Cover Art: First Cont[r]act

Into the Wasteland

*Note* All images, with the exception of my poorly drawn pencil sketch, come from the artist I am currently working with – Michail Mamaschew.  The images are owned and copyrighted by him.  You can view his artwork, bio, and contact information here (DeviantArt), here (his webpage), and here (ArtStation).

mage with sword.jpgA couple of days ago, I posted about my research into book cover art and my fruitless hunt for an artist (here).  As fortune would have it, I just landed a cover artist.  We had been playing email tag for a bit, sorting the details, and getting a feel for each others legitimacy.   This is an important first step, and something I will talk about in a minute.  Once we felt we were a fit,  I prepared the contract (also important), sent it out, and now we are off to the races.

It should be noted that it took me about 10+ failed attempts to land an artist.  I thought today I would share why I had such trouble, how to avoid these problems, how I found a creative solution to relay my vision, and give some shout-outs to my new artist/co-conspirator.

First, take a look at the image below.  This is what would happen if I created the cover art myself.  No, my baby boy Thor didn’t draw this.  It is, in fact, a Corey original.  I thought it would be nice to post the before and see what happens when Michail takes a swing at it.

Cover Art ConceptIt’s pretty obvious looking at this crudely crafted drawing as to why I needed a cover artist.  No matter how crude, it was an important first step.  Deciding what the cover should feature.

I chose this scene because the location is central to my story, it features my books protagonist, Drake Nelson, and also contains some other important details.  These details are not readily visible in this amateur version, but I will make it clearer in a minute or so.

My first step was to research cover art in my genre and cover art in general.  Again, this post talks about that process.  I did a lot of, “post apocalyptic,” “wasteland,” “apocalypse,” “nuclear fallout,” internet image searches.  If I could trace art I liked back to the artist, I contacted them.  I then went to websites like, Deviantart, Freelancer, Artnet, and Artists&Clients to name a few.

wasteland cowboys

The more I searched, the more I began noticing certain styles of artwork appealed to me.  Largely because these styles of art reflected my feelings about the book I was writing.  Darker painterly styles appealed to me.  Once I isolated a style, I began contacting artists.

This is the next thing to consider.  When looking at an artist portfolio, look for examples of cover art, or a resume saying they know how to format for cover art.  The first few artists I contacted, while they had undeniably beautiful artwork, weren’t sure how to do what I was asking for, didn’t know anything about formatting for cover art (digital cover vs. print cover), or the language barrier prevented effective communication.

iron girl.pngThis should be obvious, but the language barrier is a legitimate issue.  An artist is going to be taking your words and converting them into art.  If you can’t effectively communicate those words, you are destined for failure.

My initial mistake was falling in love with artwork and artists, then playing email tag with artists who wrote in very broken English.  This led to frustration on both ends.  I don’t say this to be cruel, but when email is your only means of communication, and basis for the art to be created, it needs to be clear on both ends in this context.

Contracts.  These killed the next few contestants in the cover art game.  If the artist isn’t willing to sign a contract, you shouldn’t be willing to pay them.  You need to protect your investment.  Worse, the artist could use copyrighted material, and if you don’t have a contract to protect yourself it will be on your head when the real content owner comes knocking.  Or absolutely worse case scenario, you publish, the book does well, then the artist claims he/she owns the rights to the cover and demands additional compensation.

Here is an article about this very real issue from the Independent Book Publishers Association.  And from CreativIndiehere is one place to find a basic template for a book cover contract.

das tal.jpgWith all this being said, I am now working with Michail Mamaschew.  Like I mentioned in the intro, he created all the art you see in this blog today.  When we first started emailing back and forth the scope of his questions, professionalism, portfolio, and obvious knowledge all gave me that warm fuzzy feeling.  Also, his dark painterly style absolutely captivated me.

Then the real challenge came.  Aligning our visions.  How do I take the horrible pencil sketch I made and allow that to make sense to an artist?  I could provide a chapter from my book that describes the scene (again, a contract will protect any emailed story material from being released to a third party, so don’t send a chapter until the contract is signed).  I could offer some photographs.  Or I could write a giant email.  I did all of these things, but I also created a Prezi.  A Prezi is simply a wiz-bang version of a PowerPoint if you are unfamiliar.  It’s a free program and they have free classes on the website (and you can check Youtube) on how to use it.

This is what I came up with.  date with a mage.pngThat link will take you to the Prezi I made to sort out some of those creative details.  You can make it full screen and use the arrows at the bottom to navigate forward and backward, or use the arrows on your keyboard.

