Archive | July, 2017

Ask A Writer – Cover Artists And Contracts

8 Jul

This didn’t originally start life as an Ask A Writer question – it was included in an email and I thought, as I have had similar problems in the past, that it would be appropriate to tackle as the very first answered AAW question. I’ve rewritten the email so it forms a question <grin>.

“I hired an artist to produce a cover for my eBook and paid him a fee. Twelve months later, I still don’t have a cover. What should I do?”

The immediate question is simple – do you have a contract? If so, does the contract specify a due date and (potential) penalties for non-deliverance?

If there is a contract, you can – and should – contact the artist and request an update. If, for whatever reason, the artist is unable to provide the artwork, you can reasonably ask for a refund and try to obtain a cover design from another artist. An artist might claim that he did a chunk of work for you anyway (the cover sketch and suchlike) and so should keep the money, but I wouldn’t take that argument too seriously. You hired him to produce a usable piece of artwork and he hasn’t done it.

If there isn’t a contract, it will be harder to push the artist into either completing the commission or refunding your money. However, you can still contact the artist, explain you need the artwork by [whenever] and request an update.

You’ll have to decide if you accept the reason for the delay for yourself. (Personally, I tend to be more forgiving if I get told these things in advance.) If you think it is a good reason, you still need to decide if you want to give the artist more time or find a different artist. At the risk of sounding heartless, this is a business. You need a cover to publish a book. If you want to give the artist more time, you probably need to be very clear on the due date.

If not, recovering your money may be difficult, based on your (and his) location. You may find that it costs more to get the money back through legal means than you’ve already spent. But you’d probably need to talk to a lawyer about that.


There is a certain tendency amongst self-published writers to forgo contracts and rely on gentleman’s agreements between writers and artists. I understand the impulse – and I don’t like involving lawyers any more than the next independent contractor – but the writer is buying a piece of artwork. It is important to make sure you know what you’re actually getting and that you have full rights to it. Failing to dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ now could cost you later.

Most professional artists have a standard contract. But if you have to write your own, it must include:

-A description of the design. You can be vague or achingly precise – I have a habit of saying ‘space combat’ or ‘exploding starships’ – but the vaguer you are, the more room there is for misunderstandings. A line reading ‘Brad Pitt in a marine uniform’ leaves the artist with the option of dressing Brad as a Jarhead or a Bootneck, depending.

-A description of the formatting requirements. You want something you can actually use. I generally go for ‘JPEG suitable for Amazon Kindle’ as a basic requirement.

-A statement of the writer’s rights to the artwork. You want an exclusive piece of work. (Think of it as buying a car – the old owner doesn’t have any rights to it once the money exchanges hands.) Most artists will want to keep the right to use the artwork in their portfolio, which allows them to show off their talents, as well as being specifically credited for the work. You should let them do it – I’d be more worried if they didn’t want to do it.

-A due date. If you need the artwork by 01/10/2017, you have to specify that in the contract.

-Price and a payment schedule.

The artist will want something at the start – or when the preliminary sketches are produced (so there’s agreement on the basic design). You need to stipulate when (and how) those payments will be made.

-A statement of what happens if the artist is unable or unwilling to complete the job to the writer’s satisfaction.

There are quite a few variables that need to be taken into consideration. A typical ‘exploding spacecraft’ cover is one that can be repurposed, if necessary; a cover based on a very specific design may not be reusable. The artist will probably want more money up front for the latter!

This is a delicate balancing act. On one hand, the writer wants a usable cover and doesn’t want to throw money away for nothing; on the other hand, the artist has put work into the design and will want something for it, even if the writer cannot use the cover. Think very carefully before you offer too much money up front – ideally, make sure the artist has a good reputation before you pay too much before any work is actually done.


As I have said before, writing is a business. If you want to make money, you have to approach it as a business. You’re hiring an artist to produce a usable piece of work. If the artist can’t or won’t keep their side of the agreement, you have to go elsewhere. Cover yourself because no one else will watch out for you. Write and/or read the contract carefully!

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OUT NOW–The Longest Day (Ark Royal X)

1 Jul

A Stand-Alone Novel Set In The Ark Royal Universe!


The first major alien offensive against Earth has been blunted, winning humanity time to deploy new weapons and prepare new tactics as Earth’s space navies prepare to take the offensive. But the enigmatic aliens have plans of their own – a full-scale attack on Earth that will either win the war in a single stroke or lose it.

