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Just Imagine

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Welcome to my blog! Pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee and read what's on my mind. I've a vicious sense of humor, an apprecation for romance and a mad addiction to writing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tamra Westberry Shares How To Get The Most Out Of Your Cover Artist. Win a Digi Books Voucher!

Welcome! This week I have a special treat for you. My cover artist, Tamra Westberry is visiting A Writer’s Mind. Tamra has designed nearly all of my covers. In each case she was easy to work with and delivered exactly what I asked for. 100% pure talent!

As an added bonus to this post, I'd like to host a contest. My treat. A way to thank Tamra for all her hard work over the years. The prize? A $15 voucher to Digi Books Cafe. How do you enter to win? Pretty easy.

First, leave a brief comment here. Perhaps about how fantastic you think Tamra's work is. *Grins* Next, head over to Tamra's Cover Page. Once there, pick one cover that you find simply fabulous and email Tamra with the title of the book (shown on the cover) at tara@tarawest.com. The catch? You cannot email her with one of the titles shown in this blog post (no matter how much you love them) and please do not leave your answer in a comment at this blog. Your feedback in this phase of the contest is for Tamra's eyes only! Can you choose a title from one of her other cover pages? Of course.

Back to business. Tamra graciously provided an article she wrote about cover art. Every cover and banner sprinkled throughout this post is Tamra's design. Must say, they're gorgeous. Okay, floor’s yours Tamra...


For portfolio, please visit Tarawest.com

I love new friends! Facebook profile 

According to a poll at Live Journal, Poll 1007999, book promotion 101, sixty-three percent of readers have bought a book based on a cover. This is excellent news for authors with marketable covers. If you’re a well-known author who sells books mostly based on that bold name stamped on the cover, maybe the quality of your cover won’t have a huge impact on your sales.

But let’s just say your name isn’t Nora Roberts or Christina Dodd. Let’s just say you’d rather not cancel your pending book-signing because you are mortified by the gross misrepresentation of your story. How do you get the cover you envision, or at the very least, a cover that you can show to friends without cringing?

For those of you wanting to self-publish on Kindle or Nook, you’ve got to foot the bill for the entire production of your book, from cover art to promotion. Just as you’d do with a promotional company, research cover artists before signing a contract. Speak to their clients. Sure, their covers look good, but if it takes three months to complete and the artist is resistant to changes, this can be a frustrating experience. Look for an artist who doesn’t charge you a design fee up front. You should pay for the cover only after you are satisfied with the artist’s work. That way, you know this artist won’t stick your western novel with a gothic cover and then ignore your emails. Also, if your book will be going to print, will this artist be willing to design the spine and back cover? Or is that a hidden, hefty fee?

If you’ve contracted your manuscript with a traditional print or an e-publisher, most of the time you will have to use their in-house artists. Hopefully, you’ve done your research in regards to their artwork policies before signing a contract. For instance, if this publisher’s covers aren’t appealing, do you really want to contract with them? Do they charge for artwork? If so, then find another publisher. If you really like this publishing house but don’t like their artwork, are they willing to let you use an outside artist? If so, chances are, you will be required to pay for this artist yourself. Are you willing to pay an outside artist for cover art when you will also be footing the bill for promotional ad space, etc?

If your cover art contract asks for your preferences, do your research before submitting to your editor. Your company’s website usually has a link to their cover artists’ pages under the ‘about us’ section. Scroll through the various artists’ cover art samples. Find the artwork that mostly represents what you want in a cover and request that artist on your contract. Be advised, sometimes this artist will be too busy to take on new authors, so it’s best to also list a second artist.

Don’t expect your cover artist to read the first few chapters to get a feel for what your cover should look like. Unfortunately, many artists don’t have the time or luxury to read your book. Do you really want your artist speed reading through your manuscript and slapping a stalky blond hero on your cover, when he’s tall dark and handsome?

Be specific as to what you want but remember that you may not always get exactly what you asked for. The reason is that most publishing houses are now using stock photography for their cover images. Even traditional print houses have gone the path of stock photography because spending $15 for an image is much more cost-effective than paying hefty modeling and photographer fees.

