Behind the Cover Art-Dan Skinner


Behind the Cover Art

How often have you seen this comment by readers?  “I was drawn to the book because of the beautiful cover.”  Or sometimes, you see this. “The story was great, but I almost didn’t pick it up because of the ugly cover!”

Writers labor over a manuscript for weeks, months, and sometimes, years.  Once it’s accepted by a publisher, their “baby” goes through several processes before it finally hits the shelves.  One of the most stressful of these steps is choosing a book cover.  First, you have to decide which artist will be able to bring your vision to life.  Do you want it drawn or Photoshopped?  Do you have a preference for colors?  Should there be nudity, or should we take a more subtle approach?  What type of background did you envision?  What do your main characters look like?  Did you wish to convey passionate love or not?  The questions are endless, and most writers provide more information than necessary.  It takes a skilled artist to sift through the jumble of words and pull out the key elements of the story to create the perfect cover to showcase our work.

Join me in acknowledging the men and women who provide their expertise to make our cover art the best it can be.  Other than the initial round of applause when a book releases, they don’t get enough kudos, and I'm hoping to change that.  Each month I’m going to showcase a new cover artist to give them the online time they deserve.  It’ll also serve as an opportunity for you, the reader, writer, publisher, and aspiring artist, to pick their brain.  Feel free to comment and ask questions.  At the end of each month, one winner will be drawn from the list of visitors to win a $25.00 gift certificate from Dreamspinner Press.

It's my pleasure to present Dan Skinner as my first cover artist.  He provided the photo art for my debut novel Horizons, so I thought it only fitting that he launch this series.

How did you get started in the business?

I began in this business as a fitness photographer while I was a personal trainer. I had a publisher see my work and ask to purchase some for their covers. The first two or three were very successful so they asked for more. Authors and other publishers began seeing my work and asking for covers so I began shooting scenes more specific for covers than for fitness. The business just naturally evolved from one thing into the other. Models began seeing my work and wanted to do shots like I was doing, so the type of model coming to me changed as well.

Do you keep regular hours or are photo shoots sporadic?

For the most part i keep regular hours to do portfolio shoots. Or, just the regular model shoots. When i do my romance type shoots I work around the models schedules because i have to find models who can work together and have enough time together to get comfortable. that sometimes requires a full day or two of them together before i can start getting shots that look realistic and natural.

Where do you find your models?

I find my models everywhere; in the store, in the gym, in the library, jogging in the park, on Facebook. Or, they actually find me. My work is very recognizable now because I've been doing it for about 12 years. Alot of the guys have grown up with my work as their screensavers and when they're old enough, they look me up and schedule to do a shoot with me. I had one boy come to me through his mother who was a fan of my work.

Is there a certain type that sells more than others?

I don't think there's any particular type of photo that is desired more than another. it all depends on the cover artist or the author's preference. The range can vary widely in what people want so I try to do what i think tells a story, or has a message that's important for me to convey. Or, quite simply, is something I've wanted to do myself.

How would an aspiring model get his foot in the door?

The easiest way for a model to get his foot in the door with me to do my type of work is to show me personality. To me, that is a talent as great as the ability to act. I do not look for a specific type because I'm trying to convey realistic images of romance and love and that has no boundaries or specifications with body types, ages or ethnic types. I want to show all of it. The wonderful diversity of love.

Can anyone buy your work?

Anyone can purchase the work. I don't work for any specific publisher or author. I have some people who buy pieces so they can print them and put them on their living room wall. I'm as freelance as a photographer can be.

Do you take requests?  I have a thing for redheads and can never find the right guy in stock shots.  Would you hunt high and low for me if I wanted a Prince Harry type?

I do take requests if I can do them. I am sometimes hampered by which models are available. Some come from all over the country so I can sometimes only shoot with them once or twice a year.

Once a photo is purchased, is it taken off the market?  It's very disconcerting to find your character on four other books in this genre.

Once a piece is purchase it is taken off the market. I have various versions that were taken in the same sequence that can go out, but they are all different. But I don't think anyone has ever been duplicated. I do see a lot of them end up on blogs but there is absolutely nothing i can do about that.

Writers are plagued by pirates who offer downloads of our work for free.  Do you have the same problem?  How do you avoid that?

I do have my work pirated. I have seen so many pieces end up on Amazon as prints with someone else's name on them and ll the profit going to someone else, but there's nothing I can do to track it down and stop them. i tried once. It wasn't worth it. I'm producing too much work and it is so recognizably mine it is getting harder and harder for people to claim it to be theirs.

Is there anything you'd like to say to a potential customer? 

Potential customers are always invited to peruse my galleries of new and older work and tell me what they like and what they are looking for, or suggest to me what they would like to see. i am always open for storyboard suggestions as long as they're tasteful.

How could potential buyers view your work?

Some of Dan's favorite shots

Please comment on this blog instead of Live Journal or Facebook to make it easier for Dan to keep track of his visitors.

