Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Interview with my cover artist Carl Graves

I've known Carl Graves for 24 years, and he's a close friend of mine. We've worked on numerous projects together, and I've never met anyone more talented, in any field, than Carl is. He blows my mind he's so good.

Joe: Let's start off with a bit of your background.

Carl: I've always been interested in art. Drawing, painting, animation, sculpture, and so on. When I got my first copy of Photoshop, I began playing around with computer images, and have been doing so for over a decade. You came to me a few years ago, asking if I could do an ebook cover for you. Since then I've done more than two dozen of your covers, and dozens of others.

Joe: You've got a lot of different styles. For example, your covers for Lisa Jackson look different than your covers for James Swain.

Carl: I try to work with the writer to match the cover to their book. At the same time, because of my art background, and because I read a lot, I understand the elements needed to make a cover stand out. People do judge books by their covers, and a well-done cover will help the author sell more books.

Joe: I've been screaming at authors for years about the importance of covers. Poorly done covers that look like your child did them do not help sales. Even people with new ereaders can pick out the self-made covers, and they equate those with self-pubbed ebooks, which they equate with unprofessional. An amateur cover subconsciously tells the reader to not buy the ebook. Your covers look like Big 6 covers.

Carl: Thanks. Some of my covers I'm very proud of. Others, I did what the author wanted, and I don't feel they're as strong. But I work for the author, and if the author wants to go down a certain path, I do what they ask.

Joe: You've gotten some negative feedback on the internet, in various forums. Writers unhappy with your communication skills.

Carl: I realize that, and I truly apologize for anyone I've inconvenienced. This has been a pretty tough year for me. Family problems, job issues, health issues, and some major computer/internet issues. I've lost some business, and people have been irritated because I haven't communicated like I needed to. I'm human, and I got in over my head. 

Joe: Writers tend to be needy.

Carl: I understand that a lot better than I did. I have a background (in animation) where dealines could be months, or even a year down the road. With a Big 6 book, the book comes out months after the cover art is done. There is never any rush.

Joe: But with ebooks, sometimes the cover art is needed right away so the writer can self-publish it.

Carl: I realize that now. 

Joe: How is your schedule these days?

Carl: Thankfully, a lot better. If someone emails me, I'll be in touch with 24 hours (weekends or holidays 48 hours.) This is now my fulltime job. When you contact me, we can talk about what you need, and I'll give you an honest estimate on how long it will take. Usually a week or less. If a writer needs a lot of changes, it can take a bit longer.

Joe: You've always done my covers pretty quickly.

Carl: You usually know exactly what you want. Authors should look at the covers on my website, and covers of their favorite books, and show me the style they're going for. It helps if you know the image you'd like, and if you have taglines and blurbs ready. That speeds the process. But if you're unsure, I'm happy to work with you to figure it out.

Joe: How are your prices?

Carl: Competitive. Much cheaper than what the Artist's Market lists for book covers. I can do an ebook cover for $400. If you also want a paper cover (for Lulu or Createspace, which includes the spine and back cover) I can do that for an extra $100 ($500 total). I can also do less expensive covers for $250. I call these eBookLite covers. They look better than amateur efforts, but aren't as specific as my custom covers. If a writer is just starting out and short on funds, I think it's probably a better way to go than trying to whip up something on your own in MS Paint.

Joe: Hey! I did that with my first covers!

Carl: And how did they sell?

Joe: When I had you redo them, sales went up 30%. Better covers equal better sales. how can people get in touch with you?

Carl: On my website, www.extendedimagery.com.

Joe: So have you ever done covers for authors and they didn't pay? Or they didn't like the end result?

Carl: Funny you should mention that. I currently have ten completed ebook covers that need good homes. If any authors reading this have written books that these covers would fit, email me and I'll let you have them for fire sale prices.

Joe: What's a fire sale price?

Carl: Each of the covers shown below is $150. That's as-is. The writer gives me their name, their title, and they get a 300dpi (high resolution) ebook cover.

Joe: $150 is dirt cheap. And these covers are terrific.

Carl: Thanks. If any author wants to change some things, or add some things, I can do that as well, but I have to charge a bit extra for that, depending on how extensive the changes are. And for an extra $100, I can add a spine and a back cover, so these can be used for paper books on Lulu or Createspace.

Joe: I assume you're only selling these once.

Carl: Right. Each of these is unique. Once someone buys it, it is theirs and theirs alone. So this is first come, first serve. Once it's gone, it's gone.

If you want to inquire about one of these covers, or you want to hire me to do a cover for you, email me. Please specify which cover you're interested in (the number is beneath the image.)


Luis Vila said...

Great interview! And I completely agree, people do judge books by their cover because all it takes is one reader to stop for just a moment and click on that link.

If your cover can do that at the very least, then you're already ahead of the game.

Sean McCartney said...

Great post. I've worked with Carl on my first ebook release Black Knight Chronicles and the cover was great.


