Like the title says, cover art doesn't just happen. It's a process, from inception to publication. First, and foremost, it starts with an idea. In my case, it is typically some scene roaming around in my head. Sometimes its epic, sometimes its plain comical, but either way, it's typically some event that left a lasting impression in my brain.
For example, in the Princess of Lanfor, the latest installment in the Heroes of Ravenford series, the intrepid bard, Elladan and the devil-may-care artist, Donatello find themselves airborne, though not in a good way. Unlike some of the other characters in the series, neither Donnie or Elladan can fly. To make matters worse, they are being stalked by a flight of dragons intent on their demise for stealing something of value from the Princess' airship.
Of course, neither Donnie nor Elladan are worried in the slightest. They are certain their friends will aid them. Further, they have more pressing business on their mind, namely, saving a very good friend. Thus, splatting on the ground is the furthest thing from their mind.
So, how does this scene translate into a cover? It typically starts with poor concept art on my part, and a description of the scene to my favorite artist, Jackson Tjota. Jackson has an incredible knack for taking my wacky ideas and somehow making them digitally plausible. Here is the progression of this process, starting with my terrible attempt at concept art (and yes, before you ask, that is Cary Elwes and Elvis. Both were strong inspirations for the characters of Donnie and Elladan):
Next comes an extremely rough draft by Jackson to agree on the concept:
Followed by a pass focused on the characters:
Afterwards, comes the first real attempt at art:
And the eventual growth into the final cover art:
Once I get the final cover art from Jackson, I then forward it to Shannon over at S. P. Designs, and voila, we have a cover worthy of publishing:
Sounds easy, right? Well, it can be with the right folks backing you up. Of course, no good cover idea would be complete without input from my sons, Mark and Matt, the inspirations for Lloyd and Seth. Not to mention my good friend Tim, the force behind the world of Thac, Eric, the inspiration for Aksel, and Kathryn, my co-author for this installment of the Heroes novels.
Anyway, there you have it - cover art doesn't just happen. As for the Princess of Lanfor, look for another blog post soon with the first excerpts from the novel. Kathryn and I are working hard, and we hope to have it published this summer.