My book cover's gonna cost what?

Riding high off last week's success in choosing a book cover design for my first novel Stuck, I thought it would be all downhill from here. I loved my designer's work and was more than happy to pay her fee. But then I learned how much it was going to cost me to license the stock photos, and I almost had a panic attack.

Firstly, let me just clear the air and say I absolutely love my designer. I've never actually met her--we talk and make all our decisions by email--but if I did meet her one day, I would give her a big hug and thank her making my book come alive through her cover art.

When I first hired my designer, we agreed on the project and price. I knew there would be a cost for licensing the stock photos for the book cover and my designer knew my budget. But let's just say the devil is in the details. My designer more or less stayed on budget, but when she sent me the information to purchase the photos directly with the stock image companies, I read their licensing fine print and really had to take a moment to consider the implications on my book's shelf life.

Then, last Tuesday, I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic, realizing how claustrophobic the licensing offer was, and I spent the entire next day negotiating with the company, thinking, and searching the web until I finally found a solution I could live with.
Here's what happened. 

Then, last Tuesday, I woke up in the middle of the night in a panic, realizing how claustrophobic the licensing offer was, and I spent the entire next day negotiating with the company, thinking, and searching the web until I finally found a solution I could live with.

Here's what happened. 

My designer sent me the link to the stock image company, lets call them Company X for now, and I dutifully logged onto their site and attempted to buy the image. I could see right away that it wasn't royalty free and I started to get nervous. Royalty free would have meant I could simply pay a flat fee and use the photo pretty much however and whenever I wanted. So I filled out the information on why I wanted to use the image, and the website spit out the following quote.

Print book run: 2,500
Use: front cover only
Duration: 5 years
Territory: worldwide
Price: $400

What?!? There were so many things wrong with this quote. Firstly, as an e-publisher of e-books, a 'print' run of 2,500 books didn't make much sense to me. Further to that, if I only planned on selling 2,500 books than I might as well pack up and go home now because I'll just be a starving artists. Secondly, I planned for my book to have a long shelf life, especially given how easy it is for small publishers to continually promote their work online--no longer do books have to become backlisted with no promotion like at traditional publishing houses. Thirdly, I planned to use the image on the front and back cover, and on my website.

I realized I had a couple of options. I could pay the money, but I knew I would certainly not be able to follow the tight licensing requirements, leaving myself vulnerable to a lawsuit. I could try to negotiate for a better price, explaining to the company that I was a self-published author and that I'd be donating a portion of my proceeds to charity. Or, I could try to find another image.

I decided to give it one more try and I contacted the company for another quote. After explaining my situation about how I needed a higher print run, room for e-book sales, use of the image on the back and front cover and other media, and how I'd like the contract to exclude promotional copies given to thousands of readers for free on Wattpad, and to charities, they gladly sent me a new quote. 

Print and e-book run: 10,000
Use: front and back cover
Duration: 5 years
Territory: worldwide
Price: $1,300 

Lovely. The quote not only went up drastically, but I would also have to pay it again in 5 years, and yet again if my print/e-book run went over 10,000, including all my giveaways. 

Last option, ditch this company and find a new image. I am finally happy to report that we've found a new image to work with that will still give us the same look and feel as the original design. 

Just another lesson learned on the road to self-publishing! 

Stacey Atkinson is currently working on her first novel Stuck, and plans to self-publish under her e-publishing company, Mirror Image Publishing. 

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