I see many artists making their living primarily from doing bookcovers, and it led me to wonder if they actually read every single book they illustrate... Do they actually have time for that, or are they just given a brief and an idea from the author or art director that tells them what the characters look like?
I have researched this area quite a bit. Apparently John Howe receives a manuscript, which could be 10 pages longs or the whole book, and he is asked to paint a cover from what he has read. I assume the client can sometimes have specific needs; but in general a manuscript with info about the story and characters is present.
Go to John Howes website, or buy his 2 books, there is some great info there! Great guy too, ask questions in his forum and he actually answers! (yeah yeah, I do admire his 'god-like' art )
It totally depends. Sometimes I'll be given a manuscript with no initial art direction and asked to come up with a bunch of possible cover concepts. Sometimes I'll get a synopsis and character descriptions, but again the concepts are up to me. Sometimes I'll be given a general direction or a scene that might make a good cover. Sometimes I'll be given a very specific brief, describing exactly the image they want. Sometimes I'll even be commissioned for the cover before the book has even been written! Whenever possible I like to have a manuscript to refer to, even if I'm working from a detailed brief, because often there are details or descriptions that may have been missed. Also, there have been a couple of occasions where there were mistakes in the brief that I only picked up on because I had also read the manuscript. I read fast, but also selectively. I'm mainly interested in descriptive passages, and don't always make it to the end of the book, because one rarely includes information from, say, the last quarter or so of a story on a cover (spoilers!).
Rist > Funny you should mention Howe, I got the Myth & Magic book by him, and I ordered John Howe Fantasy Art Workshop the other day And yeah, he's pretty awesome And thanks for the reply, very helpful
Mirana > I guess some artists are just damn fast readers, but as you say, not all have the time for it.
Elwell > Thanks alot for that post, it was very informative Have you ever regretted reading a manuscript where it turns out to be a stinker of a book and you loose almost all inspiration?
DSillustration > Unless it involves much love, deception and hot doctors, I'll probably not get my wife to read it...
Again, thanks alot guys, I feel I am a wiser man now