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Cover reveal and exclusive excerpt: Anna by Sammy H.K. Smith

Anna cover reveal

One of our most anticipated titles for summer 2021, Anna is a powerful and chilling feminist novel set in a near-future dystopia. Exploring the conflicts between selfhood and expectations, safety and control, and the sacrifices we make for the sake of protection, Anna is perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Road.

We are delighted to reveal the stunning cover below.

Cover by Head Design

And as a special treat, we’re sharing an exclusive excerpt from the opening chapter of the book:

It was natural now to wake, listen, check, and listen again, before moving on in silence through the wastelands. When it was light enough to see my breath in the air, I moved from the shadows of the ditch towards the larger, more isolated southern woods. It had been nine hundred and twenty days—or was it twenty-one?—since I made the decision to leave town and wander alone.

Leaning against the trunk of an oak tree, I searched my backpack for something, anything, to eat. Three unlabelled cans, a bag of rice, and two portions of Cheerios. My can opener had broken two nights earlier and there was no clean water for miles. Dry, chewy out-of-date cereal it was. Yummy.

I ate straight from the bag as I continued to move between the trees, carefully avoiding the main track. Resting for periods longer than absolutely necessary was an extravagance that led to trouble in the Unlands; I preferred to not be seen or heard.

So did he.

I didn’t see him until it was too late. He grabbed my jacket and pulled me onto my back, pinning me in one fluid movement. I dropped my breakfast and pack, balling my hands into fists. The cereal lodged in my throat. Spluttering and coughing, my blows faltered as I struggled to breathe. A pitiful wail escaped my mouth; he clapped his hand over it.

Anna by Sammy H.K. Smith will be out in hardback, eBook, and audiobook 25th May 2021.

For review and press enquiries please contact Hanna Waigh, Fiction – PR & Marketing Manager: hanna.waigh@rebellion.co.uk.

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Behind the cover: Phoenix Extravagant

Phoenix Extravagant

In anticipation of the release of Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee on October 15th, we spoke to designer Dominic Forbes and illustrator Ronan Le Fur (DoFresh) about the process of creating this outstanding cover.

First let’s hear from designer Dominic Forbes:

The starting point for designing the cover of Phoenix Extravagant was the short synopsis provided by Yoon Ha Lee’s editor, David Moore, when he commissioned me. I don’t think the book had been written at that early stage so there wasn’t anything for me to read, but there was plenty to go on. An alternate timeline set in Japanese occupied Korea in the early 20th Century, with mechanicals powered by pigments, a non-binary artist protagonist, a mechanical dragon and a whole lot more besides! The brief was for a cover that straddled the boundary between sci fi and fantasy with an Asian flavour.

Designs © Dominic Forbes. Illustrations for presentation only © the original artist. All rights reserved

My process for Phoenix Extravagant started with visual research around East Asian painting and graphic design with a focus on military propaganda posters and ink paintings. This allowed me to think about ways of representing both Gyen Jebi the artist and the occupation/empire on the cover. At a very early stage I came up with the idea of mixing typefaces to represent both sides. Phoenix in a dynamic ink brush script, representing Gyen and also giving an Asian feel. Extravagant set in a block sans serif to contrast and give a retro flavour that evokes old military propaganda posters. The narrow characters also allow Extravagant to be set at a decent size as it’s quite a long word.

Illustrations for presentation only © the original artist. All rights reserved

I noticed that a lot of woodblock prints and paintings I was looking at had the artist’s signature in a block/seal, which is called a “chop”. I thought this would be a great idea for Yoon Ha Lee’s author brand as it tied in perfectly with the ideas behind the cover. I had a rubber stamp made especially to get the right texture. 

The next stage was to come up with a few rough comps to show David and the team at Rebellion. I identified several different approaches which could work for this book. An epic fantasy look, perhaps with a Korean magical artefact as an icon. A bold graphic style with a phoenix emblem and my favourite, commissioning an illustrator to do an amazing painting of the dragon. I found DoFresh on Artstation (which is a go to when looking for SF and Fantasy artists) and particularly liked the way he’d combined a dinosaur with armour as well as his mech/robots in general so put him forward as a potential illustrator.

© DoFresh.

