The Quest for Illustrators, Cartoonists, and Other Creative Professionals

by | Nov 13, 2017

By Kat Vancil

We are often asked by indie authors for information about working with creative professionals such as illustrators. Today, we are pleased to share this great article by Kat Vancil. Kat offers insight and advice on the subject that I think you will find quite interesting—and helpful!


 
Greetings, fellow indie publishing adventurer! Fancy meeting you here in the creative services market. So you would like to hire some creative people to join your expedition into the publishing wilderness? Well, you’ve come to the right place, as you can find many fine additions to your team right here. But maybe you don’t know who to hire and for what. Well, not to worry, friend! I’ll help set you on the right path to ensure you avoid that nasty quicksand of buyer’s remorse.

First of all, dear adventurer, here are. . .

Five things you need before you embark on your quest for a creative professional

  1. Make sure your book, novel, or manual is 100 percent finished before you seek creatives to help enhance it. There’s nothing worse than commissioning a fantastic piece of art, only to realize it no longer fits your project.
  2. Know what type of creative services you need. There’s no point in finding a fantastic cartoonist if what you really need is a cartographer.
  3. Collect examples of the styles or types of work you’re looking for so you can compare potential creative professionals and help narrow your search. Pinterest boards are great for this, and you can even share the boards with your artist(s) after you select them.
  4. Know what type of format you need and what the requirements for the job will be. Don’t expect your creative professional to know the exact specs that would work best for your project. Do your research to avoid unnecessary pitfalls and headaches.
  5. Know your budget for the project. It’s a waste of your time and resources to consider a top creative professional if your budget would never allow you to actually hire that person.

Now that you have completed your manuscript, collected samples, and know what you need and can afford, here are. . .

Five places to seek out those elusive creative professionals

  1. BookWorks. The Self-Publishers Association also maintains an up-to-date, curated list of publishing and creative professionals, as well as a forum where you can post your work-in-progress and a robust blog for indie authors and their service providers.
  2. 99designs. This company boasts it is “the #1 marketplace for crowdsourced designs,” and since their services are used by industry powerhouses like Joanna Penn and the guys of the Self-Publishing Podcast, I’m inclined to believe them.
  3. Bibliocrunch. This site is a community-based marketplace where you can hire vetted, trusted book publishing professionals to add to your production team. They also host the #indiechat live Twitter chat every Tuesday evening and maintain a blog of helpful tips and advice.
  4. Google. Google the service you are seeking. Seriously, this is what it was designed for, and if you struck out at the previously mentioned sources, your creative professional might be waiting for you out there in this directory of knowledge.
  5. Ask a fellow indie. You’re not the first author to require the services of a creative professional, and many of your peers probably already have a list of great people waiting to join your team.

Now that you know where to find these elusive creative professionals, how do you know whose services you will need? Well, my friend, here are . . .

Five creatives whose services you might need—and what they do

  1. The illustrator. If cover art, promotional art, art for book trailers, or interior illustrations are what you seek, this is the creative professional to add to your publishing team.
  2. The cartoonist or comic artist. If you are looking for small black-and-white illustrations, line art, chapter header art, or comic inserts, this is the right creative professional for you.
  3. The typographer or title designer. If custom font graphics or beautiful and unique title treatments like those of Harry Potter, the Grisha books, and my own Bride of the Harvest Wolf series are what you seek, then this is the creative professional you’re looking for.
  4. The cartographer or map maker. If the main location of your story is particularly hard to describe, if you write historical fiction, or if your story spans a great distance, then a map is what you seek, and you should add this creative professional to your team.
  5. The graphic artist. These creatives are the jack-of-all-trades in the field of art and design; if your project needs a wide range of artistic extras, this is probably the best route to go.

Now that you have familiarized yourself with what is available to you in the creative services marketplace, here are . . .

