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.
For me, the most difficult part of a project isn’t the end but the beginning.
I’m lazy, by nature. So I see a long clear stretch before me where I can write anything I want now. It’s exhilarating and frightening at the same time. Do I start working on another companion book? I have almost half a story written out already, just there’s the whole question of, “Where is this story going and how does it get there?”, which still hangs over it, but it’s another short one that I can probably knock out in two months like I did with the most recent project.
Or do I start on the next novel which I already have plotted out with scenes on my mind? The problem here is that I can plot all I want, but once I get writing, I’m going to be a mess of disorganized scenes, and multiple notes to myself. I’ll have to break in a new notebook and drive myself nuts with the free writing about each character. I have three new ones to delve into deeply, new and untested ones too, which is different from the characters in Ruin who are all old characters I’ve been working on since forever.
OR do I try working on one of the random stories I have laying around my head, the ones I’ve partially written out or described in detail?
See my dilemma? I am standing at an intersection, and I need to pick a direction. Once I have a direction, things fall into place. None of the directions I have to choose from are bad, and once I pick a direction, I can always continue working on one of the other projects on the side. (That is sort of my plan at the moment.)
But when I start a project, I become completely consumed. I think about it all day, I write about it, I take notes on scraps of paper, my computer, even my phone. I can’t let go of it until I figure it out and unravel the puzzle of it and figure out how the story is meant to go. It’s an exercise in trusting myself and my subconscious, as well as an exercise for my brain. It’s a balancing act for me. I can’t have too much of one or the other, but both in perfect harmony. I guess I’m technically a pantser, but really I’m a -whatever-gets-the-job-done kind of girl.
What do you do at the end of a project and the start of a new one?
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.