David and the team really liked the commissioned illustration route too so the next step was to brief DoFresh. I tend to keep my art direction quite straightforward when working with artists as I want their imagination to shine through. My brief was pretty much, “We’d really like a brightly coloured, painted, robot dragon on the book cover. Think Eastern dragon rather than Western in terms of design.” With some further information about the story and the design direction for the typography I’d established from my research.

When the sketches came through I dropped them into rough cover layouts. We all really liked the sinuous dragon rearing up above the building so picked that one to develop. There were a few rounds of finessing the art until we got to the finished painting. I added a very subtle screenprint texture to the illustration just to add the feel that it could be a poster.

Designs © Dominic Forbes. Illustrations © DoFresh.

And now from illustrator Ronan Le Fur:

To start I had access to a rather comprehensive summary, in order to get the overall storyline and mood.

As for the process, the editor had some specs for this particular cover: it had to depict a massive red metal dragon. For the rest, I was free to experiment and make proposals. I therefore provided several drafts in order for the clients to pick a composition they would like. The sketches were all digital. They are  very basic 3D scenes made in 3Ds Max, followed by a phase of quick paintover made in Adobe Photoshop. This mix of 3D and 2D is a method which enables to create quick iterations and allow to try new approaches. Once one of these rough versions was approved, I then started to refine and polish the image until final approval. It usually takes a few days, with back and forth exchanges. The main inspiration here was propaganda art, with simple shapes and vivid colors. 

© DoFresh.

Dominic Forbes is a book cover designer with many years experience. He worked in-house at HarperCollins until 2018 designing across the adult list with responsibility for overseeing the HarperVoyager fantasy and science fiction imprint. He’s now freelance and clients include Rebellion, Faber, Orion, Transworld, Bonnier and John Blake. FInd out more at www.dominicforbes.co.uk or on Instagram @domforbes.

Ronan Le Fur, a.k.a Dofresh is a freelance artist based in France. He has now more than 15 years of experience in the field of CG imagery and illustration. You can find most of his work on his Artstation portfolio: www.artstation.com/dofresh.

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee is out in eBook and hardback 15th October 2020.

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Cover reveal: Every Mountain Made Low

Behold, comrades: the gorgeous cover to Alex White’s Every Mountain Made Low. Is it now glorious (click the image above to see a super-sized version)?

Created by the supremely talented Jeffrey Alan Love, we’re particularly proud of this cover. Not only is it a stunner, but it does justice to the truly wonderful story that Alex has written. 

So what’s Every Mountain Made Low about you ask? Welll…

Loxley Fiddleback can see the dead, but the problem is… the dead can see her.

Ghosts have always been cruel to Loxley Fiddleback, especially the spirit of her only friend, alive only hours before. Loxley isn’t equipped to solve a murder: she lives near the bottom of a cutthroat, strip-mined metropolis known as “The Hole,” suffers from crippling anxiety and doesn’t cotton to strangers. Worse still, she’s haunted.

She inherited her ability to see spirits from the women of her family, but the dead see her, too. Ghosts are drawn to her like a bright fire, and their lightest touch leaves her with painful wounds.

Loxley swears to take blood for blood and find her friend’s killer. In doing so, she uncovers a conspiracy that rises all the way to the top of The Hole. As her enemies grow wise to her existence, she becomes the quarry, hunted by a brutal enforcer named Hiram McClintock. In sore need of confederates, Loxley must descend into the strangest depths of the city in order to have the revenge she seeks and, ultimately, her own salvation.

Every Mountain Made Low is coming from Solaris in October 2016. 

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Champion Of Mars only 99p!

Guy Haley’s Champion Of Mars is the best book you will ever read about Mars.

Yeah, you read that right. You can keep your Hollywood-endorsed, mega-selling Red Planet survival guides – we’ve got an epic, elegant story that spans the history of humanity and Mars and will hit you where it hurts (head, heart, etc).

We’ve given Champion Of Mars a rather natty new eBook cover, and in celebration of all things Martian (ha! See what we did there?) we’re dropping the price to 99p/99c.

WHAT.

You’ve probably got more than that in your pocket in change right now. Go and grab yourself a copy, and be happy that you have discovered greatest planetary romance of the modern age.

