Author Topic: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?  (Read 2004 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.).

Offline Doglover

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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?

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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 »

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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

Offline Write.Dream.Repeat.

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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.

Offline C. Gold

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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.

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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.

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #25 on: July 15, 2017, 11:07:34 PM »
Honestly, $499 does not escape the pricing issue for most indie writers. Even among cover artists who work in physical or digital painting rather than photos or a more stylized form of illustration, $499 may be competitive with many if it's for a full wraparound, but not with all; and for a front cover only I'd say it's not very competitive. Not for some of the artists I researched when I was looking for a cover, anyway.

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #26 on: July 16, 2017, 07:58:39 AM »
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).
I so bought two of these series because of the covers. Well, the blurbs were nice and the titles were catchy too but the covers are simply amazing and are perfect to convey the humor and paranormal nature of the stories. If you can get something like these for the $499, it would be worth it if the cover matched the story.

If on the other hand $499 only gets you a 'non-standard in your genre' minimalist cover, then it's probably too risky for new authors when there are cheaper covers out there that might be same-ish to every other cover out there but convey the genre at a glance and give the 'expected' look.

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2017, 08:39:51 AM »
Honestly, $499 does not escape the pricing issue for most indie writers. Even among cover artists who work in physical or digital painting rather than photos or a more stylized form of illustration, $499 may be competitive with many if it's for a full wraparound, but not with all; and for a front cover only I'd say it's not very competitive. Not for some of the artists I researched when I was looking for a cover, anyway.

To be fair, a lot of the "artists" and "designers" out there are just photoshoppers calling themselves that. They have little to no training or professional experience in art or design, and they may only spend an hour making your cover. That's why they can charge $30, and why the results are those stock-photo pasted together covers that dominate with indie books. They're serviceable and people have come to expect them, but that doesn't meant they're good designs. Most of them don't represent the books very well because the artist began with a stock photo and worked the design around it, rather than developing the concept first and then getting artwork that fulfills the concept. There is a big difference between a trained designer going through the whole process to develop your cover, and someone to whom you hand a generic stock photo and say make me a cover fast and cheap.

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2017, 04:01:34 PM »
To be fair, a lot of the "artists" and "designers" out there are just photoshoppers calling themselves that. They have little to no training or professional experience in art or design, and they may only spend an hour making your cover. That's why they can charge $30, and why the results are those stock-photo pasted together covers that dominate with indie books. They're serviceable and people have come to expect them, but that doesn't meant they're good designs. Most of them don't represent the books very well because the artist began with a stock photo and worked the design around it, rather than developing the concept first and then getting artwork that fulfills the concept. There is a big difference between a trained designer going through the whole process to develop your cover, and someone to whom you hand a generic stock photo and say make me a cover fast and cheap.
That might be and you can definitely tell but it still has to be better than my attempt at a cover, although it came out surprisingly well for being done in Paint in a few minutes! No Photoshop here! The last art program I had was Corel Draw years ago.

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #29 on: July 16, 2017, 05:11:39 PM »
To be fair, a lot of the "artists" and "designers" out there are just photoshoppers calling themselves that. They have little to no training or professional experience in art or design, and they may only spend an hour making your cover. That's why they can charge $30, and why the results are those stock-photo pasted together covers that dominate with indie books. They're serviceable and people have come to expect them, but that doesn't meant they're good designs. Most of them don't represent the books very well because the artist began with a stock photo and worked the design around it, rather than developing the concept first and then getting artwork that fulfills the concept. There is a big difference between a trained designer going through the whole process to develop your cover, and someone to whom you hand a generic stock photo and say make me a cover fast and cheap.

There's another side to this, however. There are a lot of indies out there who either don't want, or can't afford, to spend much more than $30 for a cover. And if that's all someone is going to spend on a cover, they can't expect a designer to spend more than an hour or so on it. If people were willing to spend more to get a good, well-made cover, there would be a lot less of the badly pasted together junk out there.

