Questions about getting cover art for your hosted game


#1

Hi everyone!

I was wondering if anyone has had the experience of getting cover art done for their hosted game before, and if so, what was the process like? I’m completely new to this so everything and anything would be really helpful!

In particular, I have a few questions:

  1. How do you select who to work with you?
  2. What would you expect to pay for a single e-book cover, as well as an app logo (I assume you need both). Will you be charged per revision, or per project.
  3. How long would you expect the process to take?
  4. How much detail should you provide in your project brief, should it be detailed, or should you give the artist freedom?
  5. Are freelance websites like fiverr reliable? And if so, does anyone have good artist recommendations? (Its a bit overwhelming right now haha)

I’ve noticed that there’s a professional services category, but before I delve into that I would really want to seek the expert advice of authors who have already been through the process.

Thank you so much!!!


#2

I’ve done it twice now…keep in mind that your mileage will vary…

  1. Both times, I have found readers who are talented artists.

  2. That is going to really vary based on quality, medium, number of characters, complexity of the image, and how much ‘back and forth’ you have going on. I’m not an expect, but I think a quality cover image might cost in the range of $100-$300 USD, but obviously it all depends on the previously listed factors. (Keep in mind that the artist will need to give up all rights to the image, so that is a factor as well).

  3. Depends on the artist’s schedule and yours, I guess it could take weeks or maybe just a few days?

  4. For me, I give the basics, and we have a discussion about what I envision, and the artist draws up a sketch to see if it’s going in the right direction (and usually it’s MUCH better than what I envisioned). Then the artist completes the image. It was this way with both artists I’ve used thus far but I’m sure artists have varied preferences, being as temperamental as they are!

  5. I don’t know! I’ll bet other folks here can answer that.

Keep in mind, you need to work with someone reputable so you don’t get ripped off. Figure out if you’re going to pay some $ up front and then maybe the rest at completion. Keep in the mind that the artist doesn’t want to get ripped off either. It’s a two-way street.

And finally keep in mind that you need at least a basic contract showing that you purchased ALL RIGHTS to the image. That allows Hosted Games to publish the images. It protects them from the artist later saying, “Hey you don’t have my permission to use that.”


#3

I know @Feather has done covers for a few HG and is on the forum. You could ask cog, they might be willing to say who they’ve used?
Other than that, check their website and if they have something like deviant art, if they have happy commisioners .

Everything else including costs and time will depend on the artist and what you’re asking for.


#4

I would add that (in most cases) you’re not just paying for the drawing/sletch but also for coloring/inking and lettering (the title) on the image, so that’s a good amount of work.

On the app store, my eye tends to stray away from “meh” images and focus on the more eye catching ones.

Also, psychologically, some folks view apps with professional images as appearing to be more professional products.


#5

I haven’t ever published a game here (still working on my first WIP in fact), but I can come at this from the other side as a professional artist/illustrator. Apologies in advance for the novel!

Commissioning art is really one of those things where you get what you pay for. I saw @Eric_Moser say $100-$300 for a cover image, but I think that’s really rather low. Speaking as a professional, a lot of the art I see for Choice of Games/Hosted Games products seems to be on the amateur side of the spectrum, and the prices Eric quotes reflect that. For comparison, Wizards of the Coast pay $1000-1200 for a Magic the Gathering card.

Typically the process for commissioning art works as follows: you send me a message with a brief idea of what you want, how big it needs to be (whether in inches/feet for a physical piece of art or in pixels for purely digital), and how quickly you need it. Based on that, I can give a rough price estimate. From there, we can either move ahead or negotiate ways to bring the price down (typically more freedom for me to do what I want, a longer time to do it, or a more simplistic concept). My price usually includes 3 minor revisions with the option to pay for more if you feel they’re needed. The way the process is set up though, there’s many opportunities to catch issues early on.

Moving ahead, I’ll do 3-5 thumbnail images of my ideas for the project based on your description. These are small (usually smaller than an index card) and offer distinct variations on your theme. You choose which one you like best and suggest changes- this is the time for major revisions (ones that don’t cost you extra!), as no major work has been completed yet. Things like “the knights need to be in a specific type of armor” or “this character is actually taller than this character and is black, not white” or “the architecture should be Greco-Roman, rather than Medieval” are appropriate at this stage. This is also where I ask for a 50% deposit up front, non-refundable (this serves to protect me in case you’re forced to cancel the commission after I’ve already done a considerable amount of work). The contract is signed at this point as well.

