It doesn’t matter how brilliant your game is, if you don’t have a good cover image people won’t tend to pick it up at conventions or when browsing in their friendly local games shop.
For many years I’ve been taking advantage of a great guy I met on line called DAVE EADIE. He’s spent many years sketching Superhero pictures for his own amusement and – when I was putting Squadron UK together – he had a ready made portfolio of stuff for me to use. I had no money at first so, initially, I gave him a percentage of profits. (He would’ve let me use his stuff for nothing but even I’m not that exploitative.)
I now have a more professional approach to things, paying for front cover images and using stock art inside my books.
When I wrote my lightweight Superhero RPG – THE COMICS CODE – I had some artwork Dave had done for the relaunch of Golden Heroes which had never been used and for which he’d never been paid. So I came to an agreement with him and stuck it on the cover:
During playtests of THE COMICS CODE it became clear that this particular ruleset could easily be adapted to other genres. So I conceived a range of “code” books for different genres – the first of which was to be THE CODE OF THE SPACELANES, a SciFi game. Unfortunately Dave wasn’t available to do the cover! For the first time I had to shop around.
I prepared a general spec and sent it to various artists – first from the Artists thread on UK roleplayers and then shopping around on the ‘net. The responses from professional artists were professional but arrogant and the quotes they gave for a cover were frightening!
Then I got a reply from Shane Mitchell of UK Roleplayers. He was extremely modest, pointing out that it wasn’t the sort of thing that he usually did and that he didn’t think his style matched my spec. However, he was interested and gave me a quote which, whilst slightly above my budget, was well below that of the other professional guys. The kicker, however, was the fact that he included a “quick sketch” to see if he had the right idea:
WOW! No-one else had bothered to do this. Suddenly my project became tangible to me. And, I don’t know about you, but I love this sketch. It’ll probably appear on a t-shirt at some point. We swapped a couple of emails to finalise details and then I got this “concept sketch”:
WOW! If this was the final version of the artwork, I’d’ve happily used it. What it DID do was allow me to give Shane some “notes” (though as a non-artist I felt cheeky doing it). Even better though, with the first draft of the rules being finished I was able to mock-up a rulebook to take to conventions with me.
Then, a week before the agreed deadline, I got this:
WOW! (Spot the differences……?)
The playtests have gone well. The rules are now finished. The book will be ready to go within days – but I’ll still delay its release until Dragonmeet where I know THIS cover is going to attract loads of attention.