Jim Hoover led us through a discussion on three non fiction picture books, Sandy's Circus, Kubla Khan, and Two Bad Pilgrims. While he admitted that history is a hard sell, the right illustrations can really bring life to nonfiction stories. One facet of illustrating for non-fiction that illustrators should be aware of is the possible conflicts of interest that can spring up when dealing with intelectual property rights from actual persons or events. In the case of Sandy's Circus the illustrator had to completely redo the cover right before publication because of this.
Next Jim talked about the process of creating novel covers. While the cover of a novel has always been an important selling point for a book, the importance of this - since the demise of Borders - has ratcheted up to a fever pitch. He tells stories of a sales force that need to be convinced that a cover will sell a bajillion copies while also being 2 x 3" big on Amazon. Any illustrator who feels up to the challenge, please, step up. Nevertheless Jim is also championing the return of illustrated covers to books especially those for girls as "not every girl midgrade needs to look like Vanity Fair." We illustrators had to give him a round of applause for that one.