     

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #30 on: July 16, 2017, 09:13:25 PM »
To be fair, a lot of the "artists" and "designers" out there are just photoshoppers calling themselves that. They have little to no training or professional experience in art or design, and they may only spend an hour making your cover. That's why they can charge $30, and why the results are those stock-photo pasted together covers that dominate with indie books. They're serviceable and people have come to expect them, but that doesn't meant they're good designs. Most of them don't represent the books very well because the artist began with a stock photo and worked the design around it, rather than developing the concept first and then getting artwork that fulfills the concept. There is a big difference between a trained designer going through the whole process to develop your cover, and someone to whom you hand a generic stock photo and say make me a cover fast and cheap.

I think there's a huge gulf in expectations between the sub-$100 space and the multi-$100 space, so the $30 covers are separate from my point. But I mean among illustrated covers, by which I mean original art in general, $499 is maybe middle-of-the-pack, at least if it buys you a wraparound. If it doesn't buy you a wraparound, it's on the higher end compared to some of the artists I've looked at. It's not exactly a revolutionary price point either way, and it definitely won't lure people to cross that divide from photo composition to original art--especially in genres where photos make a lot of sense to begin with.
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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #31 on: July 16, 2017, 09:41:37 PM »
I think there's a huge gulf in expectations between the sub-$100 space and the multi-$100 space, so the $30 covers are separate from my point. But I mean among illustrated covers, by which I mean original art in general, $499 is maybe middle-of-the-pack, at least if it buys you a wraparound. If it doesn't buy you a wraparound, it's on the higher end compared to some of the artists I've looked at. It's not exactly a revolutionary price point either way, and it definitely won't lure people to cross that divide from photo composition to original art--especially in genres where photos make a lot of sense to begin with.

I wasn't particularly speaking about illustration vs. photo-based designs. Custom art can be a photo too (trad pub covers usually have photos that were specifically taken for the project). I was mostly pointing out that the pasted together stock photo look has become the norm, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to do that look in order to sell books as others were implying. The look came out of cheapness, not out of the fact that it sells more books or looks good. Compare trad covers to indies and you can tell the difference with the possible exception of some repeat high sellers who can afford better. Graphic design is an increasingly devalued and misunderstood skill because of all the so-called designers out there selling shoddy-but-serviceable work for peanuts. A tip if you want to spot a designer who actually went to school for it: ask them if they know what the process of process is or how many thumbnails their professors required. If they show you hand-drawn rough concepts, that's a pretty good sign they know what they're doing too. What many people don't realize is that a lot of the work is done before you ever start the computer. All the brainstorming, thumbnails, roughs, concept development, etc., takes time, but it's necessary to get a stellar design that really fits the book rather than something generic.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 09:43:56 PM by Laura Kelley »

Offline ShayneRutherford

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #32 on: July 17, 2017, 12:34:38 AM »
I wasn't particularly speaking about illustration vs. photo-based designs. Custom art can be a photo too (trad pub covers usually have photos that were specifically taken for the project). I was mostly pointing out that the pasted together stock photo look has become the norm, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to do that look in order to sell books as others were implying. The look came out of cheapness, not out of the fact that it sells more books or looks good. Compare trad covers to indies and you can tell the difference with the possible exception of some repeat high sellers who can afford better. Graphic design is an increasingly devalued and misunderstood skill because of all the so-called designers out there selling shoddy-but-serviceable work for peanuts. A tip if you want to spot a designer who actually went to school for it: ask them if they know what the process of process is or how many thumbnails their professors required. If they show you hand-drawn rough concepts, that's a pretty good sign they know what they're doing too. What many people don't realize is that a lot of the work is done before you ever start the computer. All the brainstorming, thumbnails, roughs, concept development, etc., takes time, but it's necessary to get a stellar design that really fits the book rather than something generic.

