Category Archives: Interviews

Cover Artist Series: Dylan Drake, Wayword Author Services

Dylan LogoWelcome to this month’s Cover Artist Feature! I met Dylan Drake at BEA this year. Dylan’s company, Wayword Author Services, offers indy authors not only  great cover designs, but also print and ebook formatting, editing, and a variety of other services as well.

Invested_Ivana 50Thanks for joining us, Dylan!

Hi Ivana – Thank you! I’ve followed your blog for a while so it’s an honor to interviewed!

Invested_Ivana 50Tell me a little bit about Wayword Author Services.

Dylan_Photo 50Sure! This is actually a new venture I’ve started that just sort of organically came together. After 15+ years working in publishing, web development, digital marketing, and graphic design, it came to me one day that between myself and the colleagues I’ve worked with over the years in editorial, marketing, design, and illustration, that we have all the tools, talents, and knowledge to do what big publishing houses do for their authors, but on a smaller, more individual scale.

I am the resident art director, cover designer, and illustrator. When I can – and when it makes sense depending on the artistic style needed – I illustrate for the covers. My original love is pen and ink, and I enjoy doing interior illustrations for chapter headings, maps, and frontispieces. I also work with a Wacomb tablet in my digital illustrations for cover art, which allows me tons of freedom and is much more forgiving than working in traditional media. There is no undo function with ink and paint!


If time doesn’t allow, or if I feel a book needs a style of art that I don’t do, I contract out this portion of the cover design to one of the many artists I’ve worked with over the years. For example, there are some truly phenomenal illustrators working in fantasy and science fiction that can almost magically bring a fictional world to life. Finding just the right style of art for your story is crucial for attracting the audience you want for your book. People subconsciously respond to visual cues before making buying decisions, and your book cover design and art style, in my opinion, is the most important way to communicate what your book is about, even more important than back cover copy and blurbs.

Beyond cover design, I work with several brilliant editors that do an amazing job polishing up manuscripts and helping with plot and character development. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to being “self published,” and it has a lot to do with poor editing. You can have a world-changing story but if people can’t get past the run-on sentences and misspellings, they won’t take it seriously. That’s why I wanted to offer indie authors both services – cover design AND editorial. Because both elements are crucial to a book’s success.


The final piece is book interior design and eBook formatting. A beautifully designed book interior assures a positive reading experience. I was recently gifted a novel from an indie author that I was very excited to read. The cover art was beautiful – detailed paintings of the fantastical setting and characters. But once I cracked open the book and starting reading the first page, I realized I literally could not read story because the font was too small. These are the types of mistakes a self-published author might make simply because they don’t know any better. That’s why I started this company – because I believe writers should do what they do best – write. Leave the design and layout to the experts.

Invested_Ivana 50Your art samples show both illustration and photo manipulation; I like that you can do both. Then you can pick what’s best for the story.  And AMEN about the editing! You mentioned 15+ years in the industry. What’s your background in graphic design and indy publishing?

Dylan_Photo 50From a very young age I was a voracious drawer. My folders and notebooks were literally covered in doodles and drawings when I was a kid. My first crack at college I studied fine art, but life intervened, I dropped out of college, and through a circuitous route I ended up in book publishing and worked my way up as far as I could without a college degree. It was always in my mind that I wanted to go back to school, but at that point I was too practical to be a fine artist. It finally clicked when I managed graphic designers and artists through marketing and product development roles. I realized that I wanted to do what they were doing! So I went back to school full-time, while working full-time, and got my degree in graphic design and digital media.

One of the things that drew me to want to be a designer was the freedom that the independent designers enjoyed. They could work from anywhere, take a vacation any time, and decide on the jobs that they would take. So right after graduating I started my own design company, and my first clients were in book publishing – of course! Because that’s where my contacts were. But gradually I began to build a diversified client base and have worked across a variety of industries, from pharmaceuticals to video games to credit card companies. I’ve designed magazines, book covers, catalogs, logos, packaging, ads, and websites.


Last year I took on a project that was a game-changer for me. My mother, who has been an unpublished short-story writer for as long as I can remember, decided she wanted to develop one of her short stories into a five-book series. So I pretty much dropped everything to help her launch the books. I read and edited them, designed her book covers and interiors, and built her author website. I even set up her social media accounts and taught her how to interact with her readers and build her audience online. She went from a brilliant hermit to being a successfully-published independent author.

As fate would have it, I met another author who wanted me to help her in the same ways I was helping my mom. And that’s when the idea for this business really took shape.

In my heart I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, a bit anti-establishment. I believe there is too much money and power in too few hands. It’s that way in government, in business, and also in publishing. Publishers and agents are in it for the money and they aren’t too keen on taking a chance on an unproven idea. That’s why I believe in the independent publishing revolution. Everyone has a story to tell, and should never have their dreams of being a writer shot down because they received a rejection letter. I saw the same thing happen with my mom – she got five or six rejection letters and almost gave up. Now her books are available on Amazon, and she continues to get 4 and 5 star reviews from her fans. It’s inspiring to see!

