Who I Write For

When I worked at Waldenbooks, I had a regular come in, always asking for SF&F. He was a local cop, and he was on his department’s version of SVU (special victims unit). That’s the unit typically involved in some of the most soul-sucking crimes. I could tell if this guy had a really rough day just from his eyes. He would come in, wave at me and whoever else was working, then go right back to the SF&F section. I’d go talk with him about new releases, or old classics. Got him hooked on OLD MAN’S WAR. Some Sanderson. Butcher. He said he read SF&F because it helped him calm down from a bad day, and helped him escape from some of the stuff he had to deal with.

I write for that guy.

Another regular at the store was a high-school kid–though he was, like, six-foot-gazillion. He loved hardbacks. He especially loved Jim Butcher. In fact, it’s because if his excitement for Butcher that I started reading The Dresden Files. This kid couldn’t help but share his love of books, and he couldn’t wait for the next book to captivate him.

I write for that guy.

When I lived in Mexico, I met some of the poorest of poor. I helped them build their homes, helped them when they were struggling with their businesses, and sometimes I just talked with them. I loved talking with the teenagers and twenty-somethings. One of the things we could always talk about was super heroes. No matter how tight things were, they always squeezed out some money so they could get comics–sometimes in English, so they struggled reading them. They loved to read that stuff. Loved talking about it. Loved to swept away from stories.

I write for them.

My Mom and Dad got me reading before I was ten. Lloyd Alexander. CS Lewis. Tolkien. Brooks. They encouraged me to read, and when I was done to read some more.

I write for them, and for parents like them everywhere. And for my kids and kids like me everywhere.

Maybe you see what I’m driving at here. It isn’t that I don’t care where you are from, or who you are. Quite the opposite. I love to hear about different people, and where they come from. It’s those differences that make up all the awesomeness of life. We all come from different places, but so many of us find our way into Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror and everywhere in between. Guy, girl, black, white, religious, not-religious, gay, straight, robot, alien…

Yeah, all that matters. It makes you who you are. It makes me who I am.

I write for you.

Not in the high-and-mighty way. But the, “Geez I hope this scares people” or “Wonder if I can get a reader to laugh here?” way. I wanna tell stories because I’ve heard so many.


Cover Quotes

I remember when Naomi Novik’s first three novels came out. I was working at Waldenbooks, and I was pulling the weekly shipment from the boxes in the back room. I recall pulling out HER MAJESTY’S DRAGON from the box, thinking, “Huh. Looks interesting. Who’s this Novik person?” And then right after it in the box came THRONE OF JADE, then BLACK POWER WAR. Three books. All at once. I flipped open to the copyright page and saw the release dates–three months, back-to-back-to-back. We just hadn’t received the first two novels on time. And still I thought, “Geez. Three books. She must be pretty good.”

Then I took a closer look at the covers. I saw quotes from Stephen King, Terry Brooks and Anne McCaffrey. Each one of them saying how awesome Novik was, and how amazing her series was. It made an impression, to say the least.

At the same bookstore, I was shelving a random set of books, and came across a guy named F. Paul Wilson. The book–maybe you’ve heard of it–was called THE TOMB – Book 1 of the Repairman Jack series. On the cover was a quote by Stephen King, where King calls THE TOMB super awesome (paraphrasing), and King himself is labeled as the President of the Repairman Jack Fan Club. Now you know how I began reading Wilson’s work.

Everyone has a story like this. Sometimes a good-looking cover gets you to pick up the novel. Oftentimes it’s a quote on that cover that gives readers the reassurance to make the purchase. Say your favorite author is Brent Weeks. Or Brian Lumley. Or Robert McCammon. Or Mary Robinette Kowal. When they recommend books and authors, it has impact. It’s why publishers and authors try to get those killer quotes–to help sell books.

I’ve been fortunate enough to receive two fantastic cover quotes. Check ’em out:

“RESIDUE will scare you–that’s it’s primary goal–but along the way it will touch you, shock you, make you laugh, make you cheer, and make you think. Horror has been waiting for Steve Diamond.” — Dan Wells, NYT Bestselling Author of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER

“RESIDUE is a fast-paced, fun read with great characters and the best prom scene since CARRIE. Steve Diamond writes kick butt mutants, psychics, and guns. I loved it.” – Larry Correia, NYT Bestselling Author of the Monster Hunter Series

Super awesome. What I like about the quotes–besides them saying nice stuff!–is that they are very different. They each highlight different aspects of my novel.

They are also super humbling.

When you pick up my book, and you see those quotes, I hope that they get you interested in my book. After that, it’s all on me. But man, a good cover quote really gets the ball rolling.

Residue Cover

Covers are super important. Having worked in a bookstore, I know a good cover is half the reason a book is picked up and purchased. In fact, my goal as a bookseller was, first, to get the customer just to pick up the book. The chances of a sale go up dramatically at that point. That’s why I would situate books with awesome covers so they faced out. Marketing 101.

So when I sold my YA horror novel, RESIDUE, my first thought was, “YEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!” Followed very quickly by, “Oh crap. Someone is going to make a cover for my book.”

I was talking about this specifically with a friend, Dan Wells, author of the John Cleaver novels and the Partials series. I asked him, “Is it bad that I’m terrified what my cover is going to look like?”

In a very Yoda moment, he said, “You should be.”

Covers are interesting, and are actually two parts. First, there is cover art–the picture that everyone judges. Then there is cover design–where the title goes, where the cover quote goes, what all that looks like, and how the spine of the book looks and what the back of the novel looks like. Usually good cover design can soften bad cover art. But bad cover design can also ruin good cover art.

So. Here’s my cover.
Residue Cover (not final)

I’m super pleased, and I think this illustrates how cover art and design should go hand-in-hand. Note the fake quote from Larry Correia at the top. This image was sent to me before Larry had written his blurb. This is the actual quote: “Residue is a fast-paced, fun read with great characters and the best prom scene since Carrie. Steve Diamond writes kick butt mutants, psychics, and guns. I loved it.”

I’ll talk more about cover quotes later, but Larry’s is awesome.

A shout-out to Shawn King, who made my cover. He’s awesome.