Miblart Illustrated Cover Design Overview and Review - Are Their Services a Good Investment for Authors?
Learn the process of ordering a cover from Miblart, and my thoughts on their service.
Having a standout cover is critical for drawing in potential readers. It sets expectations for readers on the genre and tone of the story. The more professional looking the cover, the more inclined readers will be to believe the text inside is also high quality. Cover production can be one of the most expensive elements of putting together your book as an indie author, so it’s important to know that the person or book cover design company you’re working with can produce a quality product before parting with hundreds of dollars.
I have used Getcovers before for ebook cover design, and in both cases was satisfied with their work. (See Primal Vortex and 1001 Episodes to Literary Godhood as examples.) For my debut novel though, I wanted an illustrated book cover that clearly represented my universe and characters. My brand of high fantasy doesn’t lend itself well to stock images. Getcovers wouldn’t meet my needs here, but they’re a part of Ukraine-based company Mibl Group, who also own Miblart.com, and they DO offer illustrated cover design.
Having done right by me with those cheaper covers, I decided to trust Miblart with the book cover design for Welcome to the Nexus. With the cover now complete, I thought I'd describe my experience with them, to give other authors a detailed understanding of what the cover design process looks like when working with Miblart. Hopefully, this can help reduce the anxiety of potentially committing hundreds of dollars to a company you haven’t worked with before.
So, is Miblart worth the money? (TL;DR: Yes. Yes they are. I am a satisfied customer.)
Ethics Statement: I am not sponsored or endorsed by Miblart, nor am I a member of their affiliate program. Likewise, Laterpress does not have any business dealings with them. This commentary is based entirely on my personal experience paying my own money to commission a cover, and is similar to what any other author could expect.
Timelines and Communication
If you're planning to have an illustrated cover done, make sure you have plenty of lead time before your intended publication date. Their site states that the first concept art will be delivered “within 30 business days.” I placed my order on July 1st, and received my final, 100% complete cover on October 19th. Within hours of placing my order, their support team let me know it would be 5-6 weeks before I could expect a sketch, due to the illustrator I’d chosen being booked up. As I still have a ways to go before the book is fully complete, I was content to wait, rather than ask for a different illustrator.
Throughout the process, Miblart was excellent about responding promptly to my questions or comments. Every single message I ever sent to them received a response within 24 hours. Any communications delays after that initial 5-6 week wait were from me being slow to respond to them. There were a couple misunderstandings during the process, which I’ll detail later on, but these were all cleaned up quickly, easily, and without hassle. I’m comfortable saying if you and your illustrator weren’t on the same page about some detail on the cover, they’re great about making adjustments.
In retrospect, I do have one concern though about how communication was handled, but thankfully it did not impact my experience. During their initial communication, they indicated that if I didn’t like the sketch they came up with, I could get a refund. Once a designer starts work on the illustration, the deposit is non-refundable. Both the initial sketch and the first colored file I received were referred to as sketches, so it was never clear to me exactly what constituted “starting on the illustration” which would mark the point of no return where I’d no longer be eligible for a refund on my deposit. If you’re on the fence with their work after seeing the first sketch, I’d probably ask them to clarify when refund eligibility ends before proceeding further, or ask if they’ll do another uncolored sketch.
I had a pretty clear idea what I wanted for the cover’s look, and they got pretty close on their first try, so I can’t speak to what it’s like if you’re less certain on your vision and need a few rounds of back-and-forth before reaching consensus on the basic composition of a cover. Miblart offers an unlimited number of revisions, so don’t hesitate to speak up if changes need to be made.
Placing An Order
Miblart offers a variety of cover design services, but my commentary will focus on their illustrated e-book + print cover design package, which starts at $380. This package comes with one or two characters included, and requires a $195 deposit up front (or more, if you order add-ons or more expensive illustrator options. It amounts to roughly 50% of the final total). There are several add-ons available if you’d like them to produce some marketing materials for you. I spent an additional $50 to have a third character on the cover, but thanks to some other choices I made in the design process, I actually got SIX characters in the art (more on that later).
Once you’ve paid the deposit, there is a form to fill out to provide Miblart information about your book. This includes your name / pseudonym, the book title, print book size, page count, the back cover copy (if you have it done) and more. If you don’t know the final page count, or don’t have a final blurb, those can be added in later. They’re not required to start the process.
Miblart will then ask for a description of your book, and I have to admit this step was difficult for me. My summary was probably all over the place, and I wouldn’t blame the illustrator if they had trouble following along. I’m writing an epic fantasy novel with events happening across three planets and a central hub for the entire multiverse. What info do I describe? Since I had a pretty solid idea of the general look of the cover, I provided a high-level overview of the plot, but didn’t go nearly as deep into details as I could have. If you don’t have a specific image in mind for your cover, I’d recommend you take this box a lot more seriously than I did, as I’m sure this helps them generate ideas for what would make for good art.
After writing down your description, you’ll be asked to choose an illustration style. You’ll be shown art samples from several different artists. Some illustrators have standard or high detail options, and depending on the style you choose, the price may increase. (The option I chose was more expensive than the starting price, but not the most expensive option available.) Miblart will also ask what style of cover you prefer (such as object based covers, or those with detailed characters.)
With the style chosen, Miblart will next ask you to describe the characters appearing on the cover, the setting, and any other details you’d like to see on the cover. You’ll also be given the option to upload documents for them to reference. I spent the most time on these questions, describing each character, what they’d probably be wearing, their magical abilities, and their personalities. I sent a lot of reference images, including fan art of my dryad character, Ivy.
