Should Authors find their own Stock Photos, or should they leave the work to Book Cover Designers?

One of the strangest things we’ve seen is where some authors advocate finding your own stock photos and then having the book cover designer build a cover from those photos

Here is the logic behind this

  1. The Author finds a better and/or cheaper image than the cover designer
  2. The Author purchases it
  3. The Cover designer just builds the cover using that image (the one selected by the author)
  4. The net cost for the book cover is lower and/or the cover is better, because the author found a cheaper and/or better image

Well, there are 3 main problems with this line of thinking

Quality Cover Designers will almost never work with an author who insists on finding their own Stock Photos

Firstly, let’s understand why you are almost never going to get a high quality cover designer to agree to using photos you find for them

  1. As you are not a professional book cover designer, there is close to zero chance you will know the type and quality of images required to create a book cover that sells
    1. The cover designer knows this
    2. You don’t
    3. The cover designer knows this will be a bone of contention and a source of much grief
  2. Authors are in love with a ‘vision of what they see their book’s cover as’, and often choose an image for the cover based on the completely wrong reasons
    1. My book is a horror novel so I’ll make the cover black and white
      1. All that does is ensure that your book cover is impossible to see properly whenever the cover is in small size (which is nearly all the time)
    2. My favorite scene is a wedding scene so that’s what should be on the cover
    3. My favorite movie is the Godfather so I want a guy who looks like Marlon Brando
    4. My book is a memoir and here is a great photo my uncle took in 1975, which has great sentimental value to me. Let’s use this as the cover
  3. Authors who are liable to want to choose their own image, are also liable to interfere in every step of the process
    1. This might not be apparent, however, working with an author who thinks they are better at designing book covers than the professional book cover designer is not something any cover designer strives for
  4. Authors who do it to save money, are likely to want a massive discount
    1. The cover photo might be just 15% of the book cover designer’s costs
    2. However, the author finding a photo herself to save money, will usually want a 50% discount on the book cover price
  5. The back and forth of the author finding various images, and then the cover designer finalizing on one, introduces a time delay and also costs time

For the above reasons, and for several additional reasons, a good quality cover designer will flat out refuse an arrangement where the author picks the cover image

The Author is very unlikely to find a Quality Stock Photo at a cheaper price than a Professional Cover Designer


  1. The author is unlikely to have the sort of Stock Photo/Stock Image contract that the Professional Book Cover Designer has
  2. Which means that the author is unlikely to save money on the stock photo

What is worse

  1. The author is going to assume they found a much better price, and that 50% or 70% of the cost of a book cover is the cost of the stock photo
  2. That now the cover designer should charge only 30% to 50% of their usual rate

These are wrong assumptions

The Author is almost never going to find a better image than a Professional Cover Designer would

There are so many issues here. Let’s try to go through them one by one

  1. Chances of an author having a better eye for a beautiful image, than a professional book cover designer, who does it (finding beautiful images) for a living, are slim to none
  2. The author will have little to no idea of the type of image required for the book to sell
    1. In fact, most authors have an amazing ability to pick an image that kills sales
  3. The author is unlikely to understand genre conventions. Every book genre has some conventions that lead to good sales. You have to keep within those conventions
    1. One very common mistake is romance authors who keep putting roses, daises, dogs, cats, scenes of a pretty garden, wine glasses, wine bottles, and chocolate boxes as their book covers
    2. Romance readers want to see either a handsome man, or a beautiful couple
  4. The author will have little to no idea of certain details, such as
    1. Is there enough space to fit in the book title and author name?
    2. Will the image look good with the right fonts?
    3. Will the image still be eye catching in thumbnail size?
      1. Seriously, you would not believe the number of authors who think every time readers see their book cover it is going to be in full size, with nothing else on the screen
      2. It’s the exact opposite. At the moment of truth, when readers are deciding whether to click on your book cover or not, it is in small or medium or thumbnail size
      3. And there are 5 to 10 to 30 other book covers on the screen
      4. The reader takes 2 to 3 seconds to make a decision – click on the cover, or click on something else
  5. The Cover Designer has a reference in his/her mind of all the types of images that worked as book covers
    1. Some images may look beautiful, but don’t look good after the book title and author name are added
    2. Some images may seem borderline, and then in book form they really shine

As you can see, there is a lot of experience and skill and context involved. It is not just ‘picking a beautiful image’

Please hire a professional book cover designer if possible. Please let them use their experience and expertise without interfering


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