A Book By Its Cover….

To celebrate the release of LIGHTNING STRIKES, I’m turning the blog over to my cover designer (and awesome writer in her own right), Natania Barron, to talk about how we got the “look” for the Cosa Nostradamus…..

Like many things in life, I came to book cover design sideways. Fine Art, in general, was always a passion of mine. In fact, I wanted to be a painter before I ever considered storytelling with words. In my professional life, I’ve been part of marketing teams in every industry from video games to health insurance, and over time developed my digital skills on top of that. But although I’ve had OPINIONS on book covers, I’d never tried my hand at designing them. I’m a writer, after all.

But, well, that didn’t last too long. When John Hartness began Falstaff Books a few years ago, he was doing most of the cover design. As small presses do, it was a good way to cut costs. If he wasn’t doing the cover, he was getting it from one of those full cover shops that cater primarily to self-published authors looking for a decent cover fast.

I believe in the power of a good cover, and I volunteered to help John steer things toward a more… shall we say… cohesive direction. (I think John’s direct comment is that his work looked like a third-grader, but I hold it was at least seventh grade.) In this digital world, even if you’re selling physical books, that cover is going to be everywhere. And ensuring that it is relatively unique and serves its purpose from a design perspective is more essential than ever before. I don’t want to see my friends suffer from shitty book design.

I’ve been friends with Laura Anne for some time now. It started on Twitter, like so many things used to, and she was one of the first professionals I followed when I realized that, hey, other people out there were writing speculative fiction out there! Over the years we’ve met all kinds of places, from local cons to the streets of New York, but last year I started working on some of her covers. Not because her covers weren’t good — in fact, some of hers are the best in the business. But as she started breaking out into this new diversified market, with control of her own IP, well, I jumped at the chance to work on some of those shinies.

Now, here we are, and I have lost track of how many covers we’ve done together. But Lightning Strikes was a particularly fun ride. I can’t say that our email chains back and forth to each other make a whole lot of sense. Often it starts with an idea, and then a lot of head-scratching to figure out just what is the best approach. Gabriel’s Road took a long, long time to get right. Starting with a photo might sound easy, but it’s one of the hardest approaches because, well, that’s someone else’s photo. Their eye, their composition. Getting the rest of it to match up, and stay within a brand look, well, that’s something else.

Laura Anne knew that, with Lightning Stikes and the whole Cosa Nostradamus re-issue, we wanted to go with energy, not sparkly magic. This is electricity. This is elemental. For Wren and her tale, we weren’t talking about skin-tight leather and back tattoos with sparkling halos; it had to be real, based on actual concepts. So we went with lighting and neon.

And I have to admit, at first, I wasn’t super convinced. We hashed out an agreement for the Cosa Nostradmaus books in terms of general brand language because we want it to be cohesive (okay, I’m a little obsessed when it comes to that, but bear with me).

Then, for LIGHTNING STRIKES, she wanted New York City.

And then she asked for a dragon.

Friends, sometimes there’s a point in a designer’s life where things come together, and when they don’t. And I was seriously worried that this was going into cuckoo bananas zone.

But… somehow… after playing with a handful of different dragons, and finding a cityscape that I really liked, the whole thing just kind of fell into place. We probably moved that damned dragon around sixty times, but now it’s just where it needs to be, reflection and everything.

And, oddly enough, now that we’re on the other side, it’s actually one of my personal favorite covers. I’m not allowed to have favorites, but I think this particular cover feels special because it was unexpected. It doesn’t necessarily look like my covers. Like my books, my art has a bit Obvious Natania (in my case, jewel tones and fancy fonts). But this feels like a total collaboration, greater than the sum of its parts. Okay, it has both jewel tons and fancy fonts, but the fonts are sans serif, folks. That’s a huge departure.

I’m really excited to see Lightning Strikes in the wild, and I’m looking forward to getting the whole series out there as well. Congrats, Laura Anne!



B&N / Kobo / Amazon US / Apple

Amazon AU/ Amazon CAN /Amazon UK

LAG again:  and for a peek at STAYING DEAD, coming in December…. tune in next week!


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