How to Find Book Cover Art That Will Sell Your Book AND Save You Money:
The Secrets of Choosing and Using Premade Book Cover Art
A professional-looking book cover will sell almost 20 percent more books than will
a so-so book cover image on that same book. That’s why successful self-publishers
and presses have employed professional book illustrators for nearly a century to
help create book covers. Money spent on a quality cover quickly pays for itself.
In fact, the quality of the cover has become the new “gate keeper” to determine which
books readers buy. People do judge your book by its cover. A professional-looking
book cover is essential if you want your book to be taken seriously by potential
Buying Quality Book Cover Art for Less
Today professionals in the publishing industry normally charge from $900 to several
thousand dollars for a quality custom book cover illustration. Sadly this is outside
the budget of many self-publishing authors.
But there’s a secret many publishers have used for decades to cut their prices. And
self-publishing authors and small presses can use this trick, too, to save a bundle
Most professional illustrators have a wealth of artwork they’ve created for fun,
for projects that fell through, or only for their portfolios. They’ve not sold them
because there just wasn’t a market for the work.
And often illustrators are happy to sell this work at a greatly reduced price to
get it out of their inventory. Art editors at major publishers developed a simple
strategy: Buy such artwork at reduced prices, and then use it on a book whose storyline
is similar to the subject matter of the book.
So what’s the catch?
Until now it was hard to locate this work and self-publishing authors couldn’t buy
a pile of artwork hoping they might one day use it for a book cover. But thanks to
the Internet, illustrators (like me) can now display their unsold illustrations without
additional costs, and then sell it at a reduced price provided they don’t have to
do extensive reworking of the illustrations.
That’s where a second simple trick that big presses have pretty much kept under wraps
over the years comes in. Because it can save you some serious money if you apply
it to your book cover design efforts.
A Second Simple Trick
This second secret is also simple, yet capable of saving a tiddy sum if you publish
even one book: You make your story fit the cover artwork that you can purchase at
a reduced price.
For example, imagine the main character in your story is a brunette who wears glasses.
You’ve found a pre-made book cover that is priced very competitively, and it almost
fits. Almost. The catch is that the gal on the cover is blond and she doesn’t wear
That’s where self-publishers and new presses make a costly mistake: They either pass
on a fantastic book cover bargain, or they ask the artist to change his picture to
fit the story – and then the buyer pays hundreds of dollars to get the work done.
(Or, worse, hires an illustrator to paint a whole new book cover picture similar
to the original with minor changes to make it fit the story.)
Does the reader care if the heroine is blond or brunette? Not really. So provided
her hair color doesn’t play some pivotal role in the plot, you can simply change
a few words in the description of the story so your character no longer wears glasses
and is blond.
Suddenly the picture matches your book. And with just a slight change of the manuscript,
you have quality book cover artwork for a fraction of the normal cost.
The key is to realize that your reader isn’t going to care all that much what your
main character looks like, wears, etc. If the features of a character aren’t essential
to the story, then you can change them to suit your needs – and in the case of your
book cover illustration, you can change the text to save some substantial money.
Finding Your Missing Scene
What if you find a super picture that captures the spirit of your book but the scene
never actually appears in the story? Say you have a science fiction novel and the
book cover picture you really like has a couple standing in a space station overlooking
a planet with twin suns. Your story has a character in a spaceship but he’s never
with a gal and the planet only has one sun.
Again (and I suspect you’ve probably caught on now), the solution isn’t to spend
a thousand bucks having an artist paint new book cover art. Rather you make the sun
in your story a binary star, and maybe add a tiny scene (even just a sentence) that
has the guy pause at a viewport beside a beautiful gal like the one on the cover.
Now you have your cover for a fraction of the cost and the story fix only takes a
few minutes to make to the text of the book.
Remember: Most readers will enjoy the story just as much whether the book cover illustration
portrays your original vision of your character or not. As long as the cover presents
a scene and character that are close to what’s in your book (though not necessarily
as you originally pictured it in your mind), readers are going to enjoy the story.
And if that book cover picture looks inviting and professional, it will help sell
your book and boost your sales.
Of course sometimes you’ll not find just the right book cover artwork for your story.
