Guide to Finding and Working with an Artist (Part 2)

If you haven’t read part 1 it can be found here.

Contacting the Artist

1.It’s ideal to contact an artist two months before you need a piece but ask for a deadline for before then. This gives you some time if things go wrong or if an artist has a schedule that is backed up and says the deadline is a roadblock.

2.Check the artist’s preferred method of communication. If they say to e-mail then e-mail. If they ask for DMs then DM them. I check my e-mail the most regularly and have the least issues there with messages going into spam or being filtered. Some websites I may check every couple days. For other artists, they may be most regularly on Instagram or Twitter and would prefer that method so just check to make sure you aren’t lost in the shuffle.

3.Introduce yourself. You’re a stranger asking another person to work for you so presenting yourself as a fellow human opposed to a lizardfolk wearing a human costume is much appreciated.

4.Explicitly state what you are looking for. A piece of art depicting ___________ with a _________ tone/mood that will be used for _____ and_____. You’d also like the right to _______. Your budget is _______. Your deadline is ______.

Try to keep it relatively short. No need to describe each piece of jewelry on a character,etc. Just get across how many iterations or figures and the genre of the art,etc.

5. Be prepared for some negotiating on rights and/or fees. Most artists are going to want to be able to sell prints and show the work in their portfolio at minimum. If the artist isn’t within your budget you can consider compromising on some things and see if the artist can meet your budget.The artist may lower their rates for exclusive rights for a limited time or limited market. What if you provided a certain amount of comp copies (if it’s to be used on t-shirts or some other merch) to cover the gap between your budget and their rate? What if you didn’t require a non-disclosure agreement?

Process and Etiquette

Contracts!!!!!! Contracts!

Contracts!!!!!! Contracts!

Use a Contract

At a minimum, you should ask for some rough sketches for you to give feedback on as well as seeing some color or value comps before seeing the final. Make sure that the two of you have agreed on a process and number of revisions. Your contract should also cover when the artist gets paid and what happens if they are late with the work or the job is canceled before the work is completed. Artists may request a kill fee where they are still paid part of their fee.


Nobody wants to be surprised during this process. NOBODY.

For that reason, I have a process that I love for larger budgets with a month long time frame. I try to break down the process so that the client has a chance to give their input at every stage and then “lock” things in as the image progresses. This way a client should never think, “woah I never expected that” and I’m not at the end of a project going, “woah I’ll never make those revisions.” So for my art there can be 5 stages although it’s much less when working with professional clients where we know each other well enough that it’s not needed.

NOTE:View all artwork in a photo editing or art program. Looking at artwork in your e-mail will not accurately show the colors particularly with certain file types.

Those stages are;

1.Thumbnails-Teeny tiny sketches meant to show a general composition. Several done. Pick one and give feedback.

2.Rough Sketches-Sketches where figures,proportions and backgrounds are indicated. But there aren’t really any costuming details or tight facial expressions. Give feedback. COMPOSITION is “locked”. No big composition revision requests from here on out.

3.Tight drawing.-Costuming details,expressions, referenced anatomy, architectureal details,etc are conveyed. Give feedback. Revise if necessary. DRAWING is “locked”. No more requests to adjust the drawing like poses,etc.

4.Color Comps- Couple of different color setups. This is often combined with the tight drawing. Pick one. Give feedback. Revise if necessary. LIGHTING scenario is “locked”. No requests to change a backlit character to an uplit one.

5.Final art- At this point there shouldn’t be any surprises. I work digitally and will still do little tweaks like adjusting a hue or adjusting the curves/levels to make areas brighter or darker. Things that involve adjust sliders rather than making additional brushstrokes.

For my own safety with indie clients I send a low res jpg to show the client I am done but it will be too low quality to print very large. Once it’s approved they send payment and I deliver the full resolution file.


These items mostly boil down to respect.

1.Respond in a timely manner.

2. Download and save files. Back them up as well. The artist may not be able or interested in keeping their file or layers intact for eternity.

3.If you don’t like something say so but be constructive. Saying you don’t like a hand isn’t as helpful as saying that you want the hand to look more feminine. Constructive criticism gets you the art you want faster. Remember that you may not be attracted to a figure in the art but the artist may have referenced themselves or a loved one.

4.Credit the artist. Your artist is likely going to be touting you as a client and sharing your product name. It’s common courtesy to credit your artist on your posts. Excited to do that cover reveal? DON’T FORGET TO CREDIT THAT ARTIST. I see authors often get more likes on Twitter when shouting about how good their friend’s book or book cover is. I think it works the same when someone isn’t saying “Look at MY awesome book cover!” but instead saying, “Look at ____’s awesome art on the cover of my book”.

5.If revisions are needed after final please talk to the artist about it. If they have fulfilled the contract they may not have time scheduled to do those revisions but give them a chance to. Let the artist know at the beginning of the process if you plan to make major changes. For example I have had clients colorize black and white images and turn 1/2 page horizontals into 1/3rd page verticals. I will not work for that client again.

6.”It should be easy” and “I would do it if I had time.” Unless you’re a clone of the artist you have no idea if it will be easy for the artist and it sounds like you’re belittling the skills of an artist.

7.Don’t complain about your previous artist to your new artist. For one, it makes us worry that perhaps you were the problem. I once had an author complain to me how inconvenient it was for her that her previous artist died of cancer. This was an artist that she worked with several times over the course of a decade.

Copy of creating art

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BusinessJoe SlucherComment