The Book Cover Process (in My Experience)
People often ask me how I get covers—these days my covers come from publishers I have worked with in the past, but my first cover came from an author seeing my art on my website. If you would like to do cover work, be sure you have a nice, *easy to navigate* website! (My website always needs updating)
The publishers always contact me via email—this keeps an electronic record of all requests and promises in a handy way for all of us to refer to. I don’t use the phone at all—there is no record of conversations that way, which I think is useless for business. I answer emails as promptly as possible, too. I *always* put the title of the book being discuss in the subject line as well, so the publishers and directors know what book is being worked on . “Hi” is not a helpful subject line, nor is “Cover.”
The publisher or director will ask me if I am available, and give me the author’s name and the title, and sometimes just a short paragraph describing what they want—“Pam Anderson in a Pirate Costume with a big planet behind her.” Sometimes that is all I will get. I almost never get the MS, because it is still being edited at this point. I reply with the price and any little fees for special stuff, like buying fonts or stock photos. Then if they are also working with the author, I send the author a list of questions about colors, scenes and characters. The form solves a lot of problems, and saves a lot of time for everyone. The more stock images and sample covers they can give me, the more likely they will like what I give them right away.
Then I will set up several versions of the cover, usually with dummy type and either a rough sketch or a Poser render. People don’t like Poser, but many editors can’t “see” what a rough pencil sketch is about, while they can understand a Poser picture. My final images are a combo of free painting, licensed stock reference, and Poser for composition. This workflow lets me work very quickly and economically without having the covers look too plastic and digital.
The roughs go up on the web and various publishing people sort through them and pick the one they like. At this point the major look of the cover is set. If they change their mind and pick a new layout, it’s a new fee for me. Everyone I work with knows this, though, so they are good about choosing carefully or making changes at the sketch stage. Then the cover is finished up, all the rough edges polished, small changes are made (like color balances or moving small elements around). Then it is delivered digitally to the art director or designer for the type and layout. I either use a web server or a free service called YouSendIt to deliver files, both keep a record of delivery. I deliver the files in .psd format to keep the color profile intact for the printer. Since I work on a Windows machine, this is the best way for a designer on a Mac to cope with my files.
All this takes about three weeks. I did a cover once in 48 hours for an emergency, and it came out great, but I hate to do that on a regular basis, as I need my sleep. Then I send an invoice via PayPal, which leaves a record and converts currency. They take a small fee, but they process credit cards so it’s handy for everyone, and secure. Most publishers pay right away, and I cherish those;)