Today, I’m proud to present Ethan Kincaid. My first meeting with Ethan’s writing was when he joined our writing group, St-Norbert’s Writer’s Circle. He presented the first chapter of his novel, and the first comment he got was: This is the most publishable material we’ve looked at yet. A mere year later, he’s getting ready to publish the full thing himself. Keep your eyes open for Blood of Midnight: The Broken Prophecy. I’m happy to be one of the first to recommend it.
So, you need to commission novel cover art for the first time? Don’t panic. There is a great wealth of artists at your fingertips right now. Before you get on Google, let me suggest something: don’t go with a hugely famous artist.
You want a professional and you can have one. What I recommend is not taking the first five search results as your ideal candidates. If you frequent art sites like DeviantART or Elfwood, for example, you already have favourite artists. You like them because their art speaks to you. While an artist of greater renown may have a huge, impressive profile, how do you know they will give your work the “face” that fits your vision? You’re about to shell out some serious cash here. $500 to $2000, paying half up front, is pretty standard. Think about it.
Artists have egos, some easier to deal with than others. With all the prospective publishers, agents, and editors you have to flatter, you don’t need one more person to coddle. Lesser-known artists are more likely to be approachable, affordable, available, and flexible. The quality of their art is often the same or better than the big players.
I’m negotiating with some artists I’ve admired for years. Let me tell you, it’s an incredible feeling of excitement. Enjoy that! Also, take pride in giving money to an artist who really needs it. You may have noticed that it’s tough making a living on art. You can make your favourite artist’s life easier by giving them your business.
Got some artists in mind? See if they take commissions and what their policies, availability, and pricing are like. Send inquiries to at least three artists. If they’re available for commission, send a brief idea of what you will need on the cover. The artist will probably give you a price estimate at this point, based on the difficulty of the work.
They might offer to do a rough sketch of their idea, especially if their portfolio is smaller than some of the big-name artists. They might do this for free, or not. Remember, you’re paying for their time. If you ask for a sketch, be prepared to pay for it. They will usually have prices posted on their webpage for sketches. Budget for it. They might not want to do a sketch for you before you pay half of the commission fee. Sadly, this is because sometimes an artist will get cheated by a client taking their sketch and getting someone else to realize the art for cheaper. Be sensitive to the artist’s needs.
That said, if the artist is impatient with you, doesn’t take the time to answer your questions, frequently misunderstands what you say even though you’ve been pretty articulate, or you just have a feeling that they’re not very good at working with newbie authors, don’t make a contract with them. Whether it’s a simple communication problem or a prima donna attitude, you do not need the extra stress. An artist that will work with you to realize your dream is worth far more than a famous name.