I am very proud of the front cover for The Sheriff and I feel it lives up to the story. After spending months writing and editing the book, it would have been a shame to drop the ball at the final stage with a sub-standard cover image. Thankfully, my illustrator Matt Miles did a brilliant job and now The Sheriff is particularly eye-catching when scrolling through the Amazon shelves.
I feel I have learnt a lot on this subject over the past three months so here are my top five tips for illustrating your novel.
1. Artists Thrive at University - arty degree courses are full of talented, undiscovered artists looking for a chance to prove themselves. Rather than paying a vast sum of money to a 'professional', I strongly recommend visiting a local university which offers arts degrees and putting up a poster requesting an illustrator. The departments may even email the students on your behalf. You will be spoilt for choice. Some universities, such as Coventry University, have a public degree show in the Spring and you can view each students' work before taking home their business cards for your favourites.
2. Browse Before You Buy - illustrators have very different styles so view a selection of their work before making contact. Many illustrators have an online portfolio on sites such as Tumblr. This is the portfolio for Matt Miles.
3. Get The Ball Rolling - once you have found an illustrator, you will need to get the ball rolling yourself. You cannot expect an illustrator to read your book and come back to you with a range of different covers unless you want to pay a fortune and are happy to wait a few months. You need to have a cover in mind: images, colours, layout. Give your illustrator examples of what you had in mind. For The Sheriff, I provided Matt with a print-out of my favourite book covers and images similar to those in my head. These images included the Mufasa cloud from The Lion King and a character from Final Fantasy X! It may sound daft but it really helped provide Matt with a starting point.
4. Do The Legwork - help your illustrator as much as possible. Make their life easy. So, if you require special formatting for Amazon and Smashwords and Createspace then you should be researching this yourself and sending the information to your illustrator. You should no expect your illustrator to do all of that for you. Their job is to design. Your job is to provide direction.
5. Pay Them! - do not think that fresh-faced students are going to work for free. The opportunity to illustrate your novel is not the honour that you might think and if you want them to dedicate time to your art then you need to reward them. Agree costs in advance. Whatever they charge will be a bargain. After all, they might find fame and fortune before you so make the most of their talents now!