Tuesday, July 22, 2014

An Inside Look at the Working Indie Author: Illustrations and Cover Art

I hope you remembered your water-wings, because we are going to be diving head first into this topic!

Unless you are blessed with a natural artistic talent as well as being able to pen a delightful story, you are going to need an illustrator. My artistic talent is limited to a box of Crayolas and a coloring book. Well, unless you like scribbling. I can do that quite well, too!

Before you begin the search for an illustrator, you first have some housekeeping to do and I don't mean dusting and laundry. I live in a very practical world surrounded by contracts daily. I knew before I contacted anyone, I needed to protect myself and my characters. Therefore, I began researching Work-For-Hire contracts as I knew this was the route I wanted to go. I found a few contracts I liked and then adapted them to fit my needs. You may want to research what type of relationship you want to have with your illustrator, i.e. work-for-hire, profit sharing, etc., and determine which works best for you.  

Next we have to face the ugly reality of a budget. I know--this is your baby and how can you put a price on it? Well this is the real world, and unless you have a never ending cash flow, you need to set your emotions aside and start sharpening your pencil and do some number crunching. What you want and what you can afford may be two different things. Once you have a total budget in mind based on how much you can pay per illustration and the number of illustrations you want to include in your book, it is time to move forward.

If you are writing a picture book, then as the name suggests, you need pictures! Okay, so that is pretty obvious and you already know that or you wouldn't be reading this information. If you are doing an early chapter book, again, illustrations are imperative.

If you are like I was, you might be feeling a little out of your element. When I started this process I had no industry resources and didn't have a clue as to the next step. However, the one thing I am good at doing is clicking away at the keyboard so that is where I began. I started searching illustrators online. I found a couple of interest, but I wanted to see how they would portray my characters. I definitely had my opinions on how I wanted them to look in my mind and I wasn't prepared to settle.

To be truthful, I like having all of my ducks lined up in a row. I don't like surprises. Therefore, I do this process concurrently with the writing process. At this point, I was well underway with my illustrations. Here's the moral to the story:  a little preparation in the beginning can go a long way to make your journey smoother. However, if you haven't started yet--don't worry! It will just take a little longer before you introduce your book to the world.

With a signed contract in hand, I zeroed in on the illustrators I was interested in. When I first began I typed up the description for my cover art and and sent it out. I'll never forget the moment I "knew" I had found my illustrator. It was a Saturday morning and I was out and about. I decided to check my phone for email and saw I had received a message from one of the illustrators. I opened up his attachment and saw the picture to the right. I could not stop grinning. My illustrator had almost perfectly captured my characters and scene as if taking an image from my mind and magically transforming it into the vibrant illustration before me.

Here's a fun fact:  Chloe was supposed to be a brunette, but my illustrator made her a blonde. I couldn't bring myself to change her. She reminded me too much of my nieces when they were little. I ended up going back and re-writing Chloe's description in the book. I believe things happen for a reason and seeing how Chloe was depicted in the illustration made the book even more special to me personally. This is one of the reasons I like to do the illustrations as I write, because it is easy to modify your story of any small changes along the way. Also, I want to advise you to be flexible. If your illustrator inadvertently modifies your description and it doesn't change the integrity of your book, go with it. It is easier to rectify a small change in your book than to wait weeks for a correction to the illustration.

When it comes to cover art there are a couple of options. You can hire it out or you can do it yourself. If you have a basic working knowledge of Photoshop it is pretty simple. I do my own covers once I have the illustrations or photographs. In fact, doing the covers is something I do immediately before I start the writing process. It gives me that little motivation of how I envision my book and sets the mood.

If you are not doing a children's book, the cover art is pretty easy. I don't even utilize the expensive version of Photoshop. I use Photoshop Elements along with licensed photographs. It is important to realize that you cannot use any photograph you find online because you do not have ownership rights to those photos. (i.e. when I use photos for my blog posts I always give credit and reference to where the photographs were found because I do not own them and I don't know who does. You should always make your best effort to cite references and content.) When it comes to publication, this is not enough. You must either own the rights to a photograph/illustration or have licensed the material you are going to be using. You can license photos at such places as istockphoto.com, dreamstime.com and shutterstock.com.

Your cover art doesn't have to be complicated. It just needs to be compelling. Here is the cover to my upcoming young adult novel Max Donovan. The artwork for the back of the book is actually the photograph I am using for the banner of my blog. It is eerie and conveys the message I want to get across about my book--all while leaving you with wanting to know a little more.

Please bear in mind that all the information I am giving you is based on my personal experience, as a new author, and is based on my utilizing the Amazon digital and paperback platform.

I hope you will join me on my next segment: An Inside Look at the Working Indie Author: Making Connections vs. Marketing

Wishing you all a wonderful day full of mystery & intrigue,

K. Lamb

Photo credits via Google:


  1. I appreciate the way you break down the process of finding an illustrator into do-able steps. As a word-slinger who can't draw a lick, connecting with a talented artist who understands my book's voice/vision and has an upbeat attitude is a g*i*f*t!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Cat! I appreciate your taking the time to read my blog series on the Indie Author. It is my hope it will help new authors along their journey as they take that first step towards publishing.