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View Full Version : E-Book Covers: opinions please!



quickreaver
01-19-2010, 06:44 PM
Hullo, writers! I lurk periodically here on AbsoluteWrite because I hope, someday, to actually write. But for now what I do is make purdy pictures. I'm an illustrator/freelance artist. I work for a handful of e-publishers creating covers, and as of late, I've come to question all the hard work I put in.

As writers/readers, how much impact does the cover have on you folks? I've become really frustrated with publishers not wanting to invest in good cover design (at least with e-presses.) They work with the artists who low-ball their rates, and most of the time it LOOKS like it. The covers are not great. I fear the quality of the cover just doesn't matter! Will a merely adequate design suffice? Do polished, professional covers make readers more likely to buy? I could really use some advice here. Thanks in advance!

~Cris
http://christinegriffin.artworkfolio.com/

KMTolan
01-19-2010, 06:55 PM
You've heard the old saying - "Don't judge a book by its cover." The reason this saying exists is because people do.

The very first impression is the cover art. Next, comes the title. After that, the blurb.

In my experience, a well-done cover can make the difference in sales. I'm sure some folks don't want to hear this, but I'm living it now with a second novel in a series that appears to be generating far more interest than the first novel - all because the second artist did an incredible job. Oh, the first novel's cover wasn't bad, but it didn't grab as much.

While a good cover alone won't sell - you still have to write well (grin), a bad cover can make the book scream "Noob!" and drive readers away.

It is part of a writer's homework to check out the publisher they are sniffing at. Do their covers look unprofessional? If so, then maybe the publisher is equally inept. You can (and I have) find an independent publisher who contracts out to very good artists.

Kerry

quickreaver
01-19-2010, 07:40 PM
Thanks, Kerry. Why, then, don't e-publishers understand the merits of a good cover? Heck, for that matter, why do they let the authors art direct?! (For folks who don't know, many e-publishers let the authors tell the cover artists exactly what they want on the book.) Not that writers can't have a good eye, but does it make sense? Maybe it really does! I'm just trying to figure it all out, and come to terms with the fact that no matter how great a job I do, it will only ever make a pittance unless I can break into the print biz with a big-time publisher.

veinglory
01-19-2010, 10:19 PM
I think the bottom line is that most epublishers don't sell enough copies to pay for good covers. If a book will sell 20 copies with a bad cover and 30 with a good one that doesn't give them enough extra revenue to bother. If the different is 2000 versus 3000 it is. These few, better selling, publishers may have "cheesey" covers but they are often deliberately styled that way.

p.s. hi from Epilogue. I hope you hang around here we often need a pro illustrators input :)

quickreaver
01-19-2010, 11:06 PM
I'll hang around! I think you may have been the one who clued me into this place many moons ago. I lurk often. Some day, I'll need a writer's experienced eye to help me in my futile attempt at putting pen to paper! In the meantime, I'm just trying to figure out if it's worth still doing e-book covers. The pay-off just doesn't seem to be there. Boooooo.

veinglory
01-19-2010, 11:30 PM
I think it is a bit like the deal with writing ebooks. It may be worth it if you are a fairly quick worker and limit yourself to a few of the top companies. There are a few prolific but talented cover artist/designers that I think do a great job, like Anne Cain (http://annecain.deviantart.com/gallery/#Book-Covers)and Crocodesigns (http://crocodesigns.deviantart.com/gallery/)--but they tend to lean pretty heavily on stock photos as a design element. I don't think the money is there to do a lot of illustration from scratch. (Disclosure: both of these have done cover art for my work, but paid for by my publisher--I list them because I like their stuff.)

PortableHal
01-20-2010, 01:00 AM
For me, a book's cover doesn't matter if it's an author I know and enjoy -- Stephen King, Donald Westlake, Carl Hiaasen...put a smiling lobster on their books, I'm still there.

If it's an author I don't know, you better believe the cover matters. I do judge a book by its cover. If a publisher doesn't know how to select cover artists, I assume they don't know how to select their writers, either. This isn't a fair judgment to make but there you go.

As to why they let their authors art direct? With my first and only book, the editor asked my partner and I what we wanted and the artist followed our instructions to the letter. We love our cover (liked it so much, in fact, that we contacted the artist and bought it from him) but I wondered, too, why we were allowed to pull those particular strings. I was told that most artists don't want to read the actual manuscript they're illustrating; they want to paint an image and be done with it.

You do good work, Christine. Don't lose heart.

mscelina
01-20-2010, 01:14 AM
Not all e-book covers are of inferior quality. Several of my epubbed book covers are incredible works of art. Like these (all IMO, naturally)

http://i75.photobucket.com/albums/i293/isabelle_spurrier/CS_Metamorphosis_HighRes.jpg

http://i75.photobucket.com/albums/i293/isabelle_spurrier/CS_TemptationofAsphodel.jpg

The same artist did both these covers and I adore them. In our company, authors fill out a cover art request form and the artist produces the cover from that. If an author doesn't like the cover (which has happened to me and not with this artist) they can try to convince the art director to try something else, but the art director has the final say.

thothguard51
01-20-2010, 01:21 AM
Christine, I agree with Portablehal, you do good work. I would be happy with a cover from you and I am very picky about my cover artist.

