In a past life, I used to work in advertising. I had a few different roles – print production, casting, photography producer, general dogsbody. One of the roles I held involved purchasing all stock photography for the large agency where I worked at the time, meaning I had to negotiate rights and usages for each image, so it would be fair to say I know a little bit about the process.
Many people who choose to self publish also choose to use stock images for their cover artwork. There are several reasons for doing so: the images are sharp and professional, they are easily found online, and it’s not always possible to take the photo you need yourself. Stock photos tend to fall into one of three categories:
Rights managed. These are images which require rights to be purchased for their usage. These fees are based on number of uses, the area where the image will be used, the length of time it will be used for and a few other variables, including fees paid to models who may appear in the image. Therefore, I wouldn’t recommend using this type of image for your cover, as it’s quite difficult to predict how many copies you will sell or where, and to purchase a blanket usage license would be quite costly!
Royalty Free. These are images for which you pay a single fee, then you are free to use them as often as you like, wherever you like. Therefore, they are quite useful for use in cover designs, though one downside is that you do not own the exclusive rights to the image, so it can be used by somebody else at any time.
Free. There are lots of sites offering free stock images, some of which are excellent. However, some downsides can include the images not being of the best quality, or that you have to enrol and pay a subscription fee to access the images without watermarks. Also, I have seen some of these free sites with the disclaimer that the images are not to be used for commercial purposes, which then discounts them as being used on the cover of your book. I recommend to always check the fine print before using any of these images.
You will also have to give credit to the photographer as well, so make sure to do so when using any stock image in your books.
One way around all of this is to take your own photos. You don’t need to be a Photoshop whiz to create your own effects either – even Microsoft Word has a whole selection of filters and effects you can apply to your images. For example, here is a photo of some tulips I took with my IPhone (inside the Eden Project, just FYI):
It’s rather pretty, isn’t it? (if I say so myself) 🙂
And now here it is with several different filter effects added:
This was the result of about ten minutes messing around with the images in a Microsoft Word document, then saving each one as a JPEG. As you can see, you can get quite a few interesting effects.
Just something to think about, if you are considering designing your own cover.