All the brainstorming, thumbnails, roughs, etc. won't do you any good if you can't find stock photos that fit, or at least, stock photos that can be had for the price your clients are willing to pay. And if people aren't willing to pay a decent price, no designer is going to spend hours doing any of that.
     

Offline AC de Fombelle

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #33 on: July 17, 2017, 05:43:54 AM »
Thanks a bunch for all your tips and views! That's extremely useful. I see though illustrations are not everybody's path, it still can be a needed service. Our idea is to add other designers to this service which would allow us to propose different styles.

If you'd like to know more about the service, it's presented here https://www.streetlib.com/coversand I'd be happy to answer questions if any.

Thanks again,

AC

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #34 on: July 17, 2017, 08:43:51 AM »
And if people aren't willing to pay a decent price, no designer is going to spend hours doing any of that.

Exactly, and this is probably why most of my classmates from college are not even working in the profession. If you can't get one of the highly competitive salaried jobs out there, then you have to compete with all the people who learned photoshop and think they're designers, and overcome the expectation that your work is only worth the price of dinner for two. This isn't exclusive to the indie book cover market either. When I worked for a design company, we had people coming in wanting to start their own business and needing the full branding package who would balk at the reasonable prices because they only wanted to shell out a few bucks. Design just isn't valued by indies, start-ups, etc., probably because they don't realize the difference it could make. The big guys have no problem shelling out for design work, and that should tell you something.

Offline Nic

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #35 on: July 17, 2017, 11:49:58 AM »
The big guys have no problem shelling out for design work, and that should tell you something.

Silk and pigs' ears. Most indies do not need higher quality design work, because they write pulp and knowingly and expressly so. There's really no reason to go to such lengths. As to prices, a lot of the better and nowadays even revered artists worked for a pittance when doing book or album covers in the 1960s and 1970s. It wasn't an era more golden than now.

Offline Kate.

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #36 on: July 17, 2017, 07:12:43 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:



Out of curiosity... how much do cozy mystery covers cost? Those designs are very detailed and I'd expect then to be worth a not-insignificant amount. But most cozy writers seem to keep to an aggressive publishing schedule - once a month or even more frequently. So a $1,000-per-cover pricetag would be pretty steep for a new author who might take 4-5 books to get noticed.

Maybe I'm over-estimating the cost. I could even be under-estimating. ;D I've never really considered what a cozy cover would be worth before today!

Offline Melody Simmons

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #37 on: July 17, 2017, 08:16:16 PM »
Out of curiosity... how much do cozy mystery covers cost? Those designs are very detailed and I'd expect then to be worth a not-insignificant amount. But most cozy writers seem to keep to an aggressive publishing schedule - once a month or even more frequently. So a $1,000-per-cover pricetag would be pretty steep for a new author who might take 4-5 books to get noticed.

Maybe I'm over-estimating the cost. I could even be under-estimating. ;D I've never really considered what a cozy cover would be worth before today!

Many of the cozy mystery covers you see are composites of stock vector art and cost the same as other photomanipulated covers. Most of the cozy witch covers are in that category. The samples in this thread look like they were designed from vector stock too. Other covers - usually from trad publishers like those of author Cate Price by Penguin - have elaborate painted scenes, and those are anywhere from $1000 -$2000. But if I look at the Bestsellers at the moment I'd say most of them are stock vector composites, so the usual prices that designers ask (about $100 - $300) would apply.

Cozy Mystery Bestsellers:

https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-Cozy-Mystery/zgbs/digital-text/6190476011
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 08:30:16 PM by Melody Simmons »

Offline Kate.

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #38 on: July 18, 2017, 12:40:48 AM »
Thanks, Melody!

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #39 on: July 18, 2017, 01:01:51 AM »
I think photo's are in fashion at the moment, particularly for YA Fantasy. I use illustrations personally, but they tend to be more expensive than manipulated and 'dressed' photographs. I like illustrations personally.


