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Thursday, January 16, 2014

To My Critics: If You Want Better Covers On My Books, BUY THE BOOKS!

I recently had a commenter say that my covers on my books look like they were designed for children.

Now I draw and design my own covers. And the reason why I design my own covers is because I just don’t have the money to hire out an artist. So I have to take matters into my own hands if I want to get product to the marketplace.

What people don’t know is that a quality artist such as Bill Walko, Josh Howard, Darryl Banks, Ron Frenz or Terry Beatty usually costs over $300-$400. And a painter like Alex Ross or Joe Jusko STARTS at $3000.00.

And that’s for a single figure drawing, no backgrounds.

On top of the high prices and the high risks, have to be interested in taking on your project. Artists are extremely picky and can PASS on a project. Some of the more popular artists such as John Byrne and George Perez have lotteries for commission work.

All of this is money spent BEFORE you make it. With books both paperback and eBook having a 90% failure rate, this is money lost before you spend it.

I’d love to hire a professional artist to design covers for my titles. I see lots of artists who would be a great fit for my stories. For example I think Bill Walko’s art would look great on covers for the Isis series books. But right now, I just don’t have the money to bring someone on. I’m just not selling enough books.

Nor do I have a day job right now to pay an artist. So unless I get the books to sell, I can’t change the covers. And unless my critics want to donate to the blog, hire me for a day job here in New York City, or they want to hire me to work for them freelance, I’m gonna be forced to design the art for my covers for the foreseeable future.

Now those who complain about my books I say this: If you want the covers to change, put your money on the table. The royalties I get are directly invested back into producing more books.

And I have it in my five-year plan to refresh all the old covers. But I can’t do that without money.

To all the critics of my covers: Here’s the deal: artists don’t work for FREE.

They have bills just like I do. And their time is money. And when Shawn hires people for a job he pays those people for their time. In full. So they can pay their bills and eat. So they can take care of their families.

And without money from paperback and eBook sales, I can’t hire artists. It’s a chicken-or the egg scenario.

Oddly enough there are some people who DO like my art. I had a woman on Twitter tell me how much she liked the art on my covers. And one reader on Smashwords who later became a Facebook friend told me that she discovered the Isis series based on how colorful the covers were.

The reason why I draw my own covers is this: I feel my readers deserve the best. My readers deserve better than bullshit photoshopped stock photos seen on a dozen other books, or those gaudy covers I see on those Street Lit covers with wanna-be model hoodrats plastered all over them.

For me the art a cover tells a story. It gives the reader an idea of what’s between the pages. And I feel that art should be a unique piece of art to that book. Each piece I design is distinct to that book or that series of books.

And when I draw a cover, I take as much time to design that art as I do writing that story. For example, for the second Isis: All About the Goddess cover I studied numerous 1950s and 1960s pulp fiction covers. For Amari’s Revenge I studied numerous Young Adult covers before I sketched up an image. For Isis: My Sister, My Frenemy, I took an old family photo of me and my brother and used it as the basis for the two sisters.

It’s easy to complain about my covers but it’s harder to DO something about it. Talk is cheap ACTION speaks LOUDER than WORDS.  This is a BUSINESS. And it takes money to make the money that's invested back in the business.

To my critics I say this: If you want better covers on my books you have three options:

1.BUY THE BOOKS. And while you’re at it, tell your friends to buy my books.
2. DONATE to the PAYPAL button at the top of the blog,

One of my goals is to refresh all the covers on my books. But in order for me to do that I need the money from paperback and eBook sales. If you want me to expand my business so I can go out and hire artists to put better covers on my books, put your money on the table.

The critics of the art on my covers will spend $200 on a pair of sneakers, $500 on a video game system and another $240 for games and $60 more for a subscription to a game network, but If I ask these same people to spend 99 cents on an eBook and $10-$15 on a paperback these same people all of a sudden ain’t got no money. Talk is cheap. Put up or Shut up.


  1. Get a retail job. You been doing this for years and complaining about not having money or taking down paperbacks because you can't afford the yearly fee. When spring rolls around fill out applications for Target, Mcdonalds, Walmart, and etc. At a certain point you got to bring some money in to help yourself, your business, and the person you're mooching off of.

    Your Captain Save a hoe and the Recipe of Success book covers are great. You're not giving your customers the best with poorly drawn covers. Also you can hire a no name designer and get great designs for a lower price. Never heard of Elance, Craigslist, and Fivver?

