Can we judge books by their covers?

When Mark Lawrence recently announced the ten finalists of this year’s SPFBO on the Fantasy subreddit, he had this to say about his earlier cover competition, in which the SPFBO bloggers nominated their favourite covers from this year’s entrants:

“But only 2 of the 10 finalists were in those cover nominations. So there’s no statistical support there for the idea that a better cover means a better book.”

That sounds like a challenge!

Okay, first, what Mark says is of course correct – there is no statistical link between the books that were entered into the cover contest and the finalists in the main competiton. However, I wanted to look at it from a different angle – I wanted to look at all of the books that the bloggers voted as the best covers in the competition, and see how those books performed in their original groups.

Please also keep in mind that I am not unbiased in writing this article – my own book is listed below. Make of that what you may!


Anyway, on with the list. Below I have listed the top covers as voted by the bloggers of the SPFBO, as well as any scores and/or awards given to them, and a positive quote from their review, if appropriate.


The Dragon’s Blade by Michael R Miller

Cover Competition Result – Gold Award (6 votes)

Main Competition Result – made it to BiblioSanctum’s final six

“When an author is thoughtful about a world and its mythos, I can’t help but get lost in it. This novel is no exception.”


Touch of Iron by Timandra Whitecastle

Cover Competition Result – Silver Award (5 votes)

Main Competition Result –7/10 from Bibliotropic

“…I think Whitecastle’s novel stands a strong chance of being passed to the final round in the SPFBO. And even if it doesn’t go further, it’s still a good novel that’s worth reading, and there’s plenty of potential for the story to go further. Touch of Iron is a self-published novel that could go far, carried on the strength of Whitecastle’s writing.”


They Mostly Come Out At Night by Benedict Patrick

Cover Competition Result- Bronze Award (5 votes)

Main Competition Result – Honourable Mention from Bookworm Blues

“It’s just so delightfully weird, so completely unique, with such powerful, fantastic writing that I wanted more.”


The following books also received blogger votes for best cover:

Song of Blood & Stone

7 and a half out of 10 from Fantasy-Faction

“…the book finishes as strongly as it started, with one or two twists near the end that have a fantastic effect. By this point, those of us who read that far had really grown to love the two main characters and wish them every happiness.”


The Grey Bastards

8 out of 10 and FINALIST for Bibliotropic

“It’s a wild ride on the hog, filled with brutality, battle, and bravery. It’s coarse and crass and also loveable, and after this, I have high hopes for what French might do in the future.”


Shadows and Starstone

3.5/5 from Bookworm Blues

“It has a great tone, and fantastic world building. These two combine to suck readers in right away. The plot moves pretty quickly, and the action/adventure theme will work well with readers. It’s easy to fall into, and incredibly interesting – which is helped by some fantastic characters.”


All the Saints Are Dead

Lynn’s Books read first 20%


It Takes a Thief to Catch a Sunrise

4/5 from Bookworm Blues

“Excellent world building, a delightful plot, it’s the characters that shined like diamonds in this novel.”


Last Necromancer by CJ Archer and Masque by WR Gingell should also be on that list, but my Google-fu failed me when looking for Elitist Book Reviews’ SPFBO reviews. However, both titles have strong Goodreads ratings – Masque has a score of 4.27 after 228 ratings, and Last Necromancer has 3.83 after 1766 reviews.


So, what’s my conclusion after looking into these results? Well, mostly that there were a bunch of damned-fine titles in this year’s competition! I’m not a stats man, so I’ll let you figure out how you feel about these results yourself.

As for me, I’ve learnt that sometimes it might be okay to judge a book by its cover…

Cover Reveal – Where the Waters Turn Black

Hey all – I can finally reveal the cover for the next Yarnsworld novel, Where the Waters Turn Black!

Here it is in all its glory, as well as the current book description:


When gods and monsters battle, her music will not protect her…

The Crescent Atoll is a remote string of tropical islands, connected by long canoe journeys and a love of stories.

When Kaimana, a young ocarina player, discovers the lair of a taniwha – a legendary monster – she finds herself inspired. The song she is composing about their encounter will be her masterpiece, but her disturbance of the beast attracts the ruining gaze of the god of war. She must convince the taniwha to trust her if they are both to survive.

Where the Waters Turn Black is a standalone novel from Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld series. Inspired by the myths and legends of South Pacific island cultures, this book is perfect for those seeking fantasy stories with a hint of the unfamiliar.

The book will be released in November 2016. Sign up to my newsletter to be notified as soon as it is available.

What a month!

Phew – what an amazing month it’s been. They Mostly Come Out At Night has been out for just over a month, and I’ve been blown away by its reception.

Here’s a selection of some bloggers who loved the story, and their reviews:

Liz’s review from Cover to Cover

David’s Book Blurg

The Rebel Christian

Author K T Munson

Author Jaffa Kintigh

Author Kirsten Walker

Finally this review from Kitty G’s Youtube channel:

A huge thanks to everyone so far for taking the time to read my book – I’ve been thrilled by the responses so far!

And if you’ve missed out so far, fear not! They Mostly Come Out At Night is available now from Amazon:


Why I Read Indie

IMG_6755Why I read indie, in support of #IndiePrideDay

First up, for those who don’t know me I should mention that my views on this matter are biased because I’m an indie author. But we’re not here to talk about writing today…

I almost exclusively read indie books right now. This hasn’t been a conscious choice, and there are many traditionally published works on my TBR pile right now, but here are a few reasons that I continue to find myself drawn to the indie titles on my iPad/iPhone when looking for something to read:

  • Reading indie is more exciting

I feel like a bit of a reading pioneer when I set out to explore the choices in the Kindle store. Sure, I enjoy me some Malazan. We all like Malazan. I can chat to my pals about Malazan and they discovered it well before I mentioned it. However, I’m the only one out of our group who has read (and even heard of) Intisar Khanani, Phil Tucker or Matthew Stott (actually, sometimes I think I’m the only person in the WORLD who has read Matthew Stott- y’all are missing out!).

I’ve not read anything by Mark Lawrence yet (sorry Mark), but I know I will because I keep hearing from everyone else how good his stuff is. But it gives me a bit of a thrill to be one of the first to discover a new author, to be able to be one of the first few pushing their works to the wider world.

  • Reading indie is cheaper

I feel cheap myself for mentioning this, but for many of us this is a big factor. Indie books – especially for authors who have yet to attract a large audience – are often sinfully cheap, if not totally free. Many authors have free reading material (sometimes even entire books) to give away to those who sign up to their newsletters. These cheaper prices help to offset the risk of paying for something that might not live up to the promises on the Amazon product page.

  • Indie books are more diverse.

And I don’t necessarily mean diverse representation (although many indie titles have that in spades) – by this I simply mean that indie authors can get away with publishing the types of stories that publishing houses wouldn’t touch. Fancy a fantasy tale about a man losing his wife on honeymoon and then having to explore a surreal tower of madness to find her? Hello, Senlin Ascends. Or maybe you’re up for vampires in space? Check out Michael Anderle’s novels.

  • Indie authors like to chat.

The thrill of finishing a book that blew me away, sending off a quick email to the author, and then actually getting a reply is difficult to match. What makes this an even more cherished experience is that (from experience) this is also one of the highlights of the whole publishing gig for the authors, so two backs are getting scratched at once.

I’m sure as soon as I hit publish on this article I’ll come up with half a dozen more reasons to read indie, but I’d rather let you have a say. What should be added to this list? Enquiring minds want to know…