of Sin
Marjory Kaptanoglu - Dreadmarrow Thief
Scott J Robinson - The Brightest Light
Casia Schreyer - Rose in the Dark
Dan Prince - Adventurer Academy
Edward Aubry - Prelude to Mayhem

Ivy Smoak - Sea of Stars
D.S Murphy - Shearwater

The Fantasy Hive

Gaja J Kos & Boris Kos - Evenfall
Brad Carsten - The Wretched
Lisa Cassidy - A Tale of Stars and Shadow + 
Deck Matthews - The First of Shadows +
Harry Young - These Forgotten Gods
E.L Drayton - Daxton
Deston J Munden - Tavern
Ryan Howse - The Steel Discord +
Eli Celata - The One That Lives
A.M MacDonald - Remember the Dawn
Stephanie Burgis - Snowspelled +
Frank G Albelo - The Hall
Justin DePaoli - Dragonsoul
Jacob Rasmussen - The Fall
Miriam R Dumitra - Brightshade
Jeffrey L Kohanek - The Buried Symbol
Tracy Cooper-Posey - The Branded Rose Prophecy
Zamil Akhtar - Song of a Dead Star
C.Z Edwards - Rien's Rebellion
Brian McClellan - Uncanny Collateral +
Antoine Bandele - The Kishi +
Jack Massa - Cloak of the Two Winds
Matthew Satterlee - Forlorn Dimension
A.B Endacott - Queendom of the Seven Lakes
Sean Monaghan - The Mapmaker of Morgenfeld
Rebecca Sutton - Haventon Born
Kade Cook - Grey
Madeleine D'Este - Women of Wasps and War