In both visual art and writing, some things just turn out better than others. When hiring an artist to do a book cover, you can get any range of quality and can be either disappointed or extremely pleased with the results. After working as a professional artist for the past 4 years and having designed over 200 book covers, I have learned a bit about what kind of clients, emails, and descriptions get the best work out of me. I can’t say what works for all artists, but there are certain things that clients can do to get my best work.
Be excited about your own book. Pride in your work is highly contagious and when my clients are excited about what they are doing, it makes me want to do my best for them. It becomes more than just a job when you show love for your own work. As an artist, I completely understand it and it becomes a joy to work with you!
Don’t be too specific. A lot of authors believe that the cover artwork needs to be 100% faithful to the book. While it is really exciting to see a scene you wrote depicted precisely on the cover, most of your readers don’t care or won’t notice. The purpose of the cover is first and foremost to draw potential readers to your book. On Amazon, this becomes difficult because the cover is displayed as a tiny image on most pages. Bogging down your artist with too many specifics from the story will distract them from making an interesting and attention-grabbing composition.
Talk about the ‘feel’ of the book. Instead of specific details, get the mood of the book across to the artist. We are making a visual representation of the book, and the best way to do so isn’t using details but feelings. Use lots of adjectives describing the book. Words like dark, bright, ominous, dreary, creepy, evil, happy, mystical, etc. Are a great way of getting the point across.
Build a relationship. I like to talk to my clients whenever possible via Skype or phone calls, especially for the initial introduction. This might just be me since a lot of artists (and writers) are very shy, but I have found that it is great to get to know my clients and it makes me feel part of the project. It is also a great way to explain your book to the artist in a way that an email does not.
Reply positively to updates. Even if you aren’t happy with the work, say so in a positive way and mention anything good about the work. You can ask for a completely new sketch or not have liked any of the changes made, but if you are positive about it and make the artist feel good about themselves, you will keep up their morale and get better work.
Don’t ask for too many changes. I know that you will think of many ways to make the art better and sometimes you may be completely right. Consider that every change you request makes the artist lose creativity and passion for the piece. There are exceptions of course and sometimes changes are needed and will even inspire the artist, the point is to pick your battles wisely because the morale of the artist may go down. Keeping the artist excited about the image will keep them fresh and inspired right up until the final details.