Now, I don't know much about the pay scale between print and e-publishing artist, but I can tell you that everytime I find a new artist, (after they have become somewhat successful), they are usually out of my reach. I don't begrudge them their fee's, but with small publishers, the fee's are often time a make or break on the profits, unless the book goes ballistic in sales...

quickreaver
01-20-2010, 01:41 AM
I personally know Anne Cain and the woman behind Croco Designs...both are wonderful people; I love 'em to death! (And I'd throw April Martinez (http://graphicfantastic.com/) into the 'great e-cover designers' category as well.) You have every right to crow about their handiwork. I can tell you that they, too, are annoyed with the e-cover situation. I know how we feel about the companies' lack of investment, but I wondered what the writers and readers thought about it.

Sometimes I think authors are so tickled to get published, they don't really give a floopy what's on the cover. Which is kinda sad. They sell themselves short. As Hal mentioned, if you aren't a 'name' yet, you have GOT to have good marketing, and that includes a kickin' cover. (BTW, congrats on the success you had with your book and cover, Hal! Thanks for the encouragement.)

I wonder if it's a uniquely e-publishing phenomena. They crank out so many titles a month (sometimes a week!) that the publishers can't truly art direct every one of them. So they let the authors call the shots. And that's probably also why they can't invest real money in the art. Some companies oversee the art better than others. Some are smart enough to hire artists that don't NEED much direction! But shouldn't those particular artists be valued and therefore paid better? Sadly, what happens is when a cover artist tries to ask for better pay, they're simply replaced by cheaper artists (who may not be trying to make a living off their talents...they're "armchair artists".) And that's when the quality takes a dive.

I hate to be competitive about e-covers. I want us all to be cooperative and help each other get better. But I sure as heck won't train someone who will gleefully undercut my prices! If 'adequate' is good enough for e-books, why work hard? Have any of you guys ever gotten a cover you hated, and just bit your tongue about it?

quickreaver
01-20-2010, 01:51 AM
Whoops! Some folks snuck in there as I was typing! Thanks for the input. I did a cover for Aspen Mountain several years ago, and the author paid me himself. Sounds like they're typical of almost all e-pubs. Maybe I'm being too hard on the companies...expecting too much?

I know it's hard for small companies to get off the ground. I think they also underestimate how much money it takes to get by (don't we all?), especially with a market getting more and more saturated by young e-presses. That's where your marketing and quality makes ALL the difference! But I'm preachin' to the choir, aren't I? ;)

veinglory
01-20-2010, 02:17 AM
Ebooks are clearly a volume market, so creative professions have to defend their own bottom line and not just take what publishers offer (hence my site ERECsite.com which tries to help authors with this).

I have found that better epublishers like Loose Id and Samhain have let me have "supervised input" to cover design. Mostly it worked out okay. I also learned that what I thought was a good cover is not always what helped sell the book (yes readers clearly do like "mantitty"--tricky as some of my unglamorous characters have titty that is not the right sort....). However, without naming names, I had some covers I really did not like that also did not sell well in comparison to other comparable books.

I think some publishers don't have the expertise on board they really need in terms of art, so they have a higher bar for their writers than their artists--for a few it is the other way around--for a good many it is more limbo than high jump for both. I used to subscribe to a magazine called 3rd Alternative which has some great UK fantasy writing in it--I eventually stopped because the art was just so terrible I could not take it any more.

quickreaver
01-20-2010, 04:32 AM
Wise words, Emily. Problem is many hobbyist cover artists are quick to undercut the market. And honest to God, you get what you pay for.

If you're not gonna be able to make a pretty picture for the cover, I think you'd be better off with just some great fontwork, yeah? Then you won't risk making the writer within look amateurish.

I'll have to check out your site, Emily. I thank you for providing a good place for honest information! The world needs more of 'em.

Annayna
01-20-2010, 05:31 AM
You have some beautiful work!

brainstorm77
01-20-2010, 01:55 PM
Hullo, writers! I lurk periodically here on AbsoluteWrite because I hope, someday, to actually write. But for now what I do is make purdy pictures. I'm an illustrator/freelance artist. I work for a handful of e-publishers creating covers, and as of late, I've come to question all the hard work I put in.

As writers/readers, how much impact does the cover have on you folks? I've become really frustrated with publishers not wanting to invest in good cover design (at least with e-presses.) They work with the artists who low-ball their rates, and most of the time it LOOKS like it. The covers are not great. I fear the quality of the cover just doesn't matter! Will a merely adequate design suffice? Do polished, professional covers make readers more likely to buy? I could really use some advice here. Thanks in advance!

~Cris
http://christinegriffin.artworkfolio.com/

Great covers :)

David McAfee
01-20-2010, 10:13 PM
You've heard the old saying - "Don't judge a book by its cover." The reason this saying exists is because people do.

The very first impression is the cover art. Next, comes the title. After that, the blurb.

In my experience, a well-done cover can make the difference in sales. I'm sure some folks don't want to hear this, but I'm living it now with a second novel in a series that appears to be generating far more interest than the first novel - all because the second artist did an incredible job. Oh, the first novel's cover wasn't bad, but it didn't grab as much.

While a good cover alone won't sell - you still have to write well (grin), a bad cover can make the book scream "Noob!" and drive readers away.