I next do a detailed version of the drawing. This is pretty much how the piece will look finished, albeit it lacking color and rendering. This is when things really get locked in, so it’s important to communicate any issues before painting actually begins.

Once the drawing is approved, I set to work on the final piece. Depending on how long I think it will take, I may check in once or twice with in-process shots. If it’s simple and relatively fast, I will proceed to the finish. I’ll send you a low resolution image of the final piece (not pixelated but not high resolution) and give you a chance to approve the piece. This is where the free three minor revisions come in. Things like “could you tone down the red in this character’s hair” or “the sky should be a bit brighter” or “could you make the armor be a bit shinier.” With it approved, I ask for the remaining 50% and then send you the high resolution file (or ship you the artwork if it was a physical piece). At that point, everything’s done! :smiley:

Also of note, an artist doesn’t necessarily have to sign all the rights to the image away- that’s another way to bring down the cost of the project. For instance, I could give you the rights to the image for gaming purposes, but reserve the right to produce prints and sell merchandise with the image on it. Limiting the time you have rights to the image is also another avenue. You might contractually only get full rights to the image for two years, and then they revert back to me, for example.

I agree completely with Eric: games with low quality art tend to push me away. Typically it’s a really good response here or in the reviews that cause me to go back and take a look.

An important thing to consider is that an illustrator is not automatically a graphic designer. When an artist is hired to do a book cover, for example, they don’t do the text and jacket design, only the illustration. The graphic design is handled by a professional, usually in house, who specializes in that field. So if you’re hiring someone to do art, don’t assume that they’ll do the text/logo as well! They might be a skilled graphic designer, but in my experience most illustrators are not.

If you made it through this, more power to you, and I hope it was beneficial! For those curious, my art can be found here: matthewjhuntley.com Shameless plug, but I’d love to work with someone on a game cover if the project is right! Feel free to reach out!


#6

We don’t have exact sales numbers for the games, but I think the authors do not make enough to justify prices much beyond what @Eric_Moser quoted. With a lower performing HG, what you are talking about could represent a significant portion or even majority of their earnings for a long time, possibly even the life of the gamebook. Not very realistic.


#7

Here is a good guide for any people interested in commissioning some illustration work. It shares and carries on some of the points made by @mjhuntley.


#8

I definitely understand that Wizards is a corporation and the people on this forum are individuals with much more limited budgets; I quote the price of a Magic card more to illustrate the level of quality one can expect at a given price than as a suggestion for what people here should be willing to spend. I think it’s important to realize that paying $100-$300 will result in art that is at the same level as existing CoG/HG games.

There’s other ways to get top quality art for less though! Rather than commissioning an original illustration, most artists (myself included) are more than happy to sell the rights to an existing piece, provided we’re able to (if the work was for Wizards, LucasArts, or any big company, then that would be a no-go).

So, if you know you’re looking for a certain type of work (something science fiction or featuring a cowboy or whatever it is) and you find the perfect piece online somewhere, try and make contact with the artist. Chances are they’ll be thrilled to let you use it in your game for a couple hundred bucks. You lose creative freedom and the specificity of it relating to your game, certainly, but when the game is fueled by your imagination anyway, that’s not necessarily a big deal.

@Consgay that’s a great guide!


#9
  1. I have a friend who is an artist. She was my first point of call to do the cover art for Paradigm City, and she’s presently doing character portrait art for my web serial. I think she’s great!
  2. I was charged per project on a time basis but I would assume that substantial revisions would incur further costs. This is why you need to be as clear as possible in the initial ‘pitch’.
  3. A few weeks. I think PC’s art took 4-6, but that was due to a whole host of IRL factors. I anticipate about two weeks typically.
  4. It should be as detailed as possible. With Paradigm City, I even provided (incredibly poor) sketchs/mock-ups. I talked about shapes, fonts, sizes and colors. However, I also granted the artist discretion to fiddle with them and change things around given that I am absolutely not an artist and they know better.
  5. No idea. I would rather source artists I know or have commissioned from previously.

