Probably the most fun part of doing any creative project is seeing your writing come to life via artwork. Those who seek to self-publish need a great cover, and who better than to turn to talented artists? However, working with artists can be more challenging than anticipated, and learning how to work with an artist can take some practice.
I’m no Picasso myself, however, I do create political cartoons for my local newspaper and create parody non-profit culture comics. I’ve had my fair share of dealing with newspaper publishers who don’t understand how much time some changes take and don’t charge properly for the time.
As of May 26th, 2018 I’ve been working with Artist and Illustrator Sam Dutter for my upcoming epic fantasy book The Hymns of Creation. While it’s not my first time collaborating with an artist
1. It’s a Business Relationship
While writers and artists share the same goals of making cool stuff, sometimes we’re tempted to think that the artists have the same goal.
Artists are not paid to read your book. Normally, a publishing house will have an art director in charge of commissioning cover art, but if you’re Indie then you’re the art director of your project. If you strike gold with an artist who loves your work AND wants to work with you on super customized artwork then that’s awesome! But don’t send them your entire manuscript and expect them to make something up.
2. Prepare Your Materials
If you’ve ever worked on a group project before you know that it’s a two-way street. If everyone doesn’t provide the materials needed one person ends up doing all of the work. All artists work in different ways, but they can’t read your mind.
Some materials to prepare:
- A contract
- References, including links to book covers and stock photos you envision
- Book summary
- Character descriptions
3. Always Let them know what you’re using the artwork for!
Don’t pull a Terry Goodkind and trash your artist on social media. That’s just bad manners!
Crowdfunding online is all about being social, which includes collaborating with your team members. Some artists may not want to be more involved, and that’s ok too. But if they do, then it’s a great way to mutually benefit each other via exposure after the initial payments go through.
- Many Millennial artists spend years building up their social media presence. If you plan on using any part of the artwork for social media promotion be sure to let them know–they can help you resize artwork for social media.
- Ask your artist to resize part of your cover for your Patreon page
- Be sure to thank your artist on Patreon and, if they also have a Patreon page, be sure to link back to it.
4. Don’t Be Cheap
We’re all on a budget. I know. I am too. As Indie writers we have to be careful about how we plan our budget, and for many writers, it doesn’t seem worth it to sink a lot of money into a customized cover.
Some books may not need customized artwork, and that’s OK!
When we watch artists livestream their artwork it’s easy to think, “well, that sketch took them five minutes! They shouldn’t charge that much!” Remember that many artists may have spent five years studying to be able to do a concept sketch in five minutes.
- Respect the prices they quote you. If you ask for more than your contract states don’t be surprised if they charge you for the service.
- Their art equipment, especially for digital artwork, is expensive.
- If money is an issue get quotes from several potential artists.
5. Have Fun!
Ultimately both the artist and the writer want to have fun–after all, seeing the cover makes your book seem real.
Up next: Running a Campaign