After you sell a book (!) and the contract is inked, one of the documents you’ll receive from your publisher is an Art Fact Sheet, which an author is asked to complete in order to help the publisher’s design team create a cover that fits the story inside.
Not all houses refer to this document as an Art Fact Sheet. My publisher uses the term Cover Direction Questionnaire, an appropriate name since it’s chock full of questions.
I’ll use my Questionnaire as an example, since it’s the only one I’ve seen.
The first questions dealt with the basics: release date, title, series, and author.
Six sections followed, some with subheadings. These may vary from house to house.
In this section, I was asked to state the year and time period covered in the book and to give information on the locale, including such features as the lay of the land, the season(s), the vegetation, and other geographic features.
I provided information about the town of El Dorado and described the stores owned by Miles and Elenora, the hero and heroine, since they’re important locations in the story.
What my publisher wanted was a 50-100 word blurb that gave the set-up of the story. I used the summary from my proposal, which was worded like back cover copy.
Because my book is a romance, I provided descriptions of Miles and Ellie, including physical features such as age and occupation, hair and eye color, hair and clothing styles.
In addition, I was asked for an overall description that could include height, build, personal style, and countenance. This is where I was able to include the fact that Ellie is determined and a bit feisty, elements my publisher captured so well on the cover.
I was asked to include information on up to two secondary characters. I listed Miles’s mother and Ellie’s nine-year-old daughter, since they appear in the story quite a bit.
I included two major conflicts in the story that could potentially be shown on the cover.
I was given several choices and asked to pick the one I thought best fit my story. I chose “romantic showing the heroine.” I had the benefit of having seen the cover for the first two books in the line and knew they’d included just the heroine, so my choice was an easy one.
In this section, I mentioned the silk flowers Ellie wears at her throat, an aspect of her shop that is very important to her, and her violin. I didn’t expect to see the violin on the cover, as I said in the post where I revealed the cover of my book, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, so I was delighted to see it used.
Following the sections, I was invited to submit any photos of the characters or setting that would help my design team. I sent the historic photos of Miles, Ellie, Miles’s mother, and Ellie’s daughter that I’d used as the models for those characters.
I’d purchased reprints of two photos of El Dorado taken around the year my story takes place from our local museum and got permission to send them to my publisher.
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Do you work from photographs when you create your characters, or do you locate pictures of your characters to match the images in your mind after you’ve written the story?
Were you surprised by any of the elements requested in an Art Fact Sheet?