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Discussion Starter #1
Edit. In the spirit of civil discussion I took out the term fleecing. It was a bit much.

I am going to say some things that are going upset some people concerning ebook covers. So if you are a cover designer you should exit now.
This post is for new authors that are worried about the cost of a book cover and not sure what to do. You have heard that having a good cover is important and that is certainly true. But what should you be paying?

TLDR, The overpricing of covers and targeting the fears of new authors is silly. It needs to stop. There are much cheaper options.

OK so you are a new author and you are ready to get your feet wet. You heard how important a good cover is and you start shopping around. Then the worry hits. 200,300, 800 bucks for a cover? Do I really need to spend that much?

If you are just starting out, the answer is no. And unless you are getting original artwork, the answer remains no. You can find plenty of designers that are affordable, hit the genre specifics of a cover and are well under one hundred bucks. That will include a print cover as well.

The prices that are being charged for ebook covers has gotten silly. (Yeah I know is a work of art, you can charge whatever and your time is important blah blah). 400 bucks for a cover. Another 60 for the audio-book cover. Another one hundred for the print. Oh and the designer keeps the source file and wants you to promote their work with a link inside of your book. In fact a lot make it a requirement.(Notice how they dont pay you for this?)

Here some things that you might be thinking so lets address them now.

Why do they charge so much? Because they know that the odds of you being successful is slim. They are going to take as much money as they can because they will never see you again. Web designers do the same thing offering their hosting package. Its just a way to get money upfront.

Are they scamming me? No. They are offering their services for a fee. Its upfront and its legit and they are allowed to ask any price they want. But keep in mind they are preying on your worries as a new author. That is why the first thing you read on their webpage usually has something like. "You spent hours polishing your first novel....and you dont want it to fail."

Why do they keep the source file? Or should I request it? What is it for? In simple terms a source file is all the different layers of your cover in one neat file. Before you agree to getting a ebook cover designed, you need to know if will receive that as well. Most professionals have no problem handing it over. In fact most do. Be wary if they refuse and consider if you can afford NOT having it. (explained below)

Why should I want my source file? Will it help me down the road? With simple manipulation you can create your own print cover, social media banners, flyers, audio book covers and so much more. Imagine each time you go to market your book on a different venue, with all the different sizes, it would cost you a fortune having to keep going back to the designer.

So what can I do? I know the importance of a professional cover but I cant dip into my childrens college savings

There are cheaper ways and more often than not you can get better quality. Do a google search. Go to facebook and look for designers/author groups and ask. Reddit, tumblr, the list is endless. You will be surprised what you will find. I have had numerous books sell loads of copies. Never once did I pay anything over a hundred. Not even close. Dont buy into the fear and certainly dont pay their fees!

The point of this is to get you to breathe and not take out a loan. Down the road if you want to go back and pay for an expensive cover, by all means do. But you do not need to when starting out.
 

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There are overpriced designers and underpriced ones, as with all services.

I agree new authors don't need to spend a lot of money. I hit mid six figures with a catalog covered in $100 covers. Those were a good deal. The designer probably could have charged more.

But, at a certain point, if I wanted to do better, I needed better covers. I bought custom photos, which really isn't necessary, but the $300 I spent on the design of each (a discount from the usual $400) was totally worth it. And my most expensive covers were completely worth it at $550.

Covers are like books. They can be well designed. The can be on market. They can be good and on market. Good isn't always what sells.

Now, I would still advice new authors to spend less, even if they have the money, as they're less likely to know what's on market (or good). But if someone has an eye for marketing and design, a cover is the best place to spend a little extra.
 

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I don't know if it would help to hear from a gaming industry perspective or not, but my two cents...

I've been lucky enough to get most of my game art paid for by the publisher, but I've had to pay for my own on a couple projects, and it was an interesting process to be sure.

Things I stressed in my dealings with the artists, most of whom were younger and from marginalized backgrounds (think LGBTQ)

1. I wanted to be fair to them. That was important to me. Authors/game creators get ripped off a lot, but artists do too, especially younger ones. If someone is going to spend 10 hours on a cover for me, they deserve a living wage, imo, so basically at least $15/hour minimum, probably more.

2. I wrote out a simple contract and required all rights to the art, although I agreed they could use the images for their own portfolios.

3. I gave them love on social media and did what I could to boost their presence and sing their praises about their work to other creators.

4. I expected plenty of opportunities to see the WIP and to request revisions. I factored that into what I was willing to pay, since their time is worth something.

