Lately, I’ve been reading some really interesting stuff in regards to the pros and cons of indie publishing versus traditional publishing. 

It’s becoming increasingly obvious – to me at least – that indie publishing is the way forward. The advantages of such an approach seem to massively outweigh the disadvantages. 

I’m not going to go into it here, but if you’re interested then please check out this guest blog post over on Emma Lombard’s website. The blog was written by K.C Julius (here’s her website), and here’s a link to it:

Two Roads Diverge: Traditional vs Independent Publishing

The most striking thing on here for me is the creative control of your own creation that going indie gives you.

Now, maybe there is an argument to be made for the fact that the traditional publishers know best how to attract readers. It’s their stock and trade, their profession. But honestly, does that matter if – as is intimated in the above blog post – they don’t market the book for you?

If – as an author – you are truly responsible for marketing your own book, then wouldn’t you want it to be something you’re proud of? Something that is YOUR vision?

I’m a big Kevin Smith fan, and I’ll never forget something he said a while back on a podcast I was listening to. He was talking about his films and how they don’t make big money and how he learned to accept the fact that he didn’t want to make studio films. He wanted to create the film HE wanted to make. The films that NO ONE ELSE could make.

The ‘Kevin Smith’ films.

Now, I’m paraphrasing, but here’s the gist…

Only YOU can write the story that YOU were meant to write.

Now, a book is NOT just about the story contained within its pages. It’s also about what the reader first sees when they set eyes on the book. The picture at the head of this post shows the window of a Waterstones Bookstore here in the UK. It’s a window where the latest releases of books vie for your attention, and if you’re NOT a big name author, you’re relying on a visual oomph to entice readers to pick up your book and read that all important blurb.

The same is true if you’re buying electronically on Amazon, etc. 


Book covers.

It’s important to me that the cover is perfect for the book. If you read my review of Marissa Meyer’s ‘Renegade‘ series of books (here’s a link: ‘books-me-and-a-little-review-of-renegades-by-marissa-meyer’), you’ll get a precursor to my thoughts on the matter!

These are MORE than just eye candy to me. Whether my Songbird series lives or dies in the marketplace is almost irrelevant (okay, that’s not entirely true – like any author I’d LOVE them to be wildly successful!) what truly matters to me is the fact that I put out there a product that I am proud of. These books will be the legacy I leave behind when I’m gone, and I want that legacy to be me.

Jon Ford.

Not a watered down, marketed to death version of my vision. 

The story within the pages WILL reflect that…

And now so will the cover.

I’ve always had a vision for the covers for the Songbird books. The story deals with a host of characters who have a duality in nature. Vampyrii, Werewolves, Fae, and of course, the Fae/Human hybrids. For a long time I’ve been kind of inspired by the painting of our game characters that Wifey had commissioned by the talented Tyler Wilson. You’ll see it on my homepage, but here it is for those who are too lazy to go look: 

Fordith and Knightingale by Tyler Wilson

The painting had always felt – to me at least – like two characters with two emotions. There was a sense of sadness and of hope. I LOVE this piece. 

It gave me the inspiration for what I wanted for my cover art. I wanted each book to feature a different character and give a representation of their dual nature. Book 1 was ALWAYS going to feature Gayle Knightley and the idea was to show her being kind of sad but hopeful on the front cover, while on the back she was ‘powered up.’ Gayle has the ability to manipulate the elements, and her most powerful tool is fire which is powered through the emotion of anger.

Choosing an artist was HARD!!!!!!

If you’ve seen my Artists page, you know I am chums with many fantastic artists. Finally, it was @Sylessae that recommended the perfect artist to bring my vision to startling life. 

Her name is Marlena Mozgowa. She lives in Poland and her work is breathtaking!  She goes under the moniker Lenamo_Art on Twitter. Check out her website and prepare to be amazed! – Website Linky

The clincher for hiring her was that she’s got book cover experience AND has a commercial license arrangement, which is important! As per her website:

‘The Client who pay the commercial commission price is able reproduce, edit or use the Artwork for commercial purposes. Please note, that I still hold the right to display commissioned Artwork in my portfolio and websites, including social media.’


