I have a notion about something that I am going to run past the group here. In my newest book-in-progress, I have an alien character. This is unusual for me, there aren't any aliens in the Matador universe, at least none we get to see.
My alien gets a brief description in the first chapter, and will get more as I go along. I have in my my mind what she looks like, and I'll offer enough detail so that I should be able to impart that to a reader, at least generally.
Readers tend to fill in their own blanks–I have one friend who tells me he always visualized Khadaji with a beard, though I never said he had one.
Mm. Anyway, I'm thinking maybe I'll have a contest for struggling artists. Based on my description, I'd like to see how the character might be rendered.
Yes, I know, I have been to a lot of science fiction conventions and have seen a whole lot of art shows therein, and I know this is apt to open me to to some really bad images filling my mailbox, but it's like everything else, Sturgeon's Law and all.
Now, I wouldn't ask artists to work for free, save that a contest is that by nature; and my thoughts would be that the one who comes closest will get one of two prizes–such that they are.
If the book gets picked up by a traditional publisher, I will submit the artwork with the ms and suggest that they hire the artist for the cover illo.
To be upfront here, they don't pay a lot of attention to me in New York City about cover art, so that could be no more than wishful thinking. Once, they gave me what I asked for, and it's the piece up at the top of the blog. But I'll make best effort, and at least there will be a long shot at it.
Artist gets the job, my piece was his or her audition, and that's the pay-off.
Failing a direct commission, I'll ask that the publisher at least use the artwork as a basis for the character if they put her on the cover, and if they do, the artist will have bragging rights, and a small payment out of my pocket. How small is small? I dunno, that will depend on how big an advance I get, but for an artist trying to break in, it could be a calling card: Steve Perry thinks this illo is the best version of his alien in his new book series and you can ask him for a reference ...
Further, if the artist is into graphic novels and has any desire to play with this series in that medium, I'll give him or her the right of first refusal.
Second, if the book winds up as a e-novel and I have to provide my own cover, I'll use the winner to do it. Again, we aren't talking about big bucks, probably a small advance and a small royalty. You aren't supposed to do this, give away any part of your royalty, but if the cover art helps sell a lot of copies, I'm willing to share that with an artist in lieu of a big advance. If it gets to that, we can dicker.
Naturally, I wouldn't expect to get established illustrators interested in this kind of venture, any more than somebody would get me to write a novel thusly; however, for somebody who is getting drawing chops but hasn't had a place to showcase them, this might not be such a bad deal.