Invested_Ivana 50Yay!  I feel the same way about indy publishing. Congrats to your mom on her success! Covers are so important to book sales and exposure. Book covers draw the attention of new readers. So, what’s your process for designing a great cover?

Dylan_Photo 50I think the single most important thing for me is to first understand the audience. This comes from my graphic design background. Before I even pick up a pencil or crack open my machine I first need to know who the book is written for. Oftentimes the author might not even know, which is why I like to read the manuscript before I begin concept development. When I first read my mom’s stories, I thought, “Wow, these are really great YA sci-fi adventures!” So I designed the covers to be very illustrative, showing the main character’s face prominently to engage with the reader. Later, she decided she didn’t want to limit the audience to only YA, so I changed the art to appeal to a broader audience by showing more of the world in which the story takes place, with the characters much smaller and in silhouette. But as reviews poured in, everyone seemed to sing the same tune – “great YA story, but I enjoyed it!” In the end, I think we found a great visual balance between both audiences, regardless of which category the stories end up being placed in (right now we’re thinking of putting it back in YA!).

But to go back to your question, I first send my clients a simple questionnaire to help me understand how they view their book. Then I read the manuscript or book for myself and discuss the design direction with the author. Once we agree on a direction, I ask them to send me visual examples of the style of art they envision. I also do my own visual research, gathering examples of current design trends and the covers of similar books together, then start sketching and brainstorming. I always submit at least three design directions for the author to choose from, and go from there.


Often I’ve found that authors have a hard time being their own art directors—simply saying they don’t like something is never helpful. So I ask a lot of questions about specific aspects of a design to see what it is they like and don’t like. It’s tough, but I do my best never to take anything personal—something I learned throughout my career. Design is so subjective—I could be in love with something that the client just doesn’t “like,” and it could be simply our different backgrounds and tastes. Maybe they just don’t like ice cream and I really thought ice cream was the best thing to put on the cover because I like it. So I try to remember that even though I’m the artist, it’s not MY art. It’s a collaboration.

One of the pillars of a well-designed cover is choosing the right font, or choosing to create a hand-drawn title. Nothing screams poor design like using a cliche font on your cover. It really is a pet peeve of mine. I love typography and have an extensive collection of fonts that I draw from for my designs, depending on the application.

Invested_Ivana 50I’m no designer, but I love fonts, too!  They are addicting. 😉  Your website also lists a marketing guru, and when you approached me, it was for a book review. Does Wayword Author Services help with marking and promotions as well?

Dylan_Photo 50Great question! This is a part of the long-term goal of this company. The marketing guru is actually my husband who has a great deal of experience in high-level business development and marketing roles. He’s actually my partner and we are starting this business together. At the moment we’re focusing on offering services for the product itself, but eventually we’ll expand to offer marketing and promotions services for authors. We will be doing this on a case-by-case basis for now, so we’re open to discuss this possibility with authors.

Invested_Ivana 50Wow, a one-stop shop for indy authors! How should an author go about contacting you to inquire about your services?

Dylan_Photo 50They can send me an email at:, call me at 406-369-0902, or go to my website at and fill out the contact form or connect on social media.

Thanks, Dylan for being on our blog today.  I learn something new with each interview we do!

Meet Ken Lange, author of Accession of the Stone Born

imageWere there any difficult challenges or special subject matter you came across while writing this book?

Considering I’m average height, the whole six foot six thing was a bit daunting. I never realized that it was so hard to find clothes that fit or even a bed that was comfortable. The fact that the average door in the US is 6’9” tall, anyone 6’6” and above feel a need to duck most of the time. All problems I don’t have.

Tell us three things about you-the writer-readers wouldn’t typically know.

  1.  I’m a big cat person for starters.
  2. I work best in complete silence; the stories don’t like the outside competition.
  3. Sushi is one of my favorite foods.

Where did you get the premise for this book?

I’ve always wanted to write a book based on magic and it sort of evolved from there.

What about this book would make us want to read it more than others of similar taste?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I think it’s a matter of style, I suggest reading a bit and see if it fits their expectation. Books are a lot like a good meal, I like my steaks medium rare while others love theirs well done and we will never agree. But that’s okay, a lot of people like their steaks medium rare. It’s just a matter of personal preference.

What is your book about?

It’s about a man who lost his way early in life. He left home after his parents died in an accident and went to work for the government as an enforcer for nearly thirty years. With the political shifts and changing views he became an outdated tool that was summarily dismissed.

