Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Welcome Cover Artist Tricia Schmitt!!!

I’m so excited about today’s guest!  Covers are so important for offering the first glimpse into a story and attracting readers.  So I thought it would be great to get some behind-the-scenes insight into the cover design process.  With us today is Tricia Schmitt, an uber-talented cover artist with St.Martin's Press, Sourcebooks, Carina Press, Decadent Publishing, Crescent Moon Press, and Phaze, as well as various publishers under Rae Monet, INC. She has also worked with many self-publishing authors. And, er, she is also the brilliant artist behind my cover for Hearts in Darkness! So, a huge welcome to Tricia!

So, Tricia, how did you get in to doing cover art? 

I have always loved reading. Books have been a huge part of my life. When I started playing around with Photoshop, at first it was all just learning. Yes, I have taught myself everything I know. This took a while, and I practiced every day. Then I was good enough to start re-touching models for photographers. You know, making them skinny and beautiful—BORING! I had joined Lara Adrian's Fan forum, and started playing with graphics for the fans, and it just hit me! Why not put my love of art and books together, still get to do something creative and really give back to all the wonderful authors that give to me. BINGO...Cover Art.  From there, I started contacting publishers, which brought me where I am today.

Doing what you love is so important! That’s a great story. Okay, can you give us an overview of the start-to-finish cover art process from the artist's perspective?

Sure! I am assigned a cover by the art director. If it is an e-book cover, then I also receive the cover art form provided by the author that details what the book is about and what feeling the author would like to have portrayed on the cover. From there, I start looking for the images that will best suit. I normally do one to two drafts with different models and backgrounds. From there, the art director and I discuss the pros and cons. It is narrowed down and sent to the author for acceptance.

For the bigger print book, the process is a lot more labor and time intensive. Sometimes, I have to coordinate with photographers and models, set up a model shoot and work on specific image poses. Most of the time they require 3 to 6 different concepts. It can be quite difficult to come up with so many different takes on one cover, but most of the time my muse kicks them out for me! The print cover process takes as little as 2 weeks to as long as 2 or 3 months! Lots of back and forth. My covers get judged by all the art directors, the editor, sales and marketing people. Although the publisher has the final say. (This is when I bite my nails)

Totally cool behind-the-scenes look! And interesting differences between e-publishers and traditional. So, how do you create your art? On the computer? Sketches? Painting?

I use Adobe PhotoShop CS4 extended. My art is a mix between stock models and overlaid digital painting. I have a pen tablet that I use just like a paint brush. I couldn't do my job without it!

Ah, so that explains all the cool hair and tattoo effects! Speaking of which, can you walk us through how you transform a “plain” image of a person into an out-of-this-world character?

This pretty much walks you through my process:

Okay, that is one of the coolest things ever, Trish! You are so talented! How long do you usually spend on a piece of cover art?

Well, I shouldn't say this, but…I am fast! Normally, I’d say 4 to 6 hours. Now, the more painting involved, it can be days. That is not typical, though. Thankfully! Now, the revisions...those could take weeks! Grrr…Don't like those!

You have created some amazing book covers - do you have any personal favorites among your creations?
Hmmmmmmmmmm… They are all my favorite! Kinda like your book characters. You love them all in their own way. I really can't pick just one! (Very diplomatic of me, huh? )

(Okay, I’ll show some off on Trish’s behalf so she doesn’t have to pick! These are just a handful of dozens of her covers):

Wow! Wow! Wow! What do you wish authors knew or understood about how cover art comes about?

Well, unfortunately, authors don't have very much say in cover art unless they are e-book authors. They get to have a lot more imput. As an artist, I am trying to make your cover marketable and pleasing to the eye. Sometimes, the authors want every element of the story incorporated on the cover. Unfortunately, that doesn't translate into a cover that will stand out and sell. Probably, my only advice to the authors:  trust the artist and publisher to make it marketable.

What makes a cover "marketable"? What considerations go into that? What things might detract from a cover's marketability?