Josin L. McQuein said...

Nice! You've got a great range, it seems.

It's always sad to see someone with a great concept sink themselves by sticking a lackluster cover on it and drive away their own business.

Ironically, there's a book I trunked a while back that would have fit that 2nd cover perfectly. Too bad it never got finished.

Walter Knight said...

My experience with cover art is that it never turns out exactly like I envisioned, but often turns out better. That is the dynamic of any group effort.

I use a talented group of free artist (slaves) that I cherish dearly.

Alan Tucker said...

Excellent work. I wish I had a book that fit with one of those covers — I can't imagine why someone wouldn't want any of those.

Robert said...

Thanks for posting this, Joe. I have a project I'm planning to release soon that I've been searching for the right image for a cover. Spent a few hours last night trolling a bunch of stock image places, in fact. But cover #6 fits the story perfectly, and I've contacted Carl about it and got everything squared away in the matter of only an hour or two. So thanks!

wv: shedis

Stitch said...

Thanks for the great interview, Joe and Carl.

Those covers do look fantastic. If I had use for one I'd snap it up in a heartbeat!

a said...

Those covers are impressive, Carl. You've done a great job for Joe Konrath. Thanks for putting some numbers up there so everyone knows what to expect.

Douglas Dorow said...

I contacted Carl for my cover for THE NINTH DISTRICT a little over a year ago after learning about him from this blog.

I sent him ideas and examples of covers I liked and didn't like and a photo to incorporate and he put together a great cover that I've gotten a lot of good feedback for.

I totally support the idea that the cover is the first thing the reader sees and they often decide to pass after just that look.

Don't underestimate the power of your cover. Contact a pro, like Carl and see what you can get.

Ellen Britt, PA, Ed.D. said...

Fantastic information here and I love the interview format!

Great work Carl and I truly appreciate the information on pricing so we can know what to expect.

David Tribble said...

Number 2 fits my book, and I have contacted Carl, and paid already for it. Yahoo. I am glad that I check this blog today. The cover is far far better than my own idea.

Nicolas McGregor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicolas McGregor said...

Well, that was quick and painless!

Cover #4 exactly suits a project I have in mind, so I sent a flurried email to Carl before anyone else could get their mitts on it.

Very excited at the prospect of having a Carl Graves jacket design. Now I just have to write the damned book...

WayneThomasBatson said...

Carl's worth every cent. Seriously, the man just has that knack for developing eye-catchers! He's done the art for my forthcoming supernatural thriller: GHOST. When I saw it, I just about fell out of my chair. I had to go back and rewrite the book just to make sure it was as good as the cover!

Check it out: http://is.gd/3fFTHQ

And thanks again, Carl!

Shelby Cross said...

I don't know if Joe is going to let this comment stay, but I'm gonna try to put this out there anyway.
I love my cover artist, and he's way cheaper than $400 buck a pop. His name is Glendon Haddix, and he can be found at http://streetlightgraphics.com/

Laura said...

Great post! I can't wait to see what books get those gorgeous covers. I just finished my newest book, so this reminds me that I have to e-mail my cover artist soon.

Anonymous said...

Nice interview. I would love to hear more about thinks on genre and design one day. I'm sure it would be fascinating and educational.

On an aside, MS Paint? I used to use MS Publisher, until I got photoshop. Since then my cover text and control of imagery skill has gone way up. I've even started delving into basic vectors for my erotca titles as I'm too skint to pay for real images (I've done over 350 covers - some crap, some amazing - and I've never paid; homebrew for the win.)

Check out 'Campfire Daydreams' or 'Milk and Coffee' at Smashwords to see what I'm up to or 'Tank: The Total Package'. It'll open your eyes to what you can do with only basic practice and 2 months playing around doing photoshop tutorials (have heart do-it-yourselfers!)

Oh and to Carl, congratulations on quiting your day job!

Anonymous said...
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Gerhi Feuren said...

The covers are brilliant, as is the idea of offering covers to buy of the shelf. I don't know if it should be a sad thing that some of the best covers can fit any one of a hundred or so books.

John G. Hartness said...

Carl re-did the covers for my Black Knight Chronicles series this year, and I've not only seen a good return on his work in ebook, but the print books sell better with the new covers, too! I recently did a small one-day comic con that I've done 2-3 times before with the same titles. I've never sold enough to buy lunch before, but I sold six paperbacks in the first two hours, largely because the covers fit the genre better.

He's professional, talented, and his work is incredible. I couldn't be happier with the work he's done for me.

Cyn Bagley said...

Carl - When I get a little money in the bank, I will probably ask you to redo my cover on Erika T. Red (a contemporary fantasy - nordic novel). ;-)

Very exciting covers.


Lee Lopez said...