So, without further ado… let me reveal the cover that she came up with for
‘The Ballad of the Songbird – Book 1’ – HUNTERS

The ‘HUNTERS‘ cover revealed – by Marlena Mozgowa

I’m honestly blown away. It’s PERFECTLY in step with my vision for what I wanted. 

The two sides of Gayle Knightley. The sad, grieving side of her on the cover, and the angry powered up side of her on the back. I’d originally wanted the book to be like a monochromatic red, but she suggested the darker highlights and she was absolutely right. 

Let me REMIND you of the mock up I originally sent her trying to explain what I wanted, and you’ll see what an AMAZING job she did…

The BADLY made mock up TRYING to explain what I wanted.

Yup, she took my inept Photoshop mockup and turned it into a bonefide work of art. A masterpiece that I am truly proud of having as my cover. It’s going to look incredible in the flesh. I can’t wait to see it.

I’ve already commissioned the cover for Book 2 – ‘Blood to Earth’, which will feature Lyssa Balthazaar, my Vampyrii character. In keeping with the theme, she’ll be human on the front, full Vampryii on the back – fangs and all! The cover will also have an orange hue, rather than the red of this one, progressing the subtle rainbow theme the 7 books will have when they hit the bookshelf.

Anyway, I hope you like it as much as I do.

Till next time…

Love and Books

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  1. CMorrison

    Mozgowa’s work is stellar. Loving the contrast, as mentioned, between Knightley’s fierce and meditative sides. The red and white make me think of blood drops in the snow.

    Looking forward to your next publishing steps!

    • Jon Ford

      Isn’t it AMAZING?!
      I’m so excited to see what she does with the rest of the series. I already sen thte commission in for Book 2, and I’m >THIS< close to just getting the other 6 done now just so I can see them! 😀

      • CMorrison

        That is awesome to hear, Jon. Coming to a Waterstones display window near you!

        I am still super impressed by how Mozgowa translated your mock-up based on her understanding of your work (and of course, the back and forth communication!)

  2. Wabi_Sabi

    A big congrats on finalizing the book cover! The artist’s compelling and sophisticated style reminds me of a blend between anime, but with a bit of homage to the creators of the 80s movie Heavy Metal. I’m so dating myself again (!) with that reference.

    • victuals

      Had to look up Heavy Metal, lol. Looks intriguing, and I think I know what you mean about the movie’s style having a touch of connection. But I do think Marlena M has her very own awesome, modern thing going!

  3. Demelza

    Your post inspired me to take a look at the psychology of book covers!
    After a little internet investigation, I learnt a few things which I would like to pass on to you and your
    I think it will be especially useful to any aspiring authors, such as myself.

    Firstly, and one point that I don’t think I would have thought of myself, is that the cover should look good scaled down as a thumbnail. In this digital age, a tiny thumbnail could be all a potential reader has as first impression. So here’s to a new word – thumbnailable!

    Secondly, professionalism. When someone enters a bookstore and starts browsing books, if a book cover looks somehow unprofessional then their mind willautomatically assume that the writing will be too.

    Thirdly, genre-appropriate. Readers, knowingly or not, are looking for something familiar, something that
    they already enjoy. Make the cover and typescript appropriate for your genre.

    Penguin has brought out a range of classics with blank covers. This works, because it is striking, but only because the names and titles are so familiar.
    So what we need to do is make something at the same time original and familiar, professional, and noticeable.
    Not an easy task!

    • Jon Ford

      Well, that’s certainly what I’m going for. I want to look as professional and as slick as possible. That means spending a little money here and there on experts who know what they’re doing. Like Marlena for the covers.
      I’m REALLY please with the one she’s done for Hunters, and she sent me a prelim sketch for book 2 the other day and that one’s going to be JUST as epic! 😀

  4. Mitch

    I can definitely see the two sides of Gayle on this cover! It’s brilliant. To be honest, I can’t wait to see the cover for book 2. I’ve got this thing for vampires. I can’t wait to see if it’s what I imagine it could be.

