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Friday, August 4, 2017

Author beware: 'Custom Cover Design' does not mean 'Original Cover Art'. {revisited}

Due to a question asked me on Twitter many times, I've refreshed and republished this post twice. The original article was also posted on the 4RV Publishing Blog.on 12/09/12. Most recent edit of this post: 08/03/17.




You've decided you want a unique book cover for your book but you don't want it to look like every other book on the shelf or web browser....

You hop on Twitter or Facebook and put some feelers out, searching for a cover artist or designer. You get dozens and dozens of responses, from both amateurs and professionals, regardless of whether you request a cover artist or a cover designer. How do you know you are going to get what you want and that it's unique?

A cover designer may or may not be trained for what you are looking for. On the flip side, a cover artist may not have any design skills.

First, before you put out those feelers and start interviewing artists, learning a few key terms and phrases will narrow your request which will help attract the right type of artist and aid in your decision.

This design utilized a legally-obtained
photo as the basis for the illustration.
1- cover designer

Designers are trained in typesetting, photo-manipulation, and formatting (among other fun stuff) often with a lean towards advertising and product packaging. Though not typical, some designers are skilled photographers and/or traditional artists (meaning the have drawing and/or painting skills). 

It's socially accepted among designers, once an image is altered it is a "new work," and by law, that is true. All it takes are three, distinct changes. Not all designers are ethical about what constitutes as "distinct" and how many changes they should make or where they grab their root images from, though. 

Designers also tend to include the commercial rights to the end product because, technically, they don't own the original elements that created the product anyway. They are essentially just transferring the license they hopefully paid for in the beginning.

Manipulated parts of stock photos could potentially be used on another book cover or product. If you want something more original, tell the cover designer not to use stock imagery, or you need to verify the designer is skilled enough to make the manipulated image look original. Manipulation that creates originality ensures making the image both legal and unique. 



2- cover artist

In years past, publishers hired a cover artist to do the visual aspect of the artwork and a cover designer to do the typesetting and formatting (putting it all together).

In today's tough job market, more and more designers are adopting the task of providing the cover image as well as the cover design, all under one job.

A majority of publishers have found it more cost-effective to have their in-house designers provide the visual rather than outsource the art to a cover artist. Publishers only commission an artist if their design team doesn't have the desired look or skill set.

On that same note, more and more illustrators or cover artists are tackling the job of cover design as a means of ensuring their own marketability by adding a skill set. It's good to note, cover artists tend to retain the copyright of the artwork, only transferring commercial rights for use on or in the product in which the art was created for (in this case the book). Artists sometimes offer extended or full rights for a higher price, but this should never be expected.

It is prudent to verify, before trusting your book to anyone, that the person you hire is trained and skilled to do what you want for your cover. After all, your cover will be your primary, strongest marketing tool and should work toward your book's success.


This design utilized artwork legally-obtained 
by the artist as the central element of the design.

3- custom vs original

Many designers and websites that boast cheap 'custom' cover designs or art can be misleading. Again, let's look at the laws regarding art.

By law, if an image (art or design), is altered in three ways, it is a "new work." If an artist or designer manipulates two or more images by combining a figure from one and changing the color of something from another, then adding an element from a third, all they have to do is add text. Voila! By law, that is a "custom cover." That may be acceptable to you, and that is OK.

Designs like this tend to be a cost-effective way to dress a book. However, many authors want a more detailed, story-relevant cover, that does not include mixing existing stock imagery. If you are in that group, be sure to hire someone who ensures the art is original, not simply custom. You'll likely pay more, but as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.


How does one recognize the difference between cover art and cover design when looking through portfolios?

A book's cover artwork should be able to stand alone and still tell a story, related more closely to an illustration (a term usually reserved for interior images). A design, though it may look amazing and fit with the title and cover text, if presented alone, it would just be a great visual. The only way the image makes sense is if accompanied by the text.

Does the portfolio show heavy use of photographs? If so, were they taken by the designer or a hired photographer? Or are they stock? Most importantly, make sure they were not just grabbed from an internet search or someone's Instagram or Flickr account.

Or, if you are looking for artwork, does the artist also do the design aspect of the cover (title treatment, bylines, etc)? Or will you need to hire a separate person to prep the file for print? If the person does do their own design work, how well do their designs complement the artworks?

These are all questions that should be asked and answered before money changes hands. Make sure all is in writing, whether it's email or chat window (where a copy can be retained). Phone agreements are not legally binding and also don't provide a record to refer back to later.


If anybody has questions as to what is considered original vs custom, or the difference between cover design & cover art, please leave a comment or contact me via the links in my signature below.

*All art and designs in this post were created by myself unless otherwise noted even if some images have been replaced with newer ones to keep post current with my portfolio.






Onto wrapping up the next book :-D
Until next time ...
Aidana WillowRavene

http://WillowRaven.weebly.com


This post edited by Grammarly* ~ NOW FREE FOR CHROME USERS!

Grammarly.com
*Blurbs and quotes provided are not edited by WillowRaven but posted as provided by author/publisher.

3 comments:

  1. Thrilled to see "Blooded" as the example for a cover artist. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good :D I wanted to be sure to include it. So many people comment on it :D

      Delete
  2. I believe original cover art is paramount to address the core of the story. I have had both a custom designed cover and original cover art. Aidana took more of my concept and created it where the original custom designer made due. Thanks Aidana for opening my eyes.

    ReplyDelete

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