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 testing things out all over the place. I’ve been on DeviantArt since forever, somewhat participating, but mostly not because writing and literature aren’t totally supported there. They are, kinda, but the community is much smaller than the visual arts community, so I always figured why not just go where other writers are and do a full on blog? (Besides, who on DA wants to hear my thoughts and whines on writing?)
So somewhat recently (okay, maybe like a few months ago), I started a DA just for my writing. The thing was that the cover artist wanted to post up the art she did, and I didn’t want to hold her up until the novel was released. I did push up the release date of the book, but ultimately, I decided I would start a DA account and put my links up so that once she posted the art, I could easily go, “Here I am!” and show off a few passages too as samples.
So far, I do get a steady stream of traffic from DA, though I only have two followers (who are both really awesome people). It’s not a lot of traffic, but it is something, and I’ve gotten a few likes on the Facebook page from people who came over from DA. (Literally a few, meaning like three, but hey, the book isn’t even out yet.)
The other thing I’m trying is Tumblr. I admit it it, I’ve been one of those people who don’t get it and then feel old and unadaptable because I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But then a good friend showed me this site called Pinterest and it clicked. I can use Tumblr as a way to pin things that inspire and interest me. These are things I come across daily, that I usually squirrel away in Evernote and never think on again. If I’m going to be clipping these things, I might as well put them up as a mash up of the things that inspire me and inspire the story. As I see it, it’s another way to get to know the story, or at least the crazy things that inspire this writer to write the story.
There is one problem with this, but the pros outweigh the cons. Social media right now is coming across to me as a lot of people shouting out all at once and hoping that someone hears and engages them in a conversation. I’m guilty of it, and I like it sometimes. Sometimes you do need that release. But it just seems that it gets abused a lot too. I utilize lists so that I can organize everyone based on what level of endurance I find myself facing that day. If I can’t take being shouted at on a particular day, I will skip that column.
I don’t dislike twitter. I actually really love it. The first column I check is always my friends from my quiet account. I love reading what they have to say. It’s just the larger account especially for writing that can give me a headache.
Anyway, I thought I’d share some thoughts on my various experiments. I have the Tumblr account set to update everyday this week. (And twice on Tuesday for some reason. Tuesday which makes me think of burgers… Mmmm burgers.)
I believe the key to everything is to do what interests you, not what you think you should do just for marketing. None of these experiments are purely marketing experiments. These are things that I am honestly interested in.