I had a house full of family, and didn’t make tons of progress this weekend. We had a great barbecue and a wonderful fireworks event in our driveway. We even had a visit from a grouchy neighbor who must have forgotten who shovels the snow at his house in the winter. I don’t have a ton of things to talk about, so let’s discuss cover art. I don’t claim to be an expert after hiring out three covers, but I’m no longer a newbie either. Your experience might be different from mine, but I can still talk about mine. I started out wanting to hire someone new. I wanted to help introduce a new person to the world, and put in a considerable effort on that front. I sent a string of business emails to Boise State University, College of Western Idaho, Idaho State University, and even the Meridian School District. I directed the last one to three specific teachers at the district. I thought it would be wonderful to meet at a coffee shop and go over ideas. I still think this would be great, but it wasn’t meant to be. My email barrage received not one single response, not even one telling me “no thanks.” I started leaving voice messages, again nothing but silence. Eventually, I decided if these folks were no more professional than that, I really didn’t want to work with them. It is important to decide what you don’t like. For myself, I don’t like photographic covers. They are better suited to a different genre than I write in (erotica perhaps). I also don’t like the 3D art style. These look like posed Barbie dolls to me, and scream lesser quality. People will judge a book by its cover, and I don’t want someone thinking poorly about my book before giving it a chance. Please note that I said, “for myself.” You can do whatever you like. I knew what I wanted with Wild Concept, and started looking for artists who did similar work. Sean Harrington has a web comic that I love, and his art style was just what I had in mind. I wanted a comic style, because the main character, Lisa, could be a comic book hero under other circumstances. I thought the story might appeal to that market, and those who enjoy the Marvel movies. I settled upon a scene from the story, then got out of Sean’s way. Here’s what he delivered:
Panama is a paranormal story set during the building of the Panama Canal. Two former cavalry men get asked to go to the construction zone and sort out an unusual problem. Sean Harrington didn’t want to take on a project that involved a demon, and I respect that. I started emailing artists that I like, and they were prohibitively expensive. One of them referred me to Eric Dagley. We exchanged emails, and my ideas. I wanted to get the menace of the demon into the cover. I also wanted a special badge with the star placed upside down. Eric liked the project, and we struck a deal. I really like the eyes, people are drawn to eyes. I also like the colors he used, and it tells readers what kind of story it is at a glance. Here’s what he delivered:
It became obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to use the same artist for all my books. Recently, I saw an article about a young artist named Leon Tukker. He draws science fiction art and I thought it was perfect for my next story, Arson. Here’s what he delivered:
I’m pretty excited to get Arson available on Amazon, but this weekend didn’t allow much opportunity to work on it. I’ve learned a few things about art. You really want to catch a shopper’s eye. You are probably competing with other covers, and they need a reason to click on yours. I believe they all accomplish this. Covers need to look good in a thumbnail sized image. Some of the titles can fade at the smaller sizes. I hate to suggest black on white, or white on black, but this will stand out. My deals all worked the same way. I sent an extensive email about what I wanted. The artist returned several line drawings for me to assess. I won’t include any of Eric’s because he doesn’t want any of his preliminary images displayed. They look like this: It became my job to assess the options and make suggestions. We exchanged several emails at this point. When ready, each artist sent me a Paypal invoice. I had the option of half now, and half upon completion. I paid completely at this point. I received a complete piece of art without letters, and a complete cover from each artist. I’m considering having them printed and framed for my office. I’m still struggling to keep my two worlds separate, and am dragging my feet. It is the author’s job to come up with the concept. You really need to know what you want here. Shop around for artists who can create what you want. You are paying the bills and get to have some say. There will be less arguments about style if you do your homework.