Jenn Rackham

Working with others...

When I first started as an illustrator, I was riddled with self doubt. 

I felt I was just starting out and should keep my head down and let the more experienced writers/illustrators to take lead. I wasn't assertive, I thought I should be grateful they were giving a job to someone who was starting out. 

NOPE. 

Sure, sometimes you have to pick your battles, but if you are thinking of compromising - do it for small projects. Not big ones. 

My mistake was that I compromised. A LOT. 
I'm paying that price. 

So I'd like to give advice so you don't become like me!

Whether you're an illustrator or not, I think this would help. I really wish someone told me this when I started working.

Have a clear division of labor: 

Everyone in your team needs to trust one another. You need to prove to others you're competent in your field, or that you're capable of asking for help. Once that is established, 

Everyone in the team should know what everyone is doing and what they're in charge of.
You can ask for help if you're struggling, but others should know to keep OFF  your area. 

For example, if you're an illustrator, show your work to your collaborator/team. If they are happy with it, then that's that. They don't butt in with other work. If they need to see more, then they need to ask for more, but you need to set a limit.


Have a clear way of communicating:

Establish how you will communicate. Email? Facebook? Skype? And when you can expect an answer to an email. Will the person email back within a week? 
How will deadlines be sorted? 

Basically that's it! I'm sure there's heaps more - but these two points really made me regret not setting these rules. 
If the collaborator doesn't want to agree to this - then nope. Walk away. Save your energy. 
If you compromise, you'll compromise more and more, and then the sunk cost fallacy will swallow you up and you can't stop working on this nightmare project and you'll regret it!! 

If you ever find yourself in this situation and want to vent or just ask for advice, let me know! My heart goes out to you
 

Zombie in a Spacesuit!

What fun title!

One thing I love working with Mike Johnson is due to his quirky titles.

So! I didn't have time to read this novel this time - due to my own being published and a gasp - a baby on the way! Surprise!

So in events like this - I ask the authors to tell me about their novel and what they love about it. 

Aside from the name I could tell it was a fun, whimsical and crazy kind of book. 

So I wanted to try doing a collage style of books! 
 

Just some examples I've found on Pinterest!

So I spoke with the author, ran my ideas with him and he was (as usual) happy to go along with it! So I gave him few collage pictures I've found online to ask which style he preferred. He chose one, and off I went. 


Now - everyone knows I avoid stock photos because:

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A: I don't want my authors to have the same cover as someone else. 

B: That weird selling more than 500,000 copies thing... part on their contract annoys me!

But... when it comes to making a collage book cover... I was sorely tempted to get one!

Luckily I was able to find high quality photos that I've taken! Yay for travelling! And also free rights photos (Wow they are hard to find) 

And of course I was able to draw a lot of things and use textures to make them look like cut and paste versions. 

 

So Step one as usual: is the Green lines:

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Step two:

I didn't do outlines, I just started to draw as collages don't have outlines! 
Got some nice textures, thought of Blue - for space and just crazy red/purple/pink for a nice contrast. 
 

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(As you can see - at this stage, I wasn't sure what size the author wanted the book or the final page numbers... (no template) so I am using an approx measurement from an old book cover template I had. 

Step three: 
 

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Added a moon and Buddha as it's relevant to the story. Also a splash of color at the back to make the  back look a bit interesting. 

Step four: 

 Draw the actual Zombie. It took a while trying to decide what style to draw the zombie... should I have the edges like  it's been cut out? Should I put a newspaper texture over him? In the end I decided just clean white with shading will pop out. 

Draw the actual Zombie. It took a while trying to decide what style to draw the zombie... should I have the edges like  it's been cut out? Should I put a newspaper texture over him? In the end I decided just clean white with shading will pop out. 

Add him in... give him some shading... 

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Step five:

Go and find a lovely font for the front, spine and back! I loooove Dafont.com

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Had the blurb from the author so added that in. 
Had some reviews from him too - so added that in.

Step six!:

Now to bring on critiques that I trust... (It's super important that you're not just asking any random person for feedback... I recommend someone that's proven to give you constructive feedback and someone that isn't afraid to tell you you've done something off.)

I fortunately have two art critiques that has art background and also proven to give me amazing feedback, so have sent it to them.

Also asking husband because of his design background... he is amazing with typography. 

And of course... the author's feedback is important too! If he hates it, then it's back to the drawing board... but at this stage I would charge for that time. Luckily he liked it! 

Step Seven!: 

Usually this would be the last step... just touch ups - convert to PDF... but there are some issues! Page numbers may change! Reviews and blurb needs to be proof read! (Even if it has been proof read, it's good to have one more check before it's finalized) 

So... once that's done! It'll be sent off! :D
 

Prints!

I was asked by a young mother whether I could sell them something for their baby room. 

I told her how much I usually charge for commission, but then she asked why it was that I charged $50-100 bucks when she could get a drawing for $10-20.

I explained it is because while I make a commission piece - designed specifically for the person and no one else would have it in the world, while some pieces, they are mass produced, and drawn however the artist wishes.

