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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was looking on-line and saw that one of the artists I always admired who did a lot of cover art for Tor is selling some of his originals for $2500-$5000 each. I'm not sure how that works. I assume Tor had to pay him a pretty penny when they commissioned the work from him. I've been doing a lot of searches on the internet and the price varies so much my head's spinning. Just curious what the top dollar for an indie cover would be.
 

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Hoooooly crap! 

I've seen prices in the $1500 range, and then down as low as $25.  I think the guy who does Konrath's covers is in the $350 price range.

It varies wildly depending on how in demand the artist is, I believe.
 
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I paid 450 for my latest cover, and I'm somewhat certain I'm paying on the higher end of what most indies pay. I think if there is such a thing as a "standard" for this thing, it'd be $300 for custom-drawn ones (you know, made from scratch) and about $150 or so for the photo-manipulation ones. Obviously these will still vary wildly depending on the artist.
 

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I come from an animation industry background, so I have a lot of artist friends who work in that field. When they moonlight for covers, it can be really pricey. I know one guy at Disney who does cover illustrations for 3-4k. He's kind of on the high-end in the people I know.
 

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Half-Orc said:
I paid 450 for my latest cover, and I'm somewhat certain I'm paying on the higher end of what most indies pay. I think if there is such a thing as a "standard" for this thing, it'd be $300 for custom-drawn ones (you know, made from scratch) and about $150 or so for the photo-manipulation ones. Obviously these will still vary wildly depending on the artist.
I love that one on The Shadows of Grace. Very cool, whatever that creature is.
 

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The prices vary a lot but a large part of it will depend on the experience of the designer. Someone who designs for TOR, for example, is going to be much pricier than a college student who designs in her spare time. Generally you get what you pay for.

The highest quote I've had from a designer was $500 and her art is a blend of photo manipulation and painting. It's understandable for an artist to charge more for a custom-drawn cover (like David Dalglish's awesome covers), because the artist may put sixteen hours into it, as opposed to a manipulater like me who only spends a couple hours on most covers.
 

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I compare it to Alex Ross... he does amazing watercolor paintings for DC, Marvel, and other comics companies.  He's the guy that did Kingdom Come for DC.  His originals sell for $5000-$25000.  Yeah, I can't afford that.

My current cover art (just the dragon) cost me $100.  The next one is in the works, and will be $120.  Then there's another $50 on top of that for title/logo design and text placement, as well as formatting it to fit the layout of the book, which is done by a different designer.  All in all, for me, less than $200 for each cover so far, and I'm more than pleased.  Now, once I'm making Dalglish-money, I might spring for something a little pricier...  ;)
 

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gatehouseauthor said:
I compare it to Alex Ross... he does amazing watercolor paintings for DC, Marvel, and other comics companies. He's the guy that did Kingdom Come for DC. His originals sell for $5000-$25000. Yeah, I can't afford that.

My current cover art (just the dragon) cost me $100. The next one is in the works, and will be $120. Then there's another $50 on top of that for title/logo design and text placement, as well as formatting it to fit the layout of the book, which is done by a different designer. All in all, for me, less than $200 for each cover so far, and I'm more than pleased. Now, once I'm making Dalglish-money, I might spring for something a little pricier... ;)
You should be very pleased. The cover is awesome...worth every penny.
 

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Grace Elliot said:
You should be very pleased. The cover is awesome...worth every penny.
Thanks... :) The artist is great at translating my description of what I want into great artwork. He's also available for commissions if anyone's looking... I'm always happy to pass along work to him, and to my title designer.
 

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I know an artist who's done covers for trad pubs, and he charges far more than anything I could afford--probably not as high as Tor, but in the upper hundreds, maybe up a grand. He's very good.
 

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Times have changed, as far as payment for book covers!  It still depends on the PR budget for a given book, which varies even within any given publishing house, regardless of size.  In the '70's, illustrators like Darrel Sweet, Boris Vallejo, and Michael Whelan established the numbers proving the worth of a good cover.  Michael Whelan, in particular, drove rates up with a very business-like approach to the legal/financial side of things alongside consummate mastery as an illustrator.  I once kidded Darrel Sweet on a panel at a con, about how I gradually grew leery of buying all those books with gorgeous Sweet covers, only to find the books didn't live up to the art.  He was one of the people that pushed publishers to let artists read complete manuscripts and craft good, appropriate cover art.

