This post was originally a subscriber exclusive – a peek behind the scenes and look at things to come. I would normally leave it locked in perpetuity, as something only newsletter subscribers can see, but Vinny asked if he could link to it from his own blog so his fans can also see how it went from sketch to full art. You can sign up for the newsletter using the email signup box on the right beneath the advert.
Hello, special ones. As I mentioned on Wednesday, you’re my inner circle now. Your novelty hats and badges are in the post. There is a special handshake that you are required to learn. There will be a test.
As I said the other day, I’m throwing all of the received advice about self-publishing out of the window for the next book (actually a trilogy of short books). I wasn’t happy last time around but it’s difficult to narrow down what worked and what went wrong. In an attempt to get a better idea, I’m reversing most of the usual strategies and doing as little as possible this time round. We’re doing this guerrilla style. I can the add a new strategy when it comes to the second book, and see how that goes. I can repeat with the last book. That will give me an idea of what’s worth repeating, and what not to bother with.
But what are the books? The first is The Flesh Remembers, a pulp horror/dark fantasy novella that might sound a little familiar to some of you. Almost a decade ago I released a previous version of this for free as a fairly primitive PDF download on my website, and also produced a paperback for those who wanted something for their shelf. As self-publishing efforts go… well, let’s just say I’ve learned a lot in the interim. I was pleased with it at the time though.
Despite being an amateur affair, the free download was ridiculously popular (and even the paperback did reasonable business, especially given that the download was there for free in a universal format). Over the few years it was online, it had over 7000 downloads. I dream of that sort of thing, these days.
The PDF has been unavailable for a few years now, and the paperback is out of print (though if you’re really desperate, you can probably get hold of it through resellers on Amazon). The story is a first person narrative told by Dexter Lomax (who made a brief cameo appearance in the final pages of Craven Place), an ‘investigative journalist’ working for a cynical, exploitative tabloid called the International Inquisitor. The Inquisitor trades on gullibility, revelling in stories of Bigfoots (Bigfeet?), Elvis sightings, moon landing conspiracies, and so forth. It would be Dex’s perfect job, save for the fact that he keeps finding himself in strange situations that are very real indeed. The Flesh Remembers brings him to Newcastle in England, where strange craters have been appearing across the city. He thinks it’s probably some sort of student hoax. He couldn’t be more wrong.
I’m unveiling the cover by Vincent Chong (Vincent Chong!), on Monday 28th April, which is a week and a bit. I’ll actually be releasing the book at the same time, guerrilla style. No countdowns, no warning. I’ll release it, do a bit of social sharing, sit back, and watch in detail how things work from there.
The second book is set in the United Arab Emirates and will be released in June, while the third is set her in India and will follow in August. The Flesh Remembers stands alone pretty nicely, but the second ends on a cliffhanger that resolves in the third. Unlike the last couple of novels, there will be no advance copy of The Flesh Remembers for newsletter subscribers to download direct from this site. However, the book will be free on launch day, and the day after. It will be free again when the second book is released, and again when the third is. As the opening book in a short series, its job is to seek out readers who will come back for the subsequent tomes, and I hope you’ll help out with that.
In the meantime, I promised a peek at some of Vinny’s preliminary sketches for the cover. These are fast and dirty drawings he sent through while we were bouncing ideas around, so that I could make some decisions on how the final cover would be structured. I loved them, and asked whether he minded my sharing them with you. Gentleman that he is, he was absolutely fine with that.
There were two strands to the initial conversations. The first was what sort of image I was after. I mentioned a montage sort of affair, with my own reference being the likes of the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones movie posters. Elements I offered up for consideration included a video tape made of an unlikely substance (to say more is a spoiler), a character called Kirsteen whose face is… damaged, and (when Vinny asked for more elements to play around with) various thingies, some of which would undoubtably be tentacled, while others were not. I wanted Kirsteen’s face as the point of focus. Here’s what he came back with, to see if he was on the right lines.
My response was pretty much a thumbs up. Vinny mentioned that he preferred the versions with all three elements instead of two, and I agreed. I didn’t select a particular one to take forward (as I discovered when I worked with Malcolm McClinton, if you’re going to bring a talented artist on to a project thenyou don’t micro-managing them is just silly). I was happy at this point that Vinny got what the book was about, and wanted to let him do his thing.
With the central art on track, Vinny started to think about how it would work as a cover design. One thing he had to deal with was the fact that I want the books to be recognisably part of a series. I didn’t offer much help here at all, so Vinny scratched his head and scribbled these down.
This first suggestion above brings in a structure from old style pulp digests. Not only does this impose a layout that can be repeated three times with different volume numbers and titles, but it harks back to exactly the right kind of story.
This second suggestion does the same thing structurally, with a tabloid newspaper layout as a repeatable element, and neatly links back to Dex and his profession.
This final idea is more standalone, building the design organically around elements unique to this book. It defers the problem of branding until the next volume along, and we discussed using central faces from different characters staring out as the thing that carries through the set.
The problem with working with somebody like Vinny is that you want to say yes to everything he comes up with, but a book can’t have three covers. This was the point where I had to decide which direction to send him in.
I’ll leave you to guess which way I went. Come back on the 28th, and I’ll show you the final version.