My friend didn't think it was such a big deal to have the one and only picture - so it got me thinking... why not have some prints on my website?

I always loved NZ birds... they are so unique, and some of their colors are exquisite! 

So I'm starting a NZ bird collection for prints! :) 

First one was a Tui, but I assume the list will grow 

Work in Progress #3 - A Dash of Belladonna

Seems like getting a template is a tricky business. 

I finally wrote a blurb and sent it to my Copy Editor. 

So went to the template creator... and oh no. I now need an ISBN number. (Come on. I just want a template!) So off I go to my publisher - Lasavia Publishing to ask for one. 

Just waiting for that. 

In the meanwhile - I've chosen a background color, and yes... I chose blue... green... I swear - it's only because it fit with everything in the page!

I've added more bits to the back - and touched up things I wasn't happy with (odd colors spilling out over the outlines etc) 

Added the logo! Lasavia Publishing is making a branch that will include YA, Fantasy and anything whimsical! I will be putting more energy behind it once this book is out, but I've made that logo. (You can see it in the logo section) We'll see how it will look like once I have that (*&@#(*&@*#(*&#&*^$#&!)en template! 

I hate templates. I think it's time I change my print on demand site. 

I'm pretty happy with how it's turning out to be. 

I originally had the idea that there will be these corner frames? but when I tried that, it just looked too busy. 

Once I have the template, I'll be able to design the spine and shift things! 

Once I have the blurb edited (I'd say having your blurb have grammatical/spelling mistakes is on the same level as being caught naked in your car? Yeah I don't know) I'll add it to the back. 

THEN DONE! Huzzah! 

 

Back to Blogs

 

Work in Progress #2 - A Dash of Belladonna

Thanks for the interest in my books guys! I still look at the manuscript and think "who would read this?" I think I'll be happy if ten people read my book and got a smile out of it :)

Anyway! I've been doing more work on it!

Yes - The Sheep (Her name is Fiona) Yes... I've changed her a bit. 

And added colors! 

And yes, yes- I've written the blurb. It's with the copy-editor to make sure it's all good before I put it anywhere!

So I'm playing with a lot of colors. I still haven't decided the back ground color. I was looking into a lot of books around my genre (YA? Fantasy?) And a lot of books are... blue. 

No seriously I'm not making a pun. They are blue. Dark blue, light blue... it's rare to see a yellow/orange/black/red shades.

So I decided what an impulsive writer/illustrator will do. JUST GO WITH THE FLOW. 

I have some background colors in mind but for now I'll just draw whatever colors I like and in the end see which compliments those. 

 Goodbye pink smoke

Goodbye pink smoke

Here I've finally committed and merged all the lines into one. (They are now all called the Back Dove. Sounds like some code name for... weird... mission... thing.) I've deleted and smoothed out the lines where I needed depth and started to draw more colors and shading.

Banner width changed. Too much of the potion was obscured.

Next would be more details on the potion bottle... the bubbles... and the background color!!

 

Work in Progress - A Dash of Belladonna

I... forgot to take photos for the previous book cover while I was working on it... so uh... I'll do it with this one!

This one is very close to my heart since this is going to be my first novel! 
Eeeeeeee (well this is my second novel. My first novel's manuscript I've put it in a cabinet.) 

Currently it's with a copy-editor - so what can I do? Knuckle down and draw the book cover!

I thought of hiring someone else to do it... but I wanted to have a go at doing it myself. 

I actually had an idea for the book cover at the start of writing the book and even drew a mock cover. 

 First try at my novel! The concept was to make it look like a diary. 

First try at my novel! The concept was to make it look like a diary. 

It wasn't bad - but I didn't think it represented what the story really was like. 

So back to the drawing board and voila!

 Yuuuuup - thing of beauty, this.

Yuuuuup - thing of beauty, this.

How do I come up with ideas? I look at all the book covers. 

I look at book covers (thank you pinterest!) and save everything that jumps out at me. 

After I mass about 30-50 images, I look at them and try to think what drew me to them. 

The common points were:

* Colors - Cool colors
* Small pictures that represent the book
* Plants... (I had saved a lot of wedding invitations... I think I just love those watercolor foliage)

So - What else did I really want to put here?
* I wanted to put a potion in there with plants coming out of it. (That had to be my centre piece)

Now all these swirled in my head for about a week.

Then I sit down to draw that beauty up there.

Now - next step! Outlines!
 

 A little better...

A little better...

I don't usually have separate layers for every item... but as it still is in experimental stage, I've kept everything separate. At this point - I am happy with the items in the book cover. 
I'm not really happy with the sheep... 
Items at the back... I'm going to think on it a little more before committing to a a thicker outline. 

Now - I should really get a template for my book cover since I more or less know how many pages my book would be... but to get a template... I have to write a blurb... description and bleeeeeeeuuugh. I'll just make the front and back first! Huehuehuehuehue. No wonder authors I work with are like "I"LL GIVE YOU THE TEMPLATE LATER - SOD OFF" whenever I ask them for it. 

