Author Topic: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?  (Read 2006 times)  

Offline AC de Fombelle

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Hi there!

I work with StreetLib and we want to test out a cover design service to share our designer's talents with indie authors. However, looking around and reading cover related topics on forums I see that most indie authors go for photographies rather than illustrations. Is there a specific reason for that?

Just to give you an idea, here are some covers Marta (our designer) made before:

http://www.martadasaro.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/dexter-1.jpg
http://www.martadasaro.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/mexican-taxi-book-2.jpg


Your inputs would be very welcome!

Many thanks,

AC

Offline FelissaEly

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2017, 07:14:29 AM »
I'd say most likely the reason has to do with cost, in general you are going to pay more for illustration than photomanipulation/stock. I'm interested to see what everyone else has to say ;)


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Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2017, 07:35:11 AM »
It has to do with genres and cover styles - authors want what sells in a genre.  About ten years ago people were still experimenting, but with time through readers' choices certain types of covers became popular in certain genres.  Now it is hard to sell in a certain genre if your cover does not fit in.

Romance - photos - hardly ever are illustrations used
Fantasy/Scifi - Photo-manipulation OR very super-realistic digital painting
Cozy Mysteries - Vector art
Thrillers/Mysteries - Photomanipulation
Middlegrade books - Again Photomanipulation or realistic digital painting
Literary fiction - some of them have the kind of covers you are showing with illustration-type covers, others photos - some of the literary fiction books may cross over with other genres like thriller or mystery and so on...I think this is where your covers could fit in.
Non-fiction - Photos or illustrations
Horror - Photomanipulation or again digital painting

Check the Literary Fiction bestsellers for illustration-type covers:

https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-Literary-Fiction/zgbs/digital-text/157053011

Sometimes you see illustration-type covers in Teen & Young Adult Fantasy too - though I don't see that many there are the moment, but this is another genre where you could do well:

https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-Teen-Young-Adult-Fantasy-eBooks/zgbs/digital-text/6110890011
« Last Edit: July 13, 2017, 07:57:22 AM by Melody Simmons »

Offline AC de Fombelle

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2017, 06:19:12 AM »
Thanks a lot! I suspected pricing and "common use" would turn up in the answers. As our service is just $499, I'd say it'd takes down the pricing issue (as I saw people are used to put this kind of money when hiring a professional for a cover).

I would comment that, as a reader, seeing all the covers looking the same in categories has always been for me a reason not to buy a book. I always go for the one that strikes out. It might be just me but when I browse online and scroll down to see dozens of books looking the same, I rarely take the time to stop and read more (title, blurb, reviews, etc.).

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2017, 09:53:49 AM »
It is much easier to get a photograph from a stock photo site and adapt it, than it is to get any sort of art that is suitable. There is some great graphic art on those sites, but they are usually aimed at fantasy genres.


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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2017, 10:26:07 AM »
The OP's examples are very similar to the type of cover I'm doing for my WIP (hopefully launching next month). Photo covers seem to be most common in my genre, but I'm hoping my cover will stand out in a good way. If I find it's keeping the book from selling I can always go back and make a cheesy stock photo cover. The main reasons I'm going the illustrated route are a) I can do it myself, and b) I don't want to use the same stock photo that someone else uses.

I have noticed that illustrated and minimalistic covers (like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey) seem to be more common for trad pub books, especially the hot selling ones. Like others said, it may just be that photos are cheaper for most people.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2017, 10:29:45 AM by Laura Kelley »

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2017, 10:49:05 AM »
As someone who does their own illustrations and covers, I'd recommend the illustrated style. Yes, it's more expensive, but more than a few readers are getting tired of stock photo covers and simply scroll past them. Illustrations are rare and people know it, so when they see it, it might spark some curiosity.

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Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2017, 10:56:56 AM »
The OP's examples are very similar to the type of cover I'm doing for my WIP (hopefully launching next month). Photo covers seem to be most common in my genre, but I'm hoping my cover will stand out in a good way. If I find it's keeping the book from selling I can always go back and make a cheesy stock photo cover. The main reasons I'm going the illustrated route are a) I can do it myself, and b) I don't want to use the same stock photo that someone else uses.

