I was a closet sci-fi and fantasy writer for over twenty years. I stopped submitting stories in my twenties. The rejections were just too painful. But as the years went by, I couldn’t stop writing and I felt I was too old to care about rejections.
So my success in getting my first novel published caught me by surprise. It’s nice to have a publisher, who hires a cover artist and, if you’re lucky, seeks your approval of the cover. What do you do if you decide to self-publish and your book needs a cover?
My learning experience went something like this: my first book’s publisher asked me for a few sample cover ideas and sample back cover text. The cover that was created was lovely. The next book I published in the series was with a different small press, who asked me if there was a cover artist I’d like to work with.
At that point, I had been going to sci-fi conventions regularly. That helped me network, and a friend graciously sent out an email to three cover artists they knew, one of whom was available. The process at that point was similar. I provided several cover ideas, back cover text, and my book ended up with what I considered to be an excellent cover. The problem was, the looks were dissimilar. In other words, I didn’t feel they “branded” well. I next self-published the next two books in the same series, using the same artist and now had three novels with covers of a similar style. At that point, the sales of the series shot up and it happened to be when my contract was coming up for renewal with my first publisher.
As part of the renewal agreement, I negotiated for my cover artist to re-envision my first cover for the second printing. The publisher and I have been very pleased with the result, which effectively brands the entire series.
Now, I’ve launched a new series, which I was looking to have a signature look. So, I was interested in finding another artist. I tried the networking approach, but the search was not bearing fruit. That’s when I did an online search and checked out 99Designs (an online cover art service). They offer a contest approach. I thought that’s what I was going to do until I spoke with someone who had done a contest for a logo through 99Designs. That contest took up a week of my friend’s life. So, I checked out elance.com, which is now Upwork.com.
I was very specific about my project’s requirements, including my vision for the cover, who my intended market was, text for my cover, back cover text, etc. I posted my cover art project and let people bid. I could check out their portfolios or websites for examples of their work. I had four or five artists who looked like they might be a match.
I selected a European artist, whose price was in keeping with what I have been paying for my covers and her website portfolio was, well, spectacular. Her portfolio offered solid fantasy elements, which was important for my urban fantasy cover. I also was looking for someone who had a good command of English, since I wanted to prevent any misunderstandings about my project. Payment through the site is generally done through an escrow approach. The site takes a cut as the broker (Elance took 9%, Upwork offered to maintain that deal for those who transferred as part of the Elance takeover). Those seeking to freelance often also offer hourly rates for work, too. The site’s service offerings are broad, ranging beyond graphic arts and website design to bookkeeping and other freelance services.
I recently completed the process and I have received just the cover I was hoping for.
The process took a lot of give and take. I also showed the cover to members of my author group on Facebook to get their input and advice. I sought advice from colleagues at work, who told me what they liked and didn’t like, too, which the artist was more than happy to correct. Additionally, when I was trying to figure if the book would look better with the title at the bottom rather than the top, I went to Amazon and checked out other books in the genre to she which look I liked best.
The paperback cover took over a week to get “just right.” But my cover artist showed she’s a professional. I gave her latitude to show me options of what she thought could make the cover better. The point is to get readers to gravitate to my book. I hope they will… and I know that covers and books also change over time, so if it doesn’t “work,” one day I can change it for another edition.
I have spoken with authors over the last few years who have spent more than what I typically spend for cover art. Then again, I know authors who spend far less, cropping photos to create a great and inexpensive cover. Just know, if and when you need a cover artist, there are truly talented people all over the world who will love working with you to bring your book through their art to life.
Seeing my characters there on the cover, that glimpse into my story on an entirely different level is difficult for me to describe. The book, which I will all too soon hold in my hands, featuring those characters who are like family, will hopefully, just hopefully, invite readers who will soon become their friends, too.
D. H. Aire has walked the ramparts of the Old City of Jerusalem and through an escape tunnel of a Crusader fortress that Richard the Lionheart once called home. He’s toured archeological sites that were hundreds, if not thousands of years old… experiences that have found expression in his epic fantasy series with a science fiction twist, Highmage’s Plight and new Hands of the Highmage Series. The seventh and concluding book of his Highmage’s Plight Series, Paradox Lost is being released in 2017.
An Author of eleven fantasy and science fiction novels, including those in the urban fantasy Dare 2 Believe Series and the space opera Terran Catalyst Series, Aire’s short stories appear in a number of anthologies, including in Street Magick: Tales of Urban Fantasy. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Aire resides in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
This article originally appeared at dare2believe.