Kerry


What Kerry said ^^^

quickreaver
01-20-2010, 10:23 PM
I'm really interested to see this second cover, Kerry!

BarbaraSheridan
01-21-2010, 12:16 AM
Heck, for that matter, why do they let the authors art direct?! .

Hey Chris! :hi:

I have never understood the way some pubs (well knowns, even) actually let authors complain enough to have a completed cover redone by either the same artist or get an entirely new one.

Maybe I'm just easy to please because I've been on the receiving end of the major print publisher "Here's the cover, suck it up" way of operating. Unless something is really really "off" in the artwork I'm pretty happy.

veinglory
01-21-2010, 12:32 AM
I have had a few cases off totally off artwork, actually just two. The artist doesn't always have time to see what the book is really about.

quickreaver
01-21-2010, 01:07 AM
Was I one of 'em, Emily? Tell me...I can take it!

veinglory
01-21-2010, 01:14 AM
LOL, no--but out of discretion I shouldn't say any more.

But one reason to have author input at some reasonable level is for those little things like--um, I did mention the hero is black, right? And so forth.

quickreaver
01-21-2010, 01:40 AM
*phew!* Oh, I totally understand! And I DO think the author should have input. Only she knows the book inside and out. I just don't think she should have say-so over the cover design. I've had authors tell me exactly the poses they want for the characters, which limits me to death. It's one thing to say "Hey, I want a BladeRunner vibe", and another thing entirely to insist "Character 1 must be in profile yet somehow looking at Character 2, who is behind #1. Oh, and the setting is a snow-swept mountain but I want #2 bare-chested. And #1 looks just like Keith Urban." Except later you find out he look just like Keith Urban, but with black hair. And could you make him look a little more sexy? You know, like George Clooney?

If e-pubs had REAL art directors on-board, this wouldn't happen. Well, not as often! (EDIT: Not all e-pubs have art directors w/o a clue. I work for three who do a great job in general! Had to get that in there.)

Hey, since I've got writers here, I have another question. How much editing goes on by the various companies you guys work for? Do they simply check for spelling and grammar? Or do they catch awkward phrases and syntax? Would they ever ask you to change plot points? Are there some publishers more difficult to get accepted into than others? Do androids dream of electric sheep? ;)

veinglory
01-21-2010, 01:44 AM
I had to learn that I knew jack about cover design--somewhat to the detriment of my first book where I had too much control and picked something far too low impact. Live and learn. (a.k.a. how I learned to stop worrying and love the mantitty).

quickreaver
01-21-2010, 01:51 AM
Mantitty. Huh-huh...huh...:D

BarbaraSheridan
01-21-2010, 08:14 AM
Hey, since I've got writers here, I have another question. How much editing goes on by the various companies you guys work for? Do they simply check for spelling and grammar? Or do they catch awkward phrases and syntax? Would they ever ask you to change plot points? Are there some publishers more difficult to get accepted into than others? Do androids dream of electric sheep? ;)

I sent you a PM on this.

Well, except the androids, jury's still out on them. :tongue

veinglory
01-21-2010, 06:11 PM
I have had a mixture of editing experiences from cursory to very thorough and including continuity and content as well as technical stuff.

KMTolan
01-21-2010, 06:45 PM
I'm really interested to see this second cover, Kerry!

Amanda Kesley is the graphics artist for this.

Kerry

http://www.kmtolan.com/rdcover.jpg

thornhill
01-21-2010, 11:35 PM
That's some nice art on those covers. One thing about e-book artwork is that it will first be seen as a tiny thumbnail on a web page, so you have to get the micro-view to look good as well.

quickreaver
01-22-2010, 12:15 AM
Thanks, Kerry! Good legibility and contrast. The colors are steamy! Not sure about the fig's face, though. I might've done a few little tweaks to make him a teensy bit more handsome, but that's just me! I can be a little persnickity. ;)

KMTolan
01-22-2010, 01:35 AM
Thanks, Kerry! Good legibility and contrast. The colors are steamy! Not sure about the fig's face, though. I might've done a few little tweaks to make him a teensy bit more handsome, but that's just me! I can be a little persnickity. ;)

Actually, that is a "her". The heavy build is reflective of the character herself, an added touch that pleased me greatly. The MC stands at six-foot three and weights in around 250 pounds or so - all muscle. The word "petite" runs screaming from her (grin). She's not human, btw.

Kerry

quickreaver
01-22-2010, 02:07 AM
Oh, wow, sorry! Heh...I just, um...my bad! *open mouth, insert foot, chew vigorously*

KMTolan
01-22-2010, 03:12 AM
Oh, wow, sorry! Heh...I just, um...my bad! *open mouth, insert foot, chew vigorously*

You still have the MUCH better avatar graphic.

Kerry

DrZoidberg
01-28-2010, 04:38 PM
I think the cover is extremely important, but as a few have pointed out. It's a volume market. My wife (Agnes Knox) makes a fair living from making e-book covers. So far mostly erotica, but she's done other stuff too. It's not a question of cover art being undervalued, it's more a question of many very good cover artists working for cheap, or even free. You'll get rich (ha ha) from doing cover art by being quick rather than putting days into producing the perfect masterpiece. It still has to be a great job, but such is just the market. It's a question of using the tools that allow you to produce quality and make money.