    • Jon Ford

      Marlena sent me the first rough sketch the other day to see if we’re heading int he right direction… and even the sketch looks awesome.
      I can’t WAIT to see it when it’s done! 😀
      I think if you love Vampires, then you’ll love it!

  5. Amilia

    Hello Jon! I just happened to find your blog and the pictures on this post peaked my interest.
    I think you nailed your art cover. I can definitely see the fire, sadness and badass all in Gayle. You did this brilliantly. I’d say you chose the right artist!

    • Jon Ford

      Didn’t I just! I honestly can’t speak about Marlena in high enough terms. Her art is amazing and she’s a joy to work with. I can’t wait to see what she does with the other books in the series!

      • Amilia

        I’m sure with your description of your character it’s easy for her to capture what you’re looking for. I can’t wait to see the rest of the book covers. I think the vampire one will be great. I know a lot of people love reading or watching movies about vampires. Do you think maybe you should have started with a vampire on book 1 to draw attention?

        • LeoZ

          What an interesting thought, a vampire in book 1. It makes sense as a lot of people are drawn to them.
          Bravo on the first book cover Jon! Marlena is impressive! I can’t wait to see what book 2 cover looks like.

        • Jon Ford

          I did think about it, but…

          The Songbird of the title, refers to Gayle who is my main character. (It’s not giving anything away. Her name is Gayle Knightley, and she goes by the military call-sign ‘Knightingale’. A Nightingale is a songbird, o the logic is easy to work out!)

          As she’s the main character, I wanted to start the cover sequence with her.

          Book 2 is called Blood to Earth, which is the name of the Vampyrii funeral ritual in my books. Book 2 shifts alot of focus to Lyssa, who is my main Vampyrii character. Hence she makes more sense for book 2.

          I’ve also got other types of creatures coming down the pipeline, so there will be a variety of cover art that should be matched to the topic of the book. 🙂

  6. Silvey

    Yeah, the book cover and the blurb draw me in 99% of the time. Your cover captures the overall feeling perfectly! And can I just say that I love how you support other artists and their work. It’s refreshing.

    • Jon Ford

      I try. I’m a frustrated artist myself. I reckon that I could be pretty good if I had the time to practice the art, but alas between work, life and writing this book I just don’t have the time required to dedicate myself to the craft. So I console myself by looking at the amazing things other people conjure out of thin air. Marlena never fails to amaze me. 😀

  7. Lucy

    The cover that Mozgowa designed for you is lovely!! I’m finding myself drawn in and intrigued by Gayle. Which is exactly the response you want from a potential reader. I also like it when book covers in a series have a theme. It ramps up my excitement for the next book, because I’m eager to see what has been done with the cover and how it fits into the overall series. 🙂 I’m excited to see the next one!

    • Jon Ford

      I’ve already commissioned her for the cover to book 2, and as long as she’s game (fingers crossed!) I’ll get her back for the rest of the series. I LOVE her work and it’s important to me that the theme of the covers is consistent. Thanks for the compliments, Lucy. I’ll be sure to feed it all back to Marlena so she know’s her work is appreciated. 😀

      • Lucy

        I really hope she’s able to do the rest of the covers! Maybe on a future project, you could have a small part of a picture on each spine. Then, when all the books are on a shelf (in order), the whole dramatic image is revealed. I’m thinking something along the lines of the Hogwarts Express book set. 🙂

        • Jon Ford

          That is an AWESOME idea!

          I follow a lot of artists, so I have considered doing different editions of the book over time with different cover art. The same concept, but done in different artist styles. I think that could be a fun thing to do.

          • Lucy

            That would be a really neat idea! It would be interesting to see how a different artist puts a different spin on the cover, while sticking to the general theme. I also think a black and white version of the cover would be really striking. Or, a reversible dust jacket, with a color version on one side, and a black and white version on the other! 😀

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