5. My covers were totally original/illustrated and I generally didn't pay more than $300 for any of them. Both of us left the deals happy, and I've used some of them multiple times.

I think it's important to have -some- leverage (money, knowledge, reputation; hopefully at least 2 of the 3) on your end because everything can be negotiated. You don't have to take or leave any offer, you can always suggest another option. Obviously the artist's workload and interest in your project affects how much they'll move, but it never hurts to ask. Ever.

I think people can smell desperation a mile away, so I always put my expectations in such a way as to make it clear I had a LOT of other options to go with. Negotiations were always respectful and mutually beneficial (at least I viewed them as being as such).
 

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I think it's good to talk these things out, and I agree that it's good to be practical and not rush into an expensive decision if you're just getting started.

But, I also think we need to remember these are fellow creatives. Yes, our books may not make back the cost of covers, but that's our burden not anyone else's, and it's possible they will and beyond. The cover designer doesn't have a chance to make more depending on how good their art is, so they should at least be paid for their time.

We wouldn't appreciate if it was us being hired to ghost a book, and then being told that the hours we work on something have nothing to do with what we should be paid because that book we're writing might not pay off for the person paying us to write it.

This thread is for people like me, I'm about to pay for covers for the first time. I don't have much to say to people in my shoes as I'm just starting out, but what I will say is don't be afraid to talk with a designer. I found a designer on this board that appears to just be starting out designing covers as a side business, same as me with my writing. I reached out and discussed what I could spend, and what I needed, and they got back to me today and we came to agreement that works for both of us. It's possible to not overspend and also respect the work of other creatives.
 

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I think certain genres like sci-fi and fantasy need more elaborate artwork. The covers tend to be more expensive. Other genres need less elaborate images.

As an aside,  I was on Depositphotos the other month and found an image I thought I'd use. It cost four dollars. I discovered the same image on a pre-made for fifty dollars. Nothing against it, but it shows it pays to shop around. A good cover doesn't have to cost the earth. At the same time, don't have a crappy one, as I've found to my cost.

 

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Thank yo for the advice. As a person writing my first book I have done a lot of research about self-publishing. This board has a plethora of information about every aspect of being an author. It's priceless. I initially was going to pay someone for a cover (and I still may) but at this point I figured even a semi decent looking cover self made from Cova.com was the better way to go starting out. Figure I can use the extra cash for a solid editor and marketing (if the book is worth a damn). I am fortunate enough to have a solid IT career of over 22 years, so it wasn't so much what I could afford, but more of how much do I want to put into something that is most likely not going to sell very many copies, if any. Other words, how much do I want to invest in what at this point, is basically a hobby.

I am not positive I am correct, but I have come to the opinion, after reading many different posts on several forums, that many first time authors think they will sell a million copies and score a movie. I hope that happens for them, but I have very low expectations for "commercial success" of my novel. I am doing this more for me and started off with wanting to be able to say I wrote a book. But the more I write, the more I find myself truly enjoying it.

Just my two cents.
 

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Trioxin 245 said:
I am going to say some things that are going upset some people concerning ebook covers. So if you are a cover designer you should exit now.
This post is for new authors that are worried about the cost of a book cover and not sure what to do. You have heard that having a good cover is important and that is certainly true. But what should you be paying?

TLDR, The overpricing of covers and the fleecing of authors is silly. It needs to stop. There are much cheaper options.

OK so you are a new author and you are ready to get your feet wet. You heard how important a good cover is and you start shopping around. Then the worry hits. 200,300, 800 bucks for a cover? Do I really need to spend that much?

If you are just starting out, the answer is no. And unless you are getting original artwork, the answer remains no. You can find plenty of designers that are affordable, hit the genre specifics of a cover and are well under one hundred bucks. That will include a print cover as well.

The prices that are being charged for ebook covers has gotten silly. (Yeah I know is a work of art, you can charge whatever and your time is important blah blah). 400 bucks for a cover. Another 60 for the audio-book cover. Another one hundred for the print. Oh and the designer keeps the source file and wants you to promote their work with a link inside of your book. In fact a lot make it a requirement.(Notice how they dont pay you for this?)

Here some things that you might be thinking so lets address them now.

Why do they charge so much? Because they know that the odds of you being successful is slim. They are going to take as much money as they can because they will never see you again. And if they do they are laughing to the bank. Web designers do the same thing offering their hosting package. Its just a way to get money upfront.