Hopefully you found some useful information regarding finding, selecting, and communicating with a cover artist here today.  Regardless, I was very excited to share progress on this front.  I will keep you all up-to-date with incoming concept art and progress on what is being generated for Wastelander.

Do you have cover artists you’ve worked with in the past that was stellar?  Have you had bad experiences?  Are you still sorting out the process?  I’d love to hear from you all about it.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

Copyright Info (final)

25 responses

  1. Look at you, you are making progress^^ The only cover artist I used was on Wattpad. The cover art you saw on my page, I don’t plan to use for publication. However, when I am ready to publish, I’ll be looking for a new artist.


    • I enjoy the artwork you had made on your page. As for me, writing the book is just one piece on the table in my quest to take the king. I try to play chess and not checkers when it comes to actually producing the product – so I spend a lot of time really researching all the facets and rounding out the plan.

      Good luck with your search for an artist. Hopefully the links I offered will help point you in the right direction (the contract is essential too).

      You can expect to pay anywhere from roughly $100-$800+ (USD) for cover artwork (depending on the complexity, artists experience, and other factors). While I won’t get into what I’m paying, I know when I started the process I didn’t have a clue as to what to expect or pay. I ended up asking other authors (ones I know personally and trust) to began generating ballpark figures for costs.

      Thanks for swinging by today and best of luck to you as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You seem to have chosen well for your cover artist. I’m glad you both could understand one another and come to an agreement. The art you feature of theirs is absolutely stellar! I often think how amazing artists are who can draw or paint well.

    I dabble with it every now and again but I usually amount to what you did in your original work. Xp Alas I was blessed with the gift of storytelling through writing (something I am eternally thankful for and prefer) and not through visual art.

    I admire artists who can make such amazing creations. Thank you for sharing your process in finding a cover artist. Also for sharing the potential blessings and pitfalls of the process if you do it right or wrong. I almost feel like I’m seeing a behind the scenes look at the building of your book when reading posts like these.

    I’m always learning as well, even in posts that aren’t necessarily relevant to me at the time or even ones that may never be. Thanks for keeping us informed.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like you, I wish I could be an artist (painter, sketching, etc) too. Lord knows I’ve tried, especially when I was younger. But the written word was always my more powerful tool of artistic expression and there is only so much time to devote to a craft.

      I’m glad you are enjoying the, “behind the scenes,” sneak peak. In a way, that was what I was going for. I’m trying to make some of my posts more multifaceted. Providing usable information, but also marketing for my work. I don’t want to spam repeat visitors to my page with banners beckoning you to, “STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND READ MY UPCOMING BOOK!”

      While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it’s just not what I wanted to do. I prefer subtlety. I’ll limit those daily pleas to Twitter (which I feel is designed for spamming).

      With that being said – STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING…just kidding. Thanks for swinging by and reading and leaving a comment, as always, I appreciate it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This sounds like a really exciting step to take, and Prezi seems like a really useful tool. Definitely something I’ll be looking into when the time comes. I’m looking forward to seeing what Michail comes up with.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I first started using Prezi back in my college days. It’s a nice program for presentations, because unlike PowerPoint, the presentation does much of the speaking for you and is very visual. Plus, at the time, it was pretty new and it would blow professor’s minds – which was always a plus.

      Good luck on your journey – I’ll be sure to toss updates about mine when they roll through. Thanks for reading today!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congrats on finding an artist. You’ve seen how I tend to collect artists. I’m always thinking about art for my stories. Collin and I have been friends for decades, so there were no worries for me there. That communication barrier was something to work out with Ihor. There was a lot of patience, but the contract and constant emails helped.

    I love reading your book, and I can’t wait for it to come together for you. I can’t wait to see the cover.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the congrats Matt. You of all people know how many times I failed before I finally found someone to work with. I thought a post on navigating the minefield from someone who almost got blown to smithereens was warranted.

      I think you have some gems with Collin and Ihor – both produced very appealing covers. Also, they did a great job of capturing a key scene from your books. It was nice when I read Journals of Bob Drifter for the first time when I came to the scene, flipped to the cover of the book, and was like, “Hey! This is the scene!” There is a reward there.

      Anyways, thanks for making time to swing by to read and post even though you are on vacation. Stay hydrated…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How exciting! I absolutely love love love the artwork you’ve shared here and I can’t wait to see your final product. It’s so exciting to think we’re witnessing your book coming to life and the journey you’re taking along the way. I feel like I’m part of some secret club watching the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling come into the public eye for the first time. One thing is for sure…while you’re learning so many new things in the creation of your first book, I imagine your second book will practically write and then sell itself! Thanks for all the work you put into sharing your creative process and all the steps and research you’ve gotten into along the way. Can’t read tomorrow’s post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you love the artwork – I’m taken with it too! It’s a relief to know other people are digging the style I am going to be tossing on the front cover of Wastelander.

