Arpeggios of Art

I wanted to do some character art pieces for the Highsong series in order to promote it. I’m an artist myself, but I do not do my own book covers. (Those are done by my good friend Erika Baird.) It’s just a personal preference thing, and I love the covers Erika does. In my pursuit of traditional publishing, I’m hoping to do some illustrated YA. But there’s nothing like some art of your characters to bump things up a bit.

Writers tend to really, really forget that illustrators are amazing. I’m part of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books WRITERS!!!!!  and illustrators) and recently attended WIFYR (WRITING!!!! and illustrating for young Readers.) The illustrators tend to get left by the wayside, despite being storytellers, too. Visual storytellers. And the job of a good illustrator is to sell your book by making its cover look awesome.

If you are self-publishing, please take the time and the money to get a great artist. Don’t do it yourself if you have no background in illustration or commercial art. If you are a graphic designer and that’s all, you probably are not going to be able to pull off a fantasy art cover with firebreathing dragons. (You might be good at setting the text, though.) As a self-publisher, the art for your book should be your biggest expense.

A few rules for dealing with artists:

  • Don’t insult them by offering pittance. They have bills to pay. And you get what you pay for.
  • Give the artist room to interpret. That’s their job. If you send them ten pages of description of what you want the cover to look like, that’s really annoying and insulting, AND is overstepping your boundaries. They’re the artist, remember? It’s their job to interpret in their own unique style!
  • Choose an artist based on their style. Don’t ask a fine-art painter to try and give you an anime comic kind-of cover. You’re asking for disappointment and a frustrated artist.
  • Be professional when you approach an artist. Query them the same way you would an agent. Ask them their fee, but also let them know what your budget is. If the answer is no, move onto the next artist you had in mind.

I can hear people saying “Well, don’t you ask Erika for all sorts of stuff?” I don’t, actually. She’s an awesome artist and I know it. All I do is suggest a subject matter and ask her for a color scheme. She reads my manuscripts, so she knows what’s going on in the story. And what she chooses to do is always great and a pleasant surprise. Highsong‘s cover was a gift from her, but when it came time to do Risen I asked for a blue color scheme. My third book is Ninth (which is in rewrites at the moment), but I’ve already put in a request for a black and red scheme. I look forward to what she comes up with!



About coyoteclockwork

I am 29 and living on the outskirts of the North Austin, TX area. I'm an illustrator and a writer of YA fantasy. I'm also an avid video gamer and have a lot of background in good-old tabletop RPG, when I'm not editing manuscripts for myself or part of my writing group at the Austin SCBWI.
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