Jon Grilz

Mystery and Thriller writer

Getting More Cover Art For Less

Deviant art. It's all about deviantart.com.

This site is a goldmine for anyone looking for artwork done whether it be for graphic novels, comic books, specialized art or cover art. The trick is knowing how to navigate the pitfalls. 

I've fallen into almost all of them, so I'll do what I can to help you save some time and frustration.

The beauty of DeviantArt is that not only can you view artist portfolios and find a style that you like, but you can also post jobs on their message board. These message boards are highly monitored by artists looking for work, so it doesn't take long to get responses to your job offer.

And now for the advice, a lot of which will probably invoke scowls from certain populations out there.

1- Set a specific price and deadline.

Artists, by their very nature, are a highly emotional lot that needs boundaries whether they admit to it or not. I've gone through more than a few issues with artists on previous projects that accepted the terms and promised results than just sort of faded away, saying that "something came up".

When I post a job, I usually bid pretty low. I don't have much money, I self-publish and don't have the benefit of advances or management to handle these sorts of connections. In doing so I actually found a great artist whom I have used for my last three book covers. He does incredible work and has a very quick turnaround. 

Maybe it's because he lives in Argentina, I have no idea. All I know is that I routinely pay him more than our original deal because he does both my ebook covers and my softcovers (which require more work due to spine and back cover formatting).

2- Take a stand

When I post a job I tell artists what I am looking for then ask them to send me a sample of what they can provide. I don't require full color, though I do note that full color samples are weighed heavier in my final decision. 

This is where I get the colorful language. I get artists posting that it is bulls*** that I would ask for samples because it is there job and I am asking them to work for free. Usually I just add that they can watermark their work to keep me from just stealing their samples.

To the extra surly ones I simply reply: f*** you.

I know it seems crass, but trust me, if you try to explain your situation, you will spend a lot of time doing a back and forth with a person that you probably aren't going to work with anyway because they started with an attitude. I've also found that these people tend to overestimate their worth. 

I had one artist say that for a book cover it would cost $500...um, try again.

3- Specify all your terms

Tell them exactly what you want, how much you will pay and when you need the artwork by. Also make sure that they know the project will just be for an ebook, or just a softcover or both. Also note that once the art has been done, you are the owner and the artist no longer has property rights. I prefer printing out a simple contract you can Google. It is a business transaction, treat it like one.

If you just need a .pdf or .jpeg for your ebook cover, then tell the artist that. If you are going to need a softcover created, make sure you have researched what dimensions you will need. I will go over this a little more when I write about Createspace.com as a publishing medium. Go into this knowing what you need and make sure you find an artist that can do the different formats. 

4- Stand your ground

You know what you want. You know how you want it. You know when you want it by. You know how much you are willing to pay. These are all non-negotiable. Do not let anyone convince you of anything else. If you can't find an artist that can comply to these terms, do not use them. 

 

There are a lot of difficult things about writing and publishing a book, but the artwork should not be one of them. Take advantage of the deep talent pool of artists out there looking for work to take some of the pain out of the experience. But don't rush it too much, finding an artist that does quality work can turn into a long business relationship.

Thanks to my current artist, Christian, cover art is the one thing that I know I will never have to worry about when I am ready to publish a new book.

Good luck.