Book Cover Artwork… and the Kitchen Sink

Lesser Gods final cover for science fiction cyborg adventure novel by Duncan Long

I recently completed the cover and inner illustrations for my novel Lesser Gods (which is a free download from Jan. 23-26, 2013 along with software/apps to read it on about any computer, tablet, or smartphone made — as well as a Kindle at

I’ve been writing, revising, and reworking this science fiction novel on and off for nearly a decade, and as is often the case with authors, I also spent time dreaming about having a cover for it that was to my liking. Possibly the first thing to note is the title change; the book originally sported Wrong Side In which seemed a clever title to me, a notion not shared by any other soul on the planet. Thus, an eventual title change as well.

Here are two of my early (and painfully poor) efforts:

Early Lesser Gods cover - science fiction adventure novel by Duncan Long

Print version of science fiction novel that would eventually become free Kindle ebook

During this time I also created a cyborg cover illustration that I think would have worked well as a book cover. However it didn’t really hint at the humor and moral issues covered in the novel, and so will live to fight another day on some other book cover:

Tentative version of sci-fiction novel with cyborg free Kindle ebook

The years passed and eventually the final draft of the story was ready to go to print. At this point, I created a series of illustrations that held the pearl of the final cover illustration — surrounded by a cloud of distractions. I’m often bothered when working with authors on their book covers by what I’ve come to call KSE (“Kitchen Sink Effect”). Basically the KSE happens when an author tries to tell the whole story of the novel on the cover illustration, throwing in (as the old cliche goes) everything but the kitchen sink. The result of the KSE is a hodgepodge at best, and generally an eyesore. A quality cover can result only after the author is convince to allow me to cut away unneeded elements.

What was alarming to me in working on my own cover was that even being aware of the KSE, as an author I was unable to resist the siren calls and guided my ship toward the rocky shore. Without considering what I did, I added cyborgs, pretty gals, a dragon, court jester dummy, aircraft, spaceships, and other odds and ends. I tried to juggle, move, nudge everything into place as KSE took over.

So here are just a few of perhaps a dozen of the KSE versions of the cover I created:

Kitchen sink version of science fiction cover that would become free Kindle ebook

Another KS version of science fiction cover that would become free Kindle ebook

Toned down science fiction novel cover offered for free Kindle ebook

Almost there - sci-fi free ebook novel for Kindle version of Lesser Gods

Eventually I had an “aha” moment and cut away everything but the hero and his hallo along with his throne and distant planet. No, this scene never actually appears in the book (though there are spots where a reader might imagine it), and, yes, major characters and elements in the book are missing from the illustration. Yet this illustration, free of the KSE, proves the most effective solution for marketing the book.

And in the end, that’s what a good book cover is all about: Capturing a potential reader’s attention and giving him a feel for what the book will be like, and doing that with just his first casual glance at the cover.

I’m offering Lesser Gods as a free ebook from Jan. 23-26, 2013 via You do NOT need a Kindle reader to read this novel; you can download free software and apps to read Kindle books on smartphones, tablets, Macs, PCs, etc., from

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Chapter Icons for Lesser Gods

Lesser Gods science fiction novel chapter icons

I’ve always liked having “extras” in the way of ornamentation, icons, and illustrations in books, so when I did the Kindle layout for my new science fiction novel Lesser Gods, I created a set of icons that would appear at the top of each chapter. (Figuring out how to get Kindle to center and size them probably was a bit of a frustration, but by “hacking” the layout for a day or two, I finally came up with a compromise that worked well.)

The various icons go with the story — though it may not be obvious at first exactly how they fit into the tale.

I should note that readers can download a free Kindle version of Lesser Gods from Jan 22-26, 2013. After that, it will be sold for $2.99 a copy.

The story is a little hard to describe. It takes place in the near future with artificial intelligent machines and genetic engineering become common — and commonly misused and sometimes malfunctioning with disastrous results. An anti-hero with a cynical sense of humor rounds out the story. Oh, and a pretty and possibly virtual gal named Alice. As in Alice In Wonderland. Yes, the plot gets a little strange.

Discover more about Lesser Gods, read sample chapters, etc., at Lesser Gods website.

And, if your calender is reading on or between Jan. 22-26, 2013, hurry on over and download a copy of this sci-fi adventure while it’s still available for free at: Lesser Gods:

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Final Cover for Lesser Gods Sci-Fi Novel

LesserGods book cover by Duncan Long for science fiction novel - free kindle ebook

We finalized the front cover — and name — of my new science fiction novel Lesser Gods. In addition to writing the book, I also was able to illustrate the cover and add several dozen drawings and paintings to the inner text as a special extra for readers.

By way of promotion, I’ll be offering the Kindle version of this book for free from Jan 22-26, 2013; the book offers lots of excitement, laughs, surprises, and perhaps a few profound thoughts. You can read more about the book (and find some sample chapters) at my Lesser Gods webite.

