Walking Out of War cover wins 1st place

I’m thrilled to announce that the cover of the third book in the Eastern Front trilogy, Walking Out of War, has won first place in the East Texas Writers Guild 2017 Blue Ribbon Book Cover Contest for Nonfiction/Memoir.

The contest drew entries from across the U.S.A., as well as from the U.K, Australia and Canada.

A team of artists and designers from the Dallas, Texas area judged the entries in five categories:

  • romance
  • mystery/thriller
  • science fiction/fantasy
  • historical fiction
  • nonfiction/memoir.

You can find all the winning entries on Caleb & Linda Pirtle’s blog, Here Comes a Mystery.

Walking Out of War’s cover won first place in the nonfiction/memoir category. It tells the story of my father-in-law’s experiences from 1944 to 1947, as he fought in the Soviet Red Army across the Baltic States, Poland and Germany, finally at the Battle of Berlin.

This award-winning cover was designed by David C. Cassidy, who also created the covers of the previous books in the Eastern Front trilogy, Army of Worn Soles and Under the Nazi Heel.

It depicts a Red Army soldier, walking calmly away from conflict and toward a brighter future. Meanwhile, the shadow of the Soviet Union reaches for him from behind. It’s an image that perfectly captures the main theme of the book.


David has also done covers for most of my other books, as well, including One Shade of Red, Torn Roots, Jet: Stealth, Palm Trees & Snowflakes, Dead Man Lying, Echoes and The Wife Line.

You can see all the covers on the Books by Scott Bury page.

David, of course, also designs covers and websites for a lot of authors and companies. He is also the author of excellent and truly scary horror novels, such as Velvet Rain and The Dark. Check out his work at his website.

I would like to thank David for his excellent work, and the East Texas Writers Guild for holding the contest that helps promote so many excellent authors and designers.

Digging deep for the cover: Book designer & author David C. Cassidy

COLOR_AUTHOR_PHOTO_800x500David C. Cassidy is a writer, photographer and graphic artist who is earning a reputation as one of the best book cover designers today, and as an author of gripping horror/fantasy books, with The Dark and Velvet Rain.

I asked him to tell Written Words readers about how he creates such arresting, beautiful and evocative cover images.

Tell us your process for designing a cover. What input do you need from the author?

First off, I see this as a partnership. I put as much stock in producing a great cover for each author as I do for my own books. They’ve worked extremely hard to create something wonderful, and they deserve no less than my very best work. I work very closely with each author to make their creative vision come true.

Like any artistic or creative endeavour I take on, the process is the same—I need to discover the essence of the subject. Whether that’s a story, a photograph, or a book cover, I ask a lot of questions that dig deep. The key is to ask questions that really get the author thinking—and me, as well—so that we nail the cover. It really boils down to this: What is this story about? Once we know that, we’re gold.

What information do you need more of than you usually get?

In a word, theme. That’s the real meat of what a story is about, and authors often have a difficult time finding or expressing the theme of their novel. Thematic imagery is such a universal, powerful thing, and is most powerful in its simplest form—and that’s hard for authors to sum up their work in thematic terms. Working with them, asking the right questions, I get them to really think hard about their theme. That’s always the toughest.

What mistakes do authors commonly make when it comes to making decisions about cover design?

Not hiring me. (LOL)

74168-thedarkfrontcoverSeriously, though, I find it’s two things: They can’t nail down the theme of their story, and they complicate their design. It’s easy to see an adventure cover in your head where there’s the main character being chased by armies and demons and dragons, there’s explosions going off and storms brewing, but it’s waaaaay overkill. Authors often make the mistake of trying to have a cover that expresses the entire book. They need to keep it simple, and that’s where theme comes in. Keep it simple, and you’ve got a killer cover that speaks far more to the reader.

What kinds of book covers do you like?

As a photographer with a very unique style, I try to capture thematic images. I do the same with book covers. THEME, THEME, THEME. It’s the simplest, yet most powerful way to convey your message to the reader.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

After working with an author to determine the theme, I start noodling ideas. I let my subconscious work its magic. Once the seed is planted in the brain, it never ceases to amaze me how that sticky gray matter comes up with stuff. Being a photographer, reader, writer, and designer, I can draw on a lot of creative experience. I’ve learned to trust it.