My wife's page.
http://aknox.deviantart.com/

So if you need an artist, don't hesitate sending her a message (<- shameless plug) :)

FOTSGreg
01-29-2010, 07:21 AM
I had an artist here on AW create a cover for an ebook I plan to publish sometime this year. I asked for a change here, a nudge there, and she was happy to comply. Her work is excellent and she created a scene that was nearly straight out of one of the book's chapters and fits nicely.

I've personally created covers for game products (nothing you'd know) and I do have contacts which include a covey of really great artists who do wonders with programs like Illustrator, Universe, and Moray/POVRay. Most of the work they've done for me is extremely professional in its quality and sometimes as good as anything you're likely to see on the cover of a professionally published novel. I count myself fortunate to have made so many contacts in the digital art field since I started out in 1995.

I really ought to start a list and recruit some of the folks I know. A lot of their work is absolutely extraordinary (you can see some of it here - http://fots.cdgroup.org/Ellis_Gallery.htm , http://fots.cdgroup.org/IanStead_Gallery.htm , and here http://fots.cdgroup.org/MikeMenchie_Gallery.htm ). Now, admittedly, some of the examples are cruder than others (mine, principally), but these are just the tip of the iceberg of what I've seen some of the folks who've done work for me do.

There are extraordinary digital artists out there who are willing to work on spec, for the exposure, and for free much of the time. You just have to take the time and reach out to try to find them.

veinglory
01-29-2010, 07:11 PM
I, personally, prefer to pay them, regardless.

quickreaver
01-30-2010, 09:45 PM
Glad this thread is still chugging along!

I think DrZoidberg hit the nail right on the head, confirming my suspicion that "fast and adequate" is the key when it comes to e-publishing covers. Less money is invested in the creation of the literary product (compared to print merchandise) so of course the covers must cost less. Heck, most e-presses don't offer anything but royalties to their authors, no advances and minimal marketing. And it's relative easy (cough cough!) to get e-published vs. securing a contract with a "real" publishing house. (Please don't get mad at me for making these generalizations, but they are what they are...feel free to correct me if I'm misjudging the situation!)

FOTSGreg...please PLEASE don't encourage spec work or working for free, in exchange for exposure! Neither an artist nor a writer should EVER be expected to devalue themselves that much! As a rule, the exposure is negligible; the only person getting anything out of the situation is the company who is making the product. If you want to enter a contest or work for nothing, that should be the artist's decision, not ENCOURAGED in ANY industry!

Check this out: http://www.no-spec.com/
Or the ever-brash Harlan Ellison: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE

Don't we all want to make this our living? ;)

FOTSGreg
01-30-2010, 11:03 PM
Er...please don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to encourage work for spec or for exposure only (although I've done it as have many others). However, if the artist is willing to do it, and mine were and are, and I'm willing to give them even minimal exposure, there are many who are perfectly willing to step up and do it.

Now, with that said, of course I think an artist should be paid for their work if at all possible, and even after the fact, in some fashion, not necessarily monetarily if they're willing to accept alternate payment means. The artists who've worked for me in the past have often accepted free copies of the work(s) their art went into as well as other products which I've been able to provide them (which they were interested in anyway - so we did a sort of "barter" for the work).

Plus, they retained the copyright to the works, had their works attributed, and did gain a bit of exposure (at least one of the people I've associated with worked on Mass Effect (I think) due, in part, to work he originally did for me (writing, mostly, but he gained an acknowledgement in a novelization of the game for his contributions)).

I'm well aware of Ellison's opinion(s), BTW. I just don't necessarily agree with him or his attitude 100% of the time.

BTW, I don't necessarily completely agree that work for exposure is a bad thing or that the exposure of a work published purely for the exposure is a bad thing. A lot of people have sought and continue to seek exposure through Bewildering Stories (and I include myself and a number of others, even some published authors, in that category). BWS seems to generate a lot of exposure for some people.

veinglory
01-31-2010, 02:18 AM
I think paying a person with relevant experience, even for my self-published collection, is part of supporting the professionalism of the epublishing industry. After all, I am not a cover designed so I depended on an experienced cover design to know what looks good toreaders, rather than just what I like. That alone is worth paying for.

FOTSGreg
01-31-2010, 03:08 AM
veinglory, More power to you. When I started out I was not in the position to pay anyone for anything with anything except my writing and game products. They volunteered to contribute artwork. I repaid them with free copies of the book(s) (in print, which cost me a small fortune to produce not to mention considerable time as I was just then learning how to do such things). I've never heard a word of complaint from any of the artists whose work I used.

Today? I'd pay 'em. Of course I would - as I could. But if someone wanted to volunteer work and get exposure through something I was trying to publish I wouldn't turn them away (immediately). There are standards to meet, though, and I've turned down or requested changes in lots of digital art. That's not something you can easily do with a painting (which is what most cover art for real books comes from).

The AW artist I mentioned above volunteered her efforts, tweaked the work to my specs, and cooperated every step of the way to creating a great cover image. I'm going to kick a percentage of anything I make on the book her way if any money is ever made off it, but she'll get her art exposed on numerous web sites which receive hundreds of hits a week if not per day. We don't have a contract, but I do reserve the right to a "gentlemen's agreement" even if it's only from my side.

