The Terrifyingly Talented Artist Gary McCluskey Helps Sell Books!

If you’re an indie writer, take note. You may have written a terrific book, but no one will read it if the cover sucks. Readers are first and foremost visual creatures and need to have something catch their attention, especially when there is an ocean of indie writers out there waving their arms, struggling to get their stuff noticed. Me? I don’t have the artistic chops needed to even consider doing this type of thing. My best artwork comes in the form of horribly disjointed stick figures and wobbly, supposedly straight lines. So when Dale Elster and I discussed the cover for Deadsville, he suggested an artist who had done great work that he had worked with before on an anthologies to which he had contributed. This is the cover:

I said sure, let’s see if he’s available.

Fortunately for us, he was available. And Dale and Gary’s noticeable cover to our anthology came to be. For those of you who don’t know:


The response to the cover was immediate. It got noticed, big time. Reviewers made a point to remark about Gary’s artwork in the reviews. So we sold some books.

Eventually we got to the point that we both figured we needed a blog to spout off and keep our viewpoints sharp and keep our book out there and also to act as a base forum for our future works.

We asked Gary if he could come up with a semi-humorous re-imagining of the Deadsville style, using a pipe-smoking skeleton relaxing and looking Hugh Hefner-ish. And this is, of course, what he gave us:



This art was perfect for what we had in mind. So when I wrote my anthology Banquet of Souls (due out in October, shameless plug), I asked Gary to provide the artwork. I gave him the tiniest of direction. Given the title, I figured a place setting with a face screaming in agony on the plate. Gary grabbed that teeny idea, and then a while later came back with this:



Needless to say, I was thrilled with his work. I fully expect that the cover alone will sell some copies. It also continues the feel of the previous anthology and blog art, which was important to me since the stories are fairly similar in tone.

So this is my point. If you have written something, unless you have an art degree, get an artist. A good one. As good as you can afford. Don’t stoop to using stock photos and trying to do it yourself. Why? Because no matter what you do, it will ALWAYS look like a stock photo cover. It will always give the appearance that you don’t value the words between the covers enough to dress it up in the proper formal wear. Your book is wearing an off-the-rack, ill-fitting suit and rented shoes.

As for who you should get, I can’t tell you that. I just know who I like, because the artwork Gary McCluskey produces matches the tone and themes in what I write. He has a sensitive feel for the horror genre. His art is at times intense, yet playful, with a wry sense of humor. What he creates is a reflection of the types of stories I write.

If you know someone who does good work, check out their older works. See if the art speaks to that part of yourself from which you write. If impressed, talk with them, see if you are a good fit. If you know them well enough maybe they’ll give you a break on the price. But no matter what, they’ll usually be worth it. Finally, if the art they produce doesn’t work for you, tell them. Explain what you were looking for and press them about what the book is all about. If they are truly professional, they won’t be upset. They just want to do the best job possible since it’s their reputation on the line too.

So, Deadies, that’s my rant. If you want to ignore my suggestions, that’s completely up to you. But remember. I’m an indie writer too, and I’ve got some terrific artwork to boast my work.

For more information about Gary McCluskey’s beautiful artwork, go to:


For some great bunch of cool tee shirts, coffee mugs, posters, and other neat stuff that has Gary’s artwork on it, go to:



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