Once he returns home, like many others, he isn’t sure what to do with himself. He’s clear on a couple of things, he doesn’t want to become a mercenary and he needs to get his feet under him. Of course fate has other things in mind when he’s introduced to the Archive and all its wonders.

He finds a new purpose within the Archive and strives to make the world around him a better place. As he says, peace is maintained by those willing to do great violence in its name. He’s a hard man and one that sees the world for what it is, even if he doesn’t understand it.

What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I hope they enjoy the book for what it is, entertainment, but if they wish to take more away, then I hope they take a hard look at the people around them and realize that they’re not so dissimilar.


Please share a short excerpt 500 words or less.

I heard the quiet thud of soft-soled shoes rapidly pounding the sidewalk behind us. My body tensing, I grabbed Heather in my far arm, swinging her around me and holding her at arm’s length, which allowed me to spin around and face the runner. The small yet handsome Asian man barreling our way was barely five feet tall. The officer reached out for him, but the runner ducked and planted a palm into the man’s chest, sending him sprawling through the open gate where he landed hard on his back, slapping his head against the black stone walkway with a sickening crack.

The Asian man seemed at odds with himself, moving like a young man but appearing to be in his mid to late thirties. His bald head gleamed in the moonlight and his focus was on Heather. Increasing his speed, he pulled out a long silver dagger. He was fast, muscular, and most importantly, a threat.

Our attacker hadn’t anticipated Heather being spun around, several feet out of reach, and his blade pierced my coat and shirt, allowing its razor sharp edge to leave a long shallow gash across my ribs. It wasn’t life threatening, yet the warm blood trickling down my side was annoying and a little itchy. He pulled the blade back and flicked his wrist, and slamming the ridge of my hand against the man’s throat, I lifted him off the ground, propelling him several feet back.

He was unarmed now, the dagger seemingly vanishing from sight, and it registered in my mind that I hadn’t heard it hit the ground. Discovering the weapon’s whereabouts was secondary to handling the man who wielded it.

He fell back gracefully, pulling his knees up, rolling over his shoulders and neck back to his feet, prepared for a fight. He was dazed and slow, which was bad news for him. I sped towards him in a low footballer’s stance and he kicked out a foot, landing hard against my shoulder.

He wasn’t heavy enough to slow me down, and I grabbed the leg. Catching sight of the fence, I changed tactics. Forcing myself upright and pulling his leg along with me in a nasty twist, I heard it snap at the ankle and knee before I felt it give way as I pulled it from the socket. He lurched back as I swept a leg underneath him, forcing him around and allowing his face to plow into the wrought iron fence, which was forced downward with all his body weight and a good shove from me. A long black iron fleur de lis erupted from the back of the man’s head, causing him to convulse in an oddly rhythmic fashion for several seconds. Finally, the twitching stopped and he slumped against the fence with his knees on the sidewalk, resembling some sort of gruesome prayer to an uncaring god.

 Writing Style Questions:

 Are you a plotter, a pantser or a combination of both?

A little of both I suppose; I try to have it all plotted out but sometimes the story or the characters disagree. For example, Heather was supposed to die, apparently she had other plans. It’s a little weird but it happens.

What was your favorite part of the story to write?

All of it, mostly. I always start by writing the first couple of chapters and then the ending, so I can’t change it up too much.

Was there a part of the story that was difficult to write?

The ending was tricky, otherwise it flowed easily enough.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

Other than the silence? I suppose, if I have to do anything else that day, writing is pretty much off the table. I need to be able to sit with the story and let it move onto the screen. Interruptions, be it errands, going out for lunch or appointments pulls me out of that space and it’s difficult for me to get anything done.

What advice would you give to other writers?

To be themselves and not try to be someone else. It’s a lot easier that way.


Book Description: Step into the strange and unusual world of the Archive with Gavin Randall, meet Lazarus and learn about the Stone Born. A necromancer is on the move and thousands of souls hang in the balance.

Links to the book on Amazon:







Cover Artist Series: Lou Harper, Harper Design

Welcome to this month’s Cover Artist Feature!  Lou Harper is an author AND a cover illustrator and designer.  You’ve seen her work on fantasy titles such as The Eldritch Files by Phaedra Weldon, the Deathspeaker Codex by Sonya Bateman, the Between Life and Death series by Ann Christy, The Thrice Cursed Mage series by J. A. Cipriano, Mudman by James A. Hunter, and the A World of Shadows boxed set.

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Invested_Ivana 50Welcome, Lou.  Thanks for talking with us.

LH Icon 50Thank you for inviting me!

Invested_Ivana 50In this series so far, we’ve talked with artists that do all digital illustration and artists who do photo composite work.  What technique do you use for your art?

LH Icon 50Photo manipulation all the way. I greatly admire and envy artist who are good at illustration. I loved drawing since childhood but eventually had to accept I don’t have the talent. So I took up photography as my major in college.

