Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tips to Help Indie Authors Help Their Cover Artists

I used to work in travel as a tour wholesaler, which basically means I would package together travel elements such as a plane ticket, a hotel stay, and transfers to and from the airport then turn around and sell the package to travel agents, who would then sell it to the public. The most annoying part of my job was dealing with travel agents and/or through them their clients who had no idea what they wanted.

I'd get calls that ran something like this:

Travel agent: "My client wants to go to the Caribbean."

Me: "When would they like to go?"

Travel agent: "Oh anytime between June and August. When would they get the best airfare?"

Me: "That depends on where they want to go."

Travel agent: "Somewhere cheap. I'd like pricing on four, five, six, and seven nights."

Me: "I need you to narrow it down."

Travel agent: "Why?"

Me: "Because you know your client better than I do."

Travel agent: *gives a big, annoyed sigh* "Try Jamaica, Barbados, Aruba, and Turks and Caicos."

You get the idea. Often people don't have a clear idea of what they want. Dumping their vague expectations on someone else is not only unfair, but it's always bound to lead to disappointment for both sides.

If you're an indie author getting ready to publish your book, you need a great cover for your book. Sometimes this means working with an artist. It's important to do your research when selecting an artist, checking into pricing, availability, and getting an idea of what an artist's work is like. But your job isn't over once you have all that figured out and lined up.

In fact, even before you select your artist, it's a good idea to do cover research first, since that will give you a pretty good idea of what you want and help you find an artist that has that vibe or capability.

1 - Visit bookseller or reader websites. Select the genre your story is written in (or genres if you're writing a cross-genre book) and scroll through the list of books. Don't spend time reading the book summaries. Examine the covers. Take note of which covers leap out at you and make you curious to read the summary. Look for patterns in not only layout, but color, and the type of art being used for your genre. Take copious notes.

***Your cover needs to reflect the genre it is written in. A potential reader should be able to glance at your cover and instantly get a feeling for what type of book it is.***

2 - Doodle. Experiment with layouts for your cover. Use block shapes and circles. You don't have to be an artist. Doing this helps you realize how important the placement of the title and other words are, how big the images might be, and whether you have too much or too little in mind.

***Coming up with two or three possible layouts will cut down on time for your artist. Which could save you money.***

3 - When choosing elements to go on your cover, think about your novel. Maybe you want the lead character(s) featured on the front. How much of them do you want to show? How much do you want to leave to the reader's imagination? Maybe you want a setting which will showcase your world-building. Maybe you want something symbolic. What elements are going to entice readers without giving too much away? Don't throw these questions at your artist. They didn't write the book. You did. Your artist will need you to come up with the details, such as what your characters look like and what they are wearing, or what your setting looks like. Make up a list or even better, give you artist excerpts from the book to show them what you want.

Sometimes it's helpful to make up a sort of scrapbook, using pictures that have the flavor, look, or idea of what you want. Models in the right stance, people who look like your characters, scenery (whether real or made-up) that have echoes of your world, fabric or color swatches, even fonts or decorative script samples. These samples don't necessarily represent your idea in full, but they will help your artist stay on track.

***This will also save time and money. It will also help prevent your artist from having too much freedom of interpretation that could mean coming up with characters, settings, or symbols that look nothing like what you want.***

4 - If you are not purchasing a font for the words on your cover, you will need to design your own, and that made-up font will need to be embedded into the artwork. Check to see if your artist will help you design a font. Make sure that you consider carefully your word placement on your cover. Will your name or the name of the book be bigger? Do you have a subtitle? Which words will get the flashy treatment and which ones will be plainer? What colors are you going to use?

5 - Know your deadline. Make sure you give your artist plenty of time to complete the project, with extra time for revisions. Don't demand a great cover within a few days or even a week. You'll need time to discuss your ideas with your artist, time for preliminary sketches, time for them to do the actual artwork, and then revisions (there will always be revisions). Your artist may have other clients at the same time. Check with your artist to find out their timetables, availability, and how fast they can work.

***Remember, the more research and prep work you've done, the less time the artist should need to complete the project.***

6 - If you have a good rapport with your artist, and they have both the time and inclination, let them read your novel before starting on the cover. It makes a world of difference if they understand the story and where you're coming from when you give them your list of cover elements.

7 - If your novel is the first book in a series, or you plan on hiring this same artist again for other novels, you'll want to cultivate a good relationship with your artist. Be grateful for their time and work. Promote them to your other writer friends. Make sure you've mentioned them on your copyright page and in the acknowledgements of your novel. Artists, like authors depend on that precious word-of-mouth recommendation for their work.

Question for you: Do you have an artist you've been very satisfied with? What was your working relationship like? Go ahead and promote them in the comments.

Do you know of any other good tips for indie authors who will be working with an artist?

You May Also Like:
Interview with My Cover Artist, Nicolle Raty
Cover Reveal for Trefury: Mendi's Curse

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