*Note* All images, with the exception of my poorly drawn pencil sketch, come from the artist I am currently working with – Michail Mamaschew. The images are owned and copyrighted by him. You can view his artwork, bio, and contact information here (DeviantArt), here (his webpage), and here (ArtStation).
A couple of days ago, I posted about my research into book cover art and my fruitless hunt for an artist (here). As fortune would have it, I just landed a cover artist. We had been playing email tag for a bit, sorting the details, and getting a feel for each others legitimacy. This is an important first step, and something I will talk about in a minute. Once we felt we were a fit, I prepared the contract (also important), sent it out, and now we are off to the races.
It should be noted that it took me about 10+ failed attempts to land an artist. I thought today I would share why I had such trouble, how to avoid these problems, how I found a creative solution to relay my vision, and give some shout-outs to my new artist/co-conspirator.
First, take a look at the image below. This is what would happen if I created the cover art myself. No, my baby boy Thor didn’t draw this. It is, in fact, a Corey original. I thought it would be nice to post the before and see what happens when Michail takes a swing at it.
It’s pretty obvious looking at this crudely crafted drawing as to why I needed a cover artist. No matter how crude, it was an important first step. Deciding what the cover should feature.
I chose this scene because the location is central to my story, it features my books protagonist, Drake Nelson, and also contains some other important details. These details are not readily visible in this amateur version, but I will make it clearer in a minute or so.
My first step was to research cover art in my genre and cover art in general. Again, this post talks about that process. I did a lot of, “post apocalyptic,” “wasteland,” “apocalypse,” “nuclear fallout,” internet image searches. If I could trace art I liked back to the artist, I contacted them. I then went to websites like, Deviantart, Freelancer, Artnet, and Artists&Clients to name a few.
The more I searched, the more I began noticing certain styles of artwork appealed to me. Largely because these styles of art reflected my feelings about the book I was writing. Darker painterly styles appealed to me. Once I isolated a style, I began contacting artists.
This is the next thing to consider. When looking at an artist portfolio, look for examples of cover art, or a resume saying they know how to format for cover art. The first few artists I contacted, while they had undeniably beautiful artwork, weren’t sure how to do what I was asking for, didn’t know anything about formatting for cover art (digital cover vs. print cover), or the language barrier prevented effective communication.
This should be obvious, but the language barrier is a legitimate issue. An artist is going to be taking your words and converting them into art. If you can’t effectively communicate those words, you are destined for failure.
My initial mistake was falling in love with artwork and artists, then playing email tag with artists who wrote in very broken English. This led to frustration on both ends. I don’t say this to be cruel, but when email is your only means of communication, and basis for the art to be created, it needs to be clear on both ends in this context.
Contracts. These killed the next few contestants in the cover art game. If the artist isn’t willing to sign a contract, you shouldn’t be willing to pay them. You need to protect your investment. Worse, the artist could use copyrighted material, and if you don’t have a contract to protect yourself it will be on your head when the real content owner comes knocking. Or absolutely worse case scenario, you publish, the book does well, then the artist claims he/she owns the rights to the cover and demands additional compensation.
With all this being said, I am now working with Michail Mamaschew. Like I mentioned in the intro, he created all the art you see in this blog today. When we first started emailing back and forth the scope of his questions, professionalism, portfolio, and obvious knowledge all gave me that warm fuzzy feeling. Also, his dark painterly style absolutely captivated me.
Then the real challenge came. Aligning our visions. How do I take the horrible pencil sketch I made and allow that to make sense to an artist? I could provide a chapter from my book that describes the scene (again, a contract will protect any emailed story material from being released to a third party, so don’t send a chapter until the contract is signed). I could offer some photographs. Or I could write a giant email. I did all of these things, but I also created a Prezi. A Prezi is simply a wiz-bang version of a PowerPoint if you are unfamiliar. It’s a free program and they have free classes on the website (and you can check Youtube) on how to use it.
This is what I came up with. That link will take you to the Prezi I made to sort out some of those creative details. You can make it full screen and use the arrows at the bottom to navigate forward and backward, or use the arrows on your keyboard.
Hopefully you found some useful information regarding finding, selecting, and communicating with a cover artist here today. Regardless, I was very excited to share progress on this front. I will keep you all up-to-date with incoming concept art and progress on what is being generated for Wastelander.
Do you have cover artists you’ve worked with in the past that was stellar? Have you had bad experiences? Are you still sorting out the process? I’d love to hear from you all about it. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!