If you’re a writer and you want to understand how publishing works, work in a bookstore. Brick and mortar bookstores are where the tires hit the pavement. Watching readers browse and how and why they buy books is a real education. (The whole system of browsing/shopping is something that eBooks have yet to figure out.) The bad news is, they do judge books by their covers. They also judge an entire book based on the first page — sometimes just the first paragraph. Authors know this. Authors also almost never get a say in what appears on their cover. (Unless it’s negotiated into their contract, and that almost never happens either. That’s a good thing, largely. Because most authors don’t know a damned thing about graphic design, let alone marketing.) Authors have no control on that aspect of things. That’s why getting a bad cover is so heartbreaking, particularly for a new author. I was lucky. Jeremy hired Min Yum to create the cover illustration. Min Yum is not only an amazing artist, but he also read the whole book and liked it. That doesn’t happen every time either. Usually, as I understand it, artists will base their illustration on a scene they’ve been given. Usually, they don’t read the whole book. There isn’t time. Usually.
That said, who is my favorite cover artist? Understand, I’ve a degree in art. So, I’ve a number of them. (I notice book covers more than most folks, I suspect.) My first SFF cover artist crush was the Brothers Hildebrandt. They got me to buy Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara long before I’d read The Lord of the Rings. (Hey, I was in High School.) I liked their early work. I’ve long loved the play between light and dark. (Blame the Dutch Old Masters.) Right now? One of my favorite cover artists is the award-winning John Picacio. I mean, just look at his Elric illustrations. They’re amazing. And his work for The Game of Thrones 2012 calendar? Really cool. I honestly can’t wait. Other cover artists whose work I admire: K.Y. Craft*, Dave McKean**, Glenn Fabry***, Tim Bradstreet****, and Charles Santore.*****
Anyway, I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. I’ve a book to finish and stuff.
* Technically, she’s a picture book artist. Yes, I buy foofy picture books for the art. Get over it.
** His Sandman covers heavily influenced my artwork for years.
*** He did the covers for a lot of my favorite comic books. Admittedly, sometimes his concept of human anatomy goes a bit wonky, but even then he invokes the mood of the book’s contents better than most. He’s what Norman Rockwell would be if he’d lived in Sin City. He’s fantastic.
**** His pen and inks for White Wolf were incredible. He’s working on Clive Barker’s Hellraiser and a number of other great projects. I’m glad to see he’s still busy. He deserves it.
***** Another children’s book illustrator. His Little Mermaid is breath-taking.