Finally, if you are a cover artist interested in appearing in this series, please email me at


  1. That was so interesting! I do tend to look at a cover first before deciding if I want to read the blurb. They are so important. I am really excited to see artists spotlighted! Thanks so much for answering these questions!
    OceanAkers @

  2. I admit it. I am one of those who is drawn towards covers. They are eye catching and beautiful. I have also bought a book based off of a recommendation and haven't liked the cover only to find out that wow the book was amazing. I try not to let myself judge a book by a cover now. One thing I never realized is that the artists can have their work pirated. It just didn't cross my mind. Thanks for answering these questions.

  3. I love Dan Skinner's work. It's refreshing to have the photographer's point of view expressed. I have seen his photographs on several covers and they always make me stop to read the blurbs. I follow Dan on Twitter and enjoy the amazing photographs he posts.

  4. What a great idea! This is a part of the 'story' that I have never gotten to know. It is true that I can be either turned on or off to a book based on a cover. So I guess it is an important part of the whole thing. Thank you for the post. I found it interesting. chellebee66(at)gmail(dot)com

  5. Love the photos. I am definitely attracted to a book first by it's cover. Saying that, I've also read some really good books with terrible covers.


  6. Dan is responsible for the cover of my novella The Little Death, and while it's not quite his typical style, it's fantastic. And I hope to work with him again one day.

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  8. I appreciate good covers, and have little patience with bad ones. A good book has a cover that's in sync with the contents. As a retired graphic designer, I tend not to read books with awful covers--there's too much good stuff out there to bother with the uglies. Thank you Dan, and kudos for your fine work!

    brendurbanist at gmail dot com

  9. Very interesting. I, too, am most often drawn in by the cover. I know little about the artistic process for making a cover to this was enlightening. Thanks

  10. I enjoyed learning about Dan Skinner and his beautiful work. The cover is the path to my first impression of a book, and I think it's an important element in publishing. Many thanks for this interview.

  11. I hope Dan will appreciate the honesty, but I nearly didn't pick up "Horizons" because of the cover. It looks like snapshot of some futuristic/scie-fic world - a moody warrior and a serious scientist, or something taken from "Back to the Future" movie.
    Even now, every time I'm coming back to the book, I feel a dysonance.

  12. I'm glad the feature is getting so much interest. And I'm happy that people are enjoying my work. Over the years it definitely has changed, and I have as well. In the beginning I had to do a lot of photo-manipulation before I found enough models. Now I prefer not to do it and leave it to the art directors as I'm more concerned with straight photography and telling my stories that way. I'm curious myself to see what will be the next evolution in what I do. My hope is to make friends with someone in theatrical costuming so I have access to clothing and accessories to do more period pieces. I also hope to be able to expand my settings and am always looking for new places to do that. But I certainly do enjoy hearing everyone's comments and suggestions. They are always helpful in pushing me toward new things!!

  13. I think our genre as a whole has evolved and it's obvious in the book covers. In looking back at the winners of the Rainbow Awards this year I noticed that the covers that stood out and won the top awards were much more subtle. The blatant nudity of the past seems to be on the downswing. I'm sure the wheel will turn again but it's certainly fun to watch the trend. Thank you for stopping by this evening, Dan.

  14. What a great set of questions. Thanks so much for doing this, Mickie, and for sharing, Dan. =)

    1. It's my pleasure. Thanks for dropping by.

  15. Writing as a retired high school librarian I have to say that the cover is what attracts a reader for the first time. Once they are caught, the reader will pick up more books by that author but you do have to catch them. When I was selecting books for my library, I would look at the cover first and then I would check out the blurb on the back. After this, I would read the first couple of pages and ask 'do I want to know more?'.
    I love the covers that are shown in this blog - they would definitely draw me in!

  16. Very interesting post! I really enjoyed it!
    and yeah... sadly I am so guilty of not getting and getting a book due to it's cover. I mean... ha... it's just the way it goes I guess...
    I do try not to. I try to get them based on the blurb but the cover is a HUGE factor for me.
    I really do enjoy all your covers Dan! I look forward to the many more that will come thanks to you~ lol...


  17. The covers were more important when I was reading paperbacks but with ebooks it doesn't matter as much.


  18. "Once a piece is purchased it is taken off the market" Good thinking. It's indeed very disconcerting to find the same in several books although I know sometimes it can´t be helped.

    I nearly missed this. I think it´s a very interesting series.
    Thank you very much :)

  19. It's wonderful to see more information on the process of cover art. Thanks for an insightful interview and all of your hard work, Mickie and Dan!
    awindandbooks at gmail dot com

  20. these covers are so gorgeous, Dan (and what push me to buy books a majority of the time, *sad to say*)

    please enter me into the drawing :)


  21. I forgot to give Mickie. Credit for caring about quality covers. Thank you!

  22. Dan, You, my dear friend, are a True Artist behind the camera. I love everything you do and your models are some of the most gorgeous guys anyone could ever ask for in a cover! Keep them coming!


  23. I follow Dan on Twitter, and the photographs he shares are just beautiful!


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