    Go to Kboards and offer your services to other authors.

  2. FYI-not all retail jobs are willing to hire a guy with a college degree.Because that degree makes you unqualified for the job even if you are willing to work for the wage provided.

    And some fear the older person because they know their rights versus the young guy who is only there to get money for Jordans.

    Now if I had to give Shawn advice-take his degree and try getting a job in the public schools. He doesn't have to be a teacher but there are jobs there. SO at least he would have holidays and the summer to work on his books. But since I don't like in NEw York-I don't know how that school system is.

    While Fiver and Elance would work not all artist are willing to draw a cover and not be able to get royalties from future sales. Especially with books.

  3. I'm the first comment and I'm responding to the second comment.

    Are you telling me he couldn't get a waiter job? And I get he doesn't want to work the lower jobs because I wouldn't, but it would be only temporary. Sometimes you have to suck it up. Let's be honest the degree isn't from NYU.

    City job is always a great idea. So public school could work. Sometimes you have to take your multiple skills and put together a few jobs to make up for the one full time job that's needed.

    No a lot of people and artists accept flat fees for a one-off job like a book cover. Ongoing book royalties for designing a book cover is for the major artists. I think your referring to comics which is a more ongoing relationship between writer and artist.

  4. To the first commenter:

    I've applied at Target, ToysRUs, Home Depot, and just about every other retailer under the sun. If you have a college degree you can forget about working there. The second commenter is right; the Kid who wants to buy a pair of Jordans gets first pick over me because I know my rights. It's not that I don't want to work there, It's that these companies WILL NOT HIRE ME.

    Also I've applied for various civil Service jobs. No takers. The last Job I had five years ago at the library was a civil service job. Tried to get another Civil service job for three years, but No dice. Here in NYC you need a Master's to even be a secretary in the public schools.

    Here's the deal with artists: They may or may not take the project. It's very subjective. They may or may not want royalties. The reason why I want to work with comic artists is because:
    1) Comic artists need the work. I've read about many a comic artist who struggles to pay his/her bills and I'd love to help em' out.

    2 I want comic artists to take themselves to the next level. Having your work on a paperback allows an artist to show some variety to their portfolio. It also allows them to take their work to a non-comic business like a trade publisher or other self-publishers like myself. It's an opportunity to market themselves outside of the comic book market. Trade publishing is a large marketplace and if you start getting your work seen there, you can reach a whole new audience.

    3)I need someone who understands how to TELL A STORY in pictures. The comic artist knows this better than most of the photographers I've seen. And for fantasy books like the Isis series you really need an artist to draw that singular image that tells a compelling story. If I could get the cash together, I'd rather work with one good comic artist for novels. When an artists "gets" your story, you'll get a compelling cover piece.

    But I need capital to do that. And if people don't buy the books I have no money to reinvest in the business.

  5. Shawn,

    I'm the first commenter. An artist struggling to pay his bills doesn't want a royalty based deal without some upfront payment because quite frankly he/she will look at your sales and prefer not to get burned making nothing.

    Sadly, do you really think you're the next level for them? All they care about is getting paid and maybe thinking the book seems interesting. Only you as the creator of your stuff is your biggest fan.

    The restaurant industry has openings.

  6. Dude, a cred is a cred, and a papeback cred gets more respect than a comic credit. When you're trying to build a portfolio, you want credits that will stand out.

    I'm a fan of my work. But I'm not delusional. This is a business and having your work on a paperback or an eBook means exposure to a different audience. And all artists need exposure to continue to get work.

    Royalties depend on the artist. Some will ask. Others won't. But I know for a fact that no one wants to do work for hire anymore. Why? You do all the work, have an image get popular and then not get a piece of that royalty action later on when that image is re-used again and again.

    On another note, the restaurant industry also does not hire college graduates here in NYC. Tried them too but they tell me I'm too smart to wait their tables or fry up their chicken tenders.

    Again, why not just buy a book and help me out?

  7. Get a teachers aid job

  8. Here in NYC you need a Master's degree to work around any kids. We don't have teachers aides here. We have paras.

  9. Do you mean Paraprofessionals? Those jobs should NOT require a Masters degree per No Child Left Behind all those folks are suppose to have a bachelor's degree and pay a $30-$35 fee to get a certificate that is required for all state education agencies.
    If they are requiring Masters-that pay better start at $50K and higher.