My Cover Art Journey

It’s been a while! But no, I have not crawled into a hole, my teeth chattering from madness from having given up on writing the sequel to Headless.

No, no, no. The sequel is coming. And with all my extra time (he laughs until he’s hoarse and collapses from exhaustion) . . . I have also been working on the cover!

You see, there is no such thing as extra time in our household; we have an almost six-month old baby! It turns out that extra time + baby is not a thing. I have less time than I did pre-Covid19.

But I’m not complaining. This kid is pure joy. Being his daddy is a kind of wonderful exhaustion that I wouldn’t trade for all the deep, restorative sleep in the world. 

That said, I have made progress, and No Promises Large Enough is almost here. In between sessions of editing and polishing the words, I have also tackled the artwork.

Yes, you read that right; I am now doing the cover artwork myself! This means I have also created a new cover for Headless so it matches. And the covers going forward (two more books) will be done by me too.

The reason behind this? The quick and dirty version is that I couldn’t find someone in my price range to do it, so I decided to dust off my art skills (I did go to art school a lifetime ago) and do it myself. 

The longer version is this:

It was my hope to hire an artist to do the cover for NPLE, and believe me, I tried. I really wanted to focus as much of my time as possible on the writing of the thing. So I went about my search.

But let me back up a sec. Originally, my plan was to have the artist who did the first cover of Headless, Michelle Tolo, do all the covers, but she has unsurprisingly blown up, and is currently out of my price range. I found this out when I asked her to do a second cover for Headless in an attempt to reinvigorate sales (which is why I ended up going with a completely different style for my second Headless cover).

So with NPLE getting close to being finished, I went to that second artist of the Headless cover, figuring he would do the rest of them. But when I hired him again, the work just wasn’t up to par. I could tell his heart wasn’t in it, so I had to cut my losses.

It was back to the drawing board. Pun intended. Obviously.

I really prefer illustrated covers, and my budget was too small to hire a pro, so I looked to places like Fiverr, DeviantArt, and even Twitter. I have had success on Fiverr in the past, and DeviantArt is where I found Michelle Tolo, but this time around . . . not so much. 

I spent a fair amount of money (in terms of my small budget) on artists and never got anything that was quite right. I realize now that I had gotten really lucky with the first cover of Headless. I still think Michelle Tolo’s rendition of Akechi’s mask is amazing. She set the bar really high for what I expected from a cover artist.  

I hired two more artists, one from Fiverr and one from a Twitter post. The Fiverr artist had a really cool style, and I liked elements of both artists’ work. I’ll be using bits of each of their work in different places in the book. But ultimately neither worked out for the full cover.

I talked to some other artists as well, a couple I really wanted to try, but at that point, I had already paid three artists for work that I either wouldn’t use at all or that would be only a little art bit and not the cover I needed. So I had even less money to offer a new artist, and their portfolios hadn’t convinced me they were right for this book.

It needs to be said that I’m really picky. I expect a certain quality and attention to detail. This comes from my own perfectionism in my work. I expect others to be as dedicated and determined to creating something epic as I am. This does not always work out.

In fact, it seems to often go the other way. But I take my share of the blame. With Michelle and another artist I found on Fiverr for a different project, I knew they were right very early on. They responded to emails quickly. They understood the changes I wanted and made them without complaints. And the artwork was brilliant both times. Perfect for what I wanted.

In my search for NPLE cover art, I was grasping. I was hoping that lightning would strike again. So I got more and more frustrated when it didn’t. And that got me micromanaging the artists, which certainly made things worse. The reality was that I should have realized they weren’t right from the beginning. 

I have learned that, in the future, I will either have to pay a lot of money (money that they deserve!) for quality cover artists or . . . just do it myself. Like I said, some of the art I got from artists was good, don’t get me wrong, but cover art is a specific thing that they just didn’t nail.

And maybe my pickiness rubbed them wrong. But I can’t help but think of the artists who ran with my persnickety requests without any problems, communicated professionally, and gave me fantastic results.

So maybe my being difficult to please isn’t the issue. I like to think it’s actually a strength. I want to work with people who feel the same. People who care about professionalism and quality in their work. Maybe that sounds arrogant or like I’m asking too much, but really, shouldn’t it be the norm?

Lessons learned: 

  • You gotta pay for quality (unless you get really lucky and find someone amazing who’s just starting out).
  • Hire the right artist and let them do their work.
  • If you can’t do those two things, and you have the ability (and preferably the time), do it yourself.

To be clear, my artwork isn’t as pro as I’d like either. But it’s closer than anything I’ve paid for yet for NPLE, and I do like it. I’ve put a lot of hours into it, and I think it’s going to look pretty cool once it’s all printed. Of course you can make your own decision about that when you see it! 

My next post will be the actual cover reveal. So you know, I give priority to my newsletter subscribers. If you’ve signed up for The Lowe Letter, it’s already on the way to your inbox.

In the newsletter, you’ll also get fun stuff like baby pics, free stories, and get to hear about our extremely recent (two days ago) move across states!

I hope everyone is healthy and safe. Remember . . . wearing a mask is a health and safety issue to protect all of us. If you think it’s a personal choice, you’ve been deceived in the name of dirty politics. Do the right thing for your fellow human beings. Wear a mask.

Thanks for reading! Check back soon for the cover reveal!

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