When I entered the field in the mid-80's, rates ranged from $800-3500 for genre covers, a bit higher for mainstream and romance.  When I was doing romance covers full-time in the 90's, I did small press for $200 a piece, with series genre covers running in the $1000-$2000 range, up to $7000 or so for best-selling authors at big houses.  I knew artists doing up to a dozen covers a month at those rates, though I never got beyond one a week.  Illustrators with name clout and determination could command higher rates.  Game companies paid similar rates, generally a bit less and without the high top ends -- until Magic the Gathering came along.  The first couple of years, artists were paid a per-printing royalty, and many of them were making $50,000 off one-day paintings.  I missed the whole MtG thing, even though they had requested my portfolio after seeing my work at a show.  Sigh.  It's still the highest-paying CCG.  The majority of CCG illustrations are digital now, which only makes sense.  Most companies only pay $50-200 per card illustration, so you have to turn out a lot of paintings quickly to make ends meet.  Some of those projects led to bigger deals, as game companies pleased with my work asked me to do covers for games and books, and promotional posters.  I've done many types of book covers, including fantasy/s-f, military, romance, western, mystery, horror, historical, and mainstream.  Since I was never really seeking fame, I ended up working under many pseudonyms.  It can be very difficult to establish a name in multiple genres, and especially for significantly different styles within a genre.  It made it much easier for both agents and art directors to be able to drop a particular "look" into a particular name slot.  I'm sure it hurt my rates, but it gave me a lot of freedom and variety, and I found one agent who was very good at reselling rights overseas.  In those days, many off-shoot markets, like movie posters, postage stamps, and collector plates, paid $20,000 and up, sometimes via royalties.  I did a number of posters for ballet and opera companies that paid little or nothing up front, but resulted in very good money, long-term, through various avenues.  For the traditional artist, selling the original helps.  I've always tended to under-price my originals, but that did make it easy to sell most of my romance-cover originals over the years, often to the authors.  Art directors usually don't like illustrators to talk to authors, but if you know what you're doing, it can make everyone happier. 

The end result has to be a good promotional poster for the book, capable of standing out in a crowd, helping urge people in the publishing channels to carry/move/promote the book and readers to pick it up, turn it over, open, and buy.  If you're creating your own covers, you need to research and get a good intuitive understanding of all that.  Even if you're just stacking them on your own table at specific shows, you need to understand what helps a book stand out and get sold.  A single person designing and producing covers start-to-finish is very possible nowadays, but usually doesn't compete well with design projects by multiple experienced, informed professionals.  In the end, the material inside has to be good and make connections with people, or it all falls apart, of course.  One award-winning art director told me it's important to "match the cover to sales expectations" and considered it one of the big advantages major publishers had over small press.  That's probably less true than it was then (the 90's) but still has validity.

Digital has changed many things.  Between falling rates and changing expectations (added to Mr. Mom duties), it mostly drove me out of the romance market.  It helps young, hungry artists develop quickly and produce good illustrations in less time, helping them undercut the market and lower rates across the board.  It means that it's easier for small press publishers to find and take advantage of good emerging artists at low rates.  The artists get experience and exposure/credits.  It's where I send friends who are going digital, and young artists asking where to start.

I still like to work with small publishers.  Some of my best experiences have been with them.  I've helped quite a few small game publishers grow by improving their art/shelf/show visual presence.  Some even remember ya after they make it big. 

There is never enough time, though.  If you want to work with better or "bigger name" artists, it helps to be sympathetic to their never-ending time crunch.  I've worked with small-press folks who want strings of meetings and strings of color comps and revisions and long phone calls and -- whew.  I respect them and their own little wars.  They generally have a lot on their plates, and they're trying to do a tall job with short resources.  I like to help with that.  Sometimes, it gets out of hand.  I once put 800 hours into a small press project, which never paid a dime.  Long story, and partly my fault, because I was hoping to give them way more than they would ever pay for, to help them win some awards and get over the hump, recognition- and sales-wise.  It cost me -- the equivalent of commuting to work for 20 weeks and then not getting paid (though I guess that would be more like 10-11 of my typical work weeks).  I did learn to keep expectations and deadlines clear and specific, even when working without a clear contract.

And I still do small press, matching rates to their budget and doing my best to give them more than they paid for and help them grow, through good art and often with promotional assistance and shared experience/contacts.

Did I really ramble that long?  Hope it helps in some small way.  Good luck!
 

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gatehouseauthor said:
Thanks... :) The artist is great at translating my description of what I want into great artwork. He's also available for commissions if anyone's looking... I'm always happy to pass along work to him, and to my title designer.
I'd appreciate a pm on who the artist is, if you don't mind.

Mine was 500 dollars, and I'm totally happy with that, but I have another series in the works, and it is more in your genre than my Primal Patterns series.
 

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I may be a little biased since he did my last cover, but I think www.scribefreelance.com is great. He charges $225 for a first class cover. Visit his site. My cover is in the lower right hand corner.

Larry
 

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The artist who did Behind The Stained Glass had just graduated from college, majoring in the arts, and his professor told the class $1500-1800 is professional standard. Of course, I lucked out as the artist simply wanted to pad his portfolio and charged me no where near that :)
 

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Reading all these answers, I'm going to have to up the rates I charge. LOL  But I justify the lower price by stating up front I'm not a graphic artist, I just like to play with PsP and I *think* I have a good eye for what sells romance.  I certainly know what *doesn't* sell, having had few duds over the years from trad publishers.

The most, until I read these posts, I'd heard of someone paying for an ebook cover was $700.

