With some of the recent controversy over certain covers, I thought it might be a good time to go over exactly how those covers come to be. Each book is different, of course, and often how a cover is made is determined by the tone we’re trying to achieve, along with how much we can afford to spend based on the number of copies we project a book will ship.
At the beginning of every month, it’s time to discuss covers. In a week or so, we’ll be talking about October, just to give you a sense of how far we’re working ahead. Sometimes the books are written, and sometimes they’re not. But each author gets a questionnaire asking about the characters–hair color, eye color, clothes they wear–the setting, and any ideas that might lend themselves to cover treatment. The editors take those questionnaires into a meeting with our art director and our editorial director. Then our art director will pass along the ideas we agree on to the freelance artist assigned the title. Generally, there are three ways we ask the artist to handle the assignment:
*do a photo shoot to get an original look with specific design
*use stock art to “assemble” the design
*in-house we choose pick-up art, pieces that are left over from other shoots that could also fit the title we’re working on (you see this a lot with Regencies and Westerns); and then it’s given to a designer who handles only the type
Pick-up art is generally the least expensive and arranging a shoot the most expensive because you have to pay for the models and costumes. The results can vary – we’ve had absolutely gorgeous covers made from pickup or stock art, and we’ve had some not-so-great ones that have come from a shoot. It’s not that any method is better than another, but more a matter of chooseing which one works best for what we’re trying to achieve.
Designs go back and forth between the artist and the editors until we’re happy with the result.
Most artists are very careful with any images they use–they have to be because their livelihood depends on it. Model release forms have to be signed, and any stock photos are supposed to be carefully managed by the service providing them so artists know what is royalty free (able to be used for pretty much anything with a one-time fee) vs. what is rights managed (the terms vary by the image, but suffice it to say they’re much more stringent).
In the video below, artist Judy York talks about how the cover came to be for one of C.L. Wilson’s books.