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 email@example.com.