If I had the money in pocket I'd be throwing at least several hundred dollars her way (and I hope to be able to do that eventually).

veinglory
01-31-2010, 03:21 AM
Another option is to pay a few percent of royalties to the artist.

quickreaver
01-31-2010, 03:45 AM
I know what you're saying, FOTSGreg. Sadly, there are FAR more folks trying to get something for nothing, telling creatives "You'll get exposure!" instead of "Here's a fair paycheck." And certainly there's good cause for this; our industries are incredibly competitive and often times huge gambles.

Never work on spec, though. Ever. It's one thing to show a client your portfolio and offer them a quote, and quite another to do the whole dang job only to have them select someone else (and possibly steal your ideas in the process.)

Entering contests for exposure, where the work gets juried and the resulting compilation is highly regarded, is indeed a good thing! Exposure is necessary in order for clients to see/read your handiwork and appreciate it, as well as expand your reputation as an industry professional. And as I've said previously, it is a creative's right to choose to participate in such a venture. Just choose said ventures wisely.

'Spectrum' http://www.spectrumfantasticart.com/ is such a vehicle for fantasy/scifi illustrators. I figure Bewildering Stories is the same for you. But there's a world of difference between getting into Spectrum (juried by the preeminent illustrators and art directors of our day), and getting onto the cover of a self-published e-book (courtesy of a well-meaning, hopefull but unknown author.) You have to weigh the actual marketing possibilities vs. work outlay and construct a contract that will allow you to retain copyright of your work and disallow the client from taking advantage of what you've given him (for FREE). Chances are you've gifted him with a helluva lot more than you'll get in return, and you've gotta be okay with that.

Honestly, you'd be better off working on a nice personal piece, geared towards bettering yourself as a writer or artist, than working without luster on someone else's idea for free.

(BTW, I'm not a raging Ellison fan either. He's a gloriously abrasive big-mouth. But he's spot on, when it comes to working for no pay.)

Emily has the right idea. E-publishing catches enough flack as it is re. its professionalism. Asking someone to work for nothing more than the possibility of exposure is unprofessional at best. Unless he's a dear friend who would give you the shirt off his back, I don't recommend it. I've only once worked for exposure (since I decided to take this art thing seriously) and it didn't get me anything. Zip. Nada. Bupka. The first client who paid me a fair wage got one of my most popular paintings, to date. It's all about the anecdotal evidence, baby! :D

Okay, this is verging on tl;dr. Better stop ranting...

EDIT: You posted as I was blathering, FOTSGreg. You are a gentleman, and for that, I salute you!

veinglory
01-31-2010, 03:53 AM
The way I see it if the author is deriving a profit and the artist isn't, someone is getting exploited. They may have agreed to be exploited but that does'nt make it a good thing. If the profits are all going to charity if the work is sold at cost, that is different. I donate art and writing to charities and hobby publications all the time.

FOTSGreg
01-31-2010, 04:33 AM
Hey, guys, I didn't mean to turn this into a rag-on-anyone party (particularly myself). I freely admit that I made mistakes when I was starting out and have continued to make them along the way. I hope I learned a few things along the way and won;t ever make those mistakes again.

However, I maintain that, in one fashion or another, I have always respected and tried to pay, in one fashion or another, every artist or writer who ever contributed any of their work to anything I was putting out (a few of 'em even got cash!). A few of 'em have even had fun, and turned their work into real-life careers too (well, one anyway - I don't count me there).

Uh, quickreaver, maybe I was too quick with the term "on spec". I've never practiced the offering of a promissory note to a writer or artist if the product made a profit. I've always gone with the plan of "if you do this, and I approve it and use it, I'll give you this for the work" unless it was specifically donated or we had agreed on other terms.

Oh, and just another BTW, I have never asked anyone to do anything for free. In the end, all of my people, friends, and associates have gained from our experiences and work together. I have even, on rare occasion, sent an artist or writing contributor a copy of a work they didn't request simply because their work appeared in it or they'd done something for me in the past.

You're absolutely right, though. Nobody works for free. Money flows to the author/artist and my only wish is that I'd made some of these folks a bit more than we did.

FOTSGreg
01-31-2010, 04:47 AM
veinglory, There are situations where the author (or publisher) doesn't make a profit, ever. That's been my case 90% of the time. Now, most people, and unfortunately most publishers in the ebook market in the same situation, would choose not to pay their authors and artists anything, including money or even a complimentary copy of the work.

I have never done that. The least an author or artist has ever gotten from me is a complimentary copy. And they have always had the option to order additional copies of anything their work appears in completely free of charge (just as customers who paid me once for my game programs on CD received free lifetime updates of those programs).

Honestly, I've been too honest for my own profitable good 90% of the time.

quickreaver
01-31-2010, 05:09 AM
Thanks for the clarification, Greg. I could tell you weren't the sort to be a heartless opportunist. I just wanted to nip the idea of working on spec or for free in the bud. No offense intended. Hope you didn't feel too picked on!

I moderate an art forum and boy have we seen some winners. It's almost a knee-jerk reaction to 'set folks straight' when they so much as hint at no compensation, save 'exposure'. So I'll just shuddup now...I swear...

Hittman
01-31-2010, 09:21 AM
Sadly, there are FAR more folks trying to get something for nothing, telling creatives "You'll get exposure!"

