The manuscript is not all-important
Some of the illustrators we spoke to insist on reading the manuscript whenever they can. However, it’s not as important as you might think. Often covers are commissioned before the book’s been written. Rather than relying on the manuscript, focus on the notes in the commission.
Good publishers usually have a process that goes on behind the scenes to help produce the brief you receive. “For each title I ask an editor to fill out a cover concept memo,” says Irene Gallo, art director at Tor.
“I ask for plot, setting, character descriptions, comparison titles and a specific scene if they have one in mind. I’m looking for a starting place to begin thinking about the book. I’ll use that to go back to the editor and ask them questions, make suggestions, and we hone it down. I’ll then send a highly revised version of that memo to the artists.”
Dave Seeley is one of the artists Tor commissions. He says: “Often I get a script and an art director asks me to pitch something after I’ve read it. Sometimes there’s no manuscript, and I’m working from a paragraph synopsis. Even when a manuscript is available, sometimes clients know exactly what they want right down to expressions on characters’ faces, celebrities the characters resemble, and details of costumes and settings.
“There are times when these constraints can lead to a ‘yes’ more quickly, and don’t preclude an interesting approach. And there are times when a verbal description isn’t physically possible to execute. The only way to success at that point is to show the author something they love, and all else is forgotten.”
Luke Skywalker and the Sh adow of Mindor
“Show them something that they love, and all else is forgotten,” says Dave Seeley, on collaborating with authors.