Talking Pulp: The Quest for Art in the “Barbarians of the Storm” Book Series

*Originally posted on the Talking Pulp Press – Substack.

I have been struggling with the art for the Barbarians of the Storm series.

Ideally, I want the book covers to reflect the energy and style of the books that made me fall in love with pulp paperbacks when I was a kid in the ‘80s. Those books were predominantly sword & sorcery reprints from the ‘70s that featured Frank Frazetta art or the art of other great fantasy artists that just knew how to capture, for lack of a better word, epicness.

This is what I would like for my book covers and I’d actually like to have an artist that I can work with for a long time, as I plan to do a lot of books in this series. There will be the main series and its dozen or more books, several character specific short story anthologies, and spinoffs that explore this universe in different times and places. I want all of the book covers to be consistent in style and quality.

Leading up to the publishing of the first book, Dan the Destructor, I had two different artists, whose work I liked, but they flaked out on me. Because I had my own deadlines set, I had to come up with my own cover on a whim. Good thing I’m an artist too, otherwise I would’ve been screwed and incredibly delayed.

The thing is, I’m not the type of artist that I actually need and while I’m okay with Dan the Destructor’s cover, it still isn’t what I ultimately want. However, if I don’t find someone before the next book is ready to go to print, I’m probably going to do the covers myself and keep the same sort of aesthetic because for obvious reasons, I want branding to be consistent.

Even though I’m a creative director, as my day job, finding the right type of artists can be a real bitch. Especially, when you’re looking for art in a style that’s kind of dead. When I give examples and explain the type of art I’m looking for, I am immediately bombarded with sales pitches on social media with art that is pretty much the antithesis of what I’m looking for: low-tier Tumblr cartoonish manga mixed with those Homies toys that come from gumball machines. The fact that they pitch me this kind of art with added cockiness is baffling to me, considering that they were oblivious to the actual art examples I gave in the first place.

Beyond the covers, though, I also need maps for the books. So I’m looking for someone with some cartography skills. I have chicken scratch maps already drawn in my notebook, but I really want something much better than what I can do, which means I need someone with experience in this realm.

Additionally, I also need someone that can do simple character and conceptual sketches, as these are things I’d like to use for reference, promotion, visual aid on Substack and social media, as well as for the eventual wiki-style website where I plan to have organized character profiles, info, etc.

But wait, there’s more! I have a lot of ideas for different types of merchandise that I want to develop that ties to the series. Granted, I need to get the series rolling and the books in front of people first. This is more of a long-term objective but I’m already thinking of some shirts to make, at the very least.

In a perfect world, it’d be great to find someone that can do all of these things. I’m looking at the work of a few artists, but I haven’t made a decision, as my real job has been kicking my ass and the rest of my time has been devoted to getting the second book going.

However, if you do fit what I’m looking for, hit me up. Worst-case scenario, I may just take another creative director friend of mine’s advice and try out a couple people on Fiverr.

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