Artwork Is In: The Characters From My First Novel

It’s a lot of fun working with a good artist.

I spent much longer than initially intended finding and hiring an artist. I was looking for someone with both a strong vision but who would also collaborate when I had an idea in my head. I was looking for someone who could go from nonfiction cover design to children’s book illustration to logo design. And I was looking for someone with a ton of talent to pour into all that.

I found my artist, an exceptional talent and a true pro named Cleo, I’ve now been working with her for a month.

I put so much time in, and I’m willing to put the financial investment in, because I believe good covers and artwork are as important as the writing for many (if not all) of the books I’m publishing.

There are so many mediocre covers out there; it’s a plague, especially on independently-published books. I want to avoid catching the plague.

A professional cover doesn’t just help sell a book — it helps establish the tone and the value someone can expect inside the book.

Amateur cover means amateur writing. Professional cover means professional writing. And I’m dedicated to being the latter.

The first book I’m publishing is a young adult novel that’s a satirical book set in at a famous wizarding school during the years a particularly famous boy wizard happened to be there. (I talked about it a bit here.)

I’ve worked with Cleo on the designs for the characters for the book and here are her illustrations of four key players.


Book description: I became a kid, one with pale-ish skin, brown curly hair, and big (but now, more proportional) brown eyes that reduced to a squint when I’d let out a big smile and laugh. That happened quite a bit too, as I was a smiler and a laugher. I was short but not small; I didn’t have the natural pencil-thin build of a lot of the other girls in my class. I always carried myself with a lot of happy, genuine confidence.


Book description: Her walk and posture were so confident, so commanding, I found myself overwhelmed by an eagerness to listen to everything she had to say. She was put together way beyond her years. Sixth graders are supposed to be awkward, gawking, disheveled. Not her. I marveled how every single strand of her hair was in its proper place and her navy blue cashmere sweater and smart plaid skirt were wrinkle-free. She was also one of the first Black kids I’d seen at the school (or would see at our school, as it was not exactly a bastion of diversity).


Book description: He was tall, gangly, with a red curly haircut that wouldn’t become stylish for another 20 years. He had freckles on his pale skin, but not kiddie freckles — more mature freckles. Nothing, however, stood out more to me than his eyes. They sparkled with so much life, so much fun and mischief.


Book description: The most harmless-looking man I’d ever seen walked through the door. He was no more than five feet tall with a disarming lumpiness. He had rosy cheeks, big doey eyes like a woodland creature in a Disney movie, stubby fingers and disheveled orange hair. But none of that was what first caught me eye; no, what got me was his outfit. He was wearing one of those crazy robes like I’d seen on the streets earlier that afternoon. It was plush and unseasonable in its thickness, covered in a yellow, green, and purple checkerboard pattern.

Results from pen name poll

In last week’s post, I discussed pen names and whether or not I should use one for some or all of my books.

Here are the results of the poll:

Which of these options sounds like the best route considering (1) algorithmic recommendation considerations and (2) fan base building considerations?

  • Just use your name for everything – 16.7%
  • Use one name for all “retro related” books cross-genre. Then use real name or another pen name for unrelated genres (~3 names total) – 66.7%
  • Use different pen names for all “verticals” (~5-7 names total) – 16.7%

For kicks: Which of these pen name styles do you like?

  • Mostly remixes of my initials and names – 50%
  • Something playing on the color in my last name – 8.3%
  • Go wild with names that sound good – 41.7%
  • A theme but not color-related – 8.3%
  • Find a fun name that draws from the specific genre – 8.3%

To follow along

If you’re interested in what I do daily to work on my 100 books project, you can check the December 2022 work log.

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