Roundup and reveal

Special treat for readers who monitor the blog site and Facebook page – advance reveal of the new covers, one or two a week, starting today…

(And I’m keen for feedback!)

Okay, okay. Roundup first.

Inside Straight

Inside Straight is late in the big and little sense of the word. In the big sense, I can’t quite work out how it has taken over three years from Angel Stakes to Inside Straight. In the little sense, I promised publication in 2018, then spring 2019, then summer, and then 30th September, but now it’s going to be the 31st October.

I will be concentrating on writing Bite Back and Bian’s Tale for the next year or so and I hope to do better than one of each per year. We’ll see.


Bite Back (published under the series name ‘Amber Farrell’) is doing very well in France. I’m expecting my first 12 month sales analysis from Bragelonne this month, but I already know that the sales are over 20,000 books and there’s 2:1 ratio in favor of printed books. I’ve attended the book festival at Epinal as a guest speaker and I’m also attending festivals at Lille and Dunkirk this year. Things are looking good.


I’m trying very hard to engage a German publisher on the same sort of basis as France and I’m having no luck. My emails aren’t even getting a response. I may visit the Frankfurt Book Fair next month to see if face to face is easier.


The launch of Inside Straight will coincide with a new marketing drive for the Bite Back series, including:

  • New book covers for eBook (English and German versions), paperback and audio
  • Amazon and Facebook advertising
  • Bundling (selling books 1-3 as one for a discount)
  • Newsletter promotions.

I’ve never been quite happy with the covers for Bite Back. The series is not a standard Urban Fantasy series, so there was always the argument that the covers should be a little different. At the 20Books writers’ convention in Edinburgh, I got some feedback on the covers and advice to go and talk to Andrew at Creative Edge Studios. Long story short, Andrew and I kicked around ideas, hired a big studio, got the props out, persuaded Maria to join us, engaged a makeup artist and spent a whole day, resulting in over a thousand photos. It was a fabulous day.

Maria is Amber, and she really got into the part. Even standing waiting for the cameras to be set up, she looked bad-ass.

This is not a retouched photo. I have done nothing apart from clipping the background out.

At the end of the shoot, I had the difficult task of choosing one photo for each book.

The overview for the images is a sort of compromise. I wanted the book covers to say Urban Fantasy, but I wanted to hint that there’s a lot of action as well. This is close to the brief for the very first covers I did, but the poses chosen for those were what is called in the trade ‘heroic’. Andrew and I decided we’d include more ‘action’ poses.

Book 1 is the key, the most important image that sets the tone for the series. I wanted Amber’s favorite automatic, the HK Mk 23, and I wanted an action pose with a Urban Fantasy background of Denver including witchy lights and oversize moon. Andrew took that brief and produced this, the full image without titles for the printed book.

I reckon it’s excellent.

And here’s the eBook cover.


I love the image.

What do YOU think?





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About Mark Henwick

I was born in Africa and left out in the sun too often. An early interest in philosophy and psychology was adequately exorcised by tending bars. And while trying to enroll in a class to read Science Fiction full time, I ended up taking an engineering degree which splendidly qualified me to move into marketing. That in turn spawned a late onset career in creative writing. When not working, I get high by the slightly less conventional means of a small light aircraft. My first books are available on Amazon at

32 responses to “Roundup and reveal”

  1. Wendy says :

    Looks great! Exactly how I imagined her! Can’t wait to read Inside Straight!

  2. Jason L Swearingin says :

    Oh WOW, I LOVE the cover. It really captures her character and looks realistic but with that urban fantasy feel. Is that the Denver skyline behind her? Not familiar with it myself, but if so that would be perfect for book one.

  3. Stephanie J Schown says :

    Mark. The new cover is fantastic!!!

  4. azrm says :

    Nice cover, but OMG, I am so tired of waiting!! At least you could have had Inside Straight out by my birthday (Oct.13)! What an awesome present that would have been!

    Happy to see you are doing so well, and that so many others are getting a chance to enjoy this series as much as I do.

  5. wiggiemomsi says :

    YES on the cover, and Maria IS Amber!

  6. Wendel Bingham says :

    Great cover Maria gets hotter the older she gets with all do

  7. Ben says :

    I’d say the cover definitely looks more professional, and with its general glossiness and random magic effects is perfectly in-line with current industry standard for urban fantasy which I’d expect can’t be bad for sales. It definitely advertises itself as part of that group.

    That being said I don’t think
    “The series is not a standard Urban Fantasy series, so there was always the argument that the covers should be a little different”
    this actually comes across. Action-heroine-with-nondescript-background-and-random-effects-on-glossy-cover is about as generic as it gets. At the very least I don’t think some sort of visual hint of the vampire/werewolf theme would have hurt (I guess it does have the obligatory moon 😉 ).

