How to Find the Right Cover Artist

Some authors are blessed with talents in both written and visual arts. For such individuals, coming up with suitable cover art for their work can be easier than writing the book itself. However, for most authors, illustrating is at best a secondary endeavor, and so there is a need to find someone else who can capture the essence of your story in a single, eye-catching image. Here I shall briefly discuss how self-publishing authors can find the ideal cover artist for their work.

Sometimes finding your cover artist (or photographer, in some instances) can be a breeze. This is especially true if you have friends who can lend their talents to help you out, or else perhaps you happen to know of someone you would like to hire beforehand. In either case, great! However, at other times, finding the right artist with just the right style can be like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack. And even if you find someone, the asking price for a commission might be on the pricey side.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it is good to have an idea what size of cover you will need (if you are doing print books, at least), as well as what genre and audience your book is for. Children’s covers are going to differ from Middle Grade covers, which in turn will be slightly different from Young Adult covers, even within the same genre. A good idea is to peruse the covers of some of your favorite books in your chosen genre. This should give you a feel for what kind of artistic style you are seeking, and thus narrow your search to artists with a similar style.

Another thing to consider when starting out is price. How much are you willing to pay for your cover art? Obviously, the higher the number, the more options you’ll have open. But if you’re on a budget, this is a very serious consideration, as the average for professionally commissioned cover art can range from as low as $300 to as high as $1000. Some cost even more, depending on how well known the artist is. You may find a perfect cover in your genre and want to commission that very same artist, but keep in mind that his or her asking price–especially if the book is a big seller–may be up there.

So, with these factors in mind, you can begin your search in earnest. But where to begin? There are many websites out there devoted to art or photography in specific genres, some of which have fora or other methods through which to contact the artists directly. Some have individual websites where you can peruse their work in more detail before deciding. If you are in a hurry to find someone, it may pay off to ask other authors where they found their cover artists, and perhaps they can direct you right to the person you need. Another option is to visit art fairs or galleries in which artists are on site. In most cases, an artist will be glad to talk to you on the spot about lining up commissions, though always double check the rules (if such there are) for the specific show or exhibition you’re attending just to make sure.

It always pays to keep a list of several artists, once you have found some prospects, in case your first choice is unable to accept your commission for some reason. Two or three possibilities should do the trick. Once you have found someone, then the real fun can begin.

Working with a cover artist can be an interesting experience. Some are very friendly, polite, and professional; some are downright snooty. But whatever the case, remember that the cover is going to be the first thing people see in relation to your book–perhaps the main factor in their decision to buy it or not (despite the old adage)–so you should definitely have some input on what goes on it. If you have an image in your mind, do your best to guide things in that direction. If not, it may pay to let the artist come up with what they think will be the most eye-catching illustration. (They are the experts here, after all, and can come up with some pretty good ideas.) Either way, at the end of the process, you should definitely come away with something you like and can use, or else the price–however much or little–was too high.

An alternative to commissioning art, as I have mentioned in a previous post, is to search for “free” or “public domain” artwork. There are some sites dedicated specifically to this, but often just a broad image search can help you come up with something. You may still have to pay a small fee to the website or owner, depending on where you got the image from, but it should still be far less than commissioning art from scratch.

That’s about all I have to say on the topic of covers for now. If you have any further questions or additional information you would like to share, feel free to contact me via my Contact page, or leave a comment below. Until next time!

Published by J. S. Allen

J. S. Allen is a writer, linguist, historian, and nature-lover from Kansas City, Missouri. He is the author of the young adult series 'Sauragia' and the 'Woodland Tales' anthology for children, as well as several shorter works in various online and local venues. In between writing and publishing, he likes to draw, spend long hours outdoors, and read. His favourite authors include M. I. McAllister, Brian Jacques, and Alexandre Dumas.

2 thoughts on “How to Find the Right Cover Artist

  1. Are artists really charging that much?!
    Maybe I need to adjust my rates 😅
    Quite honestly, I feel almost bad charging people for something that I love doing, but I have to remember that I left my regular job for the dream of becoming an illustrator.

    Very interesting post.
    And from my perspective, I can say that artists struggle with the same issues as authors.

    1. I have no doubt that authors and artists share many of the same issues, both being in the highly competitive (and subjective) creative field. Not being an artist myself, I’m not the best judge of what you should charge for your work. It rather depends on your skill level and how well known you are: more recognized artists tend to be in higher demand, and so can charge higher rates. The artist I hired to do my book covers charged a flat rate of $500 per piece, which included the rights to use the work on books and reproduce it as many times as needed. I feel I got off light, as she was very polite and professional, and took my input into consideration. (And of course, the finish product came out great, in my opinion.)
      I wish you all the best in your endeavor as an illustrator! It is not easy, but if you can pull it off, there are few things more rewarding than an artistic career. “Do what you love…” as the old saying goes.

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