I have noticed that illustrated and minimalistic covers (like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey) seem to be more common for trad pub books, especially the hot selling ones. Like others said, it may just be that photos are cheaper for most people.

Twilight (photo of hands and apple) and Fifty Shades (photo of object) have photo-based covers. That's not the kind of illustration covers the OP is showing in the links posted...

Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2017, 10:57:47 AM »
Trad-pubbed covers for fiction were mostly illustrated for years.

If the price is reasonable, and if the cover artist is willing to create a scene that actually represents the book well, that might hypothetically be more effective than trying to make a stock photo fit. There are a lot of nice-looking stock photos out there, but they do tend to create a generic feeling after awhile. Especially in fantasy, there's often nothing that really represents the characters or a dramatic scene in the book. the best one can do is fit the mood and the genre in general.

Of course, in the old days of illustrated covers, designers didn't need to make something look good as a thumbnail. A lot of the covers rose to the level of true art--but they wouldn't have looked good in postage-stamp size.


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Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2017, 10:58:37 AM »
As someone who does their own illustrations and covers, I'd recommend the illustrated style. Yes, it's more expensive, but more than a few readers are getting tired of stock photo covers and simply scroll past them. Illustrations are rare and people know it, so when they see it, it might spark some curiosity.

Tell us your sales numbers and rank?

Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2017, 11:01:56 AM »
Twilight (photo of hands and apple) and Fifty Shades (photo of object) have photo-based covers. That's not the kind of illustration covers the OP is showing in the links posted...
Oh, I should have looked at the links before commenting in the first place. The samples aren't really what I was thinking about at all. The older illustrations I had in mind were definitely a lot more detailed, closer to photos in that way.


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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2017, 12:02:41 PM »
Twilight (photo of hands and apple) and Fifty Shades (photo of object) have photo-based covers. That's not the kind of illustration covers the OP is showing in the links posted...

I was using those as examples of minimalistic not illustrated. I wasn't sure if people would know what I meant by minimalistic, so that's why I used those examples in parentheses.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2017, 12:05:45 PM by Laura Kelley »

Offline ShayneRutherford

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2017, 12:16:45 PM »
Thanks a lot! I suspected pricing and "common use" would turn up in the answers. As our service is just $499, I'd say it'd takes down the pricing issue (as I saw people are used to put this kind of money when hiring a professional for a cover).

I would comment that, as a reader, seeing all the covers looking the same in categories has always been for me a reason not to buy a book. I always go for the one that strikes out. It might be just me but when I browse online and scroll down to see dozens of books looking the same, I rarely take the time to stop and read more (title, blurb, reviews, etc.).

Your service won't take down the pricing issue for a lot of people. Many indies can't afford to pay even half that for a cover, and some simply prefer not to.

According to some of the data I've seen around, a cover has a couple of seconds - some say even less - to grab a reader's attention. For a great number of people, if the cover doesn't look like what they want, they'll scroll right on past. And I know that some people will deliberately look for something different, but I think most will go for what they've gone for in the past. There's a reason that certain types of covers become popular, and that is because they sell books.
     

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2017, 02:16:18 PM »
OP, you might find some useful info in this older thread too: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,240591.0.html

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2017, 02:55:57 PM »
Your service won't take down the pricing issue for a lot of people. Many indies can't afford to pay even half that for a cover, and some simply prefer not to.

According to some of the data I've seen around, a cover has a couple of seconds - some say even less - to grab a reader's attention. For a great number of people, if the cover doesn't look like what they want, they'll scroll right on past. And I know that some people will deliberately look for something different, but I think most will go for what they've gone for in the past. There's a reason that certain types of covers become popular, and that is because they sell books.

Similarly, people have consistent taste in clothes and food and home decor, etc. Makes total sense.


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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #15 on: July 14, 2017, 03:04:44 PM »
I think whatever everybody else in your genre thinks.

Offline Evenstar

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2017, 04:25:59 PM »
I read a lot of books with illustrated covers (mainly cozy mystery and humerous paranormal), but they are very different from the examples you show. They are custom made illustrations specific to the story, with incredible detail in the entire cover, rather than just one image.

This sort of thing:









I fully expect an illustrated cover on those types of books, and I think that style hasn't changed a jot. But can you offer that kind of thing?

