How Do I Find An Artist?
There are many different options here. If you have the skill, you could do your own art. [This is what I, and a few other authors I talk to do.] If you know someone who works in the style you desire, talk to them about a possible commission. [But please, don’t ask them to do it for free or for exposure unless they are a good friend and owe you a huge favor; or offer to do it for free themselves–art is not easy to make, especially when you are trying to put another person’s characters and ideas on paper. Asking an artist to donate days of their life for free is incredibly insulting. The only way it could be worse is if you demand it. Don’t be that person.]
Most Japanese LN authors commission artists from an art site called Pixiv; the equivalent for those of us across the sea is DeviantArt. Most artists will have their rates and rules set up on their page, but you could always put a request out in the forums stating the style you need and what you are willing to pay. Another possibility is a site called Fiverr. True to their name, prices can be as low as $5 per commission.
Remember, even if you only order a few images, the cover art is the first thing that people see–and they will make a snap judgement based on the quality of the art. One of the things you don’t want to cheap out on is cover art and design. You may need these done by two separate artists, but trust me, it’s a solid investment. The closer your self-published light novel looks to a professionally published light novel, the better.
What Should The Artist Provide?
You should always request the following from your artist before they begin work and before any money changes hands:
- All images should be at least 1400 x 2000 pixels, and 300 dpi. [600 dpi is preferred.]
- You should receive a high-resolution file of the cover art with no text, a final version with text and logo, and a copy of the logo by itself with a transparent background. [You will need these for marketing purposes.]
- You should receive high-resolution images of the insert images. These may be greyscale, or in color.
What Should You Insist On?
- Do not pay the artist upfront! Definitely pay them a deposit, but do not pay them the full amount before any work is done.
- Request to see and approve sketches before any ink or color work is done. It is easier to alter a sketch than it is to alter a fully inked or colored image! [Sometimes a second, smaller deposit is provided after sketches are finalized for ink. This is between you and the artist.]
- Make sure you see watermarked final images before submitting the last payment. Only submit final payment when you are certain there are no changes you want to make.
- Make sure to credit the artist! It’s common courtesy to provide an art credit next to your name on the cover, and to provide a link to their work in the back matter of your book.
Do the Pictures Have to Be Manga-Style?
Nope. If a cell-shaded anime-look is more your thing, then go for it. If you want paintings, then commission that. The look of the art is entirely up to you and your artist!
How Many Pictures Should There Be?
There is no hard minimum–in fact, there are a few LNs that only have an illustrated cover and no insert images! If you want them, then three feels like a good amount to start with. Pick scenes from your work that you feel would benefit from visualization, or ones that you feel would really resonate with the reader. [Cheesecake and action are two go-to picks for this.] There is often a full-color image in the front matter of traditionally-published light novels giving brief introductions of the main characters, but so far I am the only OELN that I have seen use them.
Okay–now that we ironed that out, time to move on to our next section!