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 or another special prize.
It's my pleasure to present Paul Richmond as this months featured cover artist.
1. How did you get started in the cover art business?
In 2009, my friend Jane Seville asked if I would be interested in illustrating the cover for her upcoming novel, Zero at the Bone. At that time, I was just starting to exhibit some of my LGBT-themed paintings, and I was eager to branch out into illustration because that was my major in school. I had a blast doing her cover and was thrilled when Dreamspinner Press invited me to do more. Now here we are today, over 200 covers later…
2. When I finished writing my historical, Mayon, you came to mind for the cover. I wanted something different and unique to my story, but I was worried that I’d have little input because you would be drawing and not photo shopping. Now, I know that’s not true, but I’d like you to share your method with our readers so anyone contemplating a drawn cover can rest assured that there is wiggle room.
Wiggle room is actually one of the biggest advantages of drawn covers. And I’m an expert wiggler! Since I am making it from scratch rather than relying on what I can find on stock photo sites, it allows for a more customized look. This works really well for certain themes and genres, especially historical and fantasy novels. I always do a sketch first based on the author’s spec and then run it by them for input before I start rendering it. That way I can be sure to get it just right.
3. Are your covers painted on canvas and then transferred to the computer through techno magic? How does it work?
Yep, techno magic! LOL! Actually, I have a variety of techniques I use. Some are traditional like paint on canvas, and others are entirely digital. I’m always much more interested in the story being told than what technique I’m using to tell it, so I will mix it up or combine things as needed until I get the right look. Throw in a little “abcracadabra, presto-chango” and that’s how a Paul Richmond cover is born!
4. Without naming names, have you ever thrown up your hands, and screamed FORGETABOUTIT in the privacy of your studio? How do you deal with a diva author who demands what you can’t or don’t want to deliver? Just curious...
As much as I worship Cher and Madonna, I’m also grateful that Dreamspinner promotes a very collaborative environment with little room for diva tantrums. I’ve worked with a number of publishers over the years, and I have never encountered one that values author input as much as Dreamspinner does. So many publishers don’t even consult with authors at all, whereas we bend over backwards to try and make sure we are representing each author’s novel in the best possible light. Covers do help sell novels, so it benefits everyone ultimately. And it is a back and forth process because we have certain insights about what will sell a book, and that may differ from what the author initially envisioned. But to answer your question, even the most challenging experiences I’ve had with authors aren’t nearly as bad as the best of days when I worked as a corporate drone in a gray cloth-lined cubicle for a mainstream publisher. So you won’t ever hear me complaining!
5. Is there any truth to the rumor that drawn covers don’t attract the buyers as well as the photo-shopped ones? If so, why?
Sometimes photo-based covers do sell better, but it really comes down to what will best represent the novel. I do both kinds of covers myself, and there are times when I have suggested switching from one to the other based on the subject matter.
6. Many of us know Paul Richmond, artist extraordinaire, and current Associate Art Director at Dreamspinner Press, but not too many know Paul, the staunch advocate of LGBT rights. Tell us about the current charity/project that’s near and dear to your heart. Feel free to add links if reader would like to learn more.
My partner, Dennis, and I have recently gotten involved with an organization called Marriage Evolved. We will be one of 25 couples going to Washington DC with them in June to get married on the steps of the US Supreme Court. It’s part of a grassroots movement to raise awareness about the importance of marriage equality here in our home state of Ohio as well as on a national level. When we return to Columbus, we will be participating in a variety of events throughout Pride weekend including the parade and a special cake-cutting ceremony with one of our favorite drag queens! Who could ask for a more memorable wedding? If you’d like to learn more about it and contribute to the cause, visit http://cbusoflove.com. You can also read our wedding bio there.
7. Would you like to share any recent awards that made your day.
I’m always honored to have any of my covers recognized in the Rainbow Awards, especially with so many incredible artists working in this genre now. It also makes my day to see how many of our other fabulous Dreamspinner artists are represented there too. I know how hard they all work throughout the year, so it’s wonderful to see their talents appreciated. I am so inspired by the amazing group of people I get to work with on a daily basis! Rainbow Awards time is also fun for me because I get to see the little undie-flashing mascot I painted for Elisa pop up all over the place.
8. Do you continue to paint and sell your art in studios or have you given that up to devote your time to Dreamspinner Press?
I definitely still paint. I did take some time off after my latest show in July because I wanted to focus on my new role as the Associate Art Director for Dreamspinner, and also because Dennis and I just bought a house. But I have a million ideas stored up and will be back in front of the easel in no time!
9. If you’re still painting, who carries most of your work? Where are they located?
I’m represented by the Lyman-Eyer Gallery in Provincetown:
10. Can you freelance? How would a self-published author commission a cover?
I certainly could freelance, but my work keeps me so busy that I’m not taking on any additional cover commissions at this time. If you’d like me to do your cover, my advice is submit your novel to Dreamspinner.
11. Where do you see yourself five years from now?
Hopefully doing what I’m doing right now! I love the variety of projects that come my way through Dreamspinner. They are a company with so much integrity and I’m a very lucky boy to be a part of it. I’m also growing quite accustomed to the luxury of working at home. Casual Friday used to mean wearing jeans, now it can mean no-pants day! I hope to continue growing as an artist, trying new creative adventures, and enjoying the married life with the man of my dreams. Oh, and maybe I’d like to try my hand at writing one of these novels that I spend so much time illustrating.
Many thanks to Paul for taking the time to share his artwork and his process. He has generously donated a limited-edition giclee print of the cover art he did for "Woke Up In A Strange Place". The lucky winner will be announced in thirty days.
Here's a link with all the details about the print: http://paulrichmond.bigcartel.com/product/woke-up-in-a-strange-place-print
If you are a cover artist and would like to be featured on this blog, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org