And, if your calender is reading on or between Jan. 22-26, 2013, you can download the science fiction adventure at: Lesser Gods:

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The Brand New World of Publishing

The intriguing thing about publishing these days, is not only that the playing field has been leveled by, Barnes & Noble, and others, but also that with POD and ebooks, a title can remain “in print” for many decades (and can do so without the costs of advanced printing, storage, or taxes on unsold books).

For an author, this means a single book can generate money year after year (and can even continue to do so after the author has died — for 70 more years according to US copyright law). That means even if a single title earns only a little per year, over time this the earnings can accrue into a tidy sum. That being the case, today’s book can out-perform the “flash in the pan” of the mid-list book of the recent past, which often only earned enough to cover an author’s advance, after which the publisher let the title go out of print (often leaving the author with no more earnings on that title for the rest of his life).

But now that’s changed.

Today, the key for an author wanting to earn a living at writing appears to be quite simple: Sticking with the task, regularly writing new titles and self-publishing, or publishing through a small press interested in printing everything an author writes. That’s it. Just keep generating product to sell and then patiently wait for it to keep earning more and more over the years.

As things now stand, authors can succeed by regularly writing new books, putting them into print, and planning on staying with the business over the “long haul.”

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Free ebook today and tomorrow: Disguised for Love

The historical novel Disguised for Love – The Strickland Sisters is a free ebook today and tomorrow (Dec. 28-29) at

Yes, I created the cover :o)

See more of Duncan Long’s book cover art in his portfolio.

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Darkslayer Series Illustrations

Darkslayer 1 book cover illustration by artist Duncan Long

I recently completed the three book covers for the Dark Slayer fantasy/science fiction series by author Craig Halloran (who added the distinctive lettering to the covers himself).

These presented two challenges: To get the “feel” for being both a somewhat barbaric culture and to give visual hints that the stories would be unfolding somewhere other than on Earth. To give “off world” hints, we used two suns on the first cover, and two moons on the second (with the assumption that after that readers would understand the setting for the stories since most would gravitate toward reading about the first two before moving on to the third in the series).

For the fantasy aspects of all three illustrations, I mixed clothing styles somewhat. On the first illustration I tried to avoid any historic period weapon in designing the battle ax; likewise the armor was somewhat of a cross between Viking and Gothic armor with non-historic decorative elements. On the second cover, I sprinkled some unusual animals here and there in the background. And the magic snake pretty well sets the fantasy stage on the third cover.

Book one in the series is show above. Here’s the cover artwork and lettering for book two. We took advantage of the night scene to let the moonlight glint off the two blades the character is holding:

Darkslayer 2 book cover illustration by artist Duncan Long

And here’s book three which has an indoor, dimly lit environment to allow the sorceress’ magic snake to glow to its best advantage.

Darkslayer 3 book cover artwork by illustrator Duncan Long

You can find out more about the Craig Halloran’s books at and Barnes and Noble.

Duncan Long is a freelance writer/illustrator. You can find more of his book cover artwork in his online portfolio: Duncan Long’s Book Illustration Portfolio.

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Terrorist Nukes, Chemical Weapons, End of the World????

YOU CAN SURVIVE the Very Worst Manmade and Natural Disasters

Many people don’t know that before I started illustrating books full time, I worked as a writer/illustrator. I enjoyed some real success, with some of my books even ending up in the private libraries of the CIA, FBI, and FEMA — with excerpts from one title even being read into the US Congressional record at one point.

Occasionally I return to my roots as a writer, and over the last couple of months I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a massive manual that basically distills my decades of experience in the survival field into one book that covers all the bases from crime and storms to chemical and biological weapons and all points in between.

At the moment I’m offering this manual exclusively as a Kindle ebook, with plans to add a hardcover version to my lineup the first of 2013. Eventually the title will move from there to Nook and other ebook formats as the economics of marketing the title dictate.

I’ve written this manual with an eye to the “average Joe or Jane” who’s more interested in knowing what to do during any of a variety of emergencies rather than becoming a hard-core prepper or survivalist. Think of this book more as an insurance policy that you’ll hopefully never need — but which you’re surely be glad you bought should you ever actually need it.

Although this publication is huge (as might be expected since it covers everything from how to avoid being a victim of crime to what to do during any of a variety of medical emergencies to how to survive a terrorist attack or all-out war in your neck of the woods), I’ve kept the price down to just $3.99 for the Kindle version.

My goal is to get this live-saving information out to as many people as possible.

So far, the book has garnered some serious downloads and some nice reviews:

“Duncan Long is one of the two best writers on this planet on preparedness and survival topics.” – Kevin Swindle, Kevin Swindle Preparedness Newsletter

“Three words- Riveting, awakening, enlightening. This one is an outstanding reality check for the masses that everyone should read…. It covers every aspect of ‘what if’ that we all should be aware of, and make considerations to. It blew me into a wake-up call…. Pick this book, and you will not put it down.” – Cynthia Templin

“This author has done his homework. He’s not an extremist or alarmist but gives very sound practical insights and solutions that are doable by almost anyone. Worth the read and the price!” – James D. Day

Disasters happen. But there’s a lot you can do to prevent becoming a victim of such events. I’m hoping if you’re concerned about your future and that of your loved ones, you’ll take a few moments right now to visit the site and learn more about YOU CAN SURVIVE the Very Worst Manmade and Natural Disasters: A Handbook for Self-Reliance.

