More covers

If When I finish my book, I’m going to get a cover specifically drawn for the cover. Now, I don’t have access to a stable of artists, nor do I have a contact list. Nor am I flush with money. So how do I intend to do this?

The book will initially go out as a 99 center with a place-holder cover. Basically it’ll be a solid color title, probably an off-white or pearl gray, with just the title and author. I expect to replace it within 30 days.

Both within the book and on various artists’ social networks (artween, deviantart, and others) I’ll place a want ad, of sorts within the book, on various artists’ social networks (artween, deviantart, and others), and possibly places like craigslist. I’ll offer a small competition. The winner — the accepted artwork — will be paid a percentage of sales. The ad (everywhere but the book) will point to the book and will note that when the cover art is brought in the sales price will increase to [price]. Details at [website].

Notice that there are a couple of birds being hit by this stone. Because I really want to talk about the art selection process I’m going to use my inevitable digression to point out the second bird: marketing. Look, the best advertising you’ve got for your book is for people to like it. Unfortunately and especially for beginning writers there’s a catch 22 going on: People have to find your book to recommend it, but people only tend to get what’s recommended. Chicken, meet egg. The whole purpose of marketing and advertising is to jumpstart that cycle, because once it’s started it tends to grow (provided your work is worth sharing, but that’s something you can control.)

I’m giving the artists reason to read my book, and I’m using a sales hook to do so. The sales hook is that it’s on sale right now, and in the very near future will go up to 3.99 or 4.99. (Probably the latter, for reasons I will probably discuss in another post). So “right now, pay 20%, and maybe get money back.”

What’s on the page is what I need, how to submit, and what the selected artist’s work gets for the artist.

The website will state that all submissions are to be as thumbnails sent to an email address that can cope with images. It will list my requirements for name and title (both predominate and legible) as part of the cover, either put in by the artist or added later by me. It will give a sample copyright statement and sample artist recognition. That is, the artist will be recognized as making the cover, with brief bio and ‘how to contact’.

There will be two sets of terms of agreement, both of which will be run by an attorney ‘just in case’. Agreement one is for the submission and will say that I have no right to sale or use of any of the thumbnails beyond using them to select cover artwork for this or later books, and if selected the other terms of agreement come into play. The selected work agreement is that I may use the art for this book in any and all formats, and that I will pay the artist 5% of the gross I receive for the sale of any book using this artwork. Oh, one more thing. If it turns out the artist violated someone’s copyright he or she will be fully liable for legal consequences — I’ll drop the picture immediately from all further covers.

Another digression — yes, I’m going to offer a share of sales. It’s a personal sense of ‘right’ that drives me here. I think creativity deserves not mere reward but encouragement. A pleasant bonus for the artist is that the work will be seen by a broader audience: the book browsers who at least think of selecting my book. I’ve read more than a few pros who think the sale should be a flat price. I’m driven by secondary issues and think my way has a better chance of getting inspiration over ‘just another job’.

So I get the artwork — the dozens if not hundreds (and goo forbid the thousands) of thumbnails (and the more than occasional full size work) from which I get to select a lucky winner. At that point I start the joy of selection.

I will attempt to reduce the total to about 24 possibles, and send a ‘thank you for applying but I’m not using yours’ email to everyone removed at that point. I’ll take those 24 and request “full” size covers (art sized for a 6×9 cover). When I get them I’ll print them out, run them by a couple of people for their comments/recommendations, and select based on both their comments and my own reactions.

It is more work that “hey, please make a cover for me” followed by “ok, I need you to tweak your artwork”. It is a LOT more work than struggling through stock photos till I find one that looks good and paying the little fee.

I think the result will be worth it. I’ll have given a number of people reason to read my book, and I’ll have gotten the opportunity to see multiple artists’ interpretations of my book. That last not only gives me a great cover but it helps me know if the image I’m trying to project is seen by others. I’ve learned that seeing through others’ eyes strengthens my vision, I see no reason that won’t be true from this as well.

Now am I recommending this for everyone? well, maybe. I think it’ll work. I think it’ll increase the number of successful artists in the world, especially if we all do it. But it is a lot of work and there are a couple of decisions based on philosophies with which you might not agree. So in the end, it’s an idea I will be using that I invite you to use as well.

Have fun.


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