Working with a Cover artist

Gentle reader, today I want to talk about the cover of a book. If you look closely, the cover of a book has several features- title, author, a picture indicating genre or themes of the book, sometimes a blurb, and sometimes additional information such as “part of a series.”

As a self-published author, I have the opportunity to make all the decisions regarding each of these pieces of the cover. Ideally, you want the whole picture- genre, main character, title and author- conveyed in a glance as the consumer scrolls through a webpage, bookstore, or e-reader.

How to find a good cover artist? It is work, gentle reader, it is work. I found mine by emailing authors whose covers I admired and hoped that a few would share their artist information with me. I quickly narrowed the field after talking with my “finalists” about my book- the ones who wanted it to look like a romance cover I passed on immediately. The ones who wanted to make it look like a horror show, again pass. I finally decided to hire Adrijus Guscia of Rocking Book Covers to create my custom cover art.

AG is not a newbie to this game, and he has a specific process. I filled out a questionnaire for him that delineated what I wanted, the genre and feel for my book, title, and other considerations. He directed me to areas where I could purchase stock photos without copyright concerns as a starting point for my cover. I poured over possible pics on  websites where you can legally use photos for your work.

Once we had 6 pics that I thought might work, I sent them to AG, told him what I wanted, and waited. About a week later, he sent me three different versions for a cover, and we tweaked from there. I thought I may want my first novel to be part of a series, so I considered this when making my final decision to leave flexibility for future branding. My cover artist was amazing in helping me pick fonts that blended and communicated the book as well, and then sent me the files for me to submit with my novel to the formatters. AG is professional, on time, and the quoted price covered all expenses. It was a joy to work with him on this aspect of my book.

Here are a few things to ask when hiring a cover artist-

  1. Is there a flat fee that covers the project, or is the pricing structure ala carte? Some artists will rework the covers several times before the cost increases, others, you only get 1-2 revisions. Find out beforehand so there are no unintended costs to blow yoru budget.
  2. What formats will they provide for you? Do you need a banner for a Facebook page, or a thumbnail to use for a twitter handle? These additional items may cost a bit more.
  3. What other works have they done in your genre? Can they provide references?
  4. What is their turnaround time? How many covers do they do a week? Any assistants that may take over part of the project?
  5. Do you need original art? If so, how to pay the artist or copyright if the artist wants to retain rights.
  6. Are there pre-made covers that match your vision for your book? Several cover artists routinely release pre-made covers for a flat fee that is less expensive than a custom cover.
  7. How to credit your cover artist? Some want a line in the front of your book, some just want you to acknowledge them if anyone asks. Find out what your artist wants ahead of time.

Cover art is just as important as the writing and editing and layout to the success of a novel, and getting this part correct is crucial to the success of your book. Don’t skimp or take shortcuts in this part of the publication process!

Until next time-

Lillian

Cover art with Stuart Jaffe

Today, gentle reader, I have asked a good friend of the blog, author Stuart Jaffe, to write a bit about cover art. He has two series with fantastic cover art – the Max Porter series and the Nathan K. series- please follow the link to check them out. Here’s Stuart!

Ah, cover art. A topic that could fill (and probably does) numerous books. Let’s try to narrow things down a little and take a look at some specific aspects of cover art. Today, let’s take a look at cover art for a series. Those last three words are the most important towards addressing this topic — for a series. Because what this really means is branding. You have an artist and you have an idea for the correct image to express the genre and mood of your book, but what about the series as a whole? If branded properly, a reader will be able to see at a glance that several books laid out next to each other are part of the same series. Heck, even if other books are interspersed, a reader should be able to pick out the series books.

In order to achieve this, there are a few things to consider, and in the grand tradition of the internet, I’ll bullet-point them for you:

Color: there are a ton of ways to approach this, and working with an artist helps. The thing to remember is that color is one simple way to connect all your books. My Max Porter books have numerous indicators that they are a series, one of which is color. Every three books follow the same color scheme.  Books 1-3 are all shades of blue. Books 4-6 are red. And the green set of three will finish out later this year. But color can be more than a monotone. You can choose to make all the colors pastels, or bright neons, or nothing but dark colors except one bright color. As long as you follow the pattern throughout the series, color will help connect the books. Color also helps define genre — for example, dark, moody colors are obviously not the choice for a romantic-comedy about summer camp. Most genres have set colors which you should be familiar with. Feel free to break from those limits, but know the rules first, then break them.

Layout: the layout of the entire cover should be consistent throughout a series. The author name, the book title, the blurb quotes, any information you put on the cover should always be in the same place on every cover (or as close as the cover image will allow). This consistency will contribute majorly to branding the series. Plus, if you have a layout in mind to begin with, it will help your artist understand what parts of the canvas they have to work with. The layout doesn’t need to be fancy — most layouts follow one of handful of patterns — but it does need to be consistent. There are times when shifting this information on the page is necessary or even desired, but those are the exceptions, not the rule.

Lettering: this refers to everything about the words. Font choice, font size, font color, you name it. And guess what? Just like all the above, you are looking for consistency. I recommend using no more than two fonts and use them the same way every time on every cover. In my Max Porter novels, the title and my name are in one font, the other (smaller) writing is in a second font. Those fonts, the general size and placement of the lettering, and the color choice (which is consistent with the entire color scheme, all are the same throughout the series. In my post-apocalyptic fantasy series, The Malja Chronicles, you can see that the stylized titles are also consistent. In those books, the words THE WAY OF are turned on the side and the various titles are made extra-large. Every time. Every book.

Image: this one is optional but very effective. If there is a single image or image type than can be repeated in every cover, you have another great way to tie a series together.  A single image can be a character or location or anything.  The Max Porter books have a variety of images on the covers, but every cover always has an image of a ghost detective from the 1940s with glowing eyes. Another example: An image type might be a different family crest or rune for an epic fantasy series. Though each individual image is different, being of the same type (rune, family crest, etc) the connection is made.

To be clear, you do not have to do ALL of this for the covers of a series. Only one, or a combination, or a slight alteration will work. The key is consistency. If every cover is completely different, nobody will know you have a series going. But if all the covers have at least one (and preferably more than one) aspect that is the same from book to book, your fans will be grateful.

So, if you understand how these things work in concert, then you will have a better way to communicate with your artist. You can let them know the exact layout beforehand which will, in turn, provide them with the boundaries that they get to work in. Boundaries are great things for all artists. It forces creativity and, if you let them play within those boundaries, the stuff they come up with will exceed your expectations.

Thank you Stuart! Next time, tune in for a discussion of how to contract and work with a cover artist.

Until next time-

Lillian