Marketing Mondays: Custom Book Covers for Self-publishers

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This week I’m going to do something a little different and fun. I have used digital illustrators for all my covers that are out so far. Four of them were with James Ledger Concepts and the first book was with Alex Tooth, who created the Junco character from scratch.

I figured many authors might be thinking about going with a digital illustrator, especially if you’re in fantasy or SF, because this is pretty standard for these genres, and maybe you’re not sure what to expect.

So I’m going to show you how each of my covers came to be. It all starts with an artist. I found both Alex and James on DeviantArt. I was searching galleries when I stumbled upon Alex and his profile said he was accepting consignments at the time, so I sent him an inquiry and told him my budget. He agreed, and well, that’s how the first cover was born. I wanted to use him for the others, but he was changing direction in his art and wasn’t interested in doing any more. 🙂 You can see his gallery here.

Alex knew I wanted a girl, but he needed some more details so I sent a profile of Junco and some suggestions for poses. He sent me a full on composite of different poses and let me choose which one I wanted. There were nineteen to choose from! It was pretty cool.

After that he worked on it and sent me updates and asked questions every now and then. But generally he did his thing and then sent me the finished cover. Which I loved then and still love now. This image below shows the process from sketch to finished product. The three on the bottom left were asking me about a color scheme. I chose the bright one on the left and that’s pretty much what he did. He sent a lot more updates than I’m showing here, but this is the big picture.

For the second cover I used James. I found James after putting an ad over in the DeviantArt forums. Hint: if you post your maximum budget you’ll get a lot of interested parties, but beware, not all of them will be even close to what you’re looking for. I got about a hundred responses and I only contacted four of them in total. I chose James because he’s just amazing. My budget for all the covers with James (and Alex as well, actually) were $500 each.

For Fledge, I first wanted Junco with wings, but after talking about it, James and I decided to make it about Lucan instead. And in those image you can see the photograph of “Lucan” and what James turned him into. I love this cover and I love that Lucan. He’s perfect.

James said he was still willing to work with me after that cover (he’s very patient like that) and so we went forward with the third cover for Flight. For this one, I gave him a scenario and he made this whole scene up. I wanted more fire in the end, so I ended up paying a little extra for the explosion, but it was worth it. This cover came in at $580.

You can really see the development of the concept in this series. He was right on target the entire time. My favorite thing about this cover is the letters on the floor, the body armor on the people, and the fire and the blood on the bike. Actually, I love all of it.

James is a compulsive updater – when he’s working on your project he updates you. His customer service is beyond excellent. So I have a LOT more updates for these two covers than what it shows here.

By the time we got to the fourth cover I just gave him a photo of the Junco I wanted, and told him a city. That was it at first, and then I changed the city to Vegas, and he filled it in like the way you see it here. By the time James and I were working on this cover, we knew each other pretty well. I’d ask for something, he’d say no, I’d say OK. I asked for a lot of stuff and I’m sure he was like, oh god, she’s got another idea. My favorite part of Range is the reflections on the street – I just love that. And the Junco girl. When I made this cover I turned the vibrance up a little to match the orange lettering and give it a little more contrast with the green.

When The Magpie Bridge came up, after some suggestions, I pretty much just let him do his thing. He knows what he can do, he has an idea of what I want, I should just shut up and let him get on with it. 🙂 He told me no on a bunch of stuff and I’m glad, because what he did was a lot better than what I imagined.

Magpie is my favorite cover – I love everything about it. But Range is pretty cool too – I got a lot of compliments on that cover during the reveal last week. Since Magpie was mostly a photo-manipulation and not a custom illustration like the rest, it was half the price.

Well, that’s pretty much how it happens when you hire a digital illustrator for your cover. I hope this was helpful and if you’re looking for an illustrator for a SF novel, give James a holler.

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