Invested_Ivana 50Some of the art on your covers looks like photographs, but some looks like digital illustrations.  How do you achieve that effect?

Magic Born Raw Power

LH Icon 50It’s all in Photoshop. I build up the images with lots of layers, some filters, adjustments, etc. and then keep tweaking them till they look the way I want them.

Invested_Ivana 50How did you get your start as a book cover illustrator and designer?  And how has your own work as an author impacted that process, or vice versa?

LH Icon 50I’ve been doing image manipulations in one form or other a couple of decades. My first experiments combining images happened in the darkroom in college. Fortunately for me, the art department also had a small computer lab, and I plunged into Photoshop for the first time. It was a wee little program back then; it only required 4MB of RAM to run.Later on I worked in various web design and related fields.

I got into book cover design doing covers for author friends, and eventually went freelance. I know the frustration of not having control over your cover.

Choas Karma Mindguard

Invested_Ivana 50Your website says that you only use stock photography for legal reasons.  Can you explain the legal reasons to us?

LH Icon 50This rule of mine is not quite as hard-set as I make it sound, but I have several good reasons for it.

Whenever you use the image of a recognizable person for commercial purposes, you MUST have their permission. If you don’t, they can sue your pants off. Stock photo sites have signed model releases on file from the photographers. If anything’s amiss they’re on the hook, not you.

While stock photos are copyright free, the legal status of images from other sources can be iffy. (On a side note: graffiti too might fall under copyright protection. Terry Gilliam was sued by street artists.)

Even if you get the photographer’s permission, or use images from legit sites like Unsplash, you have to consider trademark protection. For example, if you want to use New York’s Time Square as your background, you need to know that restaurant and store signs, theater markers, billboards with movie and product advertisement, even company logos on the sides of taxi cabs fall under trademark protection–you are not allowed to use them for commercial purposes without permission. Even buildings and other landmarks—like the Hollywood sign—are trademark protected.

Using stock photos provides legal protection. I break my own rule on occasion, mainly to use some of my own photographs of alleyways and such in backgrounds.

Invested_Ivana 50What is the biggest challenge of using stock photography?  Limited number of good images?  Reuse of popular images (see our Pinterest board for the Hoodie Hottie)? Maintaining consistency of a character across series covers?

LH Icon 50Yes and yes. I spend hours every week searching through stock photos and I often despair. Half of the pictures seem to be of business people smiling and shaking hands. Another big block is taken up by fashion models in awkward poses. Female models are either sex kittens or happy home-makers. Action poses are far and between. And don’t get me started on photos that are so goofy you wonder what the hell the photographer was thinking.

The hardest part is finding the right photo, especially when it comes to people. Locating the right model with the right expression, hair style/color, clothing, pose can be maddeningly hard, and you have to get innovative. My covers are always composites of many parts, often even the characters, so even if though the model I use might appear on a different cover by a different designer, my design will still be unique.

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Invested_Ivana 50What kinds of thoughts go into creating the cover of a book?  What kinds of discussions do you have with art directors or authors about the art you create for books?

LH Icon 50I always give my author clients an art form to fill out. It gives me a mental picture of the story, characters, and also the author’s expectations. Many of my clients have firm ideas and expectations along genre styles. Of course, every single project is a bit different. I think I have knack for catching the atmosphere of a book from the author’s description. One thing I try to impress upon my clients is that the cover doesn’t have to be literal–it needs to represent the story, not illustrate it.

Invested_Ivana 50Your gallery seems to include art for a number of genres.  Do you have a favorite genre to work in as an artist?  To read?

LH Icon 50Mystery, historical fiction, and speculative fiction are my top genres, but I’ll read almost anything as long as the prose and the characters grab me. To be entirely honest, I have little time to read, but I listen to audibooks as I work.

I don’t really have a preferred genre to design for. If anything, I like a variety to spice things up.

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Invested_Ivana 50Do you also do the treatments (title/author text, series name, back cover text) of your book covers?  How do you decide on fonts and other graphic elements to use?

LH Icon 50Yes, I do my own typography—I consider it an important part of the design. Genre is a major factor in font choice. Urban fantasy is pretty flexible, but you probably don’t want to use chunky sanserif for high fantasy or historical fiction. The overall design, and style of the story are also important considerations.

Usually I spend a fair amount of time fiddling with fonts. I think I might have a font addiction; I keep a watchful eye on sites like Letterhead Fonts ad Creative Market for new additions.

Invested_Ivana 50You offer premade covers on your website.  Can you tell us about those?  How would an author use those?

LH Icon 50It’s straightforward—the client buys the cover, tells me what the text should say, and I deliver the updated cover.

I like playing around with designs, build covers around interesting stock photos I haven’t had a chance to use. However, I haven’t had time to make new premades for a while, and might have to shut down the store.

