Thursday, May 19, 2011

Marketing Idea

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.

Whaddya think?


Todd Erven said...

I think it's a fun idea. My sister-in-law would probably be interested in trying.

John Dearden said...

That sounds like a killer contest. Too bad this alien probably does not look like a stick figure, otherwise I would nail it!

I am sure an alien would fit in the book nicely. People can travel to all these different worlds easily. With so many planets, who knows.

Travis said...

Not an artist so I won't be playing but think it's a fun idea.

Justin said...

I think you're being more than kind with that contest, Steve.
May be a good idea to save the option to declare a no-contest if there isn't one you like enough to pick a winner.

Steve Perry said...

Justin --

Yeah, no award will be an option.

The Daring Novelist said...

I really think this is a great idea. I mean I don't know if it will specifically work for you, but I think it's going in the right direction.

I've been thinking a lot about illustration lately, and I've decided to devote my Saturday posts to illustration issues -- not only for covers but historically, etc.

One of the points I made for the post that's going up tonight is that, even though ebooks are mostly "text only" and the covers are tiny, the way we interact on the internet allows us to go back to the old days in terms of using illustration to excite and interest readers.

Steve Perry said...

What became apparent to me pretty quickly was that the postage-stamp size illo needed to show two things: the writer's name and the title, and anything that was too detailed would be lost at first glance.

Dean and Kris are pointing this out in their teaching, and it is going to change how covers are done from now on.

I've done all my own covers so far, and the early ones aren't as easily readable as those that came later.

Yes, there will be an image a potential reader can cluck on to see a full-size cover, and probably most will, but if you can't see it tiny, that is a a strike against you.

The Daring Novelist said...

I guess I didn't connect the last dot in my point....

Even though ebook covers take away opportunities for grand illustration, THE WEB gives us new opportunities to use illustration to entice and entertain readers. For instance, this contest you're running.