The Art of a Book Cover Part 2 – The Winner for Strings on a Shadow Puppet


Sophyan Empire

Sophyan Empire

Cover art is crucial to a new novel’s, or least a new novelist‘s, success. Thus, with the help of Vladimir Shpitalnik (, I held a contest among talented art students in order to determine who would design the cover of my forthcoming novel, Strings on a Shadow Puppet.  Each entrant not only had the chance win a small stipend and see their work on a book, but also received credit towards their degree, thus guaranteeing at least some reward for the effort they put forward.

Two weeks ago, I showed the finalists in the competition; today, I will reveal the art of both the runner up and the winner.  It was a very difficult decision, for all of the work was of extremely good quality, but in the end, I had to choose a cover that would both sum up the book and make it stand out in the field.

ARAGEmblemFor reasons far too complex to go into here, I ended up deciding that the works by Katharine DeCusati (Shauni) ( and/or and Kevin Klakouski ( best summed up my work and presented the best face for marketing.

Katharine’s final submission showed a vision of ship that serves as the backdrop for much of the story, the HMS Hunter.  Using a scene from the novel as inspiration, she set the ship in front of a gas giant, but demonstrating the vision of a visual artist, she went one step further.  She painted the planet in a rainbow of colors and put a moon in partial eclipse of it. This, in turn, reflected the description of the eyes of a mandellan lord as described in the book. A manedellan is a form of social elite with a genetically manipulated heritage that plays heavily into the themes of the novel.  Their eyes are described as have “… the tell tale prismatic eyes that revealed his genetically modified background: wheels of color that told of his mandellan descent.”

To that end, Kat’s piece both hit unique elements of the book, while also pulling upon the kind of marketing typically used in Military Science Fiction books; a very compelling compilation.

Cover submission by Katharine DeCusati (Shauni) ( and/or  all rights reserved.

Cover submission by Katharine DeCusati (Shauni) ( and/or all rights reserved. Image not to be reproduced without prior written authorization.

In contrast, Kevin’s submission called upon a different element of my novel: the Wayang Stalkers.  In the book, the Wayang are a set of cyberized terrorists who can shape shift into a variety of forms, including an exaggerated stylized shape reminiscent of Javanese shadow puppets. Indeed, for those of you who do not know, “Wayang” is the Javanese term for a specific form shadow puppetry that often depicts religious themes, and frequently used as a form of social commentary.

This piece by Kevin Klakouski ( ), was created by actually making a working shadow puppet in the style of Wayang theatre.  The creepy nature of this captures some of the nature of the tale.

This piece by Kevin Klakouski ( ), was created by actually making a working shadow puppet in the style of Wayang theatre. All rights reserved.

Kevin’s submission used this as inspiration, and instead of producing a painting, he created an actual shadow puppet and photographed it in various poses.

Both artists worked very closely (and indeed very patiently) with me to create numerous options that I had to choose between.  They made it a very difficult choice, both because their works were brilliant, and because it created a situation where I had to choose not just an art work that represents my writings (which is hard enough), but an entire marketing approach.

Do I choose a cover that plays upon a specific subgenre, or do I choose one that stands in contrast to that genre?

That is to say do I use a Space Ship that is likely to cry out to the Military Science Fiction/Space Opera crowd, or a Shadow Puppet that speaks to the creepy and conspiracy ladened feel of the book?

In the end, I decided to go with the cover that would stand out from the crowd, particularly  the crowd of books that fill the computer screen that readers are most likely to buy the book using.

Final eBook cover for Strings on a Shadow Puppet

Final eBook cover for Strings on a Shadow Puppet

Let’s face it, most people will be seeing this book represented as .jpeg in a list created either by a direct search on Amazon or in the section noted as: “people who enjoyed this book also enjoyed…”

To that end, I decided that standing out from the crowd was more important.  There are thousands of books that show spaceships.  Indeed, I own many of them.  What I needed something that would catch the potential reader’s reader’s eye and make they ask, “Oh… what’s that?”

Yet the book will not just appear as a eBook on Amazon, it is also going to be available in paperback.   Though the cost of the physical book is considerably more expensive (due to the cost of production and the desire to maximize the franchises that will carry and/or be able to order said book), I do think the end result is quite sharp and exciting, as you can see below.

Paperback Cover of Strings on a Shadow Puppet.  All rights reserved.

Paperback Cover of Strings on a Shadow Puppet. All rights reserved.

So, in the end, you can see a wonderful set of artists can truly make a difference to the final product.  The vision they bring, as well as the skills they have, can create something truly unique and eye catching.  I would highly recommend working with any of these artists, and will shortly be producing a page on both “The Archaeologist’s Guide to the Galaxy”  ( and my author site ( that will show the submissions and give contact details for each of the artists.  I can highly, highly recommend all of them, as that they each listened carefully to what I said, and worked hard to bring my visions to life.

About Thomas Evans

I'm a writer of mysteries, espionage, and speculative fiction. In my previous incarnation I was an archaeologist specializing in gender and identity in Iron and Bronze Age Europe. Mostly, however, I was known for my works with the use of geomatics, multiscalular spatial analysis and landscape theory within archaeology.
This entry was posted in Chronicle, Conspiracy, Conspiracy Novel, Cultural Contact, Cyberpunk, Cycle, Espionage, Far Future, Hard SciFi, Identity, Military Science Fiction, Mystery, New Space Opera, Opinion Piece, Original Fiction, Part of A Series but can be Read without reading previous volumes, Political Drama, Post Colonial, Post Modern, Ripping Yarn, Saga, Science Fiction, Space Opera, Spy Thriller, Stand Alone Novel, Strong Characters, Thoughtful, Thoughtful Espionage Tale, Thriller, Titles, Ultratech, Uncategorized, Unique or Imaginative World, World and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Art of a Book Cover Part 2 – The Winner for Strings on a Shadow Puppet

  1. Pingback: With a Burning Heart Part 3 (The Shadows of Night Saga) « Excursions Into Imagination

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