Cover Artist Series: Rebecca Frank
Welcome to this month’s series on cover artists! Rebecca Frank (formerly Rebecca Weaver) is a cover illustrator and designer. You’ve seen her covers on books by Rebecca Hamilton, Pippa DaCosta, Al K. Line, D.K. Holmberg, and more.
Welcome, Rebecca. Thanks for talking with us.
Thanks so much for having me! Hopefully you don’t regret it by the time I’m done rambling!
Nah, we like ramblers. 🙂 How did you get your start as a book cover illustrator and designer?
The same way I do everything in life, really – I stumbled into it blindly and hoped for the best.
Going to art school wasn’t really an option for me, so I’m completely self-taught. I’ve always known some sort of art career was what I wanted to do with my life, and I’ve always been working toward that goal. For years I was working part time while trying to pick up any freelance commission work I could online, and not doing very well at it. I did a few book covers here and there when I applied on art job boards, but nothing consistent. I decided I liked doing book covers more than I liked doing random art jobs (it was cool seeing something I made on Amazon and being able to show my family that I was a Real Artist!) so I started to apply for cover design jobs more often.
That lead to revamping my website to cater to book cover design and finding places to connect directly with authors. I wasn’t very good when I started out. I’ve learned a lot. I spent a lot of time early on doing a lot of research on genre expectations and techniques, and over time I’ve developed my own style. I think my digital painting background really contributed to the way my style has developed.
Your urban fantasy covers have been catching my eye on Amazon and Goodreads because of the beautiful colors and appearance of light in the images. How do you achieve that effect?
Thank you! The majority of the coloring/lighting I do is digitally painted on, but I have a bunch of tricks I do. I could play with color all day, honestly. I usually start by desaturating the different elements so they all start from a similar point, then I add tons of coloring and lighting effects on top. At risk of sounding too technical to people who aren’t familiar with design programs, it’s a ton of Overlay.
According to your website, you do digital manipulation of stock photography. What is the biggest challenge of using stock photography? Limited number of good images? Reuse of popular images (see our Pinterest board for the Hoodie Hottie)? Maintaining consistency of a character across series covers?
I’m… pretty sure I’ve used Hoodie Hottie in a romance cover before, ha!
One of the hardest things for me is when I have this super clear image in my mind of what I’d like to do (or the client has a super clear image of what they want). Sometimes I’ll spend forever looking for the perfect thing and never find it. In those instances I make do with what I can find – either piecing together different images or trying something different entirely.
As far as maintaining consistency goes, I usually solve that problem by piecing together different models (this also helps a lot with the problem of overly popular images). When I know I’m working on a series, I’ll usually find a portrait model who has different angles and one or more body models. Sometimes it can get a little crazy if I want to get something just right.
Oh, my goodness. That’s amazing! A head from here, a hand from there, a waistline from somewhere else. It’s like you’re building Frankenstein’s monster. Or maybe the Bride, since your creations are gorgeous!
You also have some beautiful fantasy art illustrations (not displayed here for copyright reasons, but click the link to check them out!). Do you sell those as book covers as well? Or are they art made for your own pleasure?
When I started doing book covers, I focused almost exclusively on illustrated covers. That was my goal – what I wanted to do. But honestly, I found that I am really, really unhappy with doing illustrated work for hire. It’s very stressful for me and takes so much longer than the photo manipulated covers. There was also this aspect of taking my passion and turning it into work. There was a stretch of nearly two years where I drew almost nothing for myself, and in all honesty it was affecting my mental health. That’s when I decided it was time to stop offering illustration work.
The photo manipulated covers are artsy enough that I still feel really passionate and excited about what I do, but still different enough from the illustrated work that I’ve started to love drawing as a hobby again. I’m back to drawing regularly for myself, and I sell my work at comic conventions.
What kinds of thoughts go into creating the cover of a book? What kinds of discussions do you have with authors about the art you create for books?