The stakes have never been so high. The fate of humanity itself is in the balance. And, as battle rages across the solar system, as humanity finds its back pushed firmly against the war, millions of people – military and civilian – struggle for survival, knowing that victory will come with a very high price …

… And defeat will be the end of everything humanity holds dear.

Download a FREE SAMPLE, then purchase from the links here: US, UK, CAN, AUS

Review: Alternate Truths

1 Jul

-Bob Brown (Editor)

Alternate Truths is a tricky anthology to review

Contrary to Mr. Burns’ opinion, public figures in the United States (and Britain and the West) have always been fair game for satire. This is a good thing because it helps remind us that they too are mortal. However, at the same time, it is easy to forget that they too are human – and go too far, branding them as everything from saints to monsters without any real appreciation of the political, economic and social realities. Worse, it is very easy to use words as cudgels without realising that it is quite easy to lose credibility.

Indeed, one explanation for the rise of Donald Trump is the simple observation that every GOP candidate over the last twenty years was branded a racist, fascist, sexist, homophobe, etc. Unsurprisingly, society reached a point where large swathes of the American population automatically discounted such accusations – and rightly so, as such accusations rarely had much (if any) grounding in truth. ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’ is not just a fairy tale, but a devastatingly accurate comment on human nature. If Trump is the wolf, everyone who screamed ‘wolf’ over the last twenty years bears something of the blame for his election – and for the personalisation of politics.

Alternate Truths bills itself as ‘a look at the post-election America that is, or will be, or could be.’ This is a valid project, although I suspect that attitudes to the anthology will depend hugely on one’s attitude to Trump. And yet, in many ways, it does not come close to a successful study of potential futures. I would say, rather, that it is an illustration of the problem of the ‘resistance’ – there is no valid examination of why Trump won, how everyone from Hillary Clinton to Jeb Bush affected the election results, nor is there any coherent plan for a post-Trump world. Trump sold his voters a vision – his opponents did not.

Trump looms large throughout the stories in this book – Trump the fool, Trump the monster, Trump … Trump the caricature. Indeed, the opening stories in the book are the weakest – an odd editorial decision – that make fun of Trump, rather than assessing his strengths and weaknesses. They are absurd and in some cases funny, but they contribute nothing to an assessment of post-election America and the world. And a number of them really go too far.

A secondary set of stories plays with the concept of otherworldly invention: cloning, time travel, alien involvement, even reality manipulation. Bruno Lombardi’s story is particularly amusing, but all of them shy away from a fundamental fact: saint, sinner or mortal man, Trump was elected for human reasons, not because of outside intervention. You can’t blame Trump on anything, but the American voter, who had to make a choice between two poor candidates.

A third set of stories try to suggest what life might be like in Trump’s America. None of them are particularly cheerful; most of them are exaggerated, almost to the point of scaremongering. Others blame Trump for problems – healthcare issues, no-knock raids, government overreach – that existed prior to Trump becoming a serious candidate for the nomination. Trump may or may not make them worse, but it is disingenuous to blame a sitting President for problems caused by his three predecessors.

None of these stories (with a couple of minor exceptions, which I’ll get to in a moment) address the crucial question – why did people vote for Trump? Indeed, most of the writers seem to have the same reluctance to understand that people might have (or at least thought they had) good reasons to vote for him. “I don’t understand how Trump got elected – I don’t know anyone who voted for him.” Instead, they brand his supporters racists, sexists and deplorables … which does not convince them to vote for anyone else. The condescending arrogance shown by establishment figures like Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton provides yet another reason for Trump’s election.

It’s All Your Fault is a chat log depicting the aftermath of a church shooting, showing both how events can rapidly become politicised and, more importantly, how common sense is whacked on the head and buried in the backyard. It’s an excellent outline of how fingers are pointed, blame is ducked, insults are hurled and the truth is rapidly lost, as everyone but the shooter himself is blamed for the tragedy. But the story is rapidly spoilt by the inclusion of alien manipulators.

Your attitude to Alternate Truths will probably depend, a great deal, on your attitude to Trump. Some of the stories are worth reading, others take satire too far to tell us anything useful about potential futures. And you really need to read the whole book to pick out the good stories from the weaker ones. (Luckily, it’s on Kindle Unlimited.)

I’d like to close with a quote from Walks Home Alone At Night. It is, perhaps, the closest Alternate Truth gets to understanding the reasons behind Trump’s election.

What most people don’t realize—or don’t care to admit—is that safety is a privilege of the financially secure. It’s easy to warn others against wandering the streets after dark when one knows they’ll be tucked away safe behind locked doors in their gated communities long before evening falls. Everyone else? Well, everyone else takes their chances.”