Are they scamming me? No. They are offering their services for a fee. Its upfront and its legit and they are allowed to ask any price they want. But keep in mind they are preying on your worries as a new author. That is why the first thing you read on their webpage usually has something like. "You spent hours polishing your first novel....and you dont want it to fail."

So what can I do? I know the importance of a professional cover but I cant dip into my childrens college savings

There are cheaper ways and more often than not you can get better quality. Do a google search. Go to facebook and look for designers/author groups and ask. Reddit, tumblr, the list is endless. You will be surprised what you will find. I have had numerous books sell loads of copies. Never once did I pay anything over a hundred. Not even close. Dont buy into the fear and certainly dont pay their fees!

The point of this is to get you to breathe and not take out a loan. Down the road if you want to go back and pay for an expensive cover, by all means do. But you do not need to when starting out.
Spot on.

I also tend to concentrate on genres/subgenres of which I'm not only a fan, but also ones where I can do the cover design myself (i.e. not a lot of heavy design/typography expertise required), and have it look comparable to the top sellers.

Sure, I'd love to write UF, SFF, etc, but I don't have the design skills necessary to design covers on par with what sells in those subs, and the ROI isn't there for taking the time to become proficient enough in Photoshop, GIMP, etc (time better spent - better ROI - writing the next book) - and I save a lot of money not paying pros to design the highly technical covers which are almost always required to compete in those areas.

Because, let's face it, while the odds do increase that you can sell well in those subs (UF, SFF, etc) with really good pro covers, the odds are nowhere near good enough to justify the price without already being among the top sellers to begin with.

So, I'm better off writing and publishing in subs where the barrier to entry, in terms of competitive cover design, is much lower. Yes, my odds are still just as low in terms of becoming a bestseller via general visibility because of KDP saturation, but at least this way I'm not also out hundreds of dollars beyond what I have to spend on ads just to try and become visible within a genre/subgenre in the first place.

A roundabout way of saying: Play to your strengths. (And, save your money)
 

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Trioxin 245 said:
I am going to say some things that are going upset some people concerning ebook covers. So if you are a cover designer you should exit now.
So you can disseminate lies as helpful advice? Nope. Sorry.

Trioxin 245 said:
This post is for new authors that are worried about the cost of a book cover and not sure what to do. You have heard that having a good cover is important and that is certainly true. But what should you be paying?

TLDR, The overpricing of covers and the fleecing of authors is silly. It needs to stop. There are much cheaper options.
While I agree with you that some covers are terribly overpriced, not all covers are. Just because a cover designer is charging over a hundred dollars for a cover doesn't mean they're fleecing anyone. It means they need to make a living wage, and charging only a hundred bucks for an ecover isn't a good way to make that. What a designer charges needs to cover all their time spent on that cover. That means all the stock pics they used, all the time looking for the stock pics, all the time putting the cover together, and all the time making changes requested by the client. Not to mention, the client is also paying for the cover designer's experience and their knowledge of things like good typography and genre conventions.

I'm not saying that anyone needs to spend $800 on a cover. Especially not on a photo-manip cover. And yes, you can get some good covers for under a hundred dollars. But a lot of the designers you see charging under a hundred dollars don't use properly licensed fonts, or properly licensed stock. They grab stock from places like Unsplash, where anyone can upload anything, whether they own the rights to or not. A stock pic from Shutterstock or Depositphotos is indemnified by them, so if they make a mistake and a pic gets uploaded that shouldn't, you're covered for up to certain amount. I think it's $10k. On the other hand, guess how much Unsplash indemnifies their pictures for. If you guessed zero, you would be correct. And because cover designers can't make a living wage selling covers for under a hundred dollars, they tend not to last in the business very long. So you're three covers into a series and you go back for another, and that designer isn't doing covers anymore. Oh! And a lot of those cheaper designers also tend to like to steal other people's art and use it on the covers they sell to people. I've seen more than a few authors get screwed, both out of the money they spent and out of the cover they love, because they found out that the art that was used wasn't stolen from another artist completely, and they have zero right to use it.

Trioxin 245 said:
Oh and the designer keeps the source file and wants you to promote their work with a link inside of your book. In fact a lot make it a requirement.(Notice how they dont pay you for this?)
The designer keeps the source files for a couple of reasons. One, their art is their reputation, and they don't want someone messing with the art or the typography, and then having people think that the messed-with cover is the kind of work one can expect from them. And two, stock licenses prohibit the stock pics being sent to someone else in a form that allows those stock pics to be extracted from the file. If the pic is licensed to the designer, they can't give it to someone else in its original form.

