Picking Their Brains: Matt Gilbert on Cover Design

Continuing the advice topic of book cover design, let's hear from Matt Gilbert, author of the Eye of the Lion Saga...

As a video game programmer, I have a lot of contact with artists. I was able to locate someone by consulting with colleagues, but if you don't have that option, deviantart.com is a great place to look. There are forums where you can post looking for artists to commission, and they have examples of their work online.
A huge thing to consider up front is to make sure your artist is the sort of artist you want. Yes, that's right, there are lots of different kinds, and they are better at some things than others. One guy may be a whiz at 3d modeling, another may be jam up at painting and 2d, etc. It pays to understand that. If you are not sure, find a book cover you want yours to resemble and ask your artist if that's his thing. A pro will tell you if it's outside his skillset and recommend you to someone else, or be able to show you a portfolio that backs up his claims.

If you have a vision you want to see realized, words are good, but pictures are better. To get the right look for my Xanthians and Nihlosians, I did a lot of description, a lot of 'this is how they feel', snippets of description from the books. I also did a lot of google image search to say, "Like this guy in this movie, only sort of like this other guy in this other movie."

A good artist will work with you to compose the scene, and get you roughs to approve before real work begins.

Expect at least a few hundred for a good cover. You can keep that low if you allow the artist to use the cover in his portfolio, rather than demanding it be totally exclusive. Also, a lot of artists support indy art (including writing) in general, and will work with you on the price if they know you're an indy, so don't be shy about it.

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