Let’s Talk About Cover Art

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:

 Wild Concept

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:

image 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: image image 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.

23 Comments

Filed under Writing

23 responses to “Let’s Talk About Cover Art

  1. Thank you for posting this information. I am almost finished with my first book using Kindle. My daughter is a very talented artist, and it’s not a mommy thing. She’s talented.

    I want a black and white cover with her as the cover artist. She just graduated high school, but she drew exactly what I want as the cover. It looks a lot better than many others’ work. She’s about to start college for graphic design and plans to eventually write and illustrate books.

    I’ve been scared of black & white. However, it fits my book. Again, thanks for your post.

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    • Black and white can be very powerful. My point was directed toward the lettering, but I love some good B& W art. I hope you share it all with us when it’s ready.

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      • I plan to share my work and eventually purchase your latest book. It does sound interesting. I would be bankrupt if I bought every book I want.

        I’m a Marvel fan, so you can’t go wrong with that design if done well in my opinion.

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      • I’m honored. Having you read any one of them would make me very happy.

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  2. I think someone is gonna be standing in a heap of snow come winter. Unbelievable… Some people!
    Sorry about the “professionals” who couldn’t be bothered to respond. You are absolutely right, if they can’t be bothered to respond you do NOT want to work with them!

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  3. First off, grouchy neighbors stink! As for the rest, I think you nailed them all spot on! this post was very interesting to learn about the process involved in making a book come to life. As for the non-emailer-backers, they need to go to the trash bin along with the grouchy neighbor! Excellent post! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I wholeheartedly agree with Rachel, Craig! And I would like to add that all those who did not respond will never share the fame. 😀
    I really like all of your book covers. They are perfect for the respective story.

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  5. I really like all of those. I am absolutely with you that the cover art needs to inform people what kind of book it is. I went to a design company for mine in the end, but I knew them from other work related projects so I knew they could deliver exactly what I wanted. I also wanted to inform people of the influences behind the book – I kind of, if you like that you’ll like this, in image form.

    Cheers

    MTM

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    • It’s absolutely part of the sales pitch. Readers need to know something about the genre from the cover. You certainly don’t want to mislead someone into buying the wrong book. The reviews aren’t likely to be flattering.

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      • Exactly. Yet, at the same time as fitting in with the genre, it’s got to stand out. I am in awe of anyone who can do it well, it’s so much harder than it looks. I’ve used the same guy for all mine because they’re a series but I sent a 20 page briefing document to him!

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      • Wow! I never sent twenty pages. I think it’s important to know what you want though.

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      • Mwah hahhargh! There were a lot of pictures, you know, the flavour of this, the font of that, the back ground style of these cartoons here… I had a very clear mental picture of what I wanted and they have produced exactly what I saw in my head.

        Cheers

        MTM

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      • Getting what you want is an important part of the job. I tend to give a basic idea and let the artist interpret. There is a reason I’m not an artist. It’s been good so far, knock wood.

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  6. Covers really are on the most important parts of the book. Everyone judges a book by its cover, I don’t think you can help it. And you’re right, I think yours make an immediate impression and really capture the eye!

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  7. Ali Isaac

    Very interesting! I like all three but they are all so different! I’d love to have an artist create an image especially for me, but doesnt it take ages and cost a fortune? You should definitely frame them for your office wall!

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    • Plus or minus 30 days. It is the big investment I make in my publications. I’ll talk price in private, because the artists might want to make some changes since I dealt with them, or based upon the project.

      Your covers are wonderful, by the way. How did you get them if not an independent artist?

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      • Ali Isaac

        I have a really great cover designer I met on Twitter. For the first book I bought rights to an image which he turned into a cover. An artist friend drew the Lugh’s knot symbol for me and the designer inserted it into the ‘o’ s in Conor’s name. The second book, the designer surprised me by coming up with something completely opposite to what I had imagined, but which worked far bettet! I’d love a piece of original art though.

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