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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #40 on: July 18, 2017, 09:47:25 AM »
This reply is to OP. I'm an author who use illustrated covers, and I think I can definitely weigh in on this subject with some authority.


First, as everyone else said, depends on genre. Seems like Sci-fi & fantasy need illustrated art more because there aren't stock photos of spaceships and dragons.

Second, I agree with others who said that indie writers use photo manipulated covers because it is cheaper thab hiring an artist. However, the result of this has not been that people think covers made with stock photos are lesser than illustrated covers. In fact, what had happened is the other way around. Readers are now used to seeing covers made with stock photos. They expect it. Their eyes are trained to want them and expect them. So, unless your book is in a genre where illustrated art is widely used, then you are actually at risk of losing readers if you use an illustrated cover, not matter how good the art is.

This outcome is also a result of digital age. Illustrators are just not as needed, as the masses get more and more used to video images in all media. Photos and videos are so much easier, quicker, and cheaper to produce. As the masses are used to seeing photos, their brains are not always wired to accept illustrated covers.

Thirdly, art is subjective. You may have a wonderful artist, but someone out there will not understand how great the illustration is. It's just the way it is. Not everyone will appreciate the artwork. With photos, people are not as picky. (Not opining on your artist. I'm actually speaking from my own experience.)

Fourthly, if your illustration includes people, and your book is genre fiction, it will be immensely difficult for the characters to not look like something out of anime or graphic novels. This has nothing to do with your artist and your artist's work may not be anything like anime or comics, but people who can't see the difference won't see the difference. Alternatively, the illustration of people can be of the high art type (like an oil painting). But then people will think it's literary fiction. It may pass for women's fiction. But in the end, once you put in high art, you're conveying a message that your book is lit fic, thus serious (ie: boring. Even though that assumption is unjust.)

Overall, illustrated covers present a lot of challenges. Readers generally won't look at illustrated art and recognize that they are more expensive and possibly of higher value. With some exceptions for certain genres, I'd say they would lean toward thinking it's uncool and old school.

However, the type of illustrations by your artist shown in your two example is something that leans toward modern art. That should help. I'm just not sure what commercial genres would make good use of it though. Romance, UF, PN, fantasy & fairy tales are all out. Probably won't work for thrillers, sci-fi, or horror. Mystery-maybe. Illustrated covers can sometimes work for historical fiction, but probably not this style you're showing. It'll have to be some type of contemporary fiction, or humor.



« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 09:51:25 AM by AlexaKang »

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #41 on: July 18, 2017, 10:07:20 AM »
Photos and videos are so much easier, quicker, and cheaper to produce.

This isn't true. Stock photos from sites that sell to the general public (such as Shutterstock) are cheap because the same photo is sold to hundreds of customers, which of course means your book will have the same photo as other books (and any number of other things). Custom artwork, whether it's a photo shoot, digital artwork or an illustration, is expensive in comparison. Setting up a photoshoot, hiring models, post-production, etc., can take as much as or more time than drawing a detailed illustration. Not to mention that photo equipment, even rented, is far more expensive than a pack of Prismacolors and some paper, plus the expense of model wages, costumes, hair and makeup.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2017, 10:13:44 AM by Laura Kelley »

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #42 on: July 18, 2017, 01:50:40 PM »
I read a quote on a blog that expresses better what I was saying earlier regarding the importance of a real designer vs. a bargain photoshopper:

"The best covers rely on creating an emotional connection to the target audience, and less is more. Their [the author] brain takes a single concept and builds on it to create a 50,000 word story. My job is to take that 50,000 word story and translate it back to a single moment and feeling."

This is something you don't get by trying to create a scene from your book out of stock photos and (often poorly executed) cut and paste. It takes skill to tease out that one iconic image (like the apple from Twilight or the tie from 50 Shades), develop it into a concept and execute that concept well. It doesn't matter whether it's illustrated, photo or some other type of design. What makes the difference between good and bad design is that emotional connection. You want people to see your cover on the (virtual) shelf and remember it days later.

