I assume that when most authors write a book, they have a picture of what their characters look like in their heads. It’s possible that the character may appear on the cover, and if that’s the case, I’m sure they work with the cover artist/designer (at least to some extent) so that the character matches what they think he or she should look like.
Being a former comic book artist (inker) myself, it was very important for me to not only visualize Red Raptor, the protagonist of my new YA novel, but to actually have a physical image of him. This image has changed over time and, I feel, has been improved each time.
I started with my own pencil sketch of the character. This was just a simple sketch of his costume to give me something to start with. But I’m an inker, not a penciller, so I went to…
…the City of Heroes character generator to create a model of the character. The game hasn’t been around for a few years and the servers no longer exist, but there is both a plugin that you can use (if you still have the game on your PC) and a website where you can download just the character creator (which is the best of any game I’ve ever played). I still wanted to see what an artist’s take on the character would look like, however, so I went to…
…Deviant Art and found an artist whose style I liked and had him draw the character based on my computer model. I was a big fan of the Young Justice animated show, and Serg, who drew this version, had a style very close to that. I really liked what he did with the character, and he stuck close to what I had designed but still improved on it.
Around this time, I started to seriously consider self-publishing Sidekick instead of going through an agent and/or publisher (for many reasons which I won’t get into right now). I knew that if I decided to do it, I’d need an amazing cover, and I decided to ask an old buddy of mine with whom I worked at a small comic book company many years ago, Jonboy Meyers, to draw the cover. When I worked with him, Jonboy was just starting out, but by the time I asked him to work on this with me, he was finishing up a run drawing Spawn, one of the most popular independent (as in non-Marvel or DC) comics of all time. To my great joy, he agreed to do the cover.
Jonboy is not only an incredible artist, but he’s a great designer as well. So I told him he could follow my design as much as he wanted, or do his own thing with it. Was I ever glad he did his own thing! His first design knocked me out, and then he only improved it from there.
The final version of the cover was colored by a great comic book colorist named John Rauch, and I’ve gotten tons of compliments on it.