Sunday, January 16, 2011

Authors and Artists

In my loooong writing career, I've had the pleasure of working with many professionals in the book business: editors, copy editors, illustrators, bookstore managers, librarians etc. Because most publishers want to control the art/covers of books, authors don't usually work directly with artists. Fortunately, I've often had input in my book covers, even if it's simply the editor asking my opinion. Because of this, and because a friend of mine is also an artist, I have developed huge respect for artists. Their job is often tougher and less celebrated than the writer's.

Fortunately, Ruth Sanderson, the artist illustrating the "Horse Diaries" series, has received much-deserved kudos from reviewers. I absolutely love her art, and the cover of my book Risky Chance the seventh book in the series is gorgeous.

Ruth has illustrated all the books in the series, including Bell's Star, book two, (written by me as well although there are many different authors), and I am convinced her art is a major reason the series is selling like hotcakes. She has a blog where she explains in detail how she creates the covers and inside art. It is quite a job involving models, period clothing, horses and photos before the initial drawings are begun. It's a fun and informative blog for anyone interested in art/horses/writing.

I was honored to meet Ruth, discuss the books with her, and send resources back and forth, especially for Risky Chance, which is set in the 1930s when Seabiscuit and thoroughbred racing reigned supreme. I had to do a lot of research, which I passed on to her, so I feel as if I have had some input into the book's art, but I know well that Ruth has done all the hard work. I'll have to wait until fall 2011 to see the interior illustrations, and I can't wait!


Linda Benson said...

Oh, Alison, I didn't know you had a new book out! Exciting. I read Bell's Star. Is this one from the horse's point of view also? And it's about a race horse? Okay, I'm going to look for it right now. Very cool! And I'll check out Ruth Sanderson's site, too. She's a fairly well-known illustrator, isn't she? Awesome, awesome, awesome. Congratulations! And yes, I agree. Illustrators can add so much to a book, and they don't often get much credit. Thanks for bringing this up and pointing us to her site.

Laura Crum said...

Alison--This post totally resonated for me, as I have been through the whole cover art thing--on both positive and negative fronts. When I was first published by St Martin's Press (Cutter, 1994), I naively assumed that the art department would be very interested to get my ideas for a cover. I had no clue that many big houses actively try to keep the artist and author completely separate, and often oppose any collaboration. To my dismay, the paperback cover of Cutter featured an English saddle on my western cutting horse. To this day, I am asked about that cover, and its especially galling as the average reader seems to assume that the author has personally designed the cover--thus there are no doubt slews of readers who took one look at that cover and assumed I had not a clue about cutting horses.

Like you, over the years I forged a happy working relationship with a particular artist, Peter Thorpe, who did the cover for my third novel, Roughstock. I loved that cover and Pete and I have corresponded ever since. He has done many well known covers, including most of Tony Hillerman's. I am so grateful for Pete's collaborative spirit and for the freedom I now have to give input into my cover art. I have loved all the covers Pete has done for me--including and especially the most recent, Going, Gone, which you can see on the sidebar.

Thanks for bringing up the subject of cover art. I did a post on this a long time ago, but it was more of a humorous take on just how bad it can be. I think I titled it, "Why Did you Pick THAT Cover?"

I, like you, think good cover art is a huge part of a book that sells well. Congratulations on your new title, and on having a happy working relationship with your artist. That means a lot.

Alison said...

Linda, don't get too excited. If you read carefully :) the book isn't out until fall 2011. Yup, it's in a race horse's pov, and I even threw in some real Seabiscuit news. It was great fun researching.

Laura--I love your Peter Thorpe covers! Alas, I had awful experiences with covers, too, when I wrote for the Thoroughbred series. Reins held wrong, incorrect tack, girls who were supposed to be jockeys who looked like prom queens. And the readers ALWAYS noticed! I did have to laugh at your English saddle on a cutting horse, which takes the prize.

Natalie Keller Reinert said...

So many horse books have got covers which leave the reader asking, "Has this author ever actually seen a horse before?"

It must be such a relief to have a great artist to work with, who took the time to create something beautiful and appropriate for your work!

Looking forward to the book!

HorseOfCourse said...

Wonderful illustrations.
And the cover is so important. When it is good, you get really tempted to buy the book (though you never should etc).
People who buy horse books are often interested in horses, and of course notice if something is incorrect in the picture. If the publisher has people who check the quality of the written part of the book, they should have a quality check of the illustrations too!

Alison said...

Natalie and HorseofCourse--WE horse lovers know that the horse should be gorgeous on the cover wtih all the details correct, but often the publisher is only worried about the bottom line so no matter what the author says, the publisher is thinking $$$ instead of art. I was excited when Random House, which pubs the Horse Diaries series, carefully chose an author who is a horse person.