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Wishing a Happy Thanksgiving to My US Friends

Happy Thanksgiving


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Grand Theft Magic Now In Print

Richard Blunt Grand Theft Magic book cover artwork

Final book cover art by illustrator Duncan Long.

I got word today from Richard Blunt that his third book in the Lucas Trent fantasy series Grand Theft Magic is now in print.

Like most cover illustrations, this one went through several concepts before we landed on one that worked. Key to the project was capturing an ominous, even threatening feel coupled with magic within the fantasy genre.

We didn’t strike pay dirt right off… One especially awful concept painting I managed to create had one hand over the sorcerer’s head and the other hand in from of him. It was terrible beyond belief (and will not be posted). Use your imagination and it will still be better than the actual results.

From there I created several more versions. One was a bit more intriguing and laid the groundwork for half the final figure — the cool/ice side of him. In some ways it is more ominous than our final cover artwork.

Another version of the book cover illustration by artist Duncan Long

A more ominous cover concept painting by artist Duncan Long.

And here’s the final cover illustration with lettering:

Richard Blunt book cover illustration by artist Duncan Long

Final book cover illustration with lettering.

You can purchase this book from Amazon in Kindle, hardcover, and softcover formats at: Grand Theft Magic.

You can also view the Book Trailer at the author’s web site, and learn more about this book.

See more of this book designer’s artwork at Duncan Long’s Portfolio.

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Worried about terrorism, disasters, economic collapse?

YOU CAN SURVIVE the Very Worst Manmade and Natural Disasters - A Handbook for Self-Reliance

Cover illustration for Duncan Long’s new book, YOU CAN SURVIVE the Very Worst Manmade and Natural Disasters: A Handbook for Self-Reliance.

I recently completed my self-sufficiency book — sort of a collection of survival, self-reliance, and emergency how-to secrets that I’ve collected over the last 30 or 40 years (during which time I’ve had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with Cresson H. Kearney, Kurt Saxon, Bruce D. Clayton, Jim Benson, and others). Needless to say writing this book was quite an undertaking with over 1,000 manuscript pages by the time it was all said and done.

The manual is aimed at anyone worried about terrorism, war, natural disasters, or economic collapse, and who wants to protect themselves and their loved ones from such catastrophes. And, perhaps despite what you might think from the somewhat lurid cover, I’ve takes pains to present a positive look at how to get through the worst while helping neighbors and community in the process. (Yes, there is a section on firearms and material about dealing with looters and rioters, but it is balanced with the understanding that guns may not be a suitable choice for all people, and that violence is best avoided when possible and certainly not a “fix” for most problems.)

Perhaps the title perhaps reflects the length of the book: YOU CAN SURVIVE the Very Worst Manmade and Natural Disasters: A Handbook for Self-Reliance.

Here’s the blurb for the book:

Duncan Long has been writing survival books and articles since the late 1970s (buyers of his manuals include the FBI, CIA, and US Marines); his articles have appeared in American Survival Guide, the Journal of American Civil Defense and Modern Survival Magazine.

In this brand-new manual, he shares his secrets and know-how to keep you and your loved ones alive during anything from an economical collapse to natural catastrophe, from terrorist attacks to all-out chemical, biological, or nuclear strikes. Sections give you a realistic assessment of the best defensive firearms, ways to find food in urban and rural settings, and how to improvise decontamination kits for dealing with chemical and biological agents as well as tips for dealing with highly contagious plagues.

You’ll learn how to handle medical emergencies when no doctor is available, food storage tactics, ways to heat your home when the utilities are gone, how to deal with rioters or looters, and guidelines to avoid being targeted by thieves, muggers, or even rogue government agents. Whether you’re concerned about a localized disaster, a government meltdown, or an end-of-civilization catastrophe, this manual tells how to survive in style while protecting your loved ones.

Buy it now – it may be later than you think!

You can find sample chapters to read online (and can also order the Kindle ebook) from at: YOU CAN SURVIVE the Very Worst Manmade and Natural Disasters – A Handbook for Self-Reliance


Duncan Long is one of the “granddaddies” of the survival movement and has penned over 60 technical books and how-to manuals (published by Paladin Press, Delta Press, Lyons Press/Globe Pequot, and other publishers). Some of his manuals have been purchased for the private libraries of the CIA, US Marines, FEMA, the FBI’s FTU (Firearms Training Unit), and other US agencies. Excerpts from his books and technical drawings have even appeared in US Congressional hearings and US Congressional press handouts.

You can discover more about Duncan Long and his work at his web site:

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