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Invested_Ivana 50Do you work only with independent authors or do you work with publishers as well?  What services do you offer and how would an author go about contacting you?

LH Icon 50I mostly work with authors directly, but also with some publishers. Interested clients should check out my web site for rates and services. I can be reached via email at I must add I’m booked well into July already.

Invested_Ivana 50Which projects have been your favorites?  Which were easy to create?  Hardest to create?

LH Icon 50Usually whatever is the latest is my favorite, then I flitter onto the next one. Hardest… I dunno. Creating a convincing golem for Mudman was a touch of a challenge. People Behaving Badly probably has the most individual graphic elements I used in one cover. Every bit of that back ally garbage was placed there with utmost consideration. The trashcan was shiny and new with zero bullet holes when I started.

Mudman peoplebehavingbadly_by_lharper-d8kunov

Thank you so much, Lou, for taking the time to answer our questions!

Be sure to find Lou’s designs on her website deviantART, and Pinterest, or drop her an email at (yes, ymail; that is NOT a typo) and tell her how much you love her covers!

Cover Artist Series: Tony Mauro, Tony Mauro Illustration and Design

Welcome back to our series on book cover artists. Today we get to talk with the fabulous Tony Mauro! Tony is one of the big names in fantasy art whose career spans the country, from the movie industry on the West Coast to the book industry on the East Coast. He creates the covers for many of our favorite series, including my very favorite, Jennifer Estep’s Elemental Assassin series.

Spider's Bite Tangled Threads Web of Lies

Invested_Ivana 50Welcome, Tony. Thanks for talking with us.

TM iconThank YOU! Happy to be here.

Invested_Ivana 50In this series so far, we’ve talked with artists who do all digital illustration and artists who do photo composite work. What technique do you use for your art?

TM iconMy work is a combination of both. I was a traditional airbrush illustrator for the early part of my illustration career, so taking those traditional skills and techniques and applying them to the computer came pretty naturally for me. I have a photo studio in my house where I’ll shoot a very basic photograph to capture the pose and expressions. Then paint over it on the computer adding all of the effects and environment that the piece calls for.

Invested_Ivana 50How did you get your start as an artist in general, and then get into fantasy book cover art? Did you have a “big break?”

TM iconI’ve been drawing since I was a child and was one of the lucky few people that always knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up. My father is an artist so I grew up in a very creative household.

A few years after graduating from art school I decided to sell everything I owned and move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in move poster design. I was fortunate enough to get some great opportunities out there doing just that and spent 11 years in the motion picture industry designing movie posters. Eventually I was beginning to get a little burned out on that scene and lifestyle, so I decided to move back to my home town of Buffalo, NY and try my luck as a freelancer. For the first few years I continued to do movie work from my home with all of my clients still being in Los Angeles.

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I had started doing fantasy art on the side because it was a genre that always gave me a lot of inspiration as a kid when I was learning to draw and paint. I had entered a few pieces into the Spectrum Fantastic Art world wide competition where all of the chosen pieces are featured in an annual book. The pieces of mine that were selected caught the attention of an art director at Penguin Publishing and the rest as they say was history! The book work very quickly took over my entire business.

Invested_Ivana 50Do you still do any work on movie posters and fantasy art, or is it all book covers now?

TM iconThe book covers represent 95% of my business, but I still work on films from time to time. The fantasy art has always been a side thing for me just to have a creative outlet to do whatever I want. I’ve found that having an outlet like that really helps to keep from burning out, like I mentioned earlier. Like any job it can start to get a little monotonous, so to be able to create a piece that does’t have any client to please or product to sell is a nice break.

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Invested_Ivana 50What types of clients do you work with? Just the bigger publishers and companies, or do you work with smaller firms and independents? If you work with smaller companies and independents, how would someone get in touch with you to commission some work?

TM iconRight now the major publishing houses are keeping me very busy, and I have several art directors that I work with at each of them so it’s pretty rare that I work on smaller independent projects; but it does happen from time to time depending on my schedule and the project. My website has all of my contact info and is always the best way to reach me:

Invested_Ivana 50Your gallery seems to be focused mostly on fantasy, sci-fi, or horror, but I did see what looked like a book cover for a romance. Do you work in all genres? Do you have a favorite genre to work in?

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TM iconI do work in all genres which is why I love this job so much. Every project is totally different and I’ve found different clients think of me for different things. Paranormal romance has definitely been the genre that most people think of me for. The main reason for that is my fantasy art was the thing that caught the attention of the art directors in the first place so they’ve kept me in that arena. I can’t really say I have a favorite because they’re all fun to work on for different reasons.

Invested_Ivana 50Some of the images in your gallery show just the art and some show the treatment (title and other text on the cover). Do you work on the treatments for some of your projects yourself?