I wanted this cover to show my three main characters, with the world of Kimori as a backdrop, as many of the critical events of the book take place there. Kimori is a world dominated by a central world tree, which grows on top of a giant anthill. The ants are sentient beings, who mostly keep to themselves, but get along well with the elves who live in the tree above them.
The Book Cover Design Process
As you’ll see, the cover went through several rounds of edits and revisions before we landed on the final art. Five weeks after I placed my order, I received the email I’d been looking forward to: the first sketch was complete.
This was a solid first crack at what I wanted (the final composition doesn’t differ substantially), but I had some notes. Annea, the elf in the back, is floating in the air, in what I’d refer to as the “Magneto pose.” It looks cool, but she has no powers that could justify it. I liked her placement in the composition though, so I sent back an idea that would keep her in that position but make more sense to the story. She’s a ruler, so perhaps standing on an elevated platform like she’s delivering a speech?
The two ants in the sketch are Pik-Pik and Tik-Tik, the fourth and fifth characters I got into the cover art, as the high detail package allows for additions like creatures. I described them as dog-sized, comparable to golden retrievers. The artist inferred from that description that the ants are pets, so I can understand why leashes are in the initial concept. The ants are Annea’s loyal stewards (who would chat with you for hours if you let them), so the leashes had to go. That’s on me for not being sufficiently detailed in my explanations about the ants. Lesson learned!
Lastly, Ivy is naked, which was never the case in my descriptions. I attributed it to the artist not wanting to get in depth with covering a dryad in plant clothing at this stage, which is fair. (And they told me clothes would be a point of emphasis in the next pass, so at this point I wasn’t worried about it.)
I sent them my notes, and nine days later, I received back the first color version of the cover.
The illustrator got Annea perfect on the first try following the pose change. There were revisions needed elsewhere though. The ants are the wrong color. I had indicated their color earlier in the notes, but it was no hassle getting it corrected. I added a reference photo (which I should have done the first time) to give them an idea of what I was looking for.
The proportions on Serena’s left arm look odd, and she’s sporting a confusing tattoo on her arm. The tattoo is a combination of miscommunication, and bad direction from me. You see, Serena is host to a character named Tako, a telepathic, octopus-like character who can ride around on her skin like a mobile tattoo, or leave her body to become 3D. (Yes, my brand of fantasy is weird.) He is the sixth character shown on the cover.
In my notes, I’d suggested I’d like to see Tako represented either as a tentacle coming from Serena’s back, or as a tattoo on her skin. When I didn’t see the tentacle in the original sketch, I asked for the tattoo. After seeing it in this version, I asked for the tattoo to be cut. I wanted the tentacle there as an easter egg people looking at the cover wouldn’t understand at first, but would learn the significance of as they read the book.
Ivy also needed some changes. She’s in her mid-20s, but in this image, she looks younger than 18 to me, which makes the fact that she’s also topless even more problematic. I requested Ivy be aged up, because I need her to unambiguously look like a woman in her 20s or 30s, and to be given a top. She always has one in the book, and I didn’t want people to make false assumptions about her or the kind of book I’m writing based on her appearance.
We also discussed at this point that the characters would need to be shrunk down some to fit text, and I realized this concept has a scale problem. I’d wanted to show the world tree in the background, but it’s hard to do that and show off the characters at the same time. I weighed in favor of de-emphasizing the tree to keep the characters as large as would make sense.
The next update provided my first look at the back cover, and included all the changes I’d asked for. I’m told there is more background and detail work to be done, but I’m very happy with how it’s shaping up.
At this point, I talked with them about moving the characters up in frame, to allow for more space for the title along the bottom. This change was made without having to reduce anyone in size. We’re getting close to the end! Onward to typography!
I loved the font color and metallic sheen here, but strongly disliked the font itself. To me, it reads too fairytale or fantasy romance. My story is more action-adventure fantasy with hints of sci-fi. Miblart asked me for some examples of fonts I liked, and I decided to stick with Black Chancery regular, which was the font used on the premade cover this illustration is replacing.
Mission accomplished! At this point, I paid the remaining balance due for the art, and a few days later received the final, watermark free files. They also included some 3D mockups of the book I can use for marketing on social media.
What Did I Learn From This Process?
I was definitely asking for way too much in my initial notes on the cover design. There was a lot in those notes that never even made it to a sketch, and that is for the best. I was pushing graphic design with a questionable sense of scale, which we later corrected by de-emphasizing the tree in the background in the name of keeping the characters as prominent as possible. I don’t fault the illustrator for this. They were delivering what I asked, and once I recognized the flaws, they did a great job adapting it. I’m sure I was not the easiest client they’ve ever worked with.
Future cover concepts probably won’t be this complicated. The sequel’s cover will have a lot of details going on in the background, but just one character, and I’ll leave the composition specifics much more open for artist interpretation.
Would I Use Miblart Again?
Miblart responded to every one of my questions or comments within 24 hours throughout the process, so I never felt like my cover was lost in the shuffle of all the other work they have going on. GIven how weird my brand of fantasy can be, and the somewhat chaotic arrangement of my notes to them, I’m honestly surprised there weren’t more misunderstandings throughout the process. They handled every alteration request I asked of them with kindness and professionalism. I’m optimistic this cover sets my book up for success.
All of that is a long way of saying yes, I would work with Miblart on another illustrated cover. I definitely feel that I got what I paid for, and would recommend Miblart book cover design to fellow self-published authors looking to commission custom covers.