Tell me more about the designing process. Once you get all the information from the author that you can, what’s your next step?

After coming up with the theme for the cover, the concept image comes next. I spend a lot of time finding images that I can use to create a low-resolution cover that gives the author a pretty good idea of what the finished product will look like. Consider it a “sketch” that a graphic artist might provide, but with much more detail.

Where do you get images – photos, drawings, painting – etc. How much do you create?

Image 3The images are purchased from online image galleries, such as Shutterstock. Some covers might take one licenced image, others might take five. Using my advanced design skills, I create the finished cover by melding these images into one striking image that looks as if it was one image to begin with. The work is seamless and professional—and it always gets a WOW from the author. That’s the goal—to give them a cover that will blow them and their readers away.

Do any of your photographs ever make it into a client’s cover art?

It’s rare, but yes. The latest one was in Dana Griffin’s cover for The Cover-Up. I don’t think he even knows, LOL. I needed a fairly calm river that I could place an aircraft into, and the best image I found was one of my own photographs. It blended perfectly, as if you were looking at this real airliner in a river.

Besides the obvious format differences, what are the design considerations that are different between print and e-book covers?

The front covers are obviously (and usually) the same. But the back cover has two parts to it: Function and form.

Function: The front cover is what gets the reader to pick up that book from the shelf. It’s done its job. The back cover doesn’t need a lot of in-your-face graphics. The reader has picked up the book, and now they want to read a killer book blurb to reel them in. (Shameless pitch: I also write killer book blurbs for authors.)

Form: The back cover does need to be attractive, but not like the front cover. It needs to complement the theme of the cover, with subtle graphics (if any) and/or text.

What’s the biggest design mistake that authors make in choosing a cover?

Again, that not-hiring-me thing, LOL.

Honestly, and this may surprise you, but it’s settling. Don’t settle for substandard work or something that you’re not happy with. For me, if the client isn’t happy, then I’m not happy. Looking at it another way, an author has spent months or years polishing their story, and rushing to get a cover done just to upload it to Amazon is a huge mistake. Their cover deserves to be the very best it can be. They should get an absolute thrill when they get that book in their hands. That’s gold.

Waterfalls in Stratford, Ontario. Photo © David C. Cassidy

Waterfalls in Stratford, Ontario. Photo © David C. Cassidy

David C. Cassidy is author of The Dark, Velvet Rain and Fosgate’s Game.

He offers the following services through his website, davidccassidy.com:

  •    eBook Cover design
  •    print book cover design
  •    eBook formatting
  •    print book formatting
  •    social media graphics.
He designed the cover images for One Shade of Red and Army of Worn Soles.



Army of Worn Soles cover

Army of Worn Soles












Visit his:

And follow him on Twitter @DavidCCassidy.

iAi cover reveal: The Dark by David C. Cassidy

The multi-talented author David C. Cassidy has completed his third book. He’s releasing The Dark, a very creepy, scary and riveting tale on December 15. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon right now. 

What’s it about?

It knows what you want. It knows what you need.

In denial over his father’s death in a horrific accident, Kelan Lisk has grown fearful and withdrawn. For this meek and bullied child, a burning desire to tame a deadly sledding hill consumes him, drawing him inside a wondrous place where anything is possible … including his father. But as this strange new realm spills into this one, twisting an innocent boy into an agent of evil, the world is forever changed, devoured by an even greater evil—the Dark.

Reviews on Amazon:

“Dean Koontz would be proud of this writer.”“Exceptional writing on a par with Stephen King.”“Readers are at the mercy of a masterful storyteller.”“Eloquent and eerie … this is how a story should be written.”

I’m thrilled about this book and doubly proud of it, because I’ve been a fan of David Cassidy (the author, photographer and designer, not the teen idol) since I discovered his first book, Velvet Rain, and saw several of his gorgeous cover designs. In fact, I asked David to design the covers of both One Shade of Red and Army of Work Soles.
The other reason I am so proud of The Dark is that I edited the manuscript. I’m very happy with the way that worked out.
So check it out. And if you want a scary, creepy and excellent book to read over the holidays, or if you want to give one as a present, then this is what you’re looking for.

Operation Book Launch looms

Image by Clément Bucco-Lechat. Licenced under Wikimedia Commons
Army of Worn Soles, my third book, will launches June 22, the anniversary of the start of Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany’s invasion of the USSR in 1941.
Army of Worn Soles is the true story of my father-in-law, Maurice Bury, who was drafted by the Soviet Red Army in 1941 just in time to be thrown into that struggle.

