SF & Fantasy

The Literary Merit of a Cover


orbit-unfetteredI am the editor of Unfettered.

If you haven’t heard about it, Unfettered is an anthology featuring some of the best fantasy writers working today. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 and knowing I didn’t have health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, I had to make some tough choices about how to pay for my quickly growing medical debt.

Thankfully, I have some amazing friends who also happen to be some of the best writers in our genre. They came to my aid when I needed them.

And the result is an anthology that I am so utterly proud of I can barely talk about it sometimes.

I self-published Unfettered. I had to put the book through all of the steps of publication—from gathering the short stories… to editing them… to laying them out in InDesign… to proofing the book… to guiding creative talent for the cover… to having the book printed and produced in ebook form. It was great fun going through all of those steps. I learned a great deal. And it quickly became my baby of sorts.

But what happens when another publisher buys the rights and wants to put their own spin on that baby?

Orbit Books UK purchased the rights several months ago, to release Unfettered as an ebook in the UK and connecting territories. I am happy about this. They are fully behind the anthology, with high marketing and publicity exposure, spreading the word about a book I hold dear. More than anything though, I wanted to see how their art department would handle a new cover.

While Todd Lockwood painted a US cover that evokes images from most of the stories—and featuring my ugly self breaking the shackling chains of my medical debt—Orbit wanted to take a different route. Editor Anna Gregson thought it would be great to have a landscape scene. She asked my opinion.

All I told her was, “It needs to be evocative of why the anthology exists.”

I am pleased to feature that cover here on this post! I am so excited to do so! It is the epitome of “evocative.” It is dark and moody, similar to how I felt when I was going through chemo treatment. It is also driven by fantasy elements, primarily the castle, making it worthy of the genre. But when it comes to the literary merit of the overall scene, it is the background’s warm light breaking through the gloom that symbolizes the hope that I carried while going through that darkest of times.

It is a cover I am proud to be a part. I hope the rest of my contributors feel the same way!

You can read the Orbit Books press release for their edition of Unfettered HERE!

I hope you’ll give it a try if you haven’t yet!

Best Wishes,
Shawn Speakman


speakman-shawnShawn Speakman is the author of The Dark Thorn, an urban/epic fantasy hybrid novel bestselling author Terry Brooks calls, “a fine tale by a talented writer.”

He is also editor and contributor of Unfettered, a fantasy anthology featuring some of the best writers in the genre. When Shawn isn’t lying for a living, he runs The Signed Page and Grim Oak Press.


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