On Writing

Finding a Great Cover Artist for your Indie Book

The cover is one of the biggest selling points for any book. It is the trailer, the advertisement. It is what draws in the reader. It tells them what genre the book is at a glance and, whether we like it or not, it indicates the caliber of book that lies within. That is why traditional publishers often shell out thousands of dollars for the cover artwork and design.

Which is daunting when you are heading down the Indie path.

Yes, there are rare exceptions. Hugh Howey’s original Wool cover was low-quality. Andy Weir’s The Martian cover was just a stock image of Mars. But those are anomalies that overcame their cover’s deficiencies because the books inside were incredible. Don’t bank on that. They got lucky, and they will tell you that.

If you are looking at the people who are making a decent living at this indie publishing thing, you will immediately notice that they are willing to shell out some cash for a solid cover.

If you have any money at all to put upfront towards your book, I would recommend throwing it at your cover before anything else.

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Now, that doesn’t mean you have to blow $1000+ on a book designer. Don’t just Google “book cover designers” and pick the first one that pops up. It is probably over-priced. If you have that kind of money and want to throw it at your book upfront, go for it. But it is not necessary to spend that much.

What I have found, after spending hours upon hours looking for my own artist, is that there are amazing covers available for about $200-300 or so, if you look in the right places, and are willing to take your time.

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How to Find a Good Artist

 Like I said, I would avoid simply Googling. Go somewhere where people are talking about cover art specifically for Indies, and even more specifically, your genre.

  • Kboards is a great place to start. Cover designers advertise there, and you can get information from people in the forums who have already worked with these artists. Ask those authors about the experience, how much they paid, etc. Look at the covers that various artists created for those prices. Look at how well that book is selling on Amazon.
  • DeviantArt is a great place to find great artists, some established, some who are trying to get their foot in the door of the business. Search for covers in your genre, and contact the artists to find out their pricing. You will likely find some amazing artists for a good price.
  • Find top-selling Indie books on Amazon, and glance through their copywrite page at the front of the “Look-Inside” section. Most authors give credit to their artist there. Look up that artist and find out their pricing. That is how I found my artist. A guy I followed on Twitter released his book, and I absolutely loved the cover. I went to look for the artist, went to her website, looked her up on DeviantArt, emailed her, and ended up booking an original illustration for a low price for an entirely original cover (no stock photos).

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Working with an Artist

Once you’ve found an artist for the price you are willing to pay, and their schedule is open for your timeframe, the real work begins. I put together a very thorough artist’s brief about what I wanted, and my illustrator was grateful that I was specific about what I wanted. This is your cover. Communicate what you want it to look like.

  • Do yourself and the artist a favor, and do your research. Find comparable covers that match the tone or layout that you want for your own cover.
  • Have a character you want depicted? Be sure to include a physical description of that character. Find models or photographs that match how you imagine they look. Consider things like stance, facial expression, clothing, skin tone, etc.
  • Find images or illustrations that capture the setting in a comparable way, whether specific features or a general mood.
  • Is there a scene you want depicted? Or a description that captures your character or setting well? Include that excerpt from your book. It may add some helpful context and even provide inspiration.

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A Few Things the Artist Definitely Should Do for You

  • They should give several stages for revisions once the design process has begun. Find someone who wants the end-product to be what you want.
  • All payment should not occur until you are happy with the finished product. Generally, a good artist will ask you to pay about half upfront, and the other half once the cover is finished.
  • The artist should have experience with your genre. Don’t hire an artist who specializes in Romance covers, if you are publishing a Space Opera, etc.

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Best of luck as you search out your own cover artist. If you are willing to put in the work, and a little money, you can have a high-quality cover that will help you sell many copies of your book.

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