Norman Rockwell

Cover Design: Norman Rockwell or Not

I signed a contract with an illustrator to design the cover and a map for the inside of my HOTDOG book. My imaginary dachshund will finally have a face! Besides in my head.

I had no idea how to begin the process of finding a cover design artist. But I do know how to research and ask questions. So, I started reading about choosing an illustrator and consulting friends who’d already had some experience with independently publishing their work. Every source emphasized the importance of having the best cover to represent the book and appeal to the readers. Talk about pressure! What WAS the best cover for my book? I had some ideas, of course. But were they right or wrong?

Well, duh, I thought. I’m a reader and I’d always liked covers that look real, not cartoonish. If Norman Rockwell had written novels, I’d have read them all. So, I searched for realism and saw lots of great work. Some even reminded me of Rockwell’s. But I realized that while I loved his works, they told stories of my generation and before. HOTDOG is set in the present, with middle grade, tech savvy, characters. Had my future readers even HEARD of Norman Rockwell or seen his creations? Maybe, but only because many of his iconic works have become a part of our history.

Then I talked to an illustrator friend, Sharon Lane Holm. Sharon helped me realize it didn’t matter what I preferred. HOTDOG’s cover had to be relatable to my graphics-oriented readers, reflect the humor in my story. That I needed to broaden my view, wear my kid-tinted glasses. As I begin studying current MG covers and artists who designed them, I discovered that there were varying levels of what I’d thought of as “cartoonish,” and some even looked more real! I redefined what I felt was most important in choosing an illustrator and made one of those lists my family is always teasing me about.

I want someone who…

  1. has experience in middle grade cover design
  2. won’t mind answering a gazillion questions
  3. can draw a discernible dachshund and his faithful boy
  4. has a sense of humor which shows in their work
  5. has great reviews
  6. is professional yet approachable
  7. is likely familiar with the Plains states (Kansas)
  8. shares my goal of creating excellence for kids

I made a few more lists of illustrators with my “wants” list in mind and whose art appealed to my revised “realistic” view. Mariya Prytula was on each one. Then when I saw she was a member of SCBWI, a group I’ve belonged to and respected for ages, and read her profile there, I decided. If you click on Mariya’s name, I think you’ll see why. I especially love that she wants her artwork to give folks a hug. Just the person I need to help me make my huggable, lovable HOTDOG come to life!

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