Champion Of Mars is out now!
Buy eBook: UK|US
Buy physical: UK|US

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Pre-Order Pantheon Series Special Editions now!

The gods can be a fickle bunch, which is why we’ve decided to appease them with Special Editions of a pair of books from James Lovegrove’s smash hit Panthoeon series: Age of Ra and Age of Odin.

With spangly, nay, shiny cover updates, not to mention brand new introductions from the author, these Special Editions really are a work of art.

You can preorder both Age of Ra and Age of Odin over at Amazon right now, and frankly you’d better hop to it. There’s nothing worse than angering ages-old deities…

PREORDER
Age of Ra
Age of Odin

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Cover reveal: Chris Fowler’s The Sand Men

We take a stroll between the sand and the clear blue sky with Chris Fowler’s latest outing for Solaris, The Sand Men.

Set among the glittering skyscrapers and deadly dunes of Dubai, The Sand Men transports us to a future that’s five minutes away, where rebellion against conformity can lead to the unthinkable…

“I spent two years researching ‘The Sand Men’, my homage to JG Ballard, set in Dubai’s new world of high-end, high-luxury resorts for the super-rich,” says Fowler. “But at what price to everyone else? The stunning cover perfectly sums up the feel and tone of the thriller, which encapsulates all of the themes I’ve been exploring in recent years.”

Set in a world of cruel juxtapositions where underpaid manual labourers slave over grandiloquent palaces for the world’s 1%; where nature is subverted to create a futuristic world in which manicured lawns meet dry desert dunes; and where a man can accidentally freeze to death on burning hot sand…

The Sand Men is a twisted Ballardian tale set in a world of uncertainties and paranoia, is a new style of thriller from the ever-popular author of the Bryant & May series.

And as is befitting a book this special, we’ve pulled out all the stops with our cover…

The Sand Men is coming from Solaris in October 2015.

In the meantime, remember to check back here for more Christopher Fowler news, and don’t forget to follow the author on Twitter, Facebook and at the official Christopher Fowler website.

Buy Christopher Fowler titles including Nyctophobia and Plastic now!
But here: US|UK| eBooks

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A multiple cover art reveal

We may have mentioned once or twice just how proud we are of our covers and quite frankly we have good reason to be. So for your Thursday afternoon treat we thought we give you a whole wave of great book art with 3 unseen covers on upcoming titles…

First up we have The Iron Ship by new author K.M McKinley

Merchant, industrialist and explorer Trassan Kressind has an audacious plan – combining the might of magic and iron in the heart of a great ship to navigate an uncrossed ocean, seeking the city of the extinct Morfaan to uncover the secrets of their lost sciences.

Ambition runs strongly in the Kressind family, and for each of Trassan’s siblings fate beckons. Soldier Rel is banished to a vital frontier, bureaucrat Garten balances responsibility with family loyalty, sister Katriona is determined to carve herself a place in a world of men, outcast Guis struggles to contain the energies of his soul, while priest Aarin dabbles in forbidden sorcery.

The world is in turmoil as new money brings new power, and the old social order crumbles. And as mankind’s arts grow stronger, a terror from the ancient past awakens…

This highly original fantasy depicts a unique world, where tired gods walk industrial streets and the tide’s rise and fall is extreme enough to swamp continents. Magic collides with science to create a rich backdrop for intrigue and adventure in the opening book of this epic saga.

Out June 2015

Second comes a sublime horror fantasy from acclaimed write Paul Meloy, The Night Clock:

And still the Night Clock ticks…

Phil Trevena’s patients are dying and he needs answers. One of the disturbed
men in his care tells him that he needs to fi nd Daniel, that Daniel will be able
to explain what is happening. But who is Daniel? Daniel was lost once, broken
by the same force that has turned its hatred on Trevena. His destiny is greater
than he could ever imagine.

Drawn together, Trevena and Daniel embark on an extraordinary journey of
discovery, encountering The Firmament Surgeons in the Dark Time—the fl ux
above our reality. Whoever controls Dark Time controls the minds of humanity.
The Firmament Surgeons, aware of the approach of limitless hostility and
darkness, are gathered to bring an end to the war with the Autoscopes, before
they tear our reality apart.