Offline ShayneRutherford

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #43 on: July 18, 2017, 03:21:48 PM »
This is something you don't get by trying to create a scene from your book out of stock photos and (often poorly executed) cut and paste. It takes skill to tease out that one iconic image (like the apple from Twilight or the tie from 50 Shades), develop it into a concept and execute that concept well. It doesn't matter whether it's illustrated, photo or some other type of design. What makes the difference between good and bad design is that emotional connection. You want people to see your cover on the (virtual) shelf and remember it days later.


I feel like this leaves something very important out of the equation. Good design isn't just about knowing the rules, it's also about knowing your genre and your audience. Generally speaking, something can be absolutely flawless according to the rules of design, but if it doesn't convey its genre well, it may not be a useful tool for selling the book. And conversely, a cover can have a solid-but-not-brilliant design, but if it speaks to its intended audience it will do a much better job of selling the book.

If you look at the Twilight and 50SoG covers, neither one does much to convey the genre, and I know a lot of people will point at them as an example of books with outside-the-box covers that sold like crazy. But Twilight was sold as a 3-book deal for an advance of $750k, so there's no way it didn't get a huge marketing budget to match. And 50SoG, because of its start as Twilight fanfic, had a huge amount of word-of-mouth long before it was ever published by Random House.
     

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #44 on: July 18, 2017, 03:59:56 PM »

If you look at the Twilight and 50SoG covers, neither one does much to convey the genre, and I know a lot of people will point at them as an example of books with outside-the-box covers that sold like crazy. But Twilight was sold as a 3-book deal for an advance of $750k, so there's no way it didn't get a huge marketing budget to match. And 50SoG, because of its start as Twilight fanfic, had a huge amount of word-of-mouth long before it was ever published by Random House.

Hmm, not sure I agree. The Twilight cover hinted at a great deal that spoke to the subconscious (snow white, poison apple, fairy tale, evil verses true love). I absorbed the image long before I knew what the book was about and because of the image I wanted to read it. The book delivered exactly what I expected from that one image.

So while it might have been outside the box, it did perfectly convey the genre. That is not an easy skill!

Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #45 on: July 18, 2017, 04:07:00 PM »
This isn't true. Stock photos from sites that sell to the general public (such as Shutterstock) are cheap because the same photo is sold to hundreds of customers, which of course means your book will have the same photo as other books (and any number of other things). Custom artwork, whether it's a photo shoot, digital artwork or an illustration, is expensive in comparison. Setting up a photoshoot, hiring models, post-production, etc., can take as much as or more time than drawing a detailed illustration. Not to mention that photo equipment, even rented, is far more expensive than a pack of Prismacolors and some paper, plus the expense of model wages, costumes, hair and makeup.

Of course you are right, but what I meant was there are cheaper ways to produce photos and videos than illustrations. I wasn't even talking about book covers. What I was saying is that it is possible for so many people to take photos and make videos with cellphones these days (not for book covers but for many things) that people's brains are wired for photo graphics. Illustrations in comparison are difficult, slow, and costly.

Offline ShayneRutherford

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Re: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?
« Reply #46 on: July 18, 2017, 04:12:24 PM »
Hmm, not sure I agree. The Twilight cover hinted at a great deal that spoke to the subconscious (snow white, poison apple, fairy tale, evil verses true love). I absorbed the image long before I knew what the book was about and because of the image I wanted to read it. The book delivered exactly what I expected from that one image.

So while it might have been outside the box, it did perfectly convey the genre. That is not an easy skill!

If I remember correctly, SM said the first book was about temptation. So the apple represents temptation, like from the garden of eden.

And yes, I do agree that it spoke to the theme of the book, but at the same time, there's nothing about it that in any way conveys vampires. I read the books, and for the most part liked them, but I would have never picked them up based on the cover, because I had no idea they had anything to do with vampires at all.
     

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