{For Authors} How to find an illustrator

Thursday, December 26, 2013
Recently, John Brown (Servant of a Dark God) interviewed me about finding an illustrator. Below are my answers (thanks for typing it up for me, John!):

Finding an artist:

  • Instead of looking on DeviantArt, Amber will look on Pinterest because this collects "the good stuff" for her. 
  • When she finds an artist there she likes, she will Google them to find out contact information. 
  • Then she'll contact with specific information about the project and ask for a bid. Some of the artists want payment in installments. 
  • If she agrees to the bid, she will write up a contract, and they begin the project. 
    • She's found that the artists outside the US are much cheaper 
 Directing the artist

  1. The key is to be very specific with the artist. This means you have to do your homework up front. 
  2. She goes out to Pinterest and stock photography sites and finds images that show what she wants for: 
  • Costume 
      • Example: she found the clothing in Witch Fall 
    • Background 
    • Color scheme (She uses color to make the image pop AND to convey the right mood)
      • Example: she found the turquoise and red on images on Pinterest that she thought popped 
      • she conveys the personality of characters as well -example: when she was explaining what she wanted for the fairies of Winter Queen, she described their personality, the types of wings she wanted, etc. Very specific.
    • Pose 
    • Models 
      • Example: she found the exact model she wanted the girl in Witch Fall to look like 
    • She will also think of the scene to illustrate 
      • If she doesn't have a photo, she describes in detail what she wants. -Example: with Witch Fall, she didn't have an image of the woman in the water, so described her there with arms and legs dangling behind her, the hair above her head, the side of her face. 
1. If ever anything bugs her, she brings it up immediately so it can be fixed.  She will collaborate.
    •  For example, with Witch Fall she wanted dragons but didn't know where to put them. The artist came up with the placement. The artist also said she thought the girl needed some plants around her. 
  •  The process can go back and forth many times 
    • There's a rough sketch 
    • Then various layers 
    • Then, because the file size is getting too large, they will flatten the picture. 
2. You will want approval before they flatten. To make adjustments after that, they have to go back to a layered version.
  • She has gone back and forth with adjustments up to 20 times with Winter Queen because it was so complex with the figure and the fairies 
3. The piece is not done until it is printed!
    • A lot of the artists don't understand that printed images are darker than those on the computer screen. On the screen you can lighten or darken because everything is backlit. You don't have that on the page. 
    •  So you MUST print out an ARC first. Once you're satisfied with that, the job is done (DON'T SEND FINAL PAYMENT UNTIL THEN). 
Other Tips ·

  1. The image needs to pop. So think about color, contrast, silhouette, etc. 
  2. Think simple over complex. Too much detail ends up looking messy and distracting. Especially in thumbnail size. Simple usually shows up the best in small images. 
  3. You need alpha and beta readers for the image just like you do the book to give you feedback. Are they seeing anything weird? What feeling does the image give? Are there artistic things that could be changed? 
  4.  Make sure the tone of the cover reflects the tone of the story. It has to communicate the type of story the book is. ie-Winter Queen was too feminine and fairy and didn't convey the dark side of the book. 
    • Leave space for displaying text  
    •  Don't have the artist add the display text. Just have them provide the image (hire graphic designer to do the text-it's a different discipline). 
    • Have you graphic designer look at the initial sketch for approval.
    • Make sure the text is readable in thumbnail.
    • Textured font usually means it's darker and harder to read. Trad Pub books usually don't use textured fonts. 

  • The final wraparound without text (this way you can make changes to the text if needed. ie-if your trilogy becomes a series). 
  • A jpeg and a compressed file she can use on websites 
  • A very high resolution tif file so changes can be made later. 
  • Parts of the image 
    • Example: she wanted to use the fairies on her site or for a bookmark or for chapter headings 
    • Example: she used the pendant on her copyright page. She also used it for her short story. 
  • Come up with a common symbol or object for a series 
    • She recommends having something that can be used for the whole series.
    • Example: she used the pendant in Witch Sing on each book and on the title page.
    • Example: note Jason Chan's burning, magic hand in the Phillipa Ballantine Geist series


  1. And the secret's out! Thanks for sharing how you come up with your amazing covers. They're seriously among the best out there. :)

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