Paul Meloy’s extraordinarily rich debut novel introduces us to a world just
beyond our own, shattering our preconceptions about creativity and mental
illness, presenting us with a novel like no other.

The Night Clock is out November 2015.

And finally the next title in Jonathan Strahan’s celebrated Infinity series, Meeting Infinity:

Look into the future and see what you might become….

Dark age barbarian princesses, Mexican ninja zombies soldiers, icy interrogators of networked intellects, searchers for eternal youth, warrior families hiding in the corners of a future haunted by machines bent on our destruction, and distant deepspace protectors of humanity’s future.

Whether it’s the day after tomorrow or a million years into the deep future, there are moments when humanity stares into the abyss and faced with possibility extinction follow Darwin’s theory – change, adapt, alter, evolve. Take on a different body, engineer a new intellect, become something completely different to preserve whatever is most human about us.

Meeting Infinity, the fourth book of the Infinity Project, presents sixteen exciting new stories from award winners and acclaimed writers like Madeline Ashby, Gregory Benford, Nancy Kress, Aliette de Bodard, Yoon Ha Lee, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Kameron Hurly, Gwyneth Jones, An Owomoyela, Bruce Sterling and others. 

Out December 2015.

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A multiple cover art reveal

We may have mentioned once or twice just how proud we are of our covers and quite frankly we have good reason to be. So for your Thursday afternoon treat we thought we give you a whole wave of great book art with 3 unseen covers on upcoming titles…

First up we have The Iron Ship by new author K.M Kinley

art by Alejandro Colucci

Merchant, industrialist and explorer Trassan Kressind has an audacious plan – combining the might of magic and iron in the heart of a great ship to navigate an uncrossed ocean, seeking the city of the extinct Morfaan to uncover the secrets of their lost sciences.

Ambition runs strongly in the Kressind family, and for each of Trassan’s siblings fate beckons. Soldier Rel is banished to a vital frontier, bureaucrat Garten balances responsibility with family loyalty, sister Katriona is determined to carve herself a place in a world of men, outcast Guis struggles to contain the energies of his soul, while priest Aarin dabbles in forbidden sorcery.

The world is in turmoil as new money brings new power, and the old social order crumbles. And as mankind’s arts grow stronger, a terror from the ancient past awakens…

This highly original fantasy depicts a unique world, where tired gods walk industrial streets and the tide’s rise and fall is extreme enough to swamp continents. Magic collides with science to create a rich backdrop for intrigue and adventure in the opening book of this epic saga.

Out June 2015

Second comes a sublime horror fantasy from acclaimed write Paul Meloy, The Night Clock:

art by Ben Baldwin

And still the Night Clock ticks…

Phil Trevena’s patients are dying and he needs answers. One of the disturbed
men in his care tells him that he needs to fi nd Daniel, that Daniel will be able
to explain what is happening. But who is Daniel? Daniel was lost once, broken
by the same force that has turned its hatred on Trevena. His destiny is greater
than he could ever imagine.

Drawn together, Trevena and Daniel embark on an extraordinary journey of
discovery, encountering The Firmament Surgeons in the Dark Time—the fl ux
above our reality. Whoever controls Dark Time controls the minds of humanity.
The Firmament Surgeons, aware of the approach of limitless hostility and
darkness, are gathered to bring an end to the war with the Autoscopes, before
they tear our reality apart.

Paul Meloy’s extraordinarily rich debut novel introduces us to a world just
beyond our own, shattering our preconceptions about creativity and mental
illness, presenting us with a novel like no other.

The Night Clock is out November 2015.

And finally the next title in Jonathan Strahan’s celebrated Infinity series, Meeting Infinity:

art by Adam Tredowski

Look into the future and see what you might become….

Dark age barbarian princesses, Mexican ninja zombies soldiers, icy interrogators of networked intellects, searchers for eternal youth, warrior families hiding in the corners of a future haunted by machines bent on our destruction, and distant deepspace protectors of humanity’s future.

Whether it’s the day after tomorrow or a million years into the deep future, there are moments when humanity stares into the abyss and faced with possibility extinction follow Darwin’s theory – change, adapt, alter, evolve. Take on a different body, engineer a new intellect, become something completely different to preserve whatever is most human about us.

