Evolution of a Book Cover

Most artists live in the shadows of their work—and few see them.

We have sold thousands of copies of Shock Totem, and one thing we’re consistently complimented on is our cover art. This happens all the time. Think about that. We get complimented for something we did not create. All the time. The artist, for the most part, is ignored.

Sure, someone from Taiwan got on his back a tattoo of a slightly altered version of the cover art for issue #1—which is flippin’ brilliant—but that’s an extreme compliment. How many people have just e-mailed our artists to tell them how great their work is? Few, if any. I’d bet a lot of money on that.

But they tell us. Again, all the time.

Much like the fact that most people don’t understand how much time and effort an author puts into creating his work, I don’t think people understand or appreciate how much goes into creating cover art—or album art, a painting, a cartoon, etc.

On our Facebook page, we have a photo collection called Resonance. In it you’ll find a series of photos that includes numerous drafts of ideas for cover art we didn’t use, as well as early/alternate versions of the cover art we eventually did use. We want people to see part of the process, because it’s a long one that takes a lot of time and hard work.

As mentioned recently, we will soon reissue James Newman’s ode to 80s horror, The Wicked. We commissioned new artwork from Jesse David Young, as well as numerous interior illustrations. This process began back on September 16, 2011. Over six months ago. To give you a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes, I’ve put together a little slideshow which begins with the very first sketch idea and ends with the final product.

(All the artwork was done by Jesse David Young, but the layouts for final three covers shown were done Mikio Murakami, Rex Zachary, and Yannick Bouchard, respectively.)


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Scroll down this page a bit, and on the right sidebar you’ll see a section labeled Artists of the Totem. Below it, links to all the artists that have helped make Shock Totem great. Check them out, hire them—or, at least, if you like their work, let them know.

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And the Stoker Goes to…

Mercedes M. Yardley!

More accurately…

Earlier tonight, John Skipp won the Stoker for his epic of an anthology Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed, which Mercedes has an excellent story in.

A well-deserved win for a great editor and a fantastic anthology. Congrats to all involved!

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Stokers, Flashes and Black Ink

Later this month, at this year’s Bram Stoker Awards™ banquet, to be held at the World Horror Convention in Utah, Mercedes and I do battle. To the death!

Okay, maybe not to the death.

And maybe it’s not so much a battle.

But we are both lucky enough to have stories included in an anthology up for a Stoker Award. That’s worthy of a battle roar or two!

Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed, edited by John Skipp, features Mercedes’s short story “Daisies and Demons”; while my story, “A Deeper Kind of Cold,” appears in Epitaphs: The Journal of New England Horror Writers, edited by Tracy L. Carbone.

Though some would call me biased, I think both anthologies are worthy of the nod. As I’m sure the other three anthologies up for the award are. So may the best one survi—win! May the best one win.

RAAAAAAAAWR!

In other news, John and I have had some very short pieces—by me, “Skipping Shingles”; by John, “Wishes” and “Always Never Enough”—published in Necon E-books’s just-released Best of 2011 flash fiction anthology.

This e-book features all winning and honorable-mention entries from their monthly flash fiction contests throughout 2011, plus a few additional stories from the cover artist, Jill Bauman.

As well, Sideshow Press has finally released the seventh installment in their Black Ink series of extreme fiction (i.e. not meant for children or the weak-stomached). This one features John’s disturbingly twisted “Peter Peter,” which he calls a “tender and sweet, family-friendly tale about the wages of sin.”

I also hear he’s selling bridges in New York.

If any of these books interest you, click on the cover images to purchase.

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Your First Hate Mail

My guest post, “Your First Hate Mail: How Life Can Change After Working for a Magazine,” is up and running at The Fictorian Era

Come by and say hello!

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Necrotic Tissue Closing

The small press just got smaller.

R. Scott McCoy, editor and publisher of Necrotic Tissue, has made the tough decision to shut down the magazine after the upcoming fourteenth issue.

You can read more about his decision here.

I was a fan. Bummer.

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Getting Beyond the Door

Note: This post does not reflect how things are handled at Shock Totem.

So you just finished a 5,000-word story. Read on…

Have you ever heard an editor say a story needs to grab him—or her—within the first few pages? Have you ever thought about what that means for you, as a writer? What it really means?

In the business of reading slush, where hundreds of stories pour in weekly, those first couple pages can mean the difference between rejection and acceptance. Some editors say a story needs to grab hold from the opening line, and while some authors pull this off with ease, others take a slower approach. Some authors start with explosions, while others light small fires that grow and grow…

Because some stories beg for the explosive intro, and others require a slow build. It all depends on the tale (excluding flash fiction, which has no excuse not getting right down to business). But how often is a great story overlooked because an editor—and there are plenty who subscribe to this school of thought—thinks a story needs that WHIZBANGPOW! opening?

I recently finished a 5,300-word story. In standard submission format—12pt Courier font, double-spaced—it’s 29 pages long. Now let’s discuss exactly what that translates to: Changing the format to Times New Roman, single-spaced, the story shrinks from 29 pages down to 11. What was once the first three pages an editor sees is now barely a quarter of the way down page two, and the story starts halfway down page one! So we’re talking a mere 483 words.

Frightening. But it’s worth thinking about.

We, the writers, must impress within the first few pages, right? We’re told this over and over again. But depending on the publication that standard may be an illusion, because in standard submission format, those pages represent but a handful of words—not pages. And that’s just to keep the door from closing, let alone getting your story across the threshold! And beyond that there’s a whole new set of obstacles.

Less than 500 words…

Scary.

Posted in Blog, Essays, Publishing, Writing Advice | Tagged , | 5 Comments