Author Topic: Illustration instead of a photo for your cover: what do you think?  (Read 2102 times)  

Offline Lummox JR

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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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Offline C. Gold

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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.

Offline Paranormal Kitty

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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.

Offline C. Gold

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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.

Online ShayneRutherford

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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.

     

Offline Lummox JR

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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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Offline Paranormal Kitty

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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 »

Online 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.
     

Online 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

Offline Paranormal Kitty

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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!

Offline martyns

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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 »

Offline Paranormal Kitty

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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 »

Offline Paranormal Kitty

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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.

Online 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.

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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.