Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sandra Saidak on the Joys and Trials of Commissioning Cover Art

We have an especially interesting and practical topic today from author Sandra Saidak, who writes novels inspired by prehistory and folklore. Her latest work is The Seal Queen, and she shares some insight into how its cover came to fruition.

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Art : The Journey

Of course I knew that artists did things a certain way—notably their way.  After all, I’m an artist myself, in that I’m a writer.  As far as I’m concerned, writers, painters, musicians, costumers, jewelry makers, and several groups I’m probably leaving out (sorry folks) are artists.  And there are certain stereotypes associated with all of us: we’re flaky; we create when the spirit moves us, not because someone tells us to; deadlines are more targets to aim for; we’re passionate about what we do, or we don’t bother to do it.

I’ve been a writer since I could hold a pencil and make letters.  But my first novel was published in November, 2011.  Since then, I learned a startling fact: I am no longer a single-person business.  I need professional help (no, not that kind).  With every book, I need editing, marketing advice, computer help, and the most exciting so far: professional cover art. 

For info on artist Fred Capp, visit
I was nervous, but still very excited when I approached my first artist.  I knew just how it would work: I would describe in words what I could so clearly see in my mind’s eye, and I’d get to watch the process of seeing it come to life in all its glory.  Then the plan met reality.  I worked with three artists before The Seal Queen was finally graced with the cover you see here.

The first artist I found sent me some terrific pencil sketches—before deciding she had taken on too many commissions, and just when some real life issues hit her out of the blue.  (It might have been nice if she had told me this; unfortunately, she just stopped responding to my e-mails.  I found out all that other stuff much later.)

I’m not quite sure what happened to the second artist.  I found him through DeviantArt.  We exchanged e-mails.  I sent descriptions, he sent a price quote.  Then nothing.  Apparently, somewhere along the line, he had decided we weren’t a good fit after all.  That was a new one for me.

The next artist was the one who finished the piece on time, and got it to look like what I had envisioned.  Fred Capp is an old friend of mine, and I was nervous about working with a friend.  What if I didn’t like what he came up with?  What if he flaked out like the others?  What if the art was great, but he couldn’t meet the deadline?  What if we ran into artistic differences?  What if he couldn’t draw a seal! I discovered I was scaring myself.  And some of those things did become issues, but I’m happy to say we worked them out.  And we’re still friends.

Out of all this, I’ve come to understand certain differences between the people who write the books, and the people who create the cover art.  Mainly, that an author will usually work on one project at a time.  An artist will likely be juggling many projects at once.  And every client is concerned about the art being perfect for his/her work; that this book will be released on time.

The artist also has the difficult balancing act of getting the author’s vision to appear on a piece of paper (or computer screen).  Easy if you’re a mind reader.  Not so easy if all you have to work with are words.

So a toast to all the artists out there, in all the different media.  As everyone who’s done any of it before knows: it’s not as easy as it looks.  

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You can learn more about Sandra Saidak on her website.
You can purchase The Seal Queen on Amazon.


  1. It sure isn't. And a big hurrah to those who make things work! Having collaborated with designers/illustrators in both traditional & individual publications, I understand it takes patience, lots of respect and encouragements for a project to shine.

  2. What an interesting post on cover art. It's neat to see how a cover comes into shape.

  3. Interesting post. Its always fun to see other peoples thoughts on things.

  4. In the end, you got the cover you wanted, and that's what matters. Of course, the journey is interesting too :)