I used to get that a lot as a musician. "We can't pay you, but it will be good exposure!" My standard reply was "people die from exposure."

quickreaver
01-31-2010, 10:29 PM
Ha! True dat, Hittman! :D

KMTolan
02-01-2010, 12:57 AM
And it's relative easy (cough cough!) to get e-published vs. securing a contract with a "real" publishing house. (Please don't get mad at me for making these generalizations, but they are what they are...feel free to correct me if I'm misjudging the situation!)

Technically, you are correct, but I thought it might be helpful to explain a bit more as to not generate misunderstandings.

It is easier to be published with an e-book publisher simply because of two reasons IMHO. First, there are more e-book publishers than traditional print publishers. Second, the editors of e-book publishers can pick stories that don't necessarily have the "mass appeal" agents and marketing staffs at NY demand.

That said, my publisher's rejection rate is 95% - so in respect to quality, it is about as "real" as it gets (grin).

Kerry

quickreaver
02-01-2010, 02:30 AM
Wow, 95%! If you can say, Kerry, who's your publisher? (I think I read it on the forum here somewhere, but I forget...)

FOTSGreg
02-01-2010, 05:54 AM
Heh! A 95% rejection rate is considered relatively conservative amongst publishing circles. I've recently read blogs where print editors and publishers speak openly of considering 130-135 manuscripts -- and accepting 1-3.

Less than 1% acceptance rate appears to be where the industry is headed these days and tht's down from 5% a decade ago and 3% 5 years ago.

KMTolan
02-01-2010, 07:08 AM
Wow, 95%! If you can say, Kerry, who's your publisher? (I think I read it on the forum here somewhere, but I forget...)

Champagne Books. Keep in mind that this high rate is partly due to an incredibly large amount of garbage being sent in. I don't know what is in people's minds - do they think e-book is shorthand for illiterate? I suspect we can thank Publish America and their ilk for giving the impression that e-book publishers are easy.

Kerry

quickreaver
02-01-2010, 07:54 AM
Interesting! Could also be partly due to the fact e-pubs release far more titles on a regular basis, so the impression is that your odds are better.

Since it's cheaper to produce an e-book, do you think that maybe the standards ARE lower? There just isn't the financial risk involved so the quality isn't quite as vital. That's not to say darned good writers don't e-publish, but might that figure in?

Look at me, I'm derailing my own thread...go, me!

veinglory
02-01-2010, 08:02 AM
Honestly, I think the odds are better (assuming you are writing something suitable for them)--but that doesn't make it easy per se. But if getting in with Loose Id and Random House was about the same, Loose Id I luv ya, but I would have gone for Random House.

DrZoidberg
02-01-2010, 12:28 PM
Not to state the obvious, but for a professional artist, time is the major factor. A pro, with a full schedule, will only work on a piece for the time that they're paid on doing so. More money means more time, means better piece. It doesn't take long before an artist knows their "worth" in money. Assuming you've found an artist who's style you like, you get what you pay for. Duh.

edit: My wife just did a new web-page to promote her as an artist for erotic book covers specifically. To sort the different art style she does from each other.

http://eroticart.simonas.se/

quickreaver
02-01-2010, 06:54 PM
Yup, Dr. Z! And that's why you find so much crap on the covers of e-books...the pubs aren't willing to pay. I think it's also why they let the authors play art director and you see the same style/stock photos over and over and over...it's quick to execute and cheap if you've already purchased the photo.

This is why I started this thread: do the authors really care? Does better art really sell more books? And what do you folks, as authors, enjoy seeing on your covers? I really like creating covers, but the effort doesn't seem to be getting its fair due (not for me, precisely, but in general!)

Okay, here's what really got me thinking: Carina Press. I had SUCH high hopes that this Harlequin branch would step up the e-cover game...that they'd pay better money for really nice covers. No such luck. They don't pay better, and in fact, some of the sample covers I've seen haven't been stellar. (Yeah, yeah, I'll never work for them. Oh well.) I know a few of the cover artists, and dern it, they deserve better pay! I just get the icky feeling Harlequin is taking advantage of all their freelancers (author and artist alike.) And it really got me questioning whether there's any sort of future to e-publishing, in terms of making a career from it. /rant

veinglory
02-01-2010, 08:00 PM
I think it is unlikely they will pay more than, say, 5% of what a book will earn in a year for the cover. This means, on average, about 25-50 dollars. Only when/if ebooks earn more will more be invested in them IMHO.

KMTolan
02-01-2010, 10:48 PM
Since it's cheaper to produce an e-book, do you think that maybe the standards ARE lower? There just isn't the financial risk involved so the quality isn't quite as vital. That's not to say darned good writers don't e-publish, but might that figure in?

Look at me, I'm derailing my own thread...go, me!

No doubt that is a perception driving some of the slop being submitted, however any publisher willing to accept sub-standard work will end up out of business in short order. They need every book to be a payday - there are few if any deep pockets out there among the Indies. Champagne, for instance, has no problem rejecting even their in-house authors.

That said, you can and do get e-book publishers who haven't enough skill themselves to know a good book from bad. These folks tend to be flash in the pans, though. You may find them on Amazon.com, but I doubt they'll have lasted long enough to make the list out at Fictionwise.