Well, you have to make sure the cover will be eye catching and not too cluttered. I know that sometimes an author wants every element in the story, but that can really be bad. One example is an author who wanted a baby on the cover. While that was a big part of the story, it can really deter a reader looking for a romance, especially if you are an erotic romance reader! LOL! It is good to know who you are trying to market the book to. In my opinion, covers that have so much going on will cause readers to skim right over them and on to ones that have a central focus. The color scheme can also give hints of what the book is about and still keep some mystery, which readers like. I do, anyway.  

Is there any advice you could offer authors about completing publishers’ cover information sheets?

Be as detailed as possible, but also realize the limitations that the artist may have. It is difficult to find a lot of period clothing and futuristic clothes, for example. So most of the time, you are going to have a shirtless man with the period elements in the background. If there is something that just HAS to be on there, state that. Twice! LOL Also, letting them know what you don't want to see is key, too. It helps give parameters.

Wow, Tricia, this has been so cool and informative! Thank you so much for sharing your process and art with us!

Where can we find you and your work on the web?
Twitter:  TrishPickyme
Facebook:  Pickyme 

Thanks for reading! Please leave Tricia some love and feel free to ask any questions!
Laura & Tricia


Ame said...

you're my inspiration not just for book covers but to work on my graphics much more. Thank you for taking the time to show the step by step procedure of how you transform your art into masterpieces.

Marguerite Lafayette said...

Wow! I am trying to break into the cover art business and this interview came at the perfect time. I am starting a Photoshop workshop today to hone my skills and hopefully will be on my way.

What advice would you give someone who has always just "played around" with graphics but wants to try to compete? How should they go about contacting the publishers?

Lea Nolan said...

Thanks for this great interview. Tricia, your work is stunning and it's clear you put a lot of talent and work into making a stock photo look brand new and unique. Brava!

Kathleen Ann Gallagher's Place to Reflect said...

I enjoyed learning more about the process of creating a great book cover. Thanks, Tricia.

Your covers are really beautiful! Very interesting post!

Christi Barth said...

Oh so fascinating - thank you for sharing all the 'process' pictures. You're an amazing artist. Sure hope I can snag you for my next cover!

Danielle said...

Great post Laura! Love the interview Tricia! :) What kind of pen tablet do you use and recommend? I'm a graphic designer too, but haven't ventured away from the the mouse and keyboard yet. I'd love your recommendation if you have time.

The Sweater Curse said...

Thank you so much for this interview. It was fun and informative.

Laura Kaye said...

Hey everyone--Trish will be dropping in later in the day! She is currently sans internet and awaiting the repair man! LOL Thanks everyone for dropping by--isn't Trish a superb guest and and more incredible artist?

adobedragon said...

Great interview. I love Photoshop, but I've never really used it much with actual "photos." Instead, I use it to ink and color my comics.

There's so much you can do with PS. Especially, if like you, you have talent for design.


P. Kirby

Decadent Publishing said...

Love some Tricia! :-)
Giant high-5 to Laura and Tricia, this is a fabulous interview.

Decadent Publishing

pickymeartist.com said...

Hi all Thanks! I just got my internet up now..
@Ame.. Thanks! Just play around, you be amazed at where it can take you!
@Marguerite Thanks, just play more and start building your portfolio. Then when you feel like you are ready submit your port. Good Luck!
@Lea Thanks so much! I try to be more creative with stock!
@ Kathleen,thank you!
@Christi Would love to do a cover for you! :P
@Danielle I use a Wacom Bamboo tablet, no need for the big one! :)
Thanks @ Sweet Water
@ AdobeDragon, I love to color with PS.. for fun I color line art.. :)
@ Decadent.. You know I luv ya'll!!

Laura, thank you again for this! Hugs!

Vonnie Davis said...

Lovely interview, Tricia. I had no clue making a cover for an eBook would involve a different process. Your work is beautiful and your story of determination to do what you love is inspiring.

Laura Kaye said...

@Heather--thank you for stopping by to support an author and a cover artist! Decadent is first class!

Keep the questions for Trish coming! Thanks everyone!

Lisa said...

What an awesome post!! Beautiful covers!!!

Laura said...

Hi, Tricia,

What a fascinating post. And the covers Laura showed (including hers) are fabulous. Riveting. They definitely attract.

Laura Davies Tilley

Kate Dolan said...

Thanks for giving us this perspective. It really helps me understand what's going on. Of course, you make it look a lot easier than it is!