    I also feel the model looks kind of odd in that one cover. Maybe it’s just me. Something about how the face and body is posed, possibly an effect of having her clipped out (or too much photoshop). I don’t know. I’m not a very art-sy person so …

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Many thanks for the feedback Ben.
      The comments you make have been part of an argument that has raged around the covers since 2012. For example, we were always at a loss of how to symbolically depict vampires without using motifs like the bleeding mouth cliche. The werewolves could at least be modeled on wolves, but there are surprisingly few great photos that haven’t found there way onto other covers. And the depiction of magic seemed to balance precariously between twee and meaninglessly abstract.
      I guess this style is the end point of all those thoughts and I think the only reliable measurement of the quality is going to be how well the books sell and whether a lot of people complain about the new covers.
      It’s difficult. The covers have to communicate Urban Fantasy, and UF covers aren’t that broad a church (at least for indies) as I proved a while back with the art versions. Laurell Hamilton gets away with stuff, but I can’t.
      We’ll see what happens.

  8. Justin says :

    Honestly I was prepared to be disgruntled about the changes in the covers. I will bow out as Maria is looking so much like the Amber in my mind.

  9. Deborah Jay says :

    Wow, that must have been one fun day, and I can imagine how difficult it would be to choose single photos from a whole day shoot – I remember struggling to pick the 50 photos for my non-fiction book from the 500 we took.
    I love the colours and the action you’ve picked, and the typography too.
    Good job – very ‘in your face’ eye catching, which is just what you want.

  10. Krebs says :

    HI Mark,
    amazing covers!! Really well done and Maria is a really good fit. Hope that gives another boost to the sales!
    So looking forward to “Inside Straight” and the changes you hinted at in writing / point of view!
    Can you already state if the Audiobook will be released at the same time or at a later time point?

    If you attend the Frankfurt book fare be prepared! Is huge, a bit chaotic and usually really really full of people!

    Good luck with the publisher!
    If you are interested, i have a list of a few smaller German publisher mainly in the sector of speculative writing i can forward to you.
    Take care!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I will hire Julia (the narrator for the audiobook) as soon as the text is finalized, but I can’t predict what her schedule will be like. I’ll let everyone know when she starts.
      I think I’m going to miss Frankfurt and go to the London Book Fair instead. October is too busy for me!
      I would love to get a list of smaller German publishers from you! Perhaps that was my error before – trying the largest first.
      Thanks again.

  11. Victoria Tinklenberg says :

    It’s a fine line to walk, coming up with covers that say what you want without saying things you Don’t want. Your old covers were okay, very generic for the genre but on the boring side. Your new cover is generic for the genre as well, but something about the pose takes it too far for me. I love your model, I think she is a perfect muse for your covers, I just feel a bit letdown that her live poses were so much more kickass than the painted finish, it felt a wee bit spankass, if you know what I mean, lol. As for implying vamps (or Athanate) without drooling blood, I suggest having her try simply opening her mouth for a hint of teeth. Unless someone is a natural mouth breather, and I doubt Amber is, it would draw attention to her oral differences without going too far into the schlock factor. That said, I would buy your books even if the cover were totally blank, but I understand you’re trying to interest new readers, and I guess over the top is better than boring in such a case.

    • Mark Henwick says :

      Thanks Victoria!
      We had a go at open mouth, and we may try it again (maybe with Bian’s Tale), but it just didn’t look right for Amber somehow.

      It’s difficult at a photo shoot and looking at the initial image to really see what it will come out as on a cover with the background and lighting. Yes, we’ve gone over the top, especially on book 1, but I hope they’ll be what the market wants.

      Please do keep feeding back on the sequence of images over the next few weeks.

  12. Victoria Tinklenberg says :

    Heck, with Bian you could even try going “Laurel K. Hamilton”😄… just kidding, don’t you dare, she was my favorite writer until she switched to writing porn, and not even well written porn. Sheesh!

    • Mark Henwick says :

      I understand what you’re saying about the Anita Blake books. I enjoy including some sex in books, and my characters are driven by human as well as paranormal needs, but I’ve no intention of switching my series from Urban Fantasy to Erotica. Laurel Hamilton, however, continues to laugh all the way to the bank.

      Her covers are iconic, but you can only get away with that if you have the backing of a publisher and/or your series is HUGE. If you dig back through ‘Other Editions’ on Goodreads for Sleight of Hand, Hidden Trump and Wild Card, you’ll still be able to see my art covers. They probably counted against me. Certainly I had a drop in sales at that point.

  13. Victoria Tinklenberg says :

    Sometimes less is more. Your scene in which Amber and Jen share their first time together was one of the most sensual sex scenes I’ve ever read, so kudos to you. Laurell could learn a thing or two from your work.

  14. Shana Pare says :

    I agree. That new cover absolutely ROCKS!!!

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