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TM iconYes, that is one of the things that I’ve always felt helped me to stand out among the others out there doing covers. If you look in my movie poster section those are all my title treatments with the exception of maybe one or two. So when I started doing book covers I was able to show my comps with text on them which not all cover artists do. I still have a few art directors that like to do their own type but 70% of the time they are my designs.

Invested_Ivana 50What kinds of thoughts go into creating the cover of a book? What kinds of discussions do you have with cover designers or authors about the art you create for books?

TM iconIt usually starts with a creative brief from the art director giving me a loose outline of what they are looking to see and a short synopsis of the book. I’ll usually follow that up with a phone call to discuss the overall tone and details to make sure we’re on the same page. The longer you work with people, the more trust is formed and those briefs get shorter and shorter. Also because most of what I do is for a series after the first book the series look has been established and I can just follow that path for the following books.

Invested_Ivana 50Do you read the books for which you create the cover? See the movies for which you create posters?

TM iconI used to read every book I did the cover for, which was really great because I love to read and it really is the best way to approach the project. But, my work load has gotten so heavy there just aren’t enough hours in the day to read them all.

When working on movies, we are very often working on the posters while they are still filming. So, we start by reading the script before we ever start concepts. Usually you can read the script in roughly the same amount of time as it takes to watch the film, so it’s only a couple hours.

The other major difference between movies and books is the process itself. When I was doing movie posters, the studios would look at up to 300 posters before choosing one and that process was usually 3-6 months on one film. They’d hire 2 or 3 design firms to work on the same film and each firm would deliver 100 concepts or so. So, it was incredibly competitive and draining for the designers. Things have changed now and the budgets have been drawn back, so it’s a little different these days.

Invested_Ivana 50Wow!  300 poster options?  That’s crazy!  Which projects have been your favorites? Which were easy to create? Hardest to create?

TM iconThis is always such a tough question to answer because every project has its challenges. I honestly don’t think any one of them stick out in my head as the hardest or the easiest.

Sometimes my favorite cover is the one that never got chosen. I always deliver 2 or 3 different designs for the client to chose from and it’s just not always your favorite that gets picked. Right now I’m working on rebranding Stephen King’s entire library so that has been really fun and exciting to work on. I’ve done 15 of his books so far and have 6 more on my plate right now so those will all be hitting the stores soon. I definitely have some favorites in there 😉


Invested_Ivana 50Is there a way to get prints of some of your work? I see your When Darkness Falls calendar, a calendar of your artwork, wasn’t available this year.

TM iconI can have prints made of any images in my fantasy art or book cover section of my website. I make them to order so they are available in any size you like and are always signed by me. I can’t sell prints of any of the movie posters because those are the property of the movie studios.

Unfortunately after, 10 years, 2015 was the last year of the When Darkness Falls calendar. There is always the possibility I’ll sign up with another publisher to produce calendars of my work again but for now I’m taking a little break from that to focus on my book cover work.

Invested_Ivana 50You mentioned that the movie posters are property of the studios, but do you own the rights to your book cover art?

TM iconI retain all of the rights to my artwork when working in the book industry. That’s how I have been able to feature some of the book covers in my calendar every year and am able to sell prints.

Invested_Ivana 50You mentioned that the fantasy art was work you did for yourself.  Does it end up being used for anything?

TM iconThe fantasy art was used in my calendar every year for the last ten years. Honestly though the beauty of the fantasy art for me was that it didn’t necessarily have to get used for anything. It was just art for art’s sake. Earlier in my career I did a lot of comic book and pop culture conventions where I’d have a booth in the artist alley section and sell prints of my artwork.

Invested_Ivana 50Boobs and female bodies feature prominently in your fantasy art in particular. Do you ever get flack, or praise, for the way women are portrayed in your art?

Bree Jess_graveyard MAURO_155 MAURO_197 the-swing

TM iconTHERE IT IS!!!! LOL Just kidding 😉

I can honestly say that I’ve never gotten any flack for that. The one thing you’ll notice with almost all of my fantasy art is the women are total ass kickers and are always portrayed as strong and powerful. Sure, they may be using all of the tools at their disposal to distract or lure their prey, but they never play the victim. It seems that boobs and fantasy art almost always go hand in hand, so I don’t think seeing a sexy woman in a fantasy art piece ever really surprises anyone. Lol! I will say that for some of the book covers, I’ve been asked to tone down the characters’ sexuality a bit, but that’s usually just a body type thing or a slight outfit alteration.

Invested_Ivana 50Who is your favorite artist?

TM iconI have so many favorites, some you might expect some you may not. As far as who inspired me most as a child when I was learning it was definitely Norman Rockwell, Boris Valejo and Drew Struzan. As far as contemporary artists go I really like Brom, Justin Sweet and Craig Elliott, to name a few. But, like I said, there are sooo many great artists.