As you can see from my own signature, I get illustrated covers done sometimes too. But those books of mine are old, and I have actually switched to photos for my more recent stuff.
I may very well go back to illustrated again for a future series, but I'd baulk at that price unless I was getting something more like those above (which I would expect to pay even more for).

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #17 on: July 14, 2017, 04:38:42 PM »
I'm not speaking specifically about the OP's designs (TBH they could use some work) but just because a design is simple, clean and minimalist (if properly done) doesn't mean it's less work or worth less than a busier design with a bunch of details.

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #18 on: July 14, 2017, 04:46:35 PM »
Hey, I'd be all over getting illustrations for my covers like the Harry Potter hard back books! I can't imagine what that would cost though :P

Offline JRTomlin

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #19 on: July 14, 2017, 05:01:59 PM »
Hi there!

I work with StreetLib and we want to test out a cover design service to share our designer's talents with indie authors. However, looking around and reading cover related topics on forums I see that most indie authors go for photographies rather than illustrations. Is there a specific reason for that?

Just to give you an idea, here are some covers Marta (our designer) made before:

http://www.martadasaro.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/dexter-1.jpg
http://www.martadasaro.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/mexican-taxi-book-2.jpg


Your inputs would be very welcome!

Many thanks,

AC
Actually a lot of us use art instead of photos. I am always looking for a good illustrator for covers.  However, I use far more elaborate and detailed covers than what you show, ones that tell something about our novels.

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Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #20 on: July 15, 2017, 05:17:40 AM »
Actually a lot of us use art instead of photos. I am always looking for a good illustrator for covers.  However, I use far more elaborate and detailed covers than what you show, ones that tell something about our novels.

I think there is some confusion in this thread about what illustration means vs. photomanipulation vs. digital painting.  In book covers photomanipulation would refer to covers based on photos - but these can be very mimimalistic too like the Twilight cover, or they can be made to look very painterly like some of the Urban Fantasy or Fantasy covers.

Digital painting refers to painting from scratch with a graphics tablet - but the resultant style can be very photorealistic like many fantasy covers, or the result can be a vector-art style which is more flattish and often found on cozy mystery covers.

Illustrated covers are similar to the digital painting ones, but the term is often used to refer to covers that are based more on concepts and typography rather than elaborate scenes. 

But there may be more opinions on this.  Rather just look at the links the OP posted and see what type of covers they are doing.  I have seen covers like that only in Literary Fiction, some Non-Fiction and perhaps some YA Fantasy.

Offline Anarchist

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #21 on: July 15, 2017, 06:16:17 AM »
Tell us your sales numbers and rank?

This is what always goes through my head whenever I read opinions or advice on KB.

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Offline ShayneRutherford

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #22 on: July 15, 2017, 02:25:49 PM »
Tell us your sales numbers and rank?

I don't think Kal has published yet.
     

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #23 on: July 15, 2017, 03:48:48 PM »
I don't think Kal has published yet.

You are correct. I have yet to hit the publish button, as my current work isn't finished yet (you don't ride a stallion until it's broken).

Tell us your sales numbers and rank?

As an author, outside of the newspaper world (where I have been published, illustrations included), I currently have nothing to show. I'm speaking as a reader, which is important, since readers are the buyers. 80% of the books I've read have illustrated covers. And the ones that don't are either VERY special exceptions, or ones I seriously regret buying and lost the receipt so I can't return them. My experience with stock photo cover books has, as a reader, been far less than impressive. It's not the cover's fault, but it's become a factor when I'm looking for new reads.

On the author side of things, KBoards is, ironically, my case in point. I got some good responses with my own illustrated cover thread here on KBoards, so clearly, there is an audience out there for them. I've seen some threads on here involving nasty issues with copyright on stock images, and even the same stock cover image being accidentally picked up by two different authors. Writing a book is hard enough, with worrying about our own content; I don't see the use in worrying about copyright on images or possibly using someone else's cover on top of that.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2017, 03:53:58 PM by Kal241 »

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Offline Nic

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #24 on: July 15, 2017, 10:10:01 PM »
The illustrations are clean, would intrigue me enough to read the blurb, but are decidedly on the literary fiction side. Maybe poems as well.