Three things to consider when selecting a creative professional

  1. Pick a creative professional who does the type of work you are looking for. Not all graphic artists have the same skill set, and asking a typographer to illustrate a photorealistic fantasy painting is like asking a baker to build a car engine.
  2. Pick someone who is available. Unless you absolutely must have a particular creative professional on your team and no other will do, there really is little sense in waiting months (or years!) for an overbooked creative’s schedule to free up. Life happens, and you may find you’ve waited all that time for nothing.
  3. Do your due diligence. Google the creative professional you are considering before adding them to your team. You may uncover some ugly truths they’ve been trying to keep hidden, and lots of heartaches and headaches can be easily avoided with only a few minutes of research ahead of time.


I hope I have given you a few things to ponder and helped put your fears at ease. But let me offer these last few words of advice, dear adventurer, from one who has traveled these roads before.

Avoid the following at all costs

  1. Never ask a creative professional to imitate or re-create another person’s style, especially if they do not normally use that style. It is unbelievably offensive and disrespectful and will most likely not result in the outcome you are hoping for—or, worse, could land you in legal troubles.
  2. Avoid using such phrases as “Just do what you think looks good,” “Use your best judgment,” or “My spouse/mother/cat looked at it and suggested you change/add/remove . . .” This kind of chat has never ended well for anyone, and the only guaranteed result is that one or both of you will be unhappy in the end.
  3. Never work without a written agreement or contract. We all like to give those we work with the benefit of the doubt; however, there is nothing worse than finding that your creative team has not only failed to deliver the goods, but they’ve also run off with your funds.

Don’t let these words of caution deter you from embarking on your indie publishing adventure. Though the publishing journey is sometimes perilous, it is also a rewarding and exciting one. I wish you well on your expedition, and safe travels!

A valiant crusader for inclusive fiction, Kat Vancil forges diverse story elements into adventures that amuse, embolden & leave her readers spellbound. She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, their kitty studio-mates Crash the Stampede & Akimi & eight overfull bookcases. And when not crafting fantastical tales of daemon royalty, super-tech & shifter deities or constructing instructional nonfiction, she can usually be found frolicking in general geekiness.

For more information about Kat, please visit her website, Shadowdust & Wonderlust.
 
Photo: BigStockPhoto

tbd advanced publishing starter kit

3 Comments

  1. Laura Christianson

    This tip is SO true: “Avoid using such phrases as “Just do what you think looks good,” “Use your best judgment,” or “My spouse/mother/cat looked at it and suggested you change/add/remove . . .” This kind of chat has never ended well for anyone, and the only guaranteed result is that one or both of you will be unhappy in the end.”

    The company I own designs custom websites, and we also design book covers for our author clients. Every time a client has told us, “Design whatever you think looks good; I’ll trust your professional judgment,” they absolutely hate it.

    A designer can not read your mind, so the more information you can provide about your likes and dislikes, the more satisfied you are likely to be with the product they design. Give your designer lots of ideas and together, fine-tune the overall look and feel you want your project to have. THEN trust your designer to bring your vision to life.

    Reply
  2. Skip Knox

    I also disagree with #1. There can be a lead time of months for art, and for editing. But also know that the cover for a print book is tailored to the page count. If you are off by even 20 pages, it can mean an adjustment, which can mean additional cost.

    Find your artist early. But leave open revisions until 100%

    Reply
  3. Michael N. Marcus

    I disagree with #1, “Make sure your book, novel, or manual is 100 percent finished before you seek creatives to help enhance it.”

    That may make sense for interior artwork, but not for the cover. As soon as you have a solid concept for the book and a likely title, it’s time to find a cover designer.

    Sometimes interaction between artist and author can improve the title or even alter the book.

    A mock-up of a finished book (made with https://www.myecovermaker.com or another service) is an important part of marketing, which should begin long before publication.

    I once showed a mock-up to friends and neighbors. Their reaction showed that while the title made sense to me, it did not make sense to others. The money wasted on designing a book with an improper title was much less than publishing and trying to market a book with an improper title and cover.

    Reply

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