Invested_Ivana 50Your covers mostly feature people or human-like characters (angels, mermaids, etc.). Have you had much of a chance to create creatures? What has been or would be your favorite creature to illustrate?

TM iconI am not a creature guy at all. I think the most important thing as an artist is to know your limitations. There are so many artists out there that do incredible creatures and I am certainly not one of them lol. In the rare case that I need a creature or a dragon for a piece I will collaborate with one of my artist friends that is better suited for that element in the piece. For example one of my favorite pieces from last year was titled Mind Magic for author Eileen Wilks. It featured a girl squaring off with a dragon from the book so I collaborated with one of my best friends and really talented artist Matt Robinson up in Northern California to help me out with the dragon for that piece.

Mind Magic

Invested_Ivana 50If you could put yourself in one of your covers, what would it look like and what would be its epic title?

TM iconOh boy…I’m not even going there. I’m very comfortable on my side of the camera. I’ll leave the modeling to the pros. 🙂

Tony MauroThanks so much to Tony Mauro for being generous enough to speak with us!  For more of Tony’s art, check out Instagram and his website.

Cover Artist Series: Deranged Doctor Designs

Invested_Ivana_100Welcome to our year-long series on book cover artists and designers.  Previously, we’ve talked with individual artists Chris McGrath and Gene Mollica.  Today we’re interviewing Darja from Deranged Doctor Designs, a company who specializes in creating book covers, branding, and promotional materials for self-published authors.

Check out Deranged Doctor Designs website and social media:

Invested_Ivana 50Hi, Darja.  Welcome to One Book Two! Okay, so first I gotta ask, what lead you to choose the name Deranged Doctor Designs?

DDD2 smallOur primary goal was to find the company name that would be easy to remember, but also unique; the name that will ensure that when clients see it for the first time, there’s no way they’ll forget it. 😀 We brainstormed for days before deciding on Deranged Doctor Design. There were some concerns that we might not be taken seriously enough because of the name, but then we said “What the hell…it’s too good not to make it our own.” 🙂

Invested_Ivana 50It’s an awesome name!  Your clients are primarily self-published authors.  What is your process for working with an author on a design?

DDD2 smallThe difference between DDD and most other companies doing cover design is that we have a project manager who is the main point of contact. She has significant experience in book promotion and publishing, and is therefore in charge of complete correspondence with the author on one side, while communicating with and handling designers on the other. Meaning, there is no direct contact between the author and designer. This may sound strange at first, but we’ve come to the conclusion that we’re getting much better results when designers are getting directions from our project manager who can, if needed, reshape some of the author’s initial ideas, all with the main goal of designing a best-seller cover. 

We design strong genre covers that will sell the book. Even if it means sometimes talking the author out of their initial cover idea. 😉 We will never deliver a product that won’t “work.”

Kizuna Coast - Mystery - Asian Borrowed World - Post Apocalypse - Adventure Demorn - Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery

Invested_Ivana 50I see you use some stock photography in your designs. Do you use all stock or do you do any custom photography?

DDD2 smallMost of our clients are self-published authors working on a budget, so we are trying to maintain affordable prices. Custom photography would mean raising our cover design package prices quite a lot, so for now we are going with stock photos only.

Invested_Ivana 50I know sometime stock images can get overused. At One Book Two, we are particularly amused by the character we call “The Hoodie Hottie.” Do you run into similar problems when using stock images? How do you combat the overuse of certain images?

DDD2 smallThis is the constant problem when using stock images. The best quality photos are always very popular, so many designers are using them. Furthermore, there is a constant demand for a particular photo/model type (bare-chested man, hooded man/woman, woman/couple in historical clothes, man holding a sword), and not enough different photos available, so the ones that are available get overused. But sometimes we have to compromise if we want to stay in the current price range. That’s why we never use the photo as-is (and just slap the title over it), but try to change it as much as possible using a lot of effects and filters. Also, we never use fewer than 2–3 photos for one cover. When needed, we even go with 10+ photos per cover.

Balanced Lindsay Buroker - Steampunk Fantasy hoodie hottie stock gal

Invested_Ivana 50Hmm… that makes me want to give a shout out to Gene Mollica, with his massive costume collection, and my friend, Mad Scientists With A Camera, to say there might be a business opportunity here. 🙂

It also looks like you have illustrated covers with no photography. Do you do digital illustration?

DDD2 smallWe are outsourcing digital illustration when custom illustrations are needed. The prices for those projects are higher than standard cover design prices and are calculated depending on each project’s requirements and scope of work (prices range between $400 and $900 USD). But most of the illustrated covers you can see in our portfolio are done in-house, combining several illustrations and vectors available on stock (standard cover design price).

We also offer fantasy map design where prices depend on the map size and number of details (prices range between $200 and $350 USD per map).

