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[GUEST POST] Brenda Cooper on Cover Magic: The Collaboration Between Artist and Writer

I have had lovely covers. Prior to The Creative Fire, my best cover story was when publisher Sean Wallace told me he wanted to buy Mayan December by sending me the cover art (by Scott Grimando) and asking if I thought it would go with the book.  In every other case, I gave input about cover ideas on a basic form, but actually learned what the covers looked like by spotting them on Amazon. My experience with John Picacio’s stunning cover for The Creative Fire has been very different.  My belief is that the support we have each provided the other in talking about the book and the art benefited us both greatly.

I knew John, but not well. We had been introduced at conventions, had talked at parties, and would have recognized each other walking down the street, but we had never had a private conversation that lasted more than two minutes.  I admired his work.  I own his art book, Cover Story: The art of John Picacio. A signed print of his Asimov’s cover, Away from Here hangs on my office wall among other pieces of science fiction art.

While there was no time where I talked to cover artists at all, working with Pyr, John Picacio, and Lou Anders was amazingly collaborative.

  • The Creative Fire’s editor, Lou Anders, asked me about which artists I would like to work with and I asked for John.  Writers wishes are often ignored, but not in this case:  Lou hired John to do the cover.
  • John clearly read the book.  He called me to ask me for details about Ruby Martin, the character who is on the book cover.  No artist has EVER called me for a conversation.  In fact, we had a few talks about the cover and the character.
  • John and Lou worked together behind the scenes to create the art for the book, and John titled the art “Girl with Microphone (You say you want a Revolution).”
  • The cover art made my character real – for readers, for browsers, and even a bit, for me.

Having a great cover was a gift.  What happened next was better – not only was I so excited about the art that I talked about it all over the internet, but John talked about the book in the same places.  He also talked about the art, and I about the book, of course.  We didn’t plan this – it just happened.  I don’t know what this did for John, but for me it created buzz for a new release.  It reviews well (and so has my other work), but it has been reviewed a lot more already, and it’s only been out around 8 weeks.  In the meantime, Girl with Microphone has gotten a lot of positive comments for John.  Here are a few links:

John included the art for The Creative Fire in his successful Kickstarter campaign around his 2013 calendar.   Ruby represents the month of July.  This exposed more people to the art and let me talk about the art and the Kickstarter and the book in a manner that wasn’t all “Look at me, buy my book!”

The timing of the calendar funding and book release played well together.   Timing matters: my second Tor book came out the week the economy went splat in late 2008 and that series never recovered.  Even though the timing was luck, it kept the casual collaboration between me and John going.

The best thing?  I supported the Kickstarter (of course).  To my utter surprise, John used Girl with Microphone for a full-page spread part-way through the calendar.   I didn’t find this out until I actually saw the calendar.  I gave four away as Christmas gifts.  The picture is my father holding his up, while being cuddled by the Nixie the golden retriever.

It’s way too early to tell how enduring the attention for The Creative Fire or Girl with Microphone will be, but they are part and parcel of the same story.  I very much enjoyed working closely with an artist, and particularly, working closely with John.  I believe the relationship was mutually beneficial, and hope that other writer/artist pairs have the same cover magic hit them.

2 Comments on [GUEST POST] Brenda Cooper on Cover Magic: The Collaboration Between Artist and Writer

  1. I said it in my review–the cover works very well with the book. It was a great partnership–a testament to your writing, John’s art, and Lou’s editorial hand.

  2. I had the pleasure of meeting John in person last May at the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live after a couple of years of off and on e-conversations and he is one amazingly gregarious individual. He has such a passion and it is evident from the moment you meet him. I emailed him the moment I first saw your cover, Ms. Cooper, and told him that I thought this was his best work yet and was sure to be one of my favorite SFF covers of the year (which it was when I posted the list yesterday). It is an incredible work and it was evident even to me that there was some sort of collaboration going on from what little I had read of the book. I’m pleased to own my own copy of it and am sure to feel the cover is even more special after reading it.

    Thanks for such a great guest post. I’m thrilled you had such a wonderful collaborative experience and hope this is just the first of many now going forward.

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