I have a standard questionnaire that I send out that helps me get a feel for the book, and I’m also willing to read an excerpt. One thing I think it’s important to keep in mind that I think gets overlooked sometimes is that your cover doesn’t need to show every single thing your book is about. Your cover’s primary job is to show your potential audience that your book is what they’re looking for, that it’s the type of thing they want to read. It’s a marketing tool, your first chance to catch a reader’s attention. The first step is browsing your genre and taking a look at the bestsellers in your categories. If your idea seems wildly out of place, you may want to rethink it.
I ask for the obvious things like descriptions of the characters, important themes or events – things like that. I also ask for samples of covers the client likes, both in and out of their genre. That really helps me get a feel for a client’s tastes.
Your gallery seems to include art for a number of genres. Do you have a favorite genre to work in as an artist? To read? To write?
Looking at my portfolio, it’s probably no surprise that the answer to all three is the same: urban fantasy. I’m most comfortable with UF and PNR covers because they’re the most familiar to me. I love working in other genres as well, but urban fantasy just “clicks” for me.
I’m almost always listening to audiobooks while I work because between my full work schedule and two kids, that’s the only reading time I really get. Right now I’m working my way through Kim Harrison’s Hollows series.
I’m hesitant to admit that I do write urban fantasy as well. I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I’ll like something I’ve written enough to publish. It’s more for myself than anything. I have too much on my plate right now to make a serious go at it. I am about two chapters off from finishing my first ever first draft (or I will be if I don’t decide to scrap it all and start over for the hundredth time… which I’m not ruling out). Maybe when the kids are older.
Hey, don’t be afraid to admit something like that. We LOVE Urban Fantasy at One Book Two! Send your stuff our way when you’re ready for a review. 😉
Do you also do the treatments (title/author text, series name, back cover text) of your book covers? How do you decide on fonts and other graphic elements to use?
I do – I’m kind of a font addict. I spend way too much money on them. A lot of it is keeping an eye out for what sorts of things are generally popular for different genres, but really every cover takes some trial and error to find the right fit (even before sending different options for client approval). I try to add the text early on to make sure it feels like a cohesive part of the design and not something thrown on at the end. It helps to know how everything fits together as I’m working.
You offer premade covers on your website. Can you tell us about those? How would an author use those?
The premade covers are something I do in my spare time. Sometimes they’re unused concepts (but only if they’re very different from the final approved product, and even then I heavily edit them before posting to make sure they’re more generic). There have been quite a few clients who didn’t care for concepts I loved, and sometimes those find new life as premades.
They’re essentially mockups that need some tweaking. If you see a concept you like, I change the text for your book and maybe make some small tweaks (or large tweaks for an extra fee). Probably about half of the premades I’ve ever sold were to authors who told me the cover inspired them, and they wanted to hold onto it until they could write a book to fit it.
Do you work only with independent authors or do you work with publishers as well? What services do you offer and how would an author go about contacting you?
So far I’ve only worked with indie authors and indie publishing companies – none of the big publishing houses. Right now I’m working exclusively with design services – ebook, paperback, and marketing images. Over the next year or so the goal is to expand into formatting and web design as well with the help of my husband.
Right now, I’m booked straight through until May of 2017, so I’m not accepting new clients at the moment. The best place to keep in touch is my Facebook page – it’s the first place I’ll announce when I have openings in my schedule.
Do you read the books for which you create the cover?
I would LOVE to be able to read every book I work on, but I just don’t have the time. The only exception is audiobooks – I’ve actually started offering audio versions of covers for free in exchange for a copy. I also buy quite a few of the paperback covers I make – and I let friends and family raid my library in exchange for giving the authors reviews.
Which projects have been your favorites? Which were easy to create? Hardest to create?
My favorite projects are always the ones that offer the most freedom. Some of my oldest clients can give me a sentence or two about their book and send me on my way, and still end up with something they love.
A big One Book Two thanks to Rebecca for talking with us and sharing her amazing art!