Meeting Infinity, the fourth book of the Infinity Project, presents sixteen exciting new stories from award winners and acclaimed writers like Madeline Ashby, Gregory Benford, Nancy Kress, Aliette de Bodard, Yoon Ha Lee, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, Kameron Hurly, Gwyneth Jones, An Owomoyela, Bruce Sterling and others. 

Out December 2015.

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Signal to Noise: the alternative covers

Signal to Noise: the art that could have been

The art of choosing a cover can be a complex one, particularly when – like we did with Signal to Noise – you have a book that breaks genre boundaries and audiences. There is of course old adage that urges you not to make your mind up based purely on the first impression that a book’s artwork gives you, but we surely all have? We are of course somewhat biased: you don’t get in to publishing without having a slightly obsessive number of beautiful books you can’t quite shake the urge to purge, even when you’re now sacrificing floor space for shelf space (and spill over space, and TBR space…) But the power of a great cover is not something to be sniffed at.

Our head of art has previously shared on his own blog the sometimes arduous process behind actually creating some of our other covers, but today we thought we would share with you the two other strong possibilities for Signal to Noise, to give you an idea of the dramatic way a cover can change the shelf identity of a book, and how we arrive there.

First up we have the final cover, when you go into your local bookstore or click buy now on amazon this is what you’ll receive:

Iknowright – pretty gorgeous. But what could have been?

Obviously music is a huge part of Signal to Noise, and very specifically it’s through Meche’s vinyl record collection that the trio cast their spells so the first cover we discussed with the incredible cover artist Erik Mohr naturally had a record at its heart.

But this was too literal. Signal to Noise may have vinyl records as one of its stars, but it is more than that. This is a mixtape of story – split between two periods of time and pulled together by music, much like the magic and characters of the book. It’s also nostalgic, but not mawkish. Which is where cover two came from:

While we loved this cover it still didn’t quite capture the essence of the book for us. We had the mixtape and the retro feeling, but we needed something that captured the fantastical of the book, and the colours. Signal to Noise is a vibrant book, and Moreno-Garcia paints a picture with her words. The cover needed to capture that spirit.

We think the final cover did just that.

Signal to Noise is available to buy in the UK, US and as a DRM-free eBook directly from our store now.

You can vote for Erik’s cover in The Qwillery’s debut author cover war here!

For more on Signal to Noise please hit the navigation tags at the top of this post.

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Guest Post: Jake Murray on creating the cover for Macaque Attack

GUEST POST: JAKE MURRAY BEHIND THE ARTWORK

Hello readers! My name is Jake Murray, and I illustrated the covers for Gareth L. Powell’s Ack-Ack Macaque, Hive Monkey, and Macaque Attack. With the release of Macaque Attack Solaris Books asked me to pen a guest article exploring the creation process behind the book’s cover. Not being one to dismiss the opportunity to ramble on about my work, I happily agreed. Working on the Ack-Ack Macaque series has been one of the great joys of my career so far, and I hope that sharing some of the “behind-the-scenes” process will pass a bit of inspiration on. So, without further ado, let’s go!

            After wrapping up the art for Hive Monkey last year, I was told that there would be a third Ack-Ack Macaque adventure on the horizon, and was excited to find out what our crass, ninja-slaying monkey would be up to next. I soon received the commission for Macaque Attack, and after reading the brief, immediately knew it would be the most epic vision of the character we’d seen yet!

            In the world of book cover illustration, there can be a lot of variance between commission requirements. Sometimes the publishing team and author have fairly specific ideas of what they’d like to see on the cover. At other times, it’s up to the illustrator to pinpoint what he/she thinks would be a compelling part of the narrative to showcase. With Macaque Attack, Gareth already had some ideas in mind of what the cover should be, so my job was primarily to take those ideas and try to make them as visually explosive as possible.

            The general focus of this book’s cover would be our herioc monkey leading his ragtag army of apes into battle on Mars – which is the kind of awesome thing that every sci-fi illustrator dreams of at night. Gareth had suggested a few different ways of how we might show that, from more literal depictions of an army in battle, to more conceptual ideas reminiscent of old Soviet space propaganda posters. In any case, the image would need to be unique and exciting, but still carry the same feeling of adventure and intrigue as the previous two books.

