I’ve noticed lately there’s a bit of a divide in terms of provided details from my cover art forms. There are some authors who are very specific in their descriptions and requirements – in some cases even specifying the jewelry of the character, while others give me less then a bare minimum to work with.
Both approaches have pluses and minuses, and depending on our needs and your ability to let go, either approach can lead to confusion when you see the cover art comp and say “this isn’t what my characters look like”. (P.s. a comp is an example cover design we put together to show you the direction we are thinking of. Also referred to as the mockup or mock.)
Less information equals more freedom to pick photography stock art – tall, short dark hair, muscular lends to a lot more choices for models. Now if the author adds details – square chin, leather boots, piercing blue eyes that MUST be shown on the cover – that narrows our choices and may exclude a potentially incredible image, or may give us EXACTLY what you’re looking for. It’s a fine line:)
This applies to dress style, jewelry, curly or straight hair, any other other nuances that make human beings beautiful and unique. More details equals less chances we’ll find a person adhering to those descriptions at stock sites.
There are also some instances where authors take the time to search through images and provide exact pictures of their characters. In some aspects, this saves the artist a ton of time which can be used in perfecting the image. The downside however are details you may not notice when picking a character – often times, their hair or their sides are cropped off and are completely unusable in a design. And as much fun it is to add “hair scalp” on top of someone who has been cropped off, it looks much more natural when they have their own scalp to begin with
One of the huge and subtle details are visual clues about the story. A lot artists like to have sweeping backgrounds or symbols integrated into the cover to enhance design and to provide more clues as to what the book is about. The less details I’m given – the less pieces I can include. By detail we’re talking about visual subjects – the pyramid of Giza, a leather flogger, etc.
Depending on your needs and preferences for covers, your trust in your cover artist and the position of the moon, it’s up to you to decide how much or how little detail you should include in your Cover Art Request form.