Kerry

KMTolan
02-01-2010, 10:58 PM
And what do you folks, as authors, enjoy seeing on your covers? I really like creating covers, but the effort doesn't seem to be getting its fair due (not for me, precisely, but in general!)


I get to have an initial input on my covers - Rogue Dancer for instance depicts a scene (somewhat) out of the novel that I suggested would make a good cover. However, the woman on the cover is anything but what my character looks like (and I'm not sure she's even dressed). The artist did the work herself on most everything, but did purchase the woman's image from a stock catalog graphics artists have access to. The reason is simple - time and the fact that she is a "graphic" artist - not a portrait painter. My novel was one among many projects she was handling.

I think she did a fine job portraying the intent of the book - and an excellent job creating a cover to grab the eye. That is all I as an author can hope for. A reader should be able to tie the cover into the book somehow. I have only once been in a position where I flatly rejected a cover - and fortunately my publisher agreed to have the artist try again. The final say is always with the publisher - not me.

If I felt that a publisher was producing poor covers, I would not sign with them. Covers are that important. Any publisher wanting me to come up with the artwork myself is a publisher that is not ready for professional writers.

Kerry

quickreaver
02-01-2010, 11:08 PM
*thumbs up* That's a wise way of thinking. And heartening to hear!

Darklite
02-01-2010, 11:26 PM
I think the best e-book covers are those where the artist uses illustrations based on the characters rather than models who might bear a vague resemblance. Also, I really dislike moobs on covers. I shall object rather strongly if I get them on mine.

veinglory
02-02-2010, 12:08 AM
I felt that way about moobs until I saw the sales and the positive readers reaction. The I realised that what I think may not matter too much so long as the character is plausibly mooby and the genre is right for a mooby cover.

brainstorm77
02-02-2010, 12:33 AM
Many like man titty.

Darklite
02-02-2010, 12:49 AM
Are readers that into moobs? I guess it's a question of taste, but I much prefer my e-books with a yaoi/illustrated type cover. I have, however, bought one or two e-books with moobs in the past (because I'm drawn to the story) but I always wonder why the owners of said moobs are usually decapitated. I'd much rather see a good-looking face, but I guess I must be in the minority there.

veinglory
02-02-2010, 01:16 AM
I felt they same, but it seems they are--they really are.

quickreaver
02-02-2010, 02:45 AM
I've had requests all over the continuum...heads, no heads, moobs, no skin showing...hard for me to judge popularity! But I think there has been slightly more requests for headless torsos. Personally, I like illustrations (realistic or painterly) over photomanips, but that definitely is a minority, for romance/erotica.

veinglory
02-02-2010, 02:51 AM
I prefer illustrations too--like UK versions of fantasy paperbacks. But I have about 20 ebooks out now and mantitty covers do seem to sell better when comparing otherwise similar ebooks.

scarletpeaches
02-02-2010, 03:52 AM
I definitely prefer mantitty covers to illustrations. Some of them are just laughably bad. And let's face it, who gets turned on by, or finds cartoons erotic?

Don't answer that.

I need to imagine real people, that's all, and covers help me picture the characters. Illustrations make erotica novels look like kids' books from the outside.

thethinker42
02-02-2010, 04:48 AM
Love 'em or hate 'em, "mantitty" covers are definitely popular. I rather like them, personally.

This is the cover for my first book, which was released by the Carnal Passions imprint of Champagne Books (art by Amanda Kelsey):

http://i72.photobucket.com/albums/i177/thethinker42/foraw-1.jpg

I've gotten literally dozens of e-mails from readers about this cover, including a few who said they weren't usually into erotica or multiple partners, but once they saw the cover, couldn't resist. I love the cover anyway, but even more so now that I've seen the response it's gotten.

DrZoidberg
02-02-2010, 03:28 PM
A publisher doesn't have to be an art critic, does he/she? They don't even have to have good taste, right? That's what the artist is for. All the publisher needs to keep track of is which artist increases the sales for a particular author or types of authors. That's what the cover art is for. To sell the book, by conveying, visually the general vibe of what is found on the inside. Not to appeal to the specific tastes of the author.

Talking from my own experiences with my wife now; art is a specialised skill that talks to the subconscious. It's very hard for me, who haven't refined that skill nearly as well as my wife, to put my finger on exactly why one piece works and another doesn't. My wife can always point out exactly why I like something better than I can. Once she does I invariably say, "oh, yes of course, I see it now". I don't think there's any shame in this. It's simply down to training. Nobody is great at everything, and in my experience people who are great at anything, tend to be specialised.

Publishers and authors are experts in a different field than an artist. My wife's experiences is that when publishers and authors put their noses into the aesthetics of her work, it tends not to work out so well. This is simply from looking at the sales of the books. They're most often better off just letting her get on with it, and answer any pertinent question she might have. There's plenty of examples where covers that represent a major investments have the cover changed again and again, do not sell as well as books where nobody had an opinion about the cover.

Of course she always obediently does whatever the guy with the money tells her. Such is the way of the world. Bottom line is, just because an author thinks a picture is spiffing, doesn't mean that it'll sell the book.

scarletpeaches
02-02-2010, 04:15 PM
I think author/reader is a false dichotomy. One would hope any writer would also be a reader and therefore would have a gut instinct as to what would sell a book and what would not.

That said, too many people blame bad sales on the cover rather than looking at their own writing talents (or lack thereof).