      As for being in a secret club, it’s awesome to think you feel this way! I don’t think I’m on par with the likes of King and Rowling just yet though, but hey, we all have to start somewhere. I’m just glad to stir up some excitement.

      Now about second books writing and selling themselves, I have yet to find the secret manual that allows for books to become self-aware and begin reproducing themselves (ohhh, I’ve been looking). But joking aside, I hope you are right.

      My idea is the more polished and presentable this first book and novella are, the more likely I am to get better representation in the future. It’s mainly why I’m not rushing to production. Even if I can’t swing an agent for my first book and have to self-publish, I want the most perfect product I can produce. Then, when I start knocking out more books, I will have a solid resume of well-written and professional looking books in my back pocket.

      That’s the dream – this blog contains the components making up the dream. Thank you again for reading and for the sparkling comment. You have massaged the ego of this writer today and I thank you for it.


  6. Hi Corey ~

    Congrats on finding your artist. Having worked with several cover artists myself — both for my own books and anthologies as well as those I’ve published for other authors — I’ve followed a similar learning curve to the one you describe above.

    One thing I would mention which many indies forget: quite apart from the need for the cover to squarely align with genre, it’s *critical* to remember that 95% – 100% of your sales are going to be online (it’s hard for indies to get into bookstores). This is important because the potential buyer is going to be first looking at your cover at THUMBNAIL SIZE, and you have a second or less to catch their attention and get them to click on it before they move on.

    This is a radically different experience to a reader in a physical bookstore picking up your book. To work at thumbnail size, the image has to have one major element that punches out and grabs the eyeball even when it’s just 160 pixels high or maybe 1″ x 1.5″. The title also needs to have impact at that size (the name is less important unless you’re a Name author already). Many indie authors fail on this one.

    One thing I find very useful is to bring up a whole page of covers in your genre by going to Google images and entering “[your genre] book covers.” Really helps with identifying common elements, and gives you something to compare your own cover ideas against, so that ideally you come up with something distinctive yet immediately identifiable as belonging in the genre.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Dario, thanks so much for sharing this with me! One thing I absolutely love about blogging is being able to collaborate with people who are experts in their fields like yourself.

      I will absolutely take these things into account as I move forward with my artist. I don’t know if the indie path is the one I am on just yet, but regardless, a large number of my readers (and close friends) travel this road. With that being said, this is a very valuable insight.

      Have you written any blog posts about this aspect of cover art? If so, feel free to link it into the comments box. My blog is the repository where I collect and compile information for myself and others – so additional tools and insights are always very welcome.

      Next time I blog about cover art, especially oriented toward indie authors, I will point them to your page via a link. Thanks for stopping by and sharing this information. I will likely begin rummaging through your blog now to find more information.


  7. I had a super awesome and poetic response but the interweb trolls stole it from me… that said, CONGRATS on finding THE ONE!! I have tried contacting artists, only to be rudely ignored… DON’T THEY KNOW WHO I AM? Ugh, and then their are the ones who can draw or paint but not make it into the format needed. I will need this for any work NOT in my contracted series, so thanks for a great blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bloody ghosts in the machine! Thanks for the congrats, I’m confident things will turn out for the best.

      As for your struggle finding and artist, I know exactly where you are coming from. For every three emails I sent out, maybe one came back. Of those that came back, few understood the formatting requirements for print and eBook. And honestly, while I’ve done some research I’m not an expert on this either – so I ruled those folks out.

      There were a small number that seemed to understand the formatting and were great artists, but were unwilling to sign a contract (which kind of baffled me honestly). But I’m a patient guy, and my book isn’t going to print anytime soon, so I just kept fishing until I got a bite.

      Good luck dangling bait in the water, just watch out for sharks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think the hard part will be the cost, it seems a lot of the artists were super expensive. For those prices I better OWN the rights!! 😛 Anyway, I have time but I’m already thinking of the NEXT series I want to write so here goes nothing!

        Liked by 1 person

      • The contract I linked in the blog stipulates that the artist transfers the copyright to you at the conclusion of business. Also protects you if they decide to use copyrighted materials in the creation of the artwork. It’s pretty scary legal stuff to consider, and it’s scarier when many of the artists are geographically scattered about the planet.

        It seems cover art, depending on the artist, quality, experience, and complexity ranges from $200-$800+. I won’t go into what I’m paying in a public forum, but that seemed to be the norms for the people I spoke to (artists I spoke with, and other authors who have commissioned covers).

        Liked by 1 person

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