Trioxin 245 said:
Here some things that you might be thinking so lets address them now.

Why do they charge so much? Because they know that the odds of you being successful is slim. They are going to take as much money as they can because they will never see you again. And if they do they are laughing to the bank. Web designers do the same thing offering their hosting package. Its just a way to get money upfront.
This is totally false. Most cover designers want their clients to be successful. Personally, I'm very proud of the fact that my portfolio is filled with all the covers of my many repeat clients. I love knowing that I had a part in helping them to sell their books. I also love hearing from a client whose work I rebranded that, even though they could never score a BookBub before, they got one with their rebranded covers on the first try.

And even from a purely business perspective, this is still utterly ridiculous. Because freelancers isn't a particularly secure job. Certain times of year are much slower than others, and a lot of us like to know that they're going to have work not just now, but two months from now, four months from now, six months from now. And the easiest way to make sure of that is to develop good business relationships with clients who will keep coming back for each book they write.

Trioxin 245 said:
Are they scamming me? No. They are offering their services for a fee. Its upfront and its legit and they are allowed to ask any price they want. But keep in mind they are preying on your worries as a new author. That is why the first thing you read on their webpage usually has something like. "You spent hours polishing your first novel....and you dont want it to fail."
No, we're not preying on anything. We want new authors to succeed, because those authors are the future of our business.

Trioxin 245 said:
So what can I do? I know the importance of a professional cover but I cant dip into my childrens college savings

There are cheaper ways and more often than not you can get better quality. Do a google search. Go to facebook and look for designers/author groups and ask. Reddit, tumblr, the list is endless. You will be surprised what you will find. I have had numerous books sell loads of copies. Never once did I pay anything over a hundred. Not even close. Dont buy into the fear and certainly dont pay their fees!

The point of this is to get you to breathe and not take out a loan. Down the road if you want to go back and pay for an expensive cover, by all means do. But you do not need to when starting out.
No one is suggesting that any author should take out a loan, never mind new ones on their first book. There are plenty of ways to get a good book cover for a decent price. I sell premades on my site for as low as $50 because I want people on a budget to have access to nice, genre-appropriate covers. So do plenty of other designers. They're not as fancy as custom covers, but as long as they fit the genre they'll do the job just fine.

The flip side of this is that a lot of authors end up with a cover that doesn't suit the genre, which means that it won't convert for ads, and so their potential career gets derailed before it even gets off the ground, because they can't make sales.

I'm not saying someone shouldn't make their own cover if they want to. Or buy a really cheap one. They should do what's right for them. But they should make an educated choice, and not just do it because some anonymous poster told them all cover designers who charge a living wage are a bunch of scamming, predatory jerks.

Edited at the brackets to remove profanity. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
 

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There's nothing wrong with making a cover yourself if you are able to figure it out or getting a cheap simple cover that's nothing more than a picture with text on top if you think it's enough for your genre, but there's also nothing wrong with designers deciding what their time is worth.

It's tinfoil hat stuff to suggest they're out for anything other than appropriate compensation for their time and effort.
 

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Maybe one of the important steps to getting covers is to set a semi-firm budget upfront.  You will always find that $800 cover that would look great on your book, but you might be able to find something that works well for $100-$150, it just might not be the first thing you see.  Might absolutely be worth it to say, "I'm going to spend X and I'm going to look around for a few weeks and see what I see."

I guess this is fresh in mind because I was looking at covers recently.  The urge to go with a really fancy cover was there, but I had to realize that it's not going to be one cover.  It's going to be the next book and the one after that too.  I definitely have to think about my budget as what I can afford over time, not what I could probably float right now.  Plus, a good cover is important, can't stress that enough, but the reader is really only looking at it for a few seconds.  The absolutely perfect fancy cover may not be necessary.  Scaled back and catchy might be just as effective.

Bear in mind that this all comes from someone who's covers are very much a work in progress.  This is just what I've been thinking as I'm looking around.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Gessert Books said:
I think the point about cheaper options is fair without going down the road of saying cover designers are fleecing and laughing to the bank. It's tough and unpredictable work.
Never said the work was easy and I would agree that most self owned businesses are tough and unpredictable. In fact, cant think of one that is not.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
wearywanderer64 said:
I think certain genres like sci-fi and fantasy need more elaborate artwork. The covers tend to be more expensive. Other genres need less elaborate images.

