15 May 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 11 comments

Jason Gurley worked his magic on King of Swords, and the result is pretty damn cool, if I say so myself. Again, as with the JET covers, I’m looking for a brand look that differentiates the series from the other series (JET, BLACK), puts a common look and feel in place with an image of a person on it, is eye catching even as a thumbnail (which is how 99% of folks will first see it), and conveys a host of information: genre, title, USA Today blurb, etc.

I think he did a great job.

Next week he’ll be working on the rest of the series. Now, this is the fourth go round for me on the Assassin novels. As a little trip down memory lane, here are the covers, with Jason’s the last one.

Cover 1, the original. This wasn’t bad, but in retrospect, I asked for too much and made a tactical error using the image from the tarot card from which the book draws its name as the primary image. I’m sure a lot of readers were, “WTF is that?” Anyhow:

King of swords-forweb

So then we move to different thinking. Some common elements, namely the sniper scope, to indicate that this is an assassination thriller, but more jarring use of color, and losing the tarot card image in favor of a classing man in the crosshairs theme:

king of swords-low res

That remained the cover for about 10 months, and then I contracted another very talented designer to do something completely different – a grunge look that was edgy and contemporary and fresh. I really like this cover, and it’s remained the cover of choice for a year or so:

King of Swords Small (1)NEW

So why change? Well, I like to tinker with the cover until I believe it’s right, right meaning conveys all the elements effectively in a satisfying manner. Here’s Jason’s take on it:

Jason Small

Now, while only time will tell on any impact on sales the cover might have, my personal take is that this has that “trad pub” finished cover look, is just different enough from other books in the genre to be eye catching, and gets a lot of info across – we have an assassin, we have the cover telling the reader that the book is part of the Assassin series, we have the USA Today info, and the title is put across in a slightly different, but polished, manner. We’re still fine tuning a couple of the elements, but I think we’re as close as you can get without buying each other jewelry.

The other departure is that this is the third set of covers where I hired a model, to ensure I have the same look across all the covers. I’m liking that approach.

That’s my thought for the week. I’m now well into Requiem for the Assassin (unless I can think up a cooler title, or you can), which should release in August/Sept, and so far it moves along nicely. Other than that, can’t complain. BLACK is doing nicely after a month of strong sales linked to promotions, I’ve got all sorts of exciting things going on behind the scenes with Hollywood types, and my attitude is as bad as ever.

Now go buy some of my crap. Papa needs a new pair of shoes or whatever.



  1. Thu 15th May 2014 at 6:55 pm

    This is a phenomenal cover. Definitely has a traditionally published look, and the model matches my expectation of what El Rey would look like. What a great job he did on this. Sales will go up for sure.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 11:24 am

      Here’s to hoping!

  2. Jack
    Fri 16th May 2014 at 9:36 am

    At the risk of incurring the wrath of the indie community, I don’t see what all the hoopla is over Jason Gurley. He’s an interesting artist, and his more abstract work sometimes fit if you have a sci-fi story, but why anyone would be paying him $700 a pop to make a cover that anyone can do for a fraction of that is beyond me. I’ve seen so many indie authors get stars in their eyes and end up with covers that look like someone farted a cloud in the sky, and they’re so happy with it because “it’s a Jason Gurley cover,” as if that means anything to 99.9999 of their potential customer base. There are so many vastly talented cover artists out there, writers really need to shop around for quality and price. You’ll be surprise how great a cover you can get and not have to pay nearly 4-figures. Now, I can see Russell paying for these — he’s rich, and money is no problem. But I don’t see this as an improvement over your previous covers at all, Russell.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 11:14 am

      We’ll know in about six months. That’s how long it’s taken for sales to shift one way or another on other covers. As to Jason, I think it’s rather like music – to some people the Stones are a bunch of marginal talents belting out second rate blues, to others the best band in the world. All in the eye of the beholder. I know plenty who wouldn’t go see em if they were free, and others who have paid $500 for a scalped ticket. Shrugs.

      I don’t buy a cover artist based on price. I’ve paid as little as $75 and multiples of that. I am not a bargain shopper, rather, I try to get a look I want, and sometimes that look costs more than others. Jason is by no means a magic wand, but on the other hand, he does good work, and I’m quite happy with what he’s done so far. As with all things, YMMV.

    • Jg  –  Sun 01st Jun 2014 at 2:15 pm

      I’m with Jack. I don’t see what all the hoopla is, either.

    • Adrijus  –  Thu 12th Jun 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Quality doesn’t come with low price. You have to look at it from both sides, not just authors side. Yes, you can buy cheap cover, on Fiverr even. But will a world class designer work for that much? Will that designer spend 5-10 hrs on cover if he’s paid $100? That’s like $10 bucks an hour if you spend 10 hrs designing. That’s what a new designer fresh out of college makes in a general design studio.. Heck they’d make more even there probably. So yeah, covers can be expensive but even $700 is NOT $2000 Publishing houses can pay designers. Maybe you should consider that too. There are a lot of designers charging around $300-600 dollars that produce as well as designers at NYC publishers. That’s 3 times the difference. It’s great for authors that there are designers working for $500 bucks and not choosing other design niches where maybe their pay could be bigger etc.

  3. Fri 16th May 2014 at 10:28 am

    Very artistic cover and striking.
    Question: To the uninitiated reader (myself) it may be unclear weather the assassin on the cover is the protagonist or the bad guy. Of course, either way its a strong statement as it stands.
    Also, perhaps the choice of font sizes diminishes your brand a bit (now its “KING of swords”. Should it be “king of SWORDS”?)
    I understand that the cover is the first body blow to the potential reader, so please take these as friendly comments, not random criticisms. I certainly couldn’t do better or as well myself.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 11:12 am

      Well, that’s actually good, because the answer is he’s both the bad guy and an anti-hero as it goes along. Part of the paradoxical appeal of the series is that you start rooting for the bad guy.

      As to the weighting on King or Swords, there’s no emphasis that matters, as it’s the name of a tarot card – the King of Swords.

  4. Fri 16th May 2014 at 10:11 pm

    The latest one is definitely my favorite. It looks great! This one, more than the others makes me want to check it out.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 16th May 2014 at 10:13 pm

      Yay! Now if the writing just lived up to the cover…

  5. Alan
    Sat 17th May 2014 at 10:24 pm

    G’day Russell!! The new cover is really awesome! That models image really conveys the strong, quiet, edgy and totally dangerous character of El Rey! You can just hear him thinking, “You even breathe and I’ll blow you away.”

    Great new look!!! Can’t wait to read Assassin’s Requiem, or whatever title you decide on!


Add comment

Powered by WordPress

Join Russell Blake's Mailing List

  • Get Latest Releases
  • No Spam
  • Exclusive Offers

The best way to get the latest updates from Russell Blake