And that’s when you hire a professional book designer like me to create it for you
(which I’m always happy to do). But if you’re on a tight budget, my advice is to
first double-check my catalog of finished artwork. The money you save can be substantial
and you’ll still have a professionally made cover illustration that can increase
your book sales by a significant amount.
Beware the Lookalike Cover
Ever see books that have cover photos or illustrations nearly identical to another
book? When you buy stock photos or artwork without “exclusive use” rights, that means
the seller of the picture can turn around and sell the picture rights to anyone they
choose. The result is that you book can be confused with one a potential buyer has
read because both look identical except for the title and author name (which many
readers won’t remember).
Not only can you lose a sale because a potential buyer may think he’s already read
your book, if the buyer disliked the other book, he may associate you as an author
with a book you never wrote. In other words, you’ll get the bad rap for the bad writing
some hack writer did. Not only will the reader avoid your book with the look-alike
cover, he may note your name and never buy another of your books.
The solution? Buy exclusive book cover rights when you purchase artwork for your
book. That way you’ll be the only one having the illustration for a book cover. And
there will be no lost sales because someone mistook your cover with another they’ve
With my premade ebook cover artwork, I sell the exclusive book cover rights for you
to use on your ebook and/or print version of the same title for the price listed
on the web page – meaning the illustration won’t be showing up on any other author’s
One more caveat: Some “cover designers” actually are only selling stock photos that
are only slightly reworked to create a “book cover.” The catch is that these while
these covers are somewhat different from the original photo, the photo itself can
be purchased by literally anyone wanting to fork over a little money – and then use
it as their cover. Yes, the artist might sell his painted version of the photo only
once – but the photo itself can be purchased by other artists to create similar pictures.
Or the photo can be purchased for a cover. Again and again.
So if you want to avoid a sales-killing (and perhaps reputation-killing) look-alike
cover that also appears on the book cover of another author, beware of sites selling
extra cheap book covers that make promises, but in fact fail to be one-of-a-kind.
What You’ll Get from Me
With rare exceptions, I sell exclusive book cover rights to my illustrations. Once
you’ve paid for one of my ready made illustrations, I deliver the artwork via email
attachment as a high-resolution, low compression JPG suitable for print. This JPG
can also then be resized/reduced in resolution for ebooks as well as Amazon and other
companies’ catalogs. My artwork will generally be slightly oversized so that you
can crop it if needed and also so you’ll have room for lettering and cover design
without any layout nightmares.
For those wanting a finished print or ebook cover, I can also do this layout work
for a very competitive price (currently lettering for an eBook cover for $75, and
the lettering/layout for the front/spine/back of a softcover book for $450 or $650
for a dust jacket layout – my prices for print also include bar code generation from
your ISBN and a spine icon if you wish to have one).
For your convenience, you can pay by credit card via PayPal (which accepts all major
And, if you can’t find a suitable ready made illustration for your book, remember
you can also hire me to create a unique illustration to your specific needs. My prices
are very competitive and your money will be well spent if you need an illustration
that gives you that extra edge when marketing your book.
People do judge books by their covers. Be sure your book has the very best cover
Now, go to one of my premade book art galleries and save a bundle on your next book
cover. Just remember that because each of my premade book cover pictures is unique,
it can only be sold once so all the artwork shown is sold on a first-come, first
“We're privileged to know who we think are the two best graphic artists in the entire
world, not just the country, the world. One of them... is Duncan Long.” –Talk-show
host Victor Thorn
“It would be a complete understatement to say that Duncan Long is a pleasure to work
with. His engaging sense of humor and astonishing creative abilities made my book
cover art experience a joy. For my second novel, Lead Me Not Into Temptation, I believe
that Duncan created one of the most interesting and provocative pieces of book art
that I’ve seen in a long time. I can’t wait to see what he can do for my next book!”
– Dale Allan, author
“To call Duncan Long a book illustrator may well be an understatement – Duncan is
an extremely gifted artist. I fully plan to use Duncan for future projects and highly
recommend him to anyone looking for original and breathtaking artwork.” – A J Vega,
“We have received hundreds of positive comments and enthusiastic feedback from readers
and others in the publishing industry regarding Duncan Long’s incredible cover art.
Without a doubt, his artwork has been instrumental in getting us into bookstores
and other outlets across the web.” – Author John Phillip Backus