How do I go about getting a cover for my novel and how much will it cost me?
This is a question I hear a lot from new authors. Some of us who've been doing this a while forget that not everyone knows what options are out there when it comes to covers. The subject of getting a professional editor for your manuscript is talked about often enough, but covers seem to be one of those things that gets swept under the rug and not thought about until the last minute.
When it comes to covers, there are four basic options.
1) Pre-made cover. ($10-$50)
This is a good option for first time authors. It's the least expensive an what you see is what you get. Authors don't have to worry about working one on one with a designer to make sure color and lighting of a photograph works for the tone of their book. It's all already there.
With pre-made covers, authors find one they like, and the artist slaps the author's name and title on it. Done.
(Pre-made cover example provided by Bargain Book Covers.)
2) Stock Photograph w/cover design. ($10-$70 average for photo + $45-$200 for design)
If you're one of those people who like to have a bit of a say in the design of your cover but don't want to spend a ton of money, this option might be for you. There are lots of stock photo sites out there, such as deposit photo or adobe stock, where photographers upload their pictures to sell to the mass market. Authors can search through these sites, find a picture they want for their cover, and purchase it. A lot of these sites have options where you can either buy the pictures one at a time as you go (more expensive) or subscribe to their site in order to download multiple pictures on a more regular bases (less expensive).
One thing to keep in mind with this option, like with pre-made covers, the pictures on these sites are sold over and over again. It's not uncommon for several book covers to have the exact same stock picture.
3) Exclusive Photograph w/cover design. ($200-$600 average for photo + $45-200 for design)
If you don't like the idea of someone else having the same picture on the cover of their book as you do, then an buying and exclusive photograph might be a good way to go. With this option, the photographer is agreeing not to resell the same picture to anyone else.
Be careful with this option, however. Make sure you read over the licensing agreement the photographer sends you as some exclusivity rights do have an expiration date or limit your use of the photo. If you aren't sure, ask.
4) Custom Photograph w/cover design. ($800+)
This option is the most flexible, but also the most expensive. The great thing about having a custom photograph done is that as the author you get to have a say in everything. You get to pick your photographer, your models, how you want them posed, the tone you want to set, and even the use of any props. Because of this, the costs vary greatly depending on shoot fees, modeling fees, travel expenses (if any), and items that need to be purchased or rented for the shoot.
Any, this is a situation where an author can't be afraid to ask questions. Know what you're getting for your money and make sure you read over the contract. Know what you're getting for your money.
If you're an author, which of these options do you use? Does it matter to you if someone else uses the same picture on the cover of their novel that you have on yours?
Readers, what about you? Do you care if the book has a unique cover?