A bad workman blames his tools.

Darklite
02-02-2010, 04:34 PM
As a writer, I have a very good idea of what I want my eventual book cover to look like. I also have an idea on what my characters would want the cover to look like (and yes I do sometimes think of them as real people, however sad/weird that might be). My guys would not be into flaunting their boobies for all and sundry to ogle even if my MC did narrate his way through a 3,000 word sex scene :)

Anyway, my point is, why would an artist, who's probably only got a one page summary of the story to work with plus some vague physical description (unless they read every book they produce a cover for), possibly know more about what would suit the book than the writer?

Ultimately, I think the publisher should have the final say, after all, given that it's in their interest to make the sales, they should know what works best, shouldn't they?

veinglory
02-02-2010, 07:08 PM
The artist has generally done hundreds of covers for that publisher under the direct guidance of owner or editors. As such they have a much more direct line to the instituitional knowledge fo the publishing regarding what sells well. Samhain recent said that the single most important factor affecting books being picked up by brick and mortar stores was the cover having a certaion look. I would certainly want that look!

quickreaver
02-02-2010, 09:05 PM
Everyone has pertinent points, here! Dr.Z is very correct in stating the most important part of the cover is in how it motivates sales, and that is often in conflict with what the author would like for the image. Some authors have a better design eye than others, so leaving it up to them is a crap shoot. An artist can do their darnedest to make the product look appealing and salable, but sometimes you just can't get blood from a turnip. I've had cover requests that included such a nutty assortment of requirements, there was NO way I could make it look cool. (Teaser: it involved the undead, BDSM, and a magical talking lizard. I kid you not.)

If an e-press hires an art director with experience in the industry, they'll get not only a person with their finger on the pulse of what sells, but a pro who understands composition and design matters, so that the resulting image is legible, attractive, and not a cheesy photomanip with 29 different lightsources and poorly cropped bodyparts.

Scarletpeaches is also correct in pointing out that the author and reader is usually one and the same. Authors are voracious readers, and many readers are wannabe authors. They cheerlead and support eachother. In this case, however, I think the meat of the book, the writing itself, is the vital component. The cover is to lure in someone who isn't familiar with the product already, so it must be marketable to the public at large. Great writing AND a great cover? Paydirt!

Darklite, we usually don't get to read the book...you're right. What we normally receive is a cover brief from the publisher, containing hastily answered questions the author has provided about characters, story vibe, and sometimes a key scene or previous cover the author has enjoyed. We then do concept art that may or may not contain sample stock photos. The author gets their say-so, we finish the job, then the publisher gives the final thumbs up-or-down. So word to the authors here: fill out your request forms thoroughly. Don't rush it. If you want your covers to fulfill your dreams, put some thought into it! But don't expect to tell the whole tale in one glance; distill the image down to the juiciest bits. Editing is BOTH of our friends...heh...

BTW, I'm really diggin' this thread. And I thank you all for your viewpoints!

veinglory
02-02-2010, 09:25 PM
Conflicting light sources on photo mash-ups really bug me... just saying. Almost as much as 'I-just-found-the-saturation-slider' bright orange skin....

Deb Kinnard
02-04-2010, 05:43 AM
Jenifer Ranieri of Desert Breeze Publishing does super covers. Her cover for WHITE TIGER just took EPIC's Ariana award in its category.

Like the others, I love fine artwork on e-book covers. I've been blessed to have some great ones.

veinglory
02-04-2010, 06:47 AM
I think author/reader is a false dichotomy. One would hope any writer would also be a reader and therefore would have a gut instinct as to what would sell a book and what would not.

The thing is, the author is a sample of one. They know what sells a book to them. But they cannot assume they are a "normative" buyer. I know that the covers I hate sell better, but I still don't like them personally. I have just learned to accept that what I think about them isn't all that important.

quickreaver
02-04-2010, 07:16 PM
I wonder who votes on the Arianna Awards? Do you know, Deb? I was perusing the winners, and some of them just didn't shine (in my biased opinion!) I won't point out which ones failed, but let's just say legibility was an issue! (Looks like I got a couple nominations in the Contemporary and Paranormal Erotic Romance categories! Who submits these for judging?) Maybe I should read the site more thoroughly!

veinglory
02-04-2010, 10:51 PM
For those interested: http://www.epicauthors.com/quasars-best-winners2010.html

Darklite
02-05-2010, 02:01 AM
I really like the winner of the fantasy/paranormal romance. And also the first of the covers in the children/young adult category, though it's not a genre I would read. I wouldn't know who votes for the winners but I think it should be up to the readers as they are, after all, the people who buy the books and a good few would make their selection based on the cover art alone.
And incidentally, Quickreaver, I saw a cover of yours over at Loose Id (Baymoreís Heir by Lynn Lorenz) and now itís on my to read list because, yeah, I think that cover is absolutely beautiful. Hope you donít mind me mentioning it :)

quickreaver
02-05-2010, 05:54 PM
Gosh, thanks! Of course I don't mind! :snoopy: It means I've done my job right...

nkkingston
02-14-2010, 12:43 AM
I saw one over at Loose Id the other day that had me staring at the screen - I googled the author and realised the reason I had such de ja vu was because I used to follow the artist when she did a lot of fanart. Absolutely gorgeous stuff!