Ugh that sheep keeps annoying me. What is it? Is it the angle? The size? 
Let me play with that... 

-To be continued-

 

In depth work in progress.

I've been getting few questions about how I do my work - and like - really. How exactly I do this. 
I don't have a secret when it comes to doing these work, so I thought I'd share my work :)

First step:

I talk to the client/author. As much as I appreciate their trust in me, I also want to know what they want in their book cover. If I don't have time to read their book, I ask them to tell me what their book is about. Usually they are amazing at giving me images and I can pick up what is important to them when they tell me what kind of stories they are telling. 

After this - it takes usually a week or two for it to brainstorm in my head. 

I look at A LOT of book covers. If anything jumps out - then I save them - look through them again. 

Once I have an idea, I sketch. 

Yes. Beautiful.

This book cover is meant to be 2 book covers in one book - so I'm going to work on the one to the right first. 
I put some colors I've had in mind to see what works. 
 

I've decided I was going to go with a rough, brush like feel with this cover. I've focused it being abstract, slightly strange and mute colors. 
Yup - I think I'm happy with this color. The tree kind of makes it into a face... maybe I'll keep it... It could be a metaphor... 

(At this point I have an idea what colors I want so I didn't have to do too many trials with colors. You can see I tried to see how it would look with a darker sky at the back, but it didn't work)

* If I'm stuck I go online and look at color pallets associated with the color I really want - and at this stage it's that beige color*

 

Details details

The hill came out darker... but I like it! Luckily I didn't have to make a brush for this - yay for photoshop brushes! Let's keep the hill like this and move onto the other things!

Moved onto drawing the stuff on the hills! I have a texture in mind for them so I wanted them as blocky as possible.. .but... mmm not much space. I can edit it later The hills look really empty. Let's move onto the Hills

Oh crap I ran out of space... (I usually don't use my own handwriting on book covers... but there's a bit in the book about chalk and.... no spoilers!)

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Resizing and underline for... good measure? I'm having doubts... time to check with my assistant! (Husband) 
He just told me bluntly that it looks weird and that it looks like an adult is trying to pretend they are a child. Dammit husband. 
Time to rely on artist friends for second opinion! The underline seems a bit of an overkill at this stage...

Yes the underlines were overkill. Let's get rid of it. Okay - now next - that second opinion. It was pointed out that the the view is slightly to the left. Is it because of the spine? Let's cut it out and check it out. 
Nope - the eye does go slightly to the left. Let's see... the clouds and tree balance is good... let's move that tombstone. Nope - still to the left. 
It's the shape of the hills? Let's cut that hill a bit more. Eye focus is really important for a book cover!

Okay - cut the hill, shifted the things... make sure everything is centred...? Oh crap the text isn't really centred... but the text may change... so will leave it for now. Let's texture those suckers on the hill.

 

(Back to the usual view) 
Husband asked me to just handwrite it rather than using a font. He didn't believe me when I said I wrote that. He recommended it to be more 'chalk' like.

At this point I had to explain why I was using chalk to my two helpers. But then again you can't explain these things to readers... so hopefully they read the book and then click...

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Textures in! But why do they look red... what... I'm sure I got rid of colors on my textures... I'll change that. Tried placing the author's name on the top but it didn't really work. So bottom it shall be! 
Maybe I should play with the author's text? It's always been that font... but same font means I can make all the books have something in common....

Hmmm now I'm playing with the idea of having everything except the tombstone white. It makes that pop out... but the sky looks empty... 
The author's name makes the hills feel a bit emtpy. 
Mm... the effect of an empty sky is pretty good... 
Can't really think of what to put there except more scratched clouds. Need time to think. Will eat food, maybe work on something else before going ahead. Break time.

Sky is too light! Let's add a darker color to it! I think I want more texture in the background... but for now I"ll work on the other side. 

Contracts and Money!

As everyone is aware, I'm a starting illustrator. 

I was really lucky to have worked with someone I trusted who I got along swimmingly! I'll write my experience at a later time, but for now, I thought I'll put up other's blogs that I follow here that really helps if you're an illustrator wanting to do some work for people you don't know!

Hire an Illustrator:

http://www.hireanillustrator.com/i/blog/1033/hiring-a-childrens-book-illustrator/

 

Amanda Hall answers really helpful Q And A

http://www.amandahall-illustration.com/faqs/getting-paid/

Writing contracts?

http://businessofillustration.com/go-illustration-contract/

http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/freelance-contract-clauses/

 

Done! Well, kind of...

After talking to the Author about the setting, I've added the blazing field and contrast to make it a bit ominous. 

Now this is done, I put the words, probably Lorem Ipsum to show how the words would be.

Next part is waiting for the resident proof reader and the writer to give me quotes, reviews, blurbs! 

I made few mistakes with my old book covers where the blurbs and reviews weren't put through to the proof reader first... and that resulted in me going back and forth editing the reviewer's names... that wasn't fun. 

But the Publisher has it now! 

Once I have the words, I'll have to see what colors will work best with the fonts and placement of them.

80% done.