Sunday, August 5, 2012

Adventures in ebook cover artistry

I am not an artist.

But I had aspirations as a teenager:  dragons, medieval fantasy stuff, creepy guys with fangs, 80's rocker dudes with battle axes and swords ... Nothing I would ever consider putting on the cover of my self-published ebooks.

Needless to say, I have decided to hire cover artists.  And just how does one go about hiring cover artists?  I began my journey down this road without a clue.

As most business begins in this day and age, I started with Google.  Anything I want to know I just Google it, don't we all?  The trick is asking the right question, its like a backwards game of Jeopardy.

In my searches for cover art/artists, I came across many resources, a few of which I will name here.  Mark Coker of, the largest Indie ebook publishing outfit on the web outside of Amazon, has a list of cover artists he will promptly email upon request. I looked at that list, and I checked out various websites of the cover artists showcasing portfolios of their work.

I don't want to bash too hard on other people's cover art, but I was not very impressed with about 90% of it.  I've been browsing through book covers for several months now, and there are literally about one in a hundred book covers that I thought looked professional or even decent.  I guess its all in the eye of the beholder.  My eye for cover art is jaded.

Later in my searches I found a great source for award winning cover art:
Those are some very good covers, and it stands to reason those artists would produce quality products for me as well .... but at what price?

The one place I found immediately when I searched for freelance artists or artists-for-hire is  Its the best resource for freelance artists I've ever seen.  In minutes I was able to post my Job at the price I was willing to pay, and real live artists began applying for the Job. It is sooo EFFIN awesome to have a whole swarm of artists willing to do the job you want at the price you name.  And there are some extremely talented artists on freelanced.

Like many things in life, I think it follows the 80/20 rule.  About 80% of the artists are mediocre and then there's the 20% that are fantastic.   Some of these artists will do a quick mockup of your concept.  You can have a free demonstration of how your cover ideas come to life with an artist's particular flare.  That is soooo cool.  Its polar ice cap -120° F cool.  Its cooler than a witches tit in a brass bra.

Of course, not all the artists want to give their valuable time for a free mockup.  Some of the very best artists, the ones who have gallery quality art, are the ones who'll tell you their portfolio speaks for itself (and it does).  So either you take a chance on a high quality artist without a mockup, or you work with a good-to-high quality artist who's not above spending a little time convincing you they're the one for the job.

I chose the latter every time.  There's just something about getting a good looking mockup of your desired cover that sinks home the sale.  The guys I hired didn't necessarily have the best portfolio, but they put forward their best efforts to prove they were good enough for my needs.  They also happened to be in the business of doing cover art, they know what's expected.

I have found many cover artists I would like to hire, but so far I could only afford the two:

Diogo Lando from portugal,

Joshua Allen from the good ole USA,

You can see the process as it evolved proof by proof with each cover.  There are numerous samples of cover art proofs and mockups done by artists in my site

The question that should be prominent in your mind by now is how much did I pay for my covers?

Not a penny more than what I posted on freelanced:  $75.00 each ($150 total for the two).  These artists did multiple proofs and changes I asked for.  They both finished the job within two weeks from the date I hired them.

Maybe you think my covers aren't all that.  So what.  I think they look better than 90% of what's out there in the self-publishing arena. If you think my covers look pretty good, then follow these tidbits of advice I have gleaned through experience:

1.  Give the artist some room to work-in their particular flair or style, I tend to like artists with styles that are slightly abstract, it shows me they have a unique way of looking at the world.
2.  Give detailed, clear and concise descriptions of what you have in mind.  The clearer you can paint a picture for the artist, the better they will be able to produce what you want.  Provide any examples you can find from imagery on the web to give the artist something to go on (Google images or stock photos or whatever).
3.  Work only with artists who communicate quickly and effectively,  if it takes them 4-5 days to respond to an email then they don't want your business that badly.
4.  Make sure you're getting the right dimensions for your final product.  Get educated on what cover art pixel requirements are for the various ebook vendors:

I wish you all the best of luck with your cover art.  Don't settle for good enough, go for the best.  If you take a little time and shop around you can find it at a reasonable price.



  1. Great post man. You're further into that process than I am and I've wondered how it is for indie writers to find great art. I'm lucky to be able to make my own covers (and have no one to blame but myself if they suck). I'm thinking this is a real issue and I've been giving it some thought lately. Actually posted about it yesterday on my blog. Thanks for the incite and great resources though!

  2. Great post. So far I haven't done any self-publishing and my publisher has a great cover artist, but I do have a book in mind that will probably be self-pubbed so this is very timely and good advice. Thank you! - Retweeted the link.

  3. I am still learning more about what makes a good cover every day, but that's only half the battle. Coordinating with and hiring a good cover artist is definitely a large part of the process. I have numerous artists I would recommend beyond what I posted here. Let me know if you're shopping.