Book Cover Art & Design: How Much?

During the holiday period (when hopefully things will be a bit more quiet) I’m going to redesign my book cover design section to make it more informative and marketable. I’m also going to raise my prices for book cover work, and that causes a bit of a quandary. As much as I someday want to work for a large publisher for some proper money, I very much like working for self-published authors and smaller boutique publishers. I very much believe in supporting independent, self-published authors and don’t want to price myself out of that section of the business.

However, I also have to think of what I do as a business as well and eventually start making some money at this, or I should just go back to web design and development. For the past two years I’ve made less (much less) than the UK tax threshold for paying income tax. Not having to do a self-assessment tax return is nice, but not making any money at it at all is not. Oh, I’ve had the work – weeks when I don’t work on Saturday and Sunday are rare, and on one particularly stressful day I worked until 10:00pm and got up at 5:00am the next morning to start work again. As much as I love it, the work needs to start paying for itself.

My current prices are $120* per cover, plus the cost of all stock used. I’ve been throwing in POD cover templates for nothing, mainly because most people don’t tell me that they need them until the cover art is finished, so I’ve been saying “What the hell” and just doing them. What I’m thinking about is raising the cost of a cover to somewhere in the $150 range, with an extra charge for doing a print cover version. (If I’ve worked with you a lot, and we have an existing relationship, prices will probably stay the same as a “friends and family” rate.)

*Because I’m based in the UK and work with people all over, but mainly authors from the States, I set prices in USD. This makes things easier but I lose a lot of money on the currency conversion.

If you are a self-published author searching for a book cover artist, how would that range fit with your budget? I very much want to continue doing this type of work, and I feel that there is a definite price limit that most new authors can pay. Realistically, though, you do get what you pay for…there is a massive amount of really crappy cover art out there and I’d like to think that mine is professional, enhancing sales and helping to encourage readers to take a chance on a new author. I care very much about the work that I do – I just need to make a bit more money at it.

So, thoughts? What would you expect to pay for a cover? How expensive is too expensive?

EDIT:
It was this post by the very talented Lindsay Buroker, “How Much Does Self-Publishing a Book Cost?” that got me thinking about this. I’ve known for a while that I need to raise prices, but was unsure about where to set rates and when I saw this today it got me thinking. So I thought I’d throw it out there and ask. :)

 

 



10 thoughts on “Book Cover Art & Design: How Much?”

  • Ravven

    I felt your work to be of good value. Whilst $120 (£76) is a chunk of money, and I’ve yet to recoup the costs from selling my work, the result is still a wonderful and enduring piece of artwork that will carry my book forward for years to come.

    I think prospective authors will still be tempted by lower prices though. That’s just human nature. $150? That’s a hard one to call because writers cannot (by the work’s very nature) see what they are getting until it’s complete. This isn’t an off-the-shelf process and that makes it difficult for writers to judge whether you or any other artist will be the best match and that’s what they will need to be assured of. A cover of these standards is practically a lifetime (for the book at least) investment. It can cause a book to be dropped or become a viral seller.

    Your portfolio was the clincher for me and I’d advise anyone else who is currently browsing to consider Ravven’s work. Judge by her past efforts – and my debut novel’s cover.

    Sorry if that’s not given you a clear answer, but I’m seeing both sides of the fence here. But what is boils down to is; Cash coming in is good – cash going out is invariably bad. The only solution that stands outside this arguement is a cash-per-sale arrangement where you recoup per sale of each book – but that would be very difficult to manage and may very well be unfeasible.

  • I would much rather that you raise your prices and stay in business than drop out of the cover art field altogether. You have a lot of talent and skill at this, and–this is me being selfish–I would hate to have to go look for another cover artist!

    And $150 is actually still very reasonable. A lot of the go-to cover artists for self-publishers (like Robin Ludwig, Streetlight Graphics, and umm… the one who did Amanda Hocking’s books–I forget her name) charge $200, last I checked.

    Since you’ve built up your portfolio, reputation, and have very satisfied clients, I think you can use that to charge more. $150ish sounds reasonable to me.

  • Thank you Andrew – I really appreciate the feedback (and the good words!!!). This is why it is such a tough issue – on one hand, I know how difficult it is to pay for covers, editing, etc. On the other hand, I’m trying to figure out how to make this an actual thing that might pay some bills.

    I suppose I’m looking at it this way: if someone is only choosing a cover artist based on price, then I might lose that business. And in a way, I suppose that is ok since I have so much work right now and I prefer to work in partnership with authors who are really passionate about their work. I think those people will pay a little bit more…but not an unreasonable amount. And that brings me back to… :)

  • Thank you Rabia – I appreciate that! You and Andrew (and many of the other authors that I work with) are examples of what I want to keep. Working with you is a true creative partnership, and the end result is much better than I would have achieved working on my own without your input. I don’t want to lose those opportunities because that is what makes it all worthwhile.

  • LOL. You know, I looked at all of those artists too, and I really think that it comes down to a matter of style. I picked you because your art shows that you get that weird fusion of science fiction and fantasy that I love to write in. I think it helps that you’re a gamer, too, because so much of my genre-mixing is influenced by Final Fantasy et al. *wry smile*

    (But if you *really* need to know, Amanda Hocking’s cover artist for her ebooks goes by Phatpuppy. You might know of her already).

  • Ravven, you did a great job for me and everyone who asked about the cost of THIS COVER said the price was very reasonable. I think you’re right to up your prices. Your covers are professional grade. I have the same discussions with my youngest daughter who is just starting a photography career. She is really improving and takes some great pictures. Word is getting out and she’s getting a steady stream of referrals. However, her prices are too low. Sure, if she ups her price she might lose some business. In the long run, it’s better to carry yourself as a professional (which includes a reasonably “professional” price) and lose a few customers to lower bidders, than to barely make ends meet by undercharging. Even with those price changes, you’re very affordable and I’d use you again.

  • Thanks, Mike – I would gladly work with you again! I suppose learning to price your work is part of building any kind of freelance business – but it is scary to risk any part of the current business.

    It’s been quite interesting to get a view of what people consider to be a fair rate for covers, to see what other artists are charging and what people actually get for that money.

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