Category Archives: Interacting With Professionals

Commissioning an Artist

NobleArk_Left ThumbnailWhen I decided to self-publish my novel, Noble Ark, I had no experience with self-publishing, and little information. Thanks to Superstars Writing Seminars, I knew that a professional cover, typesetting, and editing were paramount, but I went into the process somewhat blind, or so I thought. As I took each step, the next one fell into place. Let’s start at the beginning.

Why? Why should you commission an artist rather than put together artwork yourself? That is a viable option. Here are a few things to consider. Is your book’s subject matter such that you can find usable artwork online? If so, then I direct you to istockphoto, shutterstock, and bigstockphoto. If you do a search of stock photos, there are a lot of websites to choose from.

If you’re an artist or know something about art, you can probably photoshop the images you want in engaging ways and do your own cover art. If you are not an artist, don’t have typesetting training, or don’t have hours and hours to spend putting together the perfect cover then I suggest hiring someone. That cover is the first thing readers see and if it isn’t engaging, they will likely move on. Some suggestions on companies that do cover art: Ebook Artisan Design, JD Smith Design or ask around to your writing friends for their suggestions.

But what if you have one of those books that doesn’t easily fit into what can be found among the stock photos? What if one of the main focuses of your book series is an alien race that’s uncannily similar to humans, yet also vastly different. What if you believe showcasing these aliens and bringing them to life in the reader’s eye before they even open the book is paramount? That’s where I found myself, and so I decided to commission an artist.

Where? That’s the first step, isn’t it? You can’t commission an artist if you don’t know one. I know a few, but thankfully, I also knew better. About a year ago, I asked a friend of mine, a budding artist, to see what he could do with the Noble Ark concept. No promises, but if he was willing to try, I’d be willing to pay. He came back to me with the prototype, and though it was good, we both agreed it wasn’t the quality needed for a professional novel. He wasn’t quite there with his craft yet. Friends are great, but remember that professionalism counts. Only work with friends if you know that you can approach one another as professionals.

I’d learned about an art website, Deviant Art, from workshops, Superstars, and from my friend, so I decided to join and see what I could find there. Be prepared, I had to spend some time. A lot of the artwork is fantastic, but I wanted an artist who fit the style that I foresaw for my books. I perused the site on and off for weeks. I found six. Some of them weren’t accepting commissions because they already had an overfull workload. One of them was accepting limited commissions for projects that she liked, which meant I had to win her over. Don’t think that you can peruse through the artwork, pick an artist, and he/she will fall at your feet and be thankful for the work. Good artists have plenty of work and they don’t generally need unknown authors. I sent a note to Suzanne Helmigh, told her about my book and why I thought her art style would do well with my subject matter. She replied that she was interested and to send her more info. I had to hook her with my book synopsis the same way we hook readers to look inside the cover to the first page. Once we’d passed a few notes back and forth through deviant art then she agreed to the commission.

How? Suzanne recommended we do thumbnails first. The picture at the top of this post is a thumbnail. It’s a rough sketch, a type of concept art, to give the author an idea of how the finished artwork will be set up. They’re not free, but I believe they’re worth it. By purchasing the thumbnails, it gave me something to show Kickstarter investors, and it helped me cement what I wanted on the cover before moving forward with the commission.

commission rules diagramThen came time for the contract. I’ve never put together a contract and hadn’t the slightest clue, but I’d been collecting useful websites and I have some great friends. I read this article, http://blog.gallegosart.com/2012/10/how-to-commission-illustration.html and downloaded the free book. There’s an important concept in the book, shown in the illustration to the right. Learn it. Believe it. If you look online, there are dozens of contract templates. I used this one by Kelly Nomad, and a couple of author friends let me study their contracts for a few tweaks. After showing the contract to my artist, Suzanne, she suggested a couple of changes that were mutually beneficial, so I incorporated them into the contract then used Docusign to make it easier for both of us. I highly recommend the company and they’ll let you send up to five contracts free without obligation.

A few days ago, I sent Suzanne her down payment via Paypal, her preferred payment method. It’s a little bit of work to commission an artist, but I think it’s worth it. The cover for Noble Ark will stand out and catch readers’ attention. I hope the information I’ve found is of some use to someone and I hope to see more beautiful covers on e-shelves in the future. Good luck to us all.

Superstars Week, Day 3: Confessions of Repeat Offenders

Hello, intrepid readers, this is Leigh, and I’d like to welcome you back to the Fictorian Era’s Superstars Week! For the last two days you’ve gotten an idea of what you can gain by attending the Superstars Writing Seminars, but today, Nancy, Clancy, and I will be telling you why we felt the need to go back for more. Yes, all three of us are Repeat Offenders, having attended both previous seminars.