Therefore, it’s best to list three options for your cover. If the book takes place in the mountains, on the plains and on the high seas, then list three scenes that would work for your cover. If you write that you want your hero and heroine embracing on a boat, but give no other details, don’t be surprised if your historical novel is set on a modern-day cruise ship. And if it is a modern novel, then be specific as to what they are wearing. You don’t want a couple on an Alaskan cruise to be scantily clad in swim suits.

So what are your options if your Alaskan couple is dressed in swimsuits?

1. Send threatening letters to your artist’s personal email and home address.

2. Cry and throw a fit and blog and tweet about your crappy publisher and art department.

3. Take a deep breath and slowly calculate a way to convince the art department to change your cover.

The obvious choice is #3. Your first line of defense is your editor. She loves the book almost as much as you do since she is willing to offer you a contract. Send her an email succinctly explaining how this cover doesn’t fit your story and that you’d like the artist to revise it. Chances are that your editor will forward this email to the art department. Chances are that if your email conveys a hysterical or rude tone, the artist will be offended and may be resistant to changing your cover. Maybe the couple is dumpy, the ship is tacky and the entire color scheme is hideous. Grit your teeth and find something good to say about the cover in your email.

“While I love the fonts on the cover, neither the couple, ship or colors set the tone for my book. I have admired many of this artist’s covers, and I was hoping she would make it look more like the cover she designed for author__________.”

Later, if the artist makes the changes and you are happy with your cover, send her a thank you note. You never know if that person will design the cover for your next book. You can also request her as your artist on your next contract, and most artists are eager to please returning authors.

However, not all cover artists will be accommodating. Sometimes, the publisher is on a deadline or maybe can't spend the extra money to buy the art or pay the models. Or maybe the artist/publisher doesn't see a need to change your cover.

Now you need to ask yourself the question, “Is the cover so hideous that it will drive away sales?”

Or are you upset because the heroine is a pale blonde, and, while the artwork is beautiful, the woman on the cover is a dusty blonde?

Though it may not seem so to the author, having a marketable cover is far more important than hair color.

I lost count of the number of covers I’ve designed after #300 a few years ago. Through the past five years as an artist for The Wild Rose Press and also as a freelance designer, I know I’ve made some less than appealing covers. I’ve also designed some award winning covers. My favorite covers usually have one thing in common. The author didn’t say, “I trust your creativity. Come up with something cool!” The author was specific as to what she wanted.

I’ve had the wonderful experience of designing several covers for the repeat authors. What I like best about these authors is that they have a clear vision in their heads of how their covers should look. A perfect example would be Sky Purington’s, The Victorian Lure. The original cover was boxy and not at all what she had in mind. When we spoke more in-depth, I was able to see into her head and create exactly what she wanted. And I’m so glad, because the final cover came out so much better than the original.

Sky here! Excellent article, Tamra. Great advice all the way through. I remember back at the beginning in ’07 when I first became published. I was so nervous about nearly everything in the publishing field. It was all so new! You were one of my first contacts and really made me feel comfortable. Enough so that I didn’t hesitate to tell you what I envisioned for my covers. Once more, thank you so much, Tamra. Here’s to the covers behind us and all the beautiful covers yet to come!

Don't forget there's a contest running. As a reminder...

The prize? A $15 voucher to Digi Books Cafe. How do you enter to win? Pretty easy. First, leave a brief comment here. Next, head over to Tamra's Cover Page. Once there, pick one cover that you find simply fabulous and email Tamra with the Title of the Book (shown on the cover) at tara@tarawest.com. The catch? You cannot email her with one of the titles in this blog post and please do not leave your answer in a comment at this blog. For Tamra's eyes only!

Contest ends Friday, April 29th, 12 PM EST.

Interested in meeting a super author? Perhaps win a prize? Head over to The Write Life next.




Barbara said...

Sky, hi and good morning! I already stopped by Tara's site, and e-mailed her my choice. She's drawn some awesome covers!

barbs562 {at} gmail {dot} com

Tara said...

Hi, Winterbabe! Thanks so much for stopping by and I appreciate the compliment! :) Tamra

Tara said...

Sky, thanks for hosting me today. Wow! I appreciate you giving away a gift card. How fun! :) Tamra

Liana Laverentz said...

Excellent advice for anyone who wants input to their covers--before it is designed and after. Before is always better, though, so that everyone can be on the same page that much sooner!

