The one thing I love and hate about indie publishing is reaching out to artists.

It’s sort of like dating, and I never went on very many dates. (The ones I did go on were so awkward because I’m an awkward person.) A piece of art catches the eye, or maybe a whole gallery, and I think, “Man, they’d be perfect for this book.” Then I have to contact them, and start whatever little game has to be played. Will they like me? Will they want to work with me?

So far, all of my contacts with artists have been very positive. Even the one who told me she charges $1,000 for book covers. If everything goes well, then I’m dependent on the artist to come through for me and produce a stunning piece of art for me before the due date. The last thing I’d want to do is hold off on publishing because I don’t have a cover. I tried to think of ways around such an issue, like a temporary cover, but I quickly shot that down.

Friends have asked me how I’m going to tie together the Ruin book series. Traditionally, the title is used to distinguish a book as part of the series. I’m not doing that. Not on the front covers anyway. My tie will instead be the cover art– each piece a vision of a character from Ruin as unique as the artists themselves.

So far, I’m two for two. The cover, for Ruin, is a stunning first vision. Sarah Ellerton really came through for me. This next cover, I just got the rough colored art from the artist for approval, and it is absolutely perfect. I can’t wait to see the finished piece and start touting that around!

I’ve already gone over my reasons for why I went with illustrated cover art rather than stock cover art. It’s just that as I work with more artists, it becomes clearer to me exactly why I want artists for this project which is so important to me. Good art forms a bond with the reader before the book has even been read. People get excited to read a book with great cover art. (Of course, this puts a little pressure on me. I better deliver, lol. It’s like my little relationship with the artist plays out in public.)

To make this post useful, I’m going to include some tips I think make the process a little easier.

1. Be open, but short on a first contact. If it isn’t clear if their commissions are open, I just email them and ask if they are. At the same time, I ask how much they would charge for a book cover for print and ebook. It’s important to get that out of the way first.

2. Always be honest and direct. If they’re out of a price range, either let them go or see if they’ll work within your budget. Maybe if they like the project, they will.

3. Be specific with the details. When an artist agrees to do my cover, I get super excited and want to share the story with them. They don’t need that. They just want to know specifics- what do I see on my cover, what does the character look like, and usually, a few words about their personality. This is tougher than it looks. The last thing anyone wants, especially a busy artist is a long email that wanders all over the place. So I actually write this in advance and work on keeping it brief but filled with details. Then I rewrite it when I have an artist interested.

4. Give lots of time, and at the same time push up the date needed by. Okay, you know how us artists are? Since school, many of us have probably waited until the last minute to get something done, right? Chances are high you’ll meet other artists like this. For this reason, I say never give an artist the actual due date. Give them a date that falls before the real date you need it done. This will help you not freak out when the due date is near and they haven’t even started yet. Also, remember to give artists time to get their work done. I’d say a couple of months, so I’m starting to request things ridiculously early and push up the needed by date.

5. Know how much you can spend and refuse to spend more no matter how tempting. Man, that one artist who charges $1,000 per cover looks so good I’d be willing to throw down money to get her. But the last thing I want to do is go that far in the red. Plus, for that price (less than that even!), I’m going to get about four covers done which will carry me through the year for this book series.

 

That’s what I could think up off the top of my head. I’m sure I’ll have more the longer I do this and the more artists I contact. (Sometimes I have to just shut my eyes and hit send, which is hard to do with your eyes covered. That button is small.)

Anyone else with tips? I know there are other artists out there.

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