So, why return to a seminar you’ve already attended?

For me, there were a number of reasons, but today, I’m going to talk about how, by returning to the Superstars Writing Seminar, you’re not just revisiting something you’ve seen before. The seminar is dedicated wholly to learning the writer’s place in the publishing industry. And let’s face it, people, that place is changing fast. This seminar is a true insiders look at what any writer looking to make a career publishing can expect, and the options available to get there.

As an example, in the first Superstars seminar, we had the core five authors, Kevin J. Anderson, Rebecca Moesta, Eric Flint, Brandon Sanderson, and David Farland. Across the board, they said that traditional publishing was the way to go. Then, Amazon unveiled their e-publishing program. Self-publishing wasn’t the pariah it previously was. The next seminar dedicated an hour to self-publishing and e-books. As part of that panel, Moses Siregar, a previous Superstar attendee, had a heated discussion with Eric Flint over e-publishing, and David was heavily leaning toward self- publishing. Since then, David’s written a post on this very site stating that he believes self-publishing to be the future of the industry, and this year, Superstars has brought in Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, two vocal authors on indie publishing issues. Clearly things have changed, and Superstars is keeping pace.

Yet, as with any seminar, there are portions that are repeated every year, but as Clancy will tell you, even that can be a good thing.

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Clancy here. And here’s why I’m a repeat offender: I signed up for my second Superstars seminar unsure if I would hear much that I hadn’t learned the year before. But I wanted to meet Sherrilyn Kenyon (a guest speaker) and see my alumni buddies, so I decided to go. Color me surprised me when I learned as much, if not more, as I did the first time. During the year between the two events, I had changed. Where I was with my writing and my career had also changed, and I was hearing different things even though much of the content was similar. My mindset tuned into completely different points made.

I wanted to give you an example, but I can’t think of one. I know… challenged. Anyway – I remember sitting there during a presentation that I’d heard before and thinking to myself, I know they discussed this last year, but I was hearing the content through a different filter and what caught my attention were not the same things that did the year prior. I wish I had an excellent example to share. Just know that it was a profound ‘a-ha’ like realization. So, I wish I could go again this year because I know I would, yet again, learn more and different things than I have already.

Read on to see why Nancy is right and the contacts and friends I have made during both seminars are still with me, still in contact, and are still impacting my life in ways I will forever be grateful for.

* * *

Nancy Greene, on the issue of “Contacts and Kismet”: We attend conferences to make contacts including the conference speakers, vendors, and participants. I confess to being a Repeat Offender at Superstars Writing Seminars for all the reasons you’ve heard about over the last few days and for the people I meet.

Approximately 20-30 attendees at the 2011 Superstars were Repeat Offenders. I’d guess the number is about the same for April’s session. The Superstars crowd isn’t cliquey. We go out enmasse. The “we” is the Repeat Offenders, one or more of the speakers, and anyone we can convince to join us. Dinner and late night drinks at the hotel bar are similar affairs. Because we’re a social group, there’s a lot of extra time with the speakers, which is something that often doesn’t happen at other conferences. The social aspect’s a great way to forge long-term friendships. After all, we’re all writers, and can help each other after the conference ends.

I’ve written about the benefits of writers helping writers before in the Benefits of Holding Hands on this blog. Because of Superstars and the friends made there, the Fictorians have:

(1) Participated in this blog (all members are Superstars attendees),
(2) Received weekly encouragement and accountability checks,
(3) Received advice and critiques from some of the presenters,
(4) Edited or beta read novels written by the presenters,
(5) Assisted other Fictorians in getting short-stories published,
(6) Been introduced to other fabulous connections, including agents and publishers, and
(7) Advertised or promoted the other writers on the site.
The list contains the things I can think of off the top of my head. There’s more.

The writing industry is small. The way to “break-in” is to have a great product, and an even better network. We might have made the contacts and achieved the same results without Superstars, but the process would’ve probably been years longer.

Kismit happens.

But you have to ensure you’ve done your work and made the contacts you need to be “in the right place at the right time.” Superstars is an excellent place to make those contacts, and it’s why I’m a Repeat Offender.

So, if you’re a Repeat Offender, feel free to let us know why you keep going back to Superstars. And everyone should stick around for tomorrow and Friday for a two part interview with two of the founders of this fantastic seminar, David Farland and Kevin J. Anderson. See you in April.