As an aside, I was on Depositphotos the other month and found an image I thought I'd use. It cost four dollars. I discovered the same image on a pre-made for fifty dollars. Nothing against it, but it shows it pays to shop around. A good cover doesn't have to cost the earth. At the same time, don't have a crappy one, as I've found to my cost.
I agree and why I made mention about original artwork. I have seen real artist here showcase their original covers that I imagine takes dozens of hours to create.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
c'est la vie said:
but there's also nothing wrong with designers deciding what their time is worth.

It's tinfoil hat stuff to suggest they're out for anything other than appropriate compensation for their time and effort.
I made it clear that they can charge whatever they wish. As to the tinfoil nice attempt to paint a different picture.
 

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Trioxin 245 said:
I made it clear that they can charge whatever they wish. As to the tinfoil nice attempt to paint a different picture.
I didn't say you didn't, I said there's nothing wrong with that.

You have many points worth considering, but you also talked about designers like they're all part of some greedy cabal bent on manipulating naive authors out of their savings because they know they won't be successful and they've got one chance for a money grab.

Everyone decides what their time, effort, and skill are worth to them. That doesn't mean everyone agrees or can pay them that sum. Authors don't need to think all designers are out to exploit them to make an educated decision on what's best for their circumstances and budgets.
 

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Some authors make squat. Some make millions. The apparent quality of their work can vary wildly with no seeming correlation among price, earnings, and value, except as value is defined as what the customer will pay and how often.

The same with cover designers. And musicians, actors, and anyone in the creative arts.

If they deliver what they promised for the price agreed, they are not scamming or ripping off. Only if they lie or do not deliver the promised product are they scamming or ripping off. Caveat emptor.

Covers seldom "make" a book, but they can "break" it. It's important to get covers that fit in with the genre and do not display signals of amateurism, such as inappropriate fonts, being too crowded, unbalanced composure, etc. I have seen horrid covers from the authors themselves that are certainly hurting sales.

So, get a cover that is genuinely good enough and appropriate to your genre, for whatever you consider a reasonable price, and move forward. Don't personalize it.

 

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Trioxin 245 said:
Never said the work was easy and I would agree that most self owned businesses are tough and unpredictable. In fact, cant think of one that is not.
My point is that you painted the pricing as sorta nefarious, but it's not. It reflects the work. You mentioned that you can get a cover for under $100, and you can, but FWIW you can't even get 2hrs DTP at a copy shop for that. I think you sorta kneecapped your point about not feeling pressured to spend a bundle from the start by going in on cover designers. You're mistaken about a lot of that.
 
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I think covers are like editing, promotions, marketing, etc. If you can do a decent job yourself, then save your money.  If not, invest wisely!  8)

There are a lot of resources here and some very talented people.  One reason I came back to the forum.
 

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Trioxin 245 said:
Are they scamming me? No. They are offering their services for a fee. Its upfront and its legit and they are allowed to ask any price they want. But keep in mind they are preying on your worries as a new author. That is why the first thing you read on their webpage usually has something like. "You spent hours polishing your first novel....and you dont want it to fail."
I 100% agree with the above. Though your comment earlier about cover artists laughing their way to the bank wasn't really fair. They're running a business, so of course they want you to think you need them and that their prices are fair, even if they know you could get a better deal elsewhere. But that doesn't mean that they don't want their clients to go on and be successful.

The gist of your post is accurate though. In most cases newer authors don't need super expensive covers, they'll be better off buying a reasonably priced, genre appropriate cover and spending the money they saved on ads.

Trioxin 245 said:
Why do they keep the source file? Or should I request it? What is it for? In simple terms a source file is all the different layers of your cover in one neat file. Before you agree to getting a ebook cover designed, you need to know if will receive that as well. Most professionals have no problem handing it over. In fact most do. Be wary if they refuse and consider if you can afford NOT having it. (explained below)
In my experience most wont hand over the layered PSD files. Though they should hand over the PSD file that lets you edit the title. If they wont do that then I refuse to do business with them.
 

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Clay said:
In my experience most wont hand over the layered PSD files. Though they should hand over the PSD file that lets you edit the title. If they wont do that then I refuse to do business with them.
No, most professional designers will not hand over the PSDs. The designs we create are the best form of advertising for our business. We don't want someone messing with the typography and ruining it, and then having a potential client see that ruined design and think that's what they can expect from us.

It should also be noted that a lot of designers have a large supply of fancy, and somewhat expensive, fonts that they use on covers. Even if the PSD was turned over to the client, if they don't have that font installed on their computer, they can't edit the title without having the font change to something else.
 
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