2021 Cover Look Back

2021 Cover Look Back

Last year, on Facebook, I posted a graphic of my cover progress from 2017.

Here I am, making it a giant blog post! With 2017-2021 to cover, and some looks at different iterations of the same covers… it’s going to need the space and this is going to be a long blog thanks to images. But I love seeing how much I’ve grown over the years.

As a heads up before you go further: I don’t need anyone commenting “I loved those older covers, you didn’t have to change them” or “I wish you didn’t change them”. I understand there’s lots of emotional attachment(There’s a reason I haven’t changed The Redemption Saga, but one day, I will), but this isn’t about how people feel about the covers. This is a look at skill, and how I feel about how my skill is progressing. I like making it a post because it lets me collect my thoughts and brings others along for the ride.

Let’s go, because this is a long as fuck blog post.

2017/2018: The Basics

Now, I was in the middle of my last classes for my degree in 2017 when I made my first covers. You would think they’d be better. No. My degree mostly focused on generals(color theory to composition, typography, logos, web dev, business), not something as specific as genre book covers. Indie covers are hands down a breed of their own.

So I really had no idea what I was doing through in 2017 and 2018. Clearly, I knew the bones of a cover but they were stock images cut out and put places. Some landed, some didn’t. The Redemption Saga are very simple covers, but they landed.

So basic.

The Kingson Pride series was redone by another cover artist, both the individual books and the boxset, so you won’t see those here again. Wolves of Wild Junction individual books are still mine (hang in there, those 2. They don’t sell and I don’t feel like trying to market them by changing the covers). It’s boxset was done by the designer who did Kingson Pride’s new covers.
And The Redemption Saga… Still there. Still my covers, still hanging on. Still iconic to me. Still perfect for the series. Too bad, they’re coming up for a refresh because they just do not fit the books out there. Lesson: Cover style sells books. People look for specific design elements to look further into a book. You get tired of magic hands or wolves? Sorry. People want to click the cover with the wolf or the magic hands. That’s life. 10 people saying “I love covers that are different” don’t outweigh the thousands looking for the “Oh a wolf and a girl! That’s going to be something I love.”

So soon, all of these covers are going to go, probably in 2022.

2019: The Daz3D Discovery

In late 2018, someone told me about Daz3d and they used it on their covers. I was beginning to see other cover artists try this too.
Well, I fucking hated stock images (still do) so I needed to get on this. My problem with stock: There’s only so many models, so many images, and chopping and changing heads and stuff can go wrong very quickly. I never found the right models in the right outfits with the right poses that weren’t already used by loads of other people or would be used soon enough.
So Daz3D. I was going to teach myself an entire 3D modeling software. (Look into the future: It’s one of my favorite programs to play with now and I have invested too much time and money into it. I might get into creating assets soon for myself)

I tried.

Here we are. This was the bones of the Tribunal Archives. Yeah, that’s an early naga cover, the concept that would later become Kaliya. The idea for Jacky’s series hit me in March 2019 (shortly after the last Redemption Saga book released) and I did that green naga cover in… January or February. I also wanted to do a vampire series, as shown. This didn’t directly become Everly, but… you can see, I wanted to write about a lot of different things.

Now, all of these covers are either unused or replaced now. Bounty didn’t replaced with a new cover until this year, the last 2019 hold out! It was one of the latest covers of 2019, which is why it got to stick around for nearly 2 years. I wasn’t totally unhappy with it until recently. But there’s nothing out there with a 2019 cover by me now.

2020: Growth? Sort of.

This year was me just… trying to get better. Some things didn’t change, some things did. I wanted to make sure my Daz3D models for the cover models looked good and human. I wanted to keep practicing lighting, but I also had to continue series, which felt like it locked me into boxes for how good those covers could be. I am big on branding so changing too much cover stuff without redoing the whole series is… a hard call for me. That’s why Kaliya was completely redone this year.

I had a lot of not public mock up covers you’ll see later on, but I decided to keep this to the public covers you can find. Some of these are already replaced. I did covers for any series I could think of that I knew I wanted to write in the future. This includes “book one covers” for all of the Tribunal Archives series I talk about. Sammy, Gabi, the kitsune, and the witch. I just made them all. But you’ll see some of those later. I think most of my improvement was on those secret covers, because I wasn’t locked into the series design plan like I was with Jacky Leon and Kaliya Sahni.

I got better. Certainly better than my early 2019 work, but looking back? They almost all feel… just as bad? Time tends to do that to the artist, though.

2021: I’m quite proud, but most of it was secret!

In 2021, I continued the trend of doing secret covers. Here’s a tease of two series I’ve pretty much confirmed. These are not the final covers though. This is early 2021, and there’s a reason it’s mark as that. 😉

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

  • COVERS OF UNRELEASED BOOKS ARE NOT FINALIZED. (and if it was, I wouldn’t tell you)
  • THE TITLES/SERIES NAMES/ARTWORK IS NOT FINAL.
  • DO NOT SHARE THEM AS EXCITEMENT FOR A SERIES.
  • DO NOT POST THEM ON GOODREADS.
  • DO NOT ASK ME FOR RELEASE DATES.
  • DO NOT ASK FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THE SERIES.

