Friday, March 15, 2013

Guest Post: Scavengers Series by K.A Merikan

I’d like to talk about two things today. About our covers for the Scavengers series and about working with an illustrator.
Scavengers:July was the first novella we published. I was really keen to do the cover myself, cause I felt I knew what style I wanted it to be.

And the thing is, I still like the illustration on this cover. It might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s quirky and a bit different. I did the cover for the second one in the series in the same style, but when it came to the third one, I got stuck. I sort of knew what I wanted to do with it, but I wasn't happy with any of the sketches I came up with. Maybe it was because what I usually do is fashion illustration and it's mostly women that I draw.

So I talked it through with Agnes, my co-author, and we decided to do a redesign for the whole series. The stories are set in a steampunk, post-apocalyptic Victorian London, a few years after the outbreak of a zombie Plague. I wanted to convey all those things, without commissioning an over-detailed, realistic painting with too much going on. Even though I wouldn’t be painting it myself, after some brainstorming, I had a clear vision of what I wanted. 

I was really excited, as I had already found an artist who did cute silhouette art some time ago and knew I would want an illustration from her sometime. This was the perfect time to call on her and see if she’d be interested in a project out of her usual line of work. 

Instead of a literal portrayal of steampunk guys with no shirts on or something of that sort, I wanted to have a Victorian style portrait of the MC’s in profile as a symbol of the times they live, since those were popular at the time. Gas masks symbolize the steampunk element, but we needed to add a zombie element as well. Something elegant and discreet, because the story itself is not a slasher, with the zombies serving as a backdrop. In the end, we went for a frame of bones and guts, and some blood splatter in the middle.

We needed the imagery to work for all three parts of the story, even though each one has a bit of a different theme. To use the illustration for the whole series, we used the damask style pattern for the background, and gave each one a different color scheme.

The end result and the cover for a paperback bundle coming out soon:

I love how the whole series works together in the different colors.

What I enjoy about working with an illustrator is getting that unique image. It’s not just a stock photo that can reappear on several different covers. I got to tell the illustrator how the character’s look like and have her create a design for the bone and guts frame that will be ours to use for the series.

When working with an illustrator, it is best to approach them with some kind of idea, but also with an open mind to let them suggest things. For example, I wanted James to have a top hat, but it turned out that it didn’t work with the composition, so we ditched it. It’s like cutting out scenes, which seemed a good idea at the time, but turned out unsuitable. 

I come from a Fine Art background, but if you don’t feel overly confident about your color choices, sometimes you just have to put trust in the designers and let them work their magic.

There’s also a myth and fear among many self-publishers that they won’t be able to afford an illustrator. My answer to that is - you don’t ask, you don’t know. One of the artists I asked for a book cover quote, came back with 2000$ and fair enough if he’s in demand, but there are lots of young freelancers, talented, but not yet popular. They’re looking for commissions and by lurking around a place like, you can easily approach artists and ask if they’d want to do your project. When you consider the fact, that you can work with people from all over the world ,you’ll find that you can get a brilliant, made-to-measure cover starting at 20-30$.

Here’s a blurb from the newest and last part of our zombie-apocalypse-Victorian-gay-romance extravaganza:

--- Keeping his wife happy was hard enough without a gay lover and the zombie Plague. ---

In July of 1893, James Hurst, a perfect English gentleman, had retrieved a treasure that would secure the financial future of his family, got scarred by a zombie and lost his virginity to Ira Russell, the mercenary he hired. After a rocky start, their mutual fascination makes James happier than ever.

Despite initial worries, Ira has no trouble blending in with the aristocratic household. Even James’ young son comes to adore the new teacher of survival tactics and his maritime stories. His wife on the other hand takes a different sort of interest in Ira. Her infatuation with him is the living proof of James’ failure as a husband, but is it too late to pick up the pieces? With a political opponent watching his every move and the threat of a terrorist attack on London, James is walking a tightrope. Can he keep his family safe without giving up on his newfound happiness (and Ira’s skills in tying him up)?

WARNING: Contains graphic m/m sex scenes, gore, zombies, violence, angst, BDSM, lots of deliciously dirty talk  and a confident, tattooed ex-sailor.

Kat Merikan

Art by Alison Mutton 


  1. I LOVE the Scavengers series! And, I just read Playing With Food--you guys drive me mad! The quirky illustrations are wonderful, I truly enjoy all of you work.

    I agree that authors can find affordable illustrators. When I was a senior in design school, we would do all kinds of print jobs for free, to have that awesome actually published piece in our portfolios. Contact a good design program, and you WILL hungry and talented designers and illustrators!

    brendurbanist at gmail dot com

    1. Hi Urb! I'm happy you enjoy the series! :D There is SO much more to that zombie-Victorian world planned, including a massive trilogy on pony-play and a completely differently themed one with lots of politics (with romance involved of course :D).

      I'm also glad you enjoyed Playing with Food, since I can imagine it not being to everyone's taste (pun not intended ;))

      I think a lot of people are afraid to contact illustrators. I've heard many people say how 'they know it would be to expensive' for them, when they don't even ask for a quote. And as you said, there are students who are talented but need that break, to later put it on their CV.

      Kat :)


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