#10

I find getting too detailed a brief can be really problematic and frustrating. A good artist will be able to compose a visually interesting picture. For example, a recent commission of mine had a client asking for a portrait of a UFC fighter that showcased her in an empowering way. That was it. If he’d gotten too specific with it, I wouldn’t have been able to present him sketches of the fighter as a force of nature alongside roaring flames, howling winds, and flashes of lighting across multiple sketches.

Granted, if you’re working on a property like Star Wars, of course there’s details in character design and architecture that have to be adhered to.

I would specify the action of the scene (a group of adventurers fleeing down a crowded street at night, lit by lamp light, for example) but wouldn’t take it to the point where you’re detailing the number of cobblestones or trying to force a certain camera angle. Saying “the view is from above” or “we’re seeing them from behind” is great, but much more than that and I think you’re defeating the point of hiring an artist. They’re trained to make kick-ass stuff, so let them! :slightly_smiling_face: I find that my clients are always pleasantly surprised by the sketches I present them, and I almost always hear “that’s better than what I pictured!”


#11

Oh, yeah, absolutely! It’s definitely more of a ‘here’s what I see in my head’ manner of suggestion – it’s not exacting. Like I said, I give carte blanche to go wild and do better/different because I’m not much of an artist or even that visually-minded. I’d always rather see an artist’s take on whatever I say than just doing what I say because you commission an artist for their style and take on things, like you say.


#12

Yes, most of the art for the first batches of CoGs and HGs was rather…basic, but in the past year or so, I think the quality has really improved across the board. I have no idea what CoG pays for cover art, but I’m guessing most HG authors are in that $100-$300 range I mentioned earlier, because while we do want something that pops, we’re also constrained by budget. And frankly I think I spend more on art than most people, because I also include some interior images (color).

I’d have to look at the contract again, but I keep thinking that “all rights” is contractually required. Selling rights for a limited time wouldn’t work, because then someone (who?) would have to bring it to everyone’s attention in two years or whatever that the art rights were expiring and then a solution would have to be proposed. That’s just extra work for the publisher to keep track of. We all obviously want our games to stay on the app stores indefinitely, so we want permanent rights as well. I think that’s why all rights are required.

But @mjhuntley, your work is spectacular! I can’t imagine how long some of those photorealistic (or whatever the right term is) images take to create, and I understand you’re worth $.


#13

@mjhuntley
Dayum, that’s eoome incredibly detailed art. I’d take a willd guess and say it’s worth at least $500/piece.


#14

Dear god, being on mobile is embarrassing. Excuse my typos. (And no, I can’t edit on mobile )


#15

Multiply that by three, and I think you have the lowest possible value of work at that calibre. It would take several weeks at the bare minimum to do one of those pieces, and artists need to eat.

I’m blown away by the quality. If and when I get my own WIP done to the standard I want it and I have the money at hand I’d seriously consider commissioning you, @mjhuntley. Your craft is excellent.


#16

@Consgay
You might be right! I’m clueless when it comes to pricing art, but it’s clear that Mathew is extremely talented.


#17

Right on the money (pun!) @Consgay Thank you so much for the kind words about my work. I look forward to hearing from you about your game! Thanks @Samuel_H_Young and @Eric_Moser as well!

As far as my prices go specifically, one thing that makes those works in my portfolio more expensive is that they’re all physical oil paintings and, save a few, very large in size as well. I’m able to work digitally when required, and that cuts down on the price of materials and speeds up the process. It doesn’t bring it down to the $300 range, but it helps.

While I have everyone’s attention, here’s a link to my Instagram for those who want to see more and stay up to date with what I’m doing: https://www.instagram.com/matthuntleyartist/


#18

Random question that totally shouldn’t imply anything about myself, for someone that’s largely ignorant of all the legal-ese, is there a general “you must be of X age” to fill out a contract for stuff like that?


#19

@ExcaliburV In the United States it’s 18 everywhere, as far as I’m aware. I believe it’s something similar for most other Western countries.


#20

Cool, thanks. I was just, er… Asking for a friend…

Tugs collar

I need to go learn how to make my own art…