Three Things To Keep in Mind When Commissioning Cover Artwork

By: Ebonye Gussine Wilkins

I’ve taken an unintentional brief hiatus from blogging, but I’m back! I’ve been really busy helping out with a festival, getting cover artwork done for Bobbing and Weaving, and getting my house all Christmas-y. It’s not like I’ve been sitting around watching Frasier and Parks and Recreation all day long on Netflix. As a matter of fact, that might be the only thing that I haven’t done in the past two weeks.

Image borrowed from:

In any case, I worked with an amazing illustrator on my cover art for my second novel. His name is M.W. Bennett, and I met him back in March at the National Black Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College. Luckily for me, M.W. Bennett was a true professional to work with, and while I had some things in place, he helped fine-tune the entire process.
So, if you decide to commission artwork for your book cover, (instead of using stock artwork) then consider the following suggestions.

  • Have a concept in mind before hand. This can always be revised and tweaked, but have an idea of what you actually want. Do you prefer photographs, or an illustration? Do you want a cover with only words, or something more abstract? Do particular colors grab you, or do you find certain fonts compelling? These are all things you should think about before hiring an artist.
  • Discuss rights and permissions before the work begins. You should not only agree on payment terms, but also on who owns the rights and the extent that you have to use the images you’ve decided on. If adaptations are being considered, discuss them first with your artist.
  • Respect the artist’s judgment and expertise. I’m not a visual artist, at least not in the traditional sense. Hire an artist because you believe in their work, versatility, and style. Then when the artist begins, you should trust the work that you have asked them to do. It’s fine to give guidance along the way if the artwork is not going the way you imagined it, but don’t give your artist a laundry list of changes and revisions. The artist is trained in this, and likely you are not, so just sit back and watch 30 Rock instead. (Or Game of Thrones if that’s your thing).

Having a good working relationship with the artist you hire is very important, so try not to screw it up. You don’t want to become that author that nobody wants to work with.

Also, if you’re interested in seeing the artwork for my new book, a version of the artwork that will be used can be found on my author’s website.

Have you commissioned artwork before? How did it turn out? 

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