Tara said...

Thanks, Liana! :) Tamra

Becky said...

I enjoyed this post. Tamra, you do a very good job and I like all of the covers that I have seen of yours.

Tara said...

Thanks, Becky! And thanks for voting. :) Tamra

Betty said...

Ok Tamra, I'm going back to your page to pick a cover. You know what my fav is (LOL) but since there was a small pic of it in the blog I can't choose it. WAAAH! So I guess I'll have to choose a sexy one instead of one of the funniest covers I've ever seen. Since I've seen a few of your covers, I know it won't be esy to pick one. There's a lot of great ones. Maybe I should just close my eyes and point...

Tara said...

Ha! Ha! Betty, I won't tell Flabio he was DENIED!

:) T.

Sky Purington said...

YW, Tamra! Glad to have you over. Really great article. :-)

L. K. Below/Lindsay Below said...

Tamra, this is very good advice. I often have trouble when thinking about a cover. I've been lucky so far, but I'll take this advice when filling out my next cover art form. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Sky!

As a cover connoisseur, I'm now going to hop on over to Tamra's site and drool...

Tara said...

Hey, there, L.K., I'm glad you liked the article and thanks for checking out my covers.

P.L. Parker said...

Excellent post and your cover art is gorgeous. I couldn't decide on a specific one, there were so many great ones.

Tara said...

Hi, PL, thanks! I'm glad the article was helpful. I remember that Fiona was one of the first covers I'd ever designed. :) Tamra

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Tamra and Sky

Just stopping by to say hi, Tamra, you've designed all my Wild Rose Press covers and I've had great comments on them, especially 'Children Of The Mist'. You must have read my mind on this one, because you designed the scene on the cover exactly as I imagined it in my mind, and I'm still using it as my Blog avatar.

I love looking at your site and all the wonderful covers you design.


Tara said...

Awww, Lyn, thanks. I hope I can design more for you soon. :) Tamra

Beth Caudill said...

Those are great covers.

I always have problems coming up with things for covers. I lean more towards music than artwork in my creative endeavors.

Tara said...

Beth, I hear you on that one. I use cover art to fuel my writing muse. Then again, I also use music to fuel both my artistic and writing muses. I don't think I could live without my sensory pleasures. :) Tamra

Mimi Barbour said...

Hi Sky and Tamra,
thank you for steering me to this blog Tamra. I'm happy to have the glimpse into the cover artist's mind...reminds an author that her's isn't the only cover the artist has on her list.

Tamra did the cover for my Christmas story and it's great!

Tara said...

Hi, Mimi, so glad you liked your cover. Thanks for stopping by. :) Tamra

Sally Clements said...

Great post, Sky! Tamra did the cover of my debut, and did a wonderful job! I've just sold a second to WR and have put Tamra in as my choice of cover artist, so I'm hoping I'm lucky enough to have her design another cover for me!

Meg an Aggie in Frisco said...

Sky & Tamra, that was an interesting post. As a reader I love the covers, but refuse a "bad" cover to keep me from buying a book. - Meg

Tara said...

Sally, if you requested me, I should get it. Congrats on your new contract and thanks for stopping by! :) Tamra

Tara said...

Meg, I'm glad you don't judge a book by its cover. I can't help but gravitating toward books that catch my eye. :) Tamra

Sky Purington said...

Tamra, is was fantastic having you over to A Writer's Mind this week. You're welcome back anytime! :-)

Also, a huge thank you to everyone who popped in and commented. Isn't Tamra incredibly talented?!

Mountain Laurel said...

Tamra...I love your designs...my daughter is a graphic artist and I plan to forward your page to her. Thank you also for the post on how to get the most out of your cover artist....good ideas and much valuable info for someone who is starting out or thinking of self publishing...

Tara said...

Sky, thanks so much for having me on your blog and for the compliments. I love designing covers for you!

Everyone, thanks for swelling my head times 10 with all of the awesome emails this week!

I am compiling everyone's comments on a spreadsheet and having my little girl pick a DigiBooks winner tomorrow morning. :) Tamra

Unknown said...

Hi! You've been added to my Blog-A-Licious library! Do keep your great posts coming! And do come have a look at the other Blog-A-Licious Blogs.
Cheers - Dora