You’re going to see watermarks, my names in places. That’s to keep them from being stolen because they are unreleased/unfinalized (hopefully).

Sammy and Gabi! You know them as side characters in Kaliya Sahni. Yeah, they’re each getting series where their time in the lab and freedom from it is their backstory. (As I continuously repeat: All series are written for people to jump into them without reading other series. Both of their personal tales will be rehashed in their series and the timelines won’t crossover with Kaliya at all. These are both after KS ends).

Moving on from that tangent (which I wrote because I know someone will ask), let’s get into… late 2021. I’m talking about August to now, December.
And I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of these covers. These are some of the most recent I’ve finished.

Ones you know:

Kaliya Sahni, some girl and a wolf, Everly Abbott. Girl in the middle is named Olivia, by the way. (You’ll know more about the story of Full Moon Magic in a blog post next week).
I’m very excited about where these covers are. Redoing Kaliya was a great experience. Everly’s model is beautiful. AND THAT WOLF! I never put animals on covers, you might have noticed, but now? Now I’ve found how I want to put them on covers and I love how that wolf looks on that cover. I looove it.

Here’s the cover concepts of future series from August 2021 to now!

New Gabi mock up? New Sammy mock up? That’s right. Along with a peek at the most recent mock up of Cassandra, the witch series I’ve been planning for the world as well. There’s been three iterations of both Cassandra and Sammy, two of Gabi. I’ll have side by sides of those with Month Year later on.
So yeah, clearly somewhere in late 2021, I leveled up. No doubt. I’m really excited for future series thanks to these covers. Doing the covers over and over also help me settle on the exact feel of the series to write one day. It’s been amazing to keep practicing and growing. Covers currently take me… 8-16 hours to do. Though, I had one take 20 hours that isn’t show cased here.
That reminds me to say… Here’s some very sneak previews of covers I won’t give you the entire image for, also done in this late 2021 period.

A blonde with a wolf. A pink haired girl by herself.
These two are secret enough that you can’t see potential titles or character names. Sorry! But hey, enjoy a teaser for future content. That blonde? Haha, you’re looking at 2026 or so before she goes on the release schedule, but I have her entire series planned. The color scheme for her covers is like… rose golds with plums?
The pink haired girl might pop up quickly or might take a couple of years to get to. She’s a standalone novel, I just need to find a moment to write her story with her man. Purples and reds for colors.
Fun Fact: Red magic on a cover means something, the same thing for every cover it’s on. World building on the covers. I went there. #Fightme
(If you haven’t noticed, I love color schemes. Even Jacky Leon has one, if you look at her entire series in one place)

That’s it for the years! On to 2022, but before the end of this blog… I have one more section.

Cover Iterations

Sammy Boothe

Sammy got to keep her environment through every version. The motorcycle got closer every time. Never noticed that before. Haunted motorcycle, I guess. Love it. Also, better leather pants.

Gabi Adams

Gabi had major changes. Fun fact: You can’t see them but her entire trilogy has mock covers. Her outfit changes every mock cover! It’s fun. It shows her growth through the series that I have planned. Also, I tossed out the man chest. Who knows, if I do another concept, that could come back. I don’t know.

Cassandra Holloway

Ah Cassandra. She and Jacky have the title of “the model Daz model versions”. There’s a different Daz3D model for her every single cover here. I wanted her to have short hair initially, but none of the short hairs I own for Daz really… moved. I wanted wind or something. I personally do not paint hair from scratch because… I don’t like it. I don’t like completely artificial hair look (I paint over the hair that the model has, sometimes more than others, for style reasons, but I always keep the hair I picked for the model in Daz3D). I try to keep stuff more natural, so, I moved to a long hair. Adding purple in the one I just finished was a great choice, in my opinion. The green title with her magic swirls around helped it separate from the background.
She wears fancy outfits for a reason explored in her books. She’s also in heels, but don’t give her shit. She can run in them and kill you with those heels.

AND FINALLY…

JACKY LEON

That last one isn’t a cover. It’s just a picture I did, showing off the newest model of Jacky! You can find it in full here:
https://tribunalarchives.com/artwork/
(No, I don’t care that it’s a full moon in the picture but she’s not a werecat. It’s a pretty picture. Enjoy it)

And that’s all! My end of the year cover review. I really did improve so much in the last 4 months. SO much.
Holy shit this was a long blog. Hope you enjoyed it!

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Beth Holleran
Beth Holleran
6 months ago

These look great! You can clearly see your progression with the tool and the art! It’s so cool that you make these yourself!!

Joy
Joy
6 months ago

Really cool progression! The new Jacky artwork definitely showcases her personality. Thanks for these glimpses at quite a few of your characters!

Henry
Henry
6 months ago

In addition to being a great writer, you are a wonderful artist. I wish you would make some of the artwork available as posters, especially the Jacky picture.