Friday, April 8, 2011

Interview with a Cover girl, er, Artist

It seems that more and more writers are jumping into self-publishing every day.  Whether you’re a multi-published author who wants to see that one story (you know the one everyone loved but the editors didn’t know how to sell?) or a writer with a series that’s too short, or an epic too long for traditional publishing - aside from the manuscript, you’ll all have to have one thing...

A cover.

So I've asked Laura Morrigan to come by today and the answer some questions on cover art design. Welcome, Laura!

L: Hi Martie, thanks for having me!

M: What should authors know before hiring a cover artist?  What should we look for?

L:  Experience working in the fiction genre and good communication skills!  Also, in my opinion, your cover artist should be willing to work with you-- not only on the concept and design of the single novel, but (possibly) integrating this “look” with your blog or website etc…  If you have a kickin’ website design that you love and fits perfectly with the types of novels you write, it would be silly not to consider that.
Also, authors should understand that, although the designer works for them, there is a level of trust that must be established.  I've had plenty of writers come to me with ideas for their cover that would have been impossible to pull off without the help of George Lucas and an entire film crew.  A cover should be a snapshot, not an epic.  Trust your artist.  Be open-minded and willing to listen.  Your artist should do the same for you.

M:  So how do I express to an artist what I'm looking for in a design without going overboard? I have pictures galore!

L:   By all means go overboard!  The more I know about the book the better.  Just be ready to trim the fat.  And send pictures!  I love it when a client has photos they used for inspiration.  If your hero looks like a cross between George Clooney and Tarzan send me pics! (I can never have enough photos of George Clooney anyway…)  Also, if other book covers or movie posters resonate with you and have the right “feel” send those, too.
And remember to explain why those images work.  Is it the colors?  The overall  tone?  The font?   George Clooney?   [M: My preference is Joe Lara, TV’s Tarzan and the Last Apache.]

M:  What should authors expect when working with a cover artist?

L:  Everyone works differently-- I can only speak for myself.  I believe designing a cover is a collaboration between artist and author.  I ask for synopsis, sometimes a first chapter, and for the author to make a list of any items that play a vital role in the story and any major, visually impactful moments that happen.   Once I’ve looked all this over and the author and I have come up with a basic idea, I'll design a mockup (sort of a rough draft of the cover).  Typically, I send several mockups for the author to review before we settle on the right one.

M:  What do you see as the biggest misconception authors have regarding cover artwork?

L:  That it’s quick and painless!  No, really, I’ve had a few friends who I've helped create their own covers tell me that they had no idea how long it was going to take.   Just searching for the right stock image can take hours-- even days.
Then there's the execution of the design.  Even if you’re working on great software like Photoshop—tweaking, repositioning, color matching, deleting backgrounds, adding different backgrounds… it all takes time.   At least it does if you want a quality cover!

M:  let's get to the nitty gritty, how much should an author expect to pay for a quality cover?

L:  Again, prices vary from artist to artist. A straightforward design for e-publishing  on Smashwords, kindle, nook, etc ( typically a 6x9ish rectangle) will be less expensive than a POD design which has to include the spine, back cover and calculate trim-size, bleed, etc...
For the straightforward design I'd say anywhere between $50- for a very simple image with title and name- up to several hundred for hand-illustrated work.  I charge $100 plus the cost of images- usually no more than $125.
POD from some can run between $150 to close to $1000 - or more.[M: Yeah, it’s great when the publisher is paying, isn’t it.]

M: Laura will be available in the morning and late to answer your questions or check back tomorrow.
This has been so informative, Laura. Thanks for dropping in.

Laura Morrigan spends most of her time writing mystery and suspense novels.  After receiving requests from friends, she started designing ebook covers and promotional material.  To see some of her designs and learn more about Laura, you can visit her website