And yes, when working for a trad publisher, the author would dearly love to get their mitts on the original artwork, some of which goes for around $50K, depending on the artist.  I have one original oil painting of a cover, but it was gifted to me by the artist (who normally charged between 10-20K).  He was one of the clever ones who didn't sell the painting itself to the publishers, only the rights to use the artwork, leaving him free to do what he wanted with the original.  A lot of artists in the early years didn't do that, they just sold the painting to the publisher and I remember seeing the original canvas for The Wind and the Sea hanging in a storage room gathering dust. When the company went bankrupt, I tried to track it down because I loved the cover, but was told it "was disposed of when the warehouse got cleaned out".  Augh. Just Augh.

 

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marshacanham said:
A lot of artists in the early years didn't do that, they just sold the painting to the publisher and I remember seeing the original canvas for The Wind and the Sea hanging in a storage room gathering dust. When the company went bankrupt, I tried to track it down because I loved the cover, but was told it "was disposed of when the warehouse got cleaned out". Augh. Just Augh.
Very cool cover :) And... gah. I think I'd want to cry. "Disposed of" - I shudder to think.
 
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I paid £500 for my first cover. The same artist now wants £2000 per cover (and will "fit it in" in his spare time!) Needless to say I've found a new artist who is charging $500.
 

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marshacanham said:
Reading all these answers, I'm going to have to up the rates I charge. LOL But I justify the lower price by stating up front I'm not a graphic artist, I just like to play with PsP and I *think* I have a good eye for what sells romance. I certainly know what *doesn't* sell, having had few duds over the years from trad publishers.

The most, until I read these posts, I'd heard of someone paying for an ebook cover was $700.

And yes, when working for a trad publisher, the author would dearly love to get their mitts on the original artwork, some of which goes for around $50K, depending on the artist. I have one original oil painting of a cover, but it was gifted to me by the artist (who normally charged between 10-20K). He was one of the clever ones who didn't sell the painting itself to the publishers, only the rights to use the artwork, leaving him free to do what he wanted with the original. A lot of artists in the early years didn't do that, they just sold the painting to the publisher and I remember seeing the original canvas for The Wind and the Sea hanging in a storage room gathering dust. When the company went bankrupt, I tried to track it down because I loved the cover, but was told it "was disposed of when the warehouse got cleaned out". Augh. Just Augh.
I think ebook covers should stay down in that price range, adjusted down for the self-publishing author's budget/expectations. I was talking about rates working for publishing houses. I have very little experience with straight-to-ebook, though I guess I could ask friends. And when a traditionally published book goes ebook, I'm assuming that they usually use the original cover, though I haven't seen enough to swear to that. I was in a discussion about this recently with some popular s-f authors, who were complaining about the direction of some aspects of the whole residual/ebook equation. Heavy-handed practices by the cyber-retailers, sometimes in bed with the publishers, is costing them significant parts of their total income. "Electronic versions/distribution" is slipping into contracts, and it probably helps publishers avoid paying secondary rights for the ebook version.

Yes, there are a few artists who charge those $25-50k prices for originals, but there are always "other reasons" for that besides their illustration work. $2-20k is more typical. It varies by genre and geography/market. Most of the illustrators I know base it on a combination of what they're paid for the assignment and either what they're currently making for originals (e.g. me) or what they'd like to be making (the wiser artists -- and my wife!). In fact, it was Michael Whelan, a good guy whom I mentioned before, who fussed at me about not giving big discounts to authors, because "they make more money off the book than we do, anyway." I'm a softy, though, and always loved the idea of the author having the painting, so I always went a bit lower than the rate for the illustration.

For at least 40 years, illustrators have been pushing up-and-comers only to sign contracts guaranteeing the return of their originals, which legally are a separate property and should be negotiated separately. On the flip side, selling an original does not grant any copyright to the new owner, so why should it work the other way around? I've heard many horror stories of lost originals, though. I've lost a few. The only one that really bugged me was one of the lowest-priced jobs I ever did, a painting of Barney Fife for a game/puzzle company. It was also one of only two "late" deliveries I ever did, as I was working on it the week my dad died. It was a really good Barney, or so I like to tell myself, and I'd like to have it back. I don't think I ever got paid, either. I know of plenty of stories like that, too, where artists work for peanuts or below their usual rates, and get burned, one way or another. Small publishers usually mean well, I believe, but people do tend to appreciate things for which they pay more...

Residual rights are very important to artists, too. I had romance paintings whose rights were sold more than a dozen times, for various languages, multiple releases, etc. An agent can be very helpful there. Then there are prints to sell, though I rarely print the romance pieces, mainly because so few were done in my own name. A couple of years ago, a publisher approached me about doing a collection of my work. We were thinking of calling it The Seven Faces of Mr. Bill Hodgson or something silly like that, and using it to introduce some of my multiple art personalities. I only have a few romance originals left, some early favorites, mostly -- and a couple for which I couldn't reach the author or never knew who he/she was!

"...disposed of." Ouch. I hope that at least means someone took it home, even if it was the guys being paid hourly to do the labor...

Marsha, I really like your romance covers! Very cool.
 
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