This is a topic I have sadly overlooked so far in these blogs but, not only is it important to encouraging sales, it can be fun too. You’ve probably heard the old saying ‘The first bite is with the eyes,’ well that applies to just about everything (not just food) and books are no different.
Self Publishing, of course, allows you total creative control over your covers and, whilst that’s another job it does let you look around to find exactly what you want. I’ve come across self-published books with amazing covers and some with rather questionable ones.
I was lucky enough to have been working on a project with Isolation Games while I was looking for a cover for my first book. Although I’d investigated several services online (one Facebook service I stumbled across was asking a lot of money for a frankly underwhelming product) I hadn’t come to a decision when I saw the proposed artwork for Age of Steel. That was when I was introduced to ArtStation and Omercan Cirit who has done all the artwork linked to the Camelot 2050 Trilogy.
ArtStation is an invaluable resource for self publishers. It’s an online gallery of artists portfolio’s (as well as job listings for Artists). Here you’ll find artists who work in a variety of mediums on canvas and screen and every style you could hope to find from comic the hyper-realistic. The artists themselves rank from the casual hobbyist to concept artists from the film and gaming industry. Via ArtStation you can contact the artist who catch your eye and ask if they’ll do commission work. The important part of this, as much as getting a quality product that fits your requirements, is to have a binding agreement with your artist. You’ll be making a profit based on their work as the cover art is the first thing that will draw a reader to your book. An upfront payment for the piece and making sure the artist is credited (either on the cover or within the book) should secure you the rights to use the work.
Another important thing is to find an artist you can work with. Omercan and I conversed quite regularly about what was going on in the piece. After I sent the brief (including dimensions, that’s very important) Omercan came back to me with several layout options, silhouette’s to set the position of the important aspects of the cover image and we went from there. Now I can’t say that that’s how every artist works, artists being as unique in their processes as writers, but it was a good fit for me.
More things to consider at this point are how you’re going to layout the cover. Is the image going to be a band between colour blocks on which you’ll place the title and blurb or are you intending to impose those in the image. If that’s the case you need to make sure that nothing too integral to the image is happening in those areas you intend to put things.
Of course, the Artwork you receive doesn’t have to be restricted to the covers of your books. I use Omercan’s art as standing banners to draw people to my tables at conventions, the pieces he does are incredibly hi-res and blow up to large sizes with no loss in quality. I also use the images on my business cards which makes them stand apart too.
In preparation for Worldcon I asked Omercan to produce a piece showing my main cast in a more candid style and a campaign setting. This was for a promotional postcard for the collected sets I’d arranged. Ultimately I credit Omercan for 90% of people who approach my table at conventions (some of them know me already) and a fair percentage of my online sales too. They wouldn’t read the blurb if their eye’s weren’t caught by the art.
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