“But I am a Canadian citizen,” he told the conscripting officer.

“You live here now, tovarisch,” the officer said. “You must help defend the motherland.”

Listening to my father-in-law tell stories like that inspired this book. Army of Worn Soles is his view of the war, a perspective rarely seen in the West. The popular image of the war in movies and books mostly focuses on events in western Europe or the Pacific. The only movie I can think of about the eastern front is the excellent Enemy at the Gates.

The details will shock some readers—Maurice’s accounts certainly shocked me the first time I heard them. One example? The way the Germans deliberately starved their eastern front prisoners of war. It was an explicit policy, the “Hunger Plan.”
I only wish I had buckled down and written it years ago, and he were still alive to read it.

Surprises in store
There are a lot of other little facts that surprised me and I hope will inform the readers. You’ll have to wait to find out, but not necessarily until June 22.

David C. Cassidy
Your first chance comes on Thursday, June 5, when the David C. Cassidy reveals his fantastic cover design on his website. The cover reveal continues to the blogs of my good friend Cinta Garcia de la Rosa, and then Raine Thomas, Onisha Ellis, Gae-lynn Woods, Frederick Lee Brooke, Dana Griffin and the BestSelling Reads site.

The Army of Worn Solesblog tour kicks off on June 15, when D.G. Torrens, author of the bestselling Amelia’s Story, hosts the first excerpt. That will be followed by excerpts appearing on the blogs and websites of Literary Gary Henry, Scholarly Fred Brooke, Cultivated CR Hiatt, Scintillating Cinta Garcia, Dazzling David Cassidy, Raffish Rob Guthrie, Ozzie Onisha Ellis, learned Michael Lorde and Stupendous Seb Kirby.
Thank you all very much for your support. I’ll send each of you a free e-book.

Win a paper copy
And for all you readers who follow the tour, something special: I’m borrowing a page from Fabulous Fred and making a contest out of it. Collect the clues on each stop on the tour, email me the solution and I’ll send you a free, autographed paperback copy.

Come back to this blog often for updates and links to every stop on the tour. 

Is there still a role for the commercial publisher?

“The global electronic marketplace is rapidly depleting authors’ income streams,” wrote Scott Turow, author and President of the Authors Guild., in an op-ed in the New York Times in April. E-books, pirated copies and changes to copyright laws will cause the “slow death of the American author.”

Photo: Evan Long by Creative Commons

Turow documents the futile efforts of the big publishing companies to control the e-book phenomenon, through doing things like fixing their prices ridiculously high, refusing to sell e-books to libraries and reducing the royalties they pay to authors.

On the other end of the spectrum, Hugh Howey, author of the indie-pub phenomenon Wool, says that the self-publishing future is great for writers: “Those who take their writing seriously, who publish more than one title a year and do this year after year, are finding real success with their art. They are earning hundreds or thousands of dollars a month,” he wrote in Salon

Following these two statements, we have to ask: when readers choose good books without the intermediation of a publisher, is there a market for the gigantic, multinational Big Six — or “Bix” — publishers?

I have written about this on a couple of other blogs: Writers Get Together, the Guild of Dreams and BestSellingReads. Today, I’m bringing the arguments together and suggesting a new solution.

The legendary legacy

E-books are the driving force of publishing these days. Amazon reported that more than half of its sales are of e-books. And David Gaughran estimates that 25 percent of the e-book market is by independent authors.

The Bix claim to be agents of quality control: they find the best manuscripts, edit them rigourously, design and lay them out to be legible, print and distribute them so that readers enjoy reading them and promote them to bring them to the attention of audiences. Publishers take care of all those grimy aspects of publishing so authors are free to write more great books.

The Bix claim that they also provide an essential gatekeeping function. When the numbers of independent authors self-publishing e-books started climbing, the commercial publishers said that the self-published just weren’t good enough to get published by a commercial publisher.

All those manuscripts that didn’t make it out of the slush pile? The publisher sent their authors polite rejection letters, saying not that the manuscript is crap, but that it “didn’t meet their needs at this time.”

