Monday, May 23, 2011

My Cover Art Process

People have been asking me about the process of getting an eBook cover designed.

For example, everyone wants to know if the artist has to read the entire book to design a cover (the answer is no, in my case).

So I thought I’d explain here what the process was for my eBook, Listening to Ian Magick.

First I had to find an artist. I found two among my Twitter followers: Artist Z and Heidi Sutherlin. I arbitrarily started with the one geographically closest, which was Artist Z.

There was a telephone number at Artist Z’s Web site, so I phoned. During a very brief conversation, it became clear that, alas, we had no rapport at all. For instance, Artist Z was very impatient with my inexperience in working with artists and with my ignorance of cover-art processes and terminology.

So I bailed.

The next day I contacted Heidi Sutherlin via her Web site, My Creative Pursuits.
Heidi Sutherlin

Heidi sent me an email with four questions, as follows:

1. What do you have in mind for your cover? 

2. What is your book about, descriptions of your main characters, setting, any particular point that stands out or that you feel defines your story. 

3. What do you like (in general)? 

4. What do you dislike (in general)? 

*For 3 and 4, this question is vague and applies to anything you like or that annoys you - color, music, people on the subway standing too closely, etc. It gives me a clear picture of your particular tastes and style. 

Feel free to add anything you feel will help us narrow in on the perfect cover for your story.

Wow. This was going to be hard!

In answer to question 1, I didn’t really have anything in mind. A friend had done a very nice mock-up for me, but I wasn’t locked in to that idea.

For question 2, I’m terrible at writing summaries (which is probably why my book has never clicked with an agent or a brick-and-mortar publisher!).

Questions 3 and 4 seemed impossibly broad and vague.

I puzzled over the questions, and finally sent back the following rather inarticulate response:

Hello Heidi:

The book is about a bad-boy-type rock star (Ian Magick) that a fan thinks is sending her messages through his music to kill people.

So something on the cover that suggests a rock star? (If you want to depict the actual rock star, mine has short blonde hair and looks rather like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Or you could show, like, headphones? Or concert tickets? I'm not an artist, so I don't know! It's a horror novel.

Also on the cover, my name and the title, Listening to Ian Magick, of course! Possibly the words "A Novel" as well?

To answer your questions:

1. What do you have in mind for your cover? 

I think I answered that one, above.

2. What is your book about, descriptions of your main characters, setting, any particular point that stands out or that you feel defines your story.

I think I answered that one, above, too. The protagonist is 18, thin, green eyes, pretty but not beautiful. She's been going through a rough time: her father died in a plane crash, she has relocated to a new school, she has lost her affluent lifestyle, she's a social misfit, she's sensitive and artistic. The setting is a small town called "Horrify" (the exact location of the town is not specified) in the summer. The story is defined by the fact that her life is awful and those around her (including family and authority figures) either are too preoccupied or too adversarial to take much interest in her. Because of all of this, she fills the void in her life by becoming fixated on (obsessed with) a "bad-boy" rock star. If I had to compare this book to another, I'd choose Steven King's Carrie (not that it's that good, but I think it has some of the same themes, including alienation and supernatural forces at work).

3. What do you like (in general)? 

I like things that are unusual and not mainstream. I like black, a Goth look. I wear it much, but I think it's cool on others. I like other languages and other cultures. I like history. I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer--especially, the first three seasons. I like rebels--people who aren't afraid to go against the system and to question the prevailing order. I like Scandinavian and Celtic myths and legends. I like fitness, but not if it means making a religion of it. I like chocolate.

4. What do you dislike (in general)? 

As far as art goes, I'm not sure. I don't want a guy with no shirt because this book is horror and not romance. I also don't want anything that looks too young-adult-y. I don't like gratuitous violence. Some of the covers for Brian Keene's books, such as A Gathering of Crows, are a little too violent for me--although I love his writing.

I know I'm not telling you much, but it's the best I can do.

On your Web site, my favorite cover is the one for Angel Eyes.

Hope this helps. 

Heidi came back with several terrific possibilities.

There was one that I really liked, a sort of blood-splattered guitar. The problem was that my title character didn’t play the guitar, so that one was out.

The other one I liked best needed just a bit of fine-tuning to really capture the book and the character. At the very end of the process Heidi added the dagger in the lettering for the title. This was perfect because there’s one episode in particular in the book that involves  a dagger.

So that was my book-cover process. I don’t know what other people’s processes are, and I’d be interested to know—so feel free to comment.

In conclusion,I highly recommend artist Heidi Sutherlin of My Creative Pursuits. She did a fabulous job of creating a compelling cover that captures the essence of my novel, which is to be released as a Kindle eBook on June 1. And she did it all quickly and at a reasonable price!

You can see Heidi's finished product in the blog post right below this one.


  1. You made this process super easy by knowing what you wanted, being open to the process and providing excellent feedback. It's the conversation between the author, the cover artist and the story itself that informs the final product and there is no wrong way to do that. Creating cover art doesn't have to hurt. Thanks for posting this fantastic breakdown.

  2. Thanks for the comment . . . and for the great cover! --Tamworth Grice

  3. I loved reading that. Thank you for documenting your experience. I will definitely check out her site to see if her style. I'm actually a bit of an artist/photoshop deviant myself so this strangely gave me hope that I could do my own cover art. I'm just worried about copyrights and highering models and that jazz!

  4. Hi Missy Biozarre:
    Glad you enjoyed it! I couldn't even draw a stick figure, so a cover artist was a must for me. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Haha, well you found a really affordable one! I was stoked when I saw her pricing.

  6. Hi again, Missy Biozarre:
    Me too. And more stoked when I saw what I got! She did the cover for my upcoming book, and I'll be posting that cover here on my blog very soon.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.