Someone asked me “How do you choose artists to work with?” and I figured the answer might be of general interest.
First off, the thing to remember is that when I’m putting together a book, I am in some respect putting on my business hat (it is the black fedora) rather than my author hat. Yes, I want to pick a “good artist,” but I am really looking for someone who will (in no particular order) bring a fanbase to the work (i.e. help promote it), deliver work on time, and work well with the author (this is when the author hat–the newsie flat cap–goes back on)–oh, and of course, they generally have to be okay illustrating adult work. Now, honestly, the only thing I have to judge people before I’ve worked with them is the first (and sometimes last) one, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go run after the artists with the biggest fanbases. I’d worked with Blotch and gotten to know them for a couple years before I tentatively broached the idea of illustrating “Out of Position.” I knew they produced good work on a schedule, and what’s more, they work really well with me-the-author. Sabretoothed Ermine, who did the art for “Winter Games,” I knew only from a commission she’d done for me at a con. But I liked her work and style, and she seemed to be reliable as far as I could judge from her FA history, so I approached her and she turned out to be wonderfully professional and a real joy to work with as well. And for “Green Fairy,” I was writing it to release at the FWA where I was going to be a GOH, and it made sense to work with my fellow GOH Rukis–but I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t already know her and respect her as an artist and a person.
Usually I also try to make sure the style will fit the story, but I know many artists with a variety of styles at this point, and if I have a lighthearted story that calls for something cartoony, or a grittier story, or a period piece, I have a pretty good idea of what names I can reach out to first. I also have good relationships with those artists, so now the “will we work well together” and “will they deliver on time” questions are pretty settled.
And last, if I’m working in an established world, the artist who first worked with those characters gets first crack at the art. For the Argaea story in “What Happens Next,” I went first to Sara Palmer, who illustrated the first four Argaea books, and she was happy to provide an illustration.
So that’s more or less how it goes.