LOLcat built from original photo by sutefani in orlando,
under a Creative Commons-Attribution license by way of Flickr

Having worked for big and small publishers, here is what I know about the reality of choosing and editing books:

  • Acquisitions editors and agents choose manuscripts to publish based on sellability, not on quality. Because they cannot tell the future any better than you or me, they use factors like whether an author has been published before to make decisions. Getting selected from the slush pile is due either to blind luck or — usually — connections within the industry.
  • The quality of editing varies widely. Most copy-editors and proofreaders are right out of university and they’re so badly underpaid that most quickly seek more rewarding employment.
In reality, authors today do most of what publishers did 20 years ago: research, check facts, write, edit, copy-edit and proofread. Interior design or layout is capably handled by word processing apps. Howey and any number of other authors concur that most authors published by big companies have to do their own promotion. The days of book launch tours are long gone. Bix publishers only spend money to promote their sure-fire winners: their biggest sellers and celebrity authors.

The only money they shell out for new writers and relative unknowns, even for their mid-list authors, are for printing and distributing copies to bookstores.

But it’s not hard for the individual author to handle that part, as well. Software does most of the layout and production of e-books. Smashwords, Amazon and iTunes give step-by-step instructions on how to create a good e-book. Amazon’s CreateSpace system does the same for printed books. Their quality is equal to or better than commercial publishers’, and their prices are better than anything I’ve found in 30 years of managing printing.

That leaves cover design. More on that later.

The independent reality

Hugh Howey, from his website.
Hugh Howey, compares the self-published independent author to the independent musician. “We admire anyone who learns the grammar of chords and then strings these phrases together into music.” They begin by playing cover tunes, progress to busking and open-mic nights, get small gigs and hope to open for a big act or be discovered by a major label. “This is how artists are born. They are self-made.”

Like a musician, Howey became an overnight success after years of hard work. His breakthrough, best-selling novel, Wool, was the eighth or ninth title that he published through Amazon’s Kindle Select program. After he sold half a million copies, Simon & Schuster offered seven figures for the publishing rights. Ridley Scott optioned film rights.

According to Forbes magazine, Howey turned down S&S’s original seven-figure offer. Instead, he sold just the print rights for six figures, keeping the e-book rights for himself because he thinks that S&S won’t be able to sell enough to make up the royalty difference.

Proposing a new publishing model

Writers can, and do. perform all the functions of a commercial publisher. In other words, authors don’t need publishers.

I suggest a cooperative model of publishing, where authors, editors, designers and marketers work together to bring new electronic or print books to audiences with as little intermediation as possible.

(Image found on Ted Landphair’s America blog, originally from whiteafrican, Flickr Creative Commons)

Many of you readers already know about the authors’ cooperative I belong to, Independent Authors International. With 13 members so far, it’s a consortium of writers who commit to supporting each other in development, production and promotion of each other’s work.

My latest book, One Shade of Red, is a good example of the process. Once I had written and re-written the manuscript, I turned it over to another iAi member, Gary Henry, independent author of American Goddesses. He performed the story editor function, pointing out where I needed to develop a character more, plot errors, purple prose and weak writing.

Cinta Garcia de la Rosa, author of The Funny Adventures of Little Nani, performed a second review. Bruce Blake, author of the Khirro’s Journey trilogy, and Benjamin Wretlind, author of Sketches from the Spanish Mustang, plus my usual editor, my wife, Roxanne Bury, provided copy-editing and proofreading.

David C. Cassidy, author of Velvet Rain, designed a fantastic cover.

In return, I edited or will edit their books, or will provide other services. I also do what I can to promote their books on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn, and through my blog.

This service swap or barter exchange need not be the only way for this to work; authors could pay editors and designers cash, or provide a royalty, or come to other arrangements.

The point is, there are thousands of people with the skills needed to produce professional books. These skills are not locked down by publishing companies in London, New York and Toronto.

With this model, while the author retain control of the book and the money it earns (if any), the book still achieves the quality standard the Bix companies like to say they’re all about. The iAi colophon is a symbol of that standard.

Will iAi and other co-operative ventures replace the Bix? They’re big companies with a lot of assets. But they’re going to have to learn to adapt to the new reality, rather than fight against it.

Hugh Howey is right: this is a great time to be an author.

If you’re an author, I encourage you to check out Independent Authors International. And if you think you’d like to get involved, send an email.