I’m afraid there’s no short answer here. Truth be told, the cost of a book cover will vary. You have to weigh up the pros and cons for you, and figure out if you need to save up to invest, or if you’re actually ready to have a cover for you. Here are some variables to consider:
Is the designer a professional or a hobbyist?
Someone who works in the industry professionally, and has valuable experience in the field. Who understands the purpose, dynamics and basic elements of graphic design. To interpret ideas and concepts and turn them in to visual solutions. To convey the information the client is looking to project.
A professional will also deal with their clients expertly and efficiently. There will be a contract which outlines what should happen if you cannot pay, if they cannot fulfil their obligation, if there are disagreements to the design, or other unexpected circumstances. There should be outlined time frames so you know what to expect by when. They are contactable. If you find the situation isn’t working you can find someone else without emotions or personal issues getting in the way. They have experience dealing with photographers, illustrators, and alternate resources.
Someone who does design in their own time, as a hobby, and has little to no experience in the field. They don’t understand/have knowledge of the rules of typography, grids and layout, theories, functions, form, or purpose of graphic design.
They may not fulfil their obligation due to low pay or a change in your personal relationship, or their own circumstances take higher priorities. They may not understand what exactly you’re trying to convey, or communicate. There’s no clarity as to what happens if you can’t pay, or they don’t have the time to help you. They may not respond to you straight away or as quickly as you need, especially if you are working at your own deadlines for publication.
Naturally, The professional will charge more for a book cover than a friend, or a family member who’s used Photoshop or Indesign or Illustrator in the past. They bring with them years of experience and do not need to arrive at a focus point before embarking upon your project. They live and breathe design, and are already excitedly considering concepts before you even agree on a contract.
How much time is spent on the cover?
The more detailed the cover is, the more hours are required to spend on it. This is the tricky balance between professionals and hobbyists- a hobbyist may take longer but may only charge you a small fee for the whole project. A professional may only take 20% of the time the hobbyist would, but could charge by the hour.
How much do stock images, and fonts cost?
Your designer may already have plenty of fonts to use at their discretion. However, there are plenty of beautiful fonts on the internet that are free but only available for personal use. The same goes for stock images- especially if you seek stock photography on websites like DeviantArt or Flickr. You must always check the licensing of the product so that when it is used commercially (and if you are selling your book in any form that means it’s being used commercially) you have the correct rights. But, it won’t break the bank if you do it right. You can get stock images for as little as a couple of dollars- or to keep your budget right down you can supply your own photography.
The higher quality of book design(ers) may often invest in hiring photographers and/or illustrators. This means the designer can get the perfect image for your cover (for example, we worked with an amazing illustrator to produce the award winning cover to the left), and also means you are not at risk of seeing your image duplicated on any other book covers because of licensing. For more information about images for book covers you can read the article ‘Standard size of a book and understanding image size and resolution‘.
Confirm with your designer that there are no extra/hidden costs.
Be up front with what you expect.
So how much should I pay for a book cover?
Personally, I’ve seen prices for book covers range from $20 to upwards of $2000. For a professional looking, well designed book cover (the sort you see in your local book stores and from publishers like Penguin, Harper Collins, Random House, and Pearson) you should expect to pay $500 to $1200.
For the lower end with hobbyists, small businesses, freelancers and the like the prices alter vastly.
My prices work for authors who need just an eBook cover, to authors who have marketing and promotional plans. I offer book cover packages (you can see these on the home page) that also include posters, bookmarks, Facebook timeline covers and web banners, so you can get marketing your book right away.
I’ve also seen other designers on writer’s forums with similar promotions, and start at $5, so, there will always be a great difference – just like the overall quality.
Why should I pay ‘so much’ for my book cover?
- Authors who have hired a professional designer report an 18% increase in book sales.
Thanks to the self-publishing survey by the Taleist crew, over 1000 self-published authors responded and gave us this feedback!
- The cover is as important as the contents. A beautiful, professional book cover will put you far ahead of your competition.
- The expertise required to do book covers – especially when dealing with photo-manipulation, using resources or other artists to provide photography or illustrations- increases the more defined your vision is. It’s important to have confidence in your designer, and that they can handle any specific requests you might have.
- Designers are open to payment plans, so ask them if you can organize paying it off over a number of weeks.
- Compare the amount of royalties you expect to receive with a poor looking book cover vs a professional looking book cover. The money it makes you would pay off the price you paid for it, and continue to bring in further royalties.
- How proud would you feel, how much more confident you would feel, promoting a book cover that you absolutely adore and know looks stunning. Imagine being interviewed on a blog, on a podcast, on a radio station or television. You want the cover to represent your story, and YOU as a brand. You want to shove it in to the hands of your friends, family, and readers and see their faces light up when they see the time and effort spent on the cover.
- Having a professionally designed book cover will expand your readership. Your local writing and reading groups will pick it up, but so will other
designers who are impressed with the cover. So will illustrators, photographers, and other artists who appreciate beautiful, well thought out design. You will hit two separate target demographics for two alternate purpose, essentially killing two birds with one stone.
- Imagine you’ve decided to renovate your lounge room. You will spend many years looking at the interior of your lounge room and you want to define it with your personality, your character, your story. Would you hire your friend, or uncle, or sister to be your interior decorator? Or would you invest the money to get it right since you’ll be spending many, many years looking at the walls and the floors and the furniture? You’ll be inviting friends and family over to look as well, to be emotionally involved in this lounge room, you want them to return to it again and again. It is worth the commitment.
What is your experience with the cost of a book cover? Have you paid a lot, or a little, in the past? Did you get what you want in the end?