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.
I’m taking everything in steps because I know myself. Best not to rush things too much. Most “marketing” I’m going to do will be passive or on weekends. By passive, I mean links in signatures or profiles while I’m commenting on things that make me want to say something.
And on weekends, well, I’ve been making lists of book bloggers. If there is even the slightest chance they may be interested in the genre I’ve claimed, then I put them down. Right now my search is for readers interested in science fiction, fantasy, and literature. Preferably all three.
But the rest is all about feeling. I not only look at submission guidelines, but I also check out their reviews and what they have to say about themselves, and if I like that, then I make a note that I’d like to try submitting my book to them. So far, I’ve come across one blogger that I liked so much after reading her reviews, her guidelines, and an extra interview she had linked that I submitted before I was even done with my list (my list which was sort of a stalling tactic this entire weekend).
It is just like querying, and I admit I’ve never done that or wanted to do that. It’s kinda frightening. There’s distance between my book and I now, but it’s still a frightening prospect to offer up something I’ve made for judgement. I’m more of a live and let live type of person. I read and write for enjoyment. If you look at my Goodreads page, I like everything I read, but that’s just because I don’t read things I don’t like, and if I don’t like something I read, I won’t bother rating or commenting on it.
Of course, one problem with looking at book blogging sites and being a reader is that I keep running across more books to add to the TBR pile. Like geeze. It’s as bad as posting a link to something on Etsy. So my tip if you’re looking for book bloggers? Cover your eyes, and try to land directly on their submission page! Oh, also, I’ve started a book blogger twitter list if you’re interested. There will be more added to the list. Mostly people who are friendly to self-pubbed and indies.
Or at least the fear of my marketing failing. Yeah, I have it. I believe in the product I’m working on, but I’m still terrified that I will somehow fail and it stresses me out.
But let me present to you Exhibit A. This was the first indie book I read and I can’t remember how I came across it. This is a book by person who is a complete non-entity as far as I can tell. He has no website, no bio in the back of his book, no twitter, no blog. He doesn’t market this book at all. It is just sitting out there in cyber space alone. Maybe it’s all just an experiment for him? Or maybe it’s a joke? Who knows.
I don’t know if there’s a way to get download numbers for a book that is not mine, so I decided that I would take a peek at the good reads page and see how many reviews it has.
Thirty. That’s not an astounding number on its own but this is from a person who hasn’t done anything at all. When you think about it, that is sort of amazing. And it catches on like a slow crawling virus. As it appears on more “to read” or “read” lists, more people see it and give it a try.
Of course there is a small difference, this is a free book. So there’s no risk for the reader. Still, I consider this an interesting experiment and I choose to believe that it is one tiny piece of proof towards my personal theory.
It’s impossible to fail. Can you sell negative books? No. Will people who buy your books ask for their money back? No. So why the fear?
Give it time. I need to remind myself this a lot. It takes time to reach a point where things will stop seeming like an uphill battle. So I won’t bother trying to run up that hill. I’m just gonna take a leisurely walk.
Funny and charming, here is the full presentation. (Hopefully this works because the preview isn’t showing the player, just the link.)
The drawings really are cute.
Of course I have issues with embedding a video. I swear I am normally technologically competent. Here’s a link to a site with the video embedded.
Half asleep this morning, I sat bleary eyed looking at my computer and a strange thing happened. It seems that for a certain amount of time everyone was talking about the same thing. Margaret Atwood at the Tools of Change for Publishing. (Hashtag #toccon.)
It sounds like it was really interesting. Apparently there was a slide show that included hand drawings. I’ve never gone to a writer’s convention, and I doubt I really ever plan on it, but that sounds like it was something to see and hear.
It seems one of the topics she touched on were self publishing, and as she’s an author who has been in the business for a very long time, I would have loved to hear her thoughts on it. The tweets going around are taken completely out of context and probably don’t help put her point of view into perspective at all. Some of the tweets (unattributed because they were all retweets of retweets anyway, everyone was quoting the same thing):
- “Do you want lots of ppl reading your book, or do you want a cheese sandwich?” @margaretatwood #toccon
- Margaret Atwood: The quality of literary output has always been questionable. #toccon
- “Only 10% of authors make their living writing full time,” per @margaretatwood “You have to work hard.” #toccon
- “E-devices are increasing reading, but not increasing author’s profits,” says @margaretatwood #toccon
- Atwood is pro-choice: “I want both options, ebook and paper.” Love her. #toccon
That first one- ouch! Though there was talk of an Atwood t-shirt with a cheese sandwich going on for a while between tweets. That would be awesome.
The next couple of ones make me curious about her point because it sounds like a general point that is often made about indie/self publishing. That there’s a lot of crap out there. Yes, it’s true. With anyone being able to publish, there is a lot of crap out there. That’s why book review sites are super important and other sites like Goodreads. Book bloggers probably will be our gate keepers. (See my friend Laura’s idealist post here, which I think is a great idea.)
And I’m okay with book bloggers being the gate keepers. Because they’re readers. Another blog I read made the point that when writers market, they usually hop onto twitter and market to other writers so they’re hitting up the same 300 people or so. And frankly, if I’m honest, other writers scare me in the same way other girls scare me. They’re just scary. (Sorry other writers who I haven’t met yet.) Writers are much pickier than readers and they read things much differently than a reader will.
On the e-devises increasing reader but not increasing profits, well I can only assume that’s coming from an author of the publishing world because e-devises are SO increasing profits– but only if you go it alone. Alone, you can make an e-book relatively cheaply (and it doesn’t have to look cheap contrary to popular belief), and you get 50% or more of the profits. But if you’re part of a publishing house, well they still shell out the exact same amount of money they would if they were producing a physical book, and so the profit a published author gets will be very small.
But there are things to consider with e-books. For one, I can’t buy e-books used. If I want an e-book by Margaret Atwood, I’m going to have to shell out to get it. (And I probably will.) Since I’m buying more e-books these days, that means my money will be going to her and her publishing house. In times past, if I wanted a book by Margaret Atwood, did I go to a major book store and buy it new? No way. I went to a used book store and bought it second hand, which meant she and her publishers were getting nothing from me.
As for the last point, yes, I want the choice too. That’s why I love the Print on Demand model of printing. If I loved a book enough, I would indeed buy the physical copy. (Two books I have considered buying a physical copy of just to flip through the pages? A.M. Hart’s Hungry for You and Joseph Robert Lewis’ Heirs of Mars.)
What’s my point here? Well, what do you lose by trying? This all comes back to the question of “why?” Why are you doing what you’re doing? Are you doing it because a famous author tells you this is the way it’s supposed to be done or are you doing it because you honestly feel you’ve found the right path for you? That’s what it should all come down to.
It’s a completely new era. Things are falling apart and rearranging themselves, so it’s a scary time for everyone, writers to be and writers who are, published and want-to-be-published. So the best thing to do is pick a road that fits and walk it the best you can.