Custom-Illustration,-sample-1 Custom-Illustration,-sample-2-(for-Lindsay-Buroker)


Invested_Ivana 50You don’t appear to be located in the US. Where are your offices?

DDD2 smallWe are located in Belgrade, Serbia—that’s in Southeast Europe. 🙂


Invested_Ivana 50Does being non-native English speakers pose any problems for you in interpreting what a client wants?

DDD2 smallEven though we are not native English speakers, we don’t have any problems communicating with our clients, considering that everybody speaks fluent English (this is a must when we are hiring), and most of us have experience working in multinational companies. Most of our clients are really surprised when they realize we’re not from the US. That’s usually when they propose a phone consultation and we have to explain that the phone call would cost them more than the cover design itself. 😀 😀

Invested_Ivana 50Not only do you create book covers, but you also create social media headers, teaser graphics, swag like bookmarks and postcards, and even teaser videos for books. What is your process for creating those?

DDD2 smallWe use images from the cover design to created branded marketing material for the author.  We try to be a one-stop-shop because authors find it easier to order everything from one place and get back to writing. Clients usually order promotional materials and swag together with cover design, and sometimes they also order formatting services.

blog header

Teaser Image

Alexander bookmark bookmark Braun Leuthold bookmark

Invested_Ivana 50What are formatting services?

DDD2 smallFormatting a book means preparing a manuscript’s text so the final product looks professional when published. There are 2 types of formatting:

ebook formatting: reshaping a Word file following ebook formatting guidelines. We use the Smashwords Style Guide. When a Word file is uploaded to Amazon/Smashwords, their software transforms the file from Word to mobi/epub and publishes the book in that format. If the Word file uploaded during the publishing process isn’t formatted well, the end product will have a lot of issues (blank pages, overlapping lines, table of contents not working…). Bad ebook formatting is one of the reasons why authors may have high number of returned copies (refunds). Furthermore, if you plan to use Smashwords for publishing to other retailers (like B&N etc), the book will be rejected unless all guidelines are followed. For this service, a customer provides us their WORD file, then we format it and return a FORMATTED WORD file suitable for ebook publishing.

paperback formatting: also called interior book design.  This is done in InDesign, a professional program for creating interior book layouts. When the text is formatted, we deliver a PDF file suitable for CreateSpace (Amazon) upload. You can always convert your Word file to PDF yourself ( “choose page size and save as PDF”) and publish it on CreateSpace. Most self-pub authors working on budget decide to go with this DIY option. But if you want your book to look professional, I would recommend hiring a professional. Especially if you have a book signing or some convention/author events planned.

As a note, we don’t accept separate formatting projects. We only offer formatting when it’s ordered together with cover design 😉


Invested_Ivana 50Cool.  I’ve talked with authors who struggle with formatting.  Can you tell me more about the trailer videos for books?  Those have become really popular.

DDD2 smallWe don’t make standard trailers—a lot of different-style pictures/small video caps and text where everything seems like it’s coming from different sources. We offer “branded teaser style” with strong branding completely adapted to follow book branding and make a client’s book/name/brand even more recognizable. We use photo-slide types only, where each slide is done in Photoshop. 

Invested_Ivana 50DDD has some fantastic cover designs, you work in all genres, and your prices seem really reasonable.  What do you think is the most important part of your business for customers? What makes authors choose DDD and come back for more?

DDD2 smallI’m proud to say that we have more than 95% return customers. And more than 80% of new customers are coming as referrals from our clients. Google and social media do the other 20%.)

Aside from high-quality cover design and good prices, we give our customers the best possible customer service—short email response time; agreed-upon deadlines followed 100 percent of the time, no exceptions (sometimes we even deliver earlier); accepting urgent projects without additional charges (even if it means we’ll be working weekends); even giving advice to debut authors if they get stuck at some point during their publishing process. Each and every client is important to us. And even if they’re publishing for the first time, everybody is treated as a NYT #1 best-selling author. 🙂

Invested_Ivana 50That’s awesome!  So, how can authors contact you for a cover design?

DDD2 smallThey should definitely visit our website first (, to get ideas on our design styles and see if these would fit their requirements, as well as to get some information on our packages and prices. There is also a “How We Work” page where authors can read more about the whole process.

For short questions, authors can contact us via Twitter and Facebook if they prefer, but orders are accepted via email only at

We are currently booking projects for May. 🙂

Thank you so much to Darja and Deranged Doctor Designs for taking the time to talk to us.  As a special bonus, DDD is giving away one PRINT + SOCIAL MEDIA design package for FREE during our Birthday Blast Giveaway!  That’s a FREE book cover design for any self-published authors who read our blog.  Stay tuned on March 9th to hear all about our Birthday Blast Givaway.  It’s gonna be EPIC!

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