            Whenever I get the opportunity to create a series of book covers, I try to imagine what each book would look like sitting next to each other on a shelf. How will a reader be able to to tell that the books all go together and yet be able to quickly distinguish each one from the others? With Ack-Ack Macaque and Hive Monkey, I had established a precedent for showing the main character’s full figure, which could be used in this new cover to create visual continuity. The way I would distinguish it from the others, however, is with color. Each of the two previous covers had made use of a particular primary color (the first one being yellow, and the second one pale blue). Since the focus of the Macaque Attack cover would be Mars and battle, it seemed a perfect solution to limit the color palette to browns and reds.

            After submitting sketches to the publishing team, it was decided that the “Soviet poster” concept (concept “C” in the image above) would be the way to go. The team felt it had enough action mixed with just the right amount of quirkiness to help it feel at home with the previous two books. From there I set out to gather and photograph all of the reference imagery I would need to execute the painting.

            When painting anything that needs to look real or semi-real, good visual reference is an absolute necessity. I mean, a good still-life artist doesn’t just paint an orange sitting on a table out of his head, right? He actually looks at an orange sitting on a table! So too is it with even the most fantastical images. Of course, I don’t actually have a macaque that I can dress up – and if I did, I certainly wouldn’t give him a gun. But there is an abundance of animal photography on the internet that helps me figure out what the character should look like, and I can also create and photograph various people and objects to approximate everything that should be in the painting.

            One tool I make use of for painting fantastical creatures is called a “maquette,” which is basically just a fancy word for a small-scale sculpture. For the Ack-Ack Macaque cover, I sculpted a miniature head for the character which I’ve been able to use for each cover in the series. Because the maquette exists in the physical world, I can pose it and light it any way I want and it will still look like the same character in the end, as long as I’ve drawn and painted what I’m seeing correctly. This is especially important when painting multiple cover images of the same character. Ack-Ack Macaque has to look like Ack-Ack Macaque! So having a real-world physical representation of the character to look at is extremely helpful.

            In addition to the maquette, I also photograph a costumed live model (in this case, myself) for pose and lighting reference. Since monkeys and humans are built pretty similarly, it would only take some adjusting of proportions (and hairiness) to transform myself into a whole army of animals. Even if I don’t have the exact items I plan to paint (my studio is sadly lacking in miniguns), I can use other household items to stand in for them and see how they affect the light and shadow of the scene. It’s basically like playing pretend in front of a camera.

            Once I have all of my reference material assembled, it’s time to begin work on the final painting. I use a program called Painter 12 from Corel and a Wacom digitizing tablet to create most of my art. Though completely digital, these tools really allow me to take a traditional painter’s approach, with the added bonus of the “undo” command. The final art is created at about 250% the size of the final printed image. This ensures that it will look detailed and crisp when it is reduced to print size.

            Typically I start with a detailed priliminary drawing in black and white. It allows me to really figure everything out up front so that when it’s time to put color down, I won’t be grappling with any added difficulties of form and perspective. Having a solid drawing in black and white creates a road map for your painting – as long as you follow it, you can be pretty well assured that the painting will come out solid as well.

            When the preliminary drawing has been approved, I go to town painting. I start with a transparent block-in of color over my drawing to establish the overall relationships, not worrying about details. From there, I set out painting opaquely each area to completion, usually starting in the background and working my way forward. However, a lot can happen throughout the painting process, and every decision you make about a color or paint stroke will determine every following decision. Sometimes you can end up painting something early on that you won’t realize is “wrong” until you’ve finished painting everything else around it. So there can be a lot of back-and-forth in the process as well.

            After roughly 30 hours of painting and repainting, I’m happy to call the piece done and email it out to the publisher for final review. If everything looks good to them, then my work is done!

            And that’s how a book cover evolves from a typed email to a full-color image! Though the overall process is basically the same with every commission, each piece presents its own unique artistic challenges. Solving these visual problems and telling compelling stories is what I live for as an illustrator, and I can only hope that the solutions I come up with will inspire others to do the same!

Thanks for reading!

You can find more of Jake’s art at his website (including prints to purchase): www.murr-art.com

Macaque Attack by Gareth L Powell is out now! Click the navigation tags at the top of the page for more information and related posts.