Thinking through the creative process in author website design

I’ve spent all my professional career in journalism, mostly working for magazines, so I tend to use those editorial processes for anything creative. So that is what I did working with an artist to come up with the cover image for my author website.

Cover images are tricky: you want something unique and visually engaging but it also needs to match with the kind of work you’re doing and where you are in that. Because I’m getting ready to look for an agent on the novel I’ve almost finished revising, I wanted to show a picture of me . . . but it needed something more.

An art director friend suggested visual artist Sam Mussa and we chatted by Skype about what the novel was about and the kind of fiction writing I’m doing. After that he came up with six draft sketches (there’s a sample one below) and then I used the same process I use for choosing a cover image for the magazine I’m the editor of: I print out all the draft images and ask a lot of people what they think. What I’m looking for with that is their impressions, not just which one they like most. “This part of this one looks ____” or “I like this element here” or “This one suggests more fantasy than science fiction.”

Then I take all that input, think about it overnight (very important for me—always improves my decisions) … and I got back to Sam with which one to go to final illustration. (Though in this case, there were two directions that were great and Sam ended up doing both to final and said I could talk about the process a bit.)

Oh, and Hans Hogers—with his writing, journalism and IT smarts—helped set up the basics of this website… and this is the first blog I posted on it all by myself!


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