It’s no secret that most of the art we use on our book covers comes from the art licensing website Dreamstime. Using sites such as this is fairly standard in the industry these days, and it has revolutionized book cover design. It can be more limiting, yes, than going with an artist for a custom piece of work (illustrating a scene exactly as you envision it, for example), but it can also be much more freeing in that you can scour all sorts of images and crop, colorize, skew and reposition to your designer heart’s content.
Occasionally, we find ourselves using a particular Dreamstime’s artists’ work often. In those cases, we might contact the artist directly to have a piece of art custom-designed, but not exclusively licensed, and put up on Dreamstime for us, and anyone else, to purchase. This has been the case with Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Diving series, most of which have used art by an amazing artist named Philcold.
In discussing art concepts for a European release of some of the Diving titles, the artist expressed the concern he has each time (we’re now on our sixth custom art piece with him) that he will fail to come up with something to our satisfaction. To which I responded that I have no such doubts, as he is an amazing artist, and we have always been very happy with his work.
I told him that fear of failure is what continues to drive talented artists to great work. Without that fear, we become enamored with our own “awesomeness” and stop trying—thereby failing to achieve any further measure of success.
I know where he’s coming from. I worry that each cover I design will not hit its mark. And sometimes they truly don’t. But I don’t stop trying to achieve the level of quality I expect from myself (and I am my own worst critic).
Besides, there are plenty of examples out there of talented people who achieved some measure of success and then decide to “rest on their laurels” and start mailing it in. Think about it for a second. Some promising actor who rose to stardom only to develop a reputation as a diva or difficult to work with—thereby no longer being offered the choice roles—and disappear just as quickly. Or some writer who rose to bestseller status but then couldn’t seem to write another successful book. People will excuse arrogance if you can back it up—and keep backing it up. But arrogance about a single or small number of successes without further success will eventually be considered a fluke rather than talent.
And then there are those who stay with us. They might be flawed. In fact, if they’re human, they are pretty well guaranteed to be flawed. But that little bit of fear, that drive to be the best “whatever” they can possibly be makes their impact on our lives even greater.
Take James Gandolfini, who died last week from a sudden heart attack at age 51. Ganolfini was a classic example of someone who never rested on his laurels. He was a talented actor and by many accounts a gentle and kind man. He was flawed, of course. He had vices. But his drive to be the best he could be propelled him to overcome his setbacks. I saw an interview with a costar from The Sopranos who said sometimes Ganolfini’s iconic portrayal of Tony Soprano would become too much for him to bear and he would disappear for a few days. But he always came back, and apologized to his coworkers for not having the measure of strength he felt he should have had to deal with the demands of the role. He set his own bar higher than everyone else would have asked of him. That, my friends, is the mark of true talent.
We are fortunate here at WMG to have writers, editors and staff members who espouse this philosophy. I am very proud of the work we have done as we have grown this company. And I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with next.
Because I can tell you this, no one here mails it in. And have no fear, our commitment to publishing great work is no fleeting fancy.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.