The cover is the first thing a reader sees. It has to tell the story in a glance. Today cover arts is fantastic. If the cover isn't inviting, I don't pick it up or download it. Especially if it looks amateurish. It tells me the author didn't take the time to find a good artist to represent their work, which tells me they might not have taken a care with the book.

David Wisehart said...

I bought cover #10.

So far I've been doing all my own covers, but I have a scifi thriller in the works that I hadn't figured out a good cover for, and #10 is perfect for that story.

Now that I have an awesome cover for it, I'll have to make that book a priority. :)

Thanks, Joe and Carl!


Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

Your covers are gorgeous! I'll definitely keep you in mind.

David Tribble said...

I got E-book cover number 2. Carl was able to quickly provide me the new book cover, with French Flag colors, and it just looks incredible. I have been testing it with both men, and women, of all ages, and they love it. I put it up on facbeook last night, and this morning I had over 20 people make comments. The cover is now on my blogger icon. This man has a gift. I am very thankful that I decided to lurk on this blog and then get this cover.

Unknown said...

Great covers, but as stated above most of us can't afford $400-$500. I'm struggling to come up with the money for a proofreader.

I'm engaged to an artist and they take so much flack from writers. I would help if you knew going in what you want in advance. Many expect you to change the whole cover when it's practically finished, and yes, don't pay you. (one of the resons he quit publishing).

I also have been given a hard time because every writer thinks they can do their own cover and I'm one that says it's not easy to line up the font, pick one that looks good for the book you wrote, or has the experience to know how to put it all together.

Artists need to be more appreciated for the hard work and all the other BS associated with the business of publishing.

Extended Imagery said...

Carl here,

Just wanted to take the time to say thanks real quick. All covers from the fire sale were sold and all buyers are, dare I say, extremely pleased with the outcome so far. This was a cool way to not only clear my decks but also give good authors, good covers at nice prices. I've got others I may work into another sale soon, seeing the positive response to this one.

Wink, Wink,: Thanks for the congrats on me quitting my day job. This one isn't any less challenging, but it's way more fun and I can do it in my pajamas. :-)

Cyn: Just let me know when you're ready, I'll be here to do those covers for you.

Madison: Yep, as artists sometimes we are definitely let's say...put upon... by authors. I don't blame them...much, some really just don't understand the process it takes to get a quality cover, but the time and effort spent is definitely built into the price of my services. I do have more affordable covers, check out www.extendedimagery.com for info.

Again, thanks for commenting on the interview and participating in the fire sale everyone.

David L. Shutter said...

Congrat's Car...great job on the quick sales.

R. W. Morici said...

This very true. I recently published a short story in Kindle stores, my first, ("Murder on Laodicea Street") and I had few friends tell me, "There is no book cover!" They were hesitant to purchase the book.

But, I read this blog knowing I needed a cover, and I am working with my brother (who is an artist) on cover art, and I will update.

R. W. Morici (rwmorici.blogspot.com)

Christine DeMaio-Rice said...

These are great. The indie world has created more than writing opportunities, as I find myself with a side gig making covers as well. I love it, and I hope to be in your shoes one day. My day job is getting in the way of making covers.

Every day, I just pray one of my authors "goes Konrath" on me ;)

Ingpark said...

Happy New Year, Joe, and thank you for giving me options when all doors closed.

Gary Ponzo said...

Yes, Joe, I second that. Thank you for your open-book policy. I doubt you'll ever really know how much you've affected the Indie movement.

Happy New Year to you and your family.

Kelly Robinson said...

This was quite enlightening, and how cool that the fire sale covers went so fast!

Steve Vernon said...

Great interview. A good cover can make a hell of a lot of difference in actual sales - so it's great to hear from somebody in the business who is not afraid to talk nuts, bolts and dollar signs. Many thanks for the informative interview.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Liz said...

Carl - such great covers.

And gee you'd think writers would understand - all of us artists are can be temperamental souls from time to time :)

Unknown said...

I'm a little late to the party with this one, but Carl designed the cover for my e-book, Finding My Escape. I was impressed by how closely the book fit with the concept of my story, much of which I didn't even discuss with Carl. In fact, Carl, one of your 'fire sale' covers would fit quite well with my sequel, so you may be hearing from me again!

Vernon Baker said...

Carl has two covers gracing the #2 spots of the action adventure best sellers list. Now If I could just swap places with Joe...http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/157055011/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_kinc_2_4_last

Valda666 said...

I love his covers! As soon as my expense budget can handle his prices, I'll hire him...

I've referred you to countless others starting out, and it was reading your article, Konrath, two years ago, on Huffington Post, that got ME started.

I'm still learning. But thank you for spreading the wealth. And don't forget to urge your Representatives to vote against SOPA and PIPA (Internet Censorship Bill) or many of us won't be able to have this wonderful career!

Valda DeDieu (Not as well-paid as you--YET)
Author of NOCTURNE, BLOODPACT, and 40 more Fiction and Non-Fiction...