It's normal that when you're self-publishing a book for the first time, questions arise. And guess what? Most of them are about the costs associated to it.
Since you're basically doing everything on your own, you'll need to take into account things like proofreading, professional editing, book formatting, professional book cover design, marketing, etc., and preferably, without breaking the bank.
A very common question I've come across several times on Social Media is:
How much will it cost me to get my book cover designed?
Before we delve deep into this, let's think about the importance of the cover of your book to you. We know you're on a budget, but is it worth to neglect the need of a professionally designed book cover?
Short answer: No. Book covers sell, even if the old saying urges us to "not judge a book by its cover". As a book blogger and self-proclaimed bookworm, I've lost count of the times I've picked up books purely based on being wowed by the cover. So if a nice book cover is enough to make you stand out among dozens of requests in a blogger's inbox, imagine how important that same nice book cover will be when someone stumbles upon your book while browsing through the infinite options on Amazon. You have one chance to make a good first impression on your potential readers - don't waste it.
Okay, I hear you, you want me to go straight to the actual numbers of book cover design costs. How much, realistically enough, should you expect to pay? This is what you want to know. And this is probably not the answer you will want to hear: But it depends.
How do prices vary and what options do you have?
You'll find book cover design services ranging from $5 (believe it or not) to $4000. Now are these realistic numbers? Can a professional truly afford selling you a book cover for a price that wouldn't even cover the costs of licensing the stock images or artwork? And should you even risk the possibility of having a book cover design that will potentially get you into copyright infringement trouble?
You want a book cover that suits your needs, that is reasonably priced, but you want to understand its value, and what you're paying for.
Which brings us to the next point...
How to analyze book cover design pricing options?
Things that you should take into account when considering going for either a cheaper or more expensive option.
1. Exclusive Artwork
If you want something 100% exclusive, you can commission an illustrator, painter or artist to draw something from scratch. There are a few artists that specialize in book covers but maybe not many so you can just send the finalized art piece to a Book Designer who will take care of the typography and all the rest for you. This is applicable to photography too, you can commission a photographer instead.
Either way, these are the costs to take in consideration: The actual commission for the artwork, purchasing the rights to use the artwork for commercial purposes, purchasing exclusive rights to the artwork so it's not used anywhere else by anyone else.
- Value: Very High. You'll get an unique book cover, illustration and design. You won't find a cover remotely similar to yours.
- Price: Very High.
2. Photo Manipulation and Typography
This is the most common approach for most book cover designers, and mine as well. Stock images are used, purchased and licensed, and they're included in the final price. Since stock images, even premium, are fairly common, they are combined and manipulated to create a specific concept and make the book cover unique, even if others have used those images before. In some cases, only typography is used, but in creative ways.
- Value: High. Others might have used the same images, but if the photo manipulation is done right, then they are used in an unique way (barely recognizable in some cases) to create an unique concept.
- Price: Medium-High.
3. Your own photo or art
If you're lucky enough to be a creative type, such as a photographer or drawer, then you can use your own material to be incorporated into your book cover design. I'd still recommend you to hire a professional Book Cover Designer to work on the typography and edit your photography.
- Value: High. It's both the uniqueness of your work and a professional's touch combined.
- Price: Low-High (depending on the level of editing required).
4. Premade Book Covers
These are usually book covers that have been previously designed and are now available to sell. Many are one-of-a-kind, meaning they'll only be sold once. However, some sellers make them available to be sold numerous times, so be sure you know the terms before you purchase. You can chose from a wide range and customize them by adding your own book name and author name, and in some cases, even changing some colors.
- Value: Medium. You can get a nice looking cover but, depending on the seller's terms, there's the strong possibility that others are using the same as yours. The other downside is that the book cover has not been custom designed to meet your specific needs, and you weren't involved in its creation.
- Price: Medium-High (normally the cheapest will be sold more than once).
5. Big Name Designers
Big Name Designers have worked for famous authors or publishing houses, therefore they'll charge you more due to the experience and expertise.
- Value: High-Very High. You're hiring someone who has experience in the industry and has worked with big names, so it's almost certain that they will bring value to the table. Either way, you'll get a good design.
- Price: Very High.
6. Crowdsourcing platforms
Without wanting to go into a debate (there are many already about this topic), this is one of the options I'd least recommend. Crowdsourcing platforms basically give you the option to launch a Design Contest and have Designers submit entries (finished work, supposedly) while competing against each other. Despite the fact you have a good amount of designers working on your project, only one of them will be paid, the contest winner.
Why would someone want to put so much time and effort in something that they'll most likely won't be paid for? You might ask. And my personal opinion is, they don't. These designers don't have the time to dig deeper, understand your project and briefing, your audience, your motivations and inspirations, your tone and essence. Also, instead of trying to liaise with a sole designer in order to give feedback and work on accurate revisions that will make your project move forward, you're stuck with an overwhelming number of 'initial concepts' that you have to chose and judge. The vision and concept should be something to be worked between you and the Designer you chose, not have a bunch of random concepts without a clear solution.
- Value: Very Low. When hiring a Designer, you're hiring him for the skills, expertise, and possibility of communicating and moving a project forward.
- Price: Medium. (you won't get a much cheaper cover design either)
7. Dubiously Low Prices
Be aware of those who sell book covers for a dubiously cheap price. If we take into account the costs for a Designer to create a book cover, this includes: stock images licenses, fonts, professional software (Photoshop is not a cheap investment), etc.
Legit reasons why someone would sell you a book cover design for cheaper would involve: portfolio building, practicing skills, being at a beginner level, building a name, etc. However, even if all those reasons are valid, such prices won't stay for long because it's unsustainable.
Conclusion: Your budget
With a budget of $100-700 you can easily get a professionally ebook cover designed by a talented designer. If you're self-publishing electronically, you can save by purchasing the ebook version only but making the Designer aware that you might purchase from them a print version in the future.
These prices vary usually due to the experience in the industry, design itself or because some of the designers are at a point in their career where they are trying to build a name for themselves. The reason why I provide such reasonable prices for my ebook covers, at the moment, is because even though I have a BA degree in Design and years of experience in photo manipulation, web and branding, I'd like to add more examples of book covers to my portfolio and start building a name for myself in the industry. So, without wanting to sound biased, grab these prices while they're low, okay?
Are you thinking of getting your book cover professionally designed? Have you ever had a bad experience? Let me know in the comments.
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