Wondering what are the book cover design prices for self-publishing authors in 2019? This post is an overview of current pricing ranges for Custom and Premade Book Covers and why there are different price tiers. This post is not about telling you how much to spend on a cover though, it’s just for education and awareness of different options. Let’s dive in!
General Price Range for Custom Covers (Photomanipulated, non-illustrated book cover)
Cover design currently ranges from $5 to$4000! Again, not talking about custom Illustrated covers (prices are higher for those in general).
Yes, some of these prices are nuts! Both extreme sides of it, are not what average indie author should concern themselves with – low-end is designers who don’t care about copyrights(like Fiverr) and high-end is for the big Publishing companies. You can see the world’s most expensive cover designer who charges $3750 here. It’s a mind-blowing price. But he gets clients!
The Super-Low-End of Fiverr:
First, unrealistically cheap covers are coming from Fiverr marketplace. Often the Fiverr designer’s portfolios feature work from other designers online. They are stealing designs. A lot of them also use questionable stock images (free ones that get overused) or it’s not clear where they get the image from at all. So from a copyright perspective, if you work with Fiverr designers, be sure to request proof from where they get their stock photos and the terms that apply to them.
And if you think about it, how can they even afford one stock photo if they only get paid $5? Stock photos cost more than that and for a complex book cover, you will need more than one.
And if there are really awesome designers on Fiverr, companies and other designers actually hire them to do work and pay more than $5-20 thus eliminating the need for them to even use Fiverr eventually. Which means the best designers leave Fiverr even if they start there.
The Low-end that can sometimes work:
$50-200 per Cover.
That’s the lower-end for freelance designers who are actually taking this craft seriously and not as part-time gig/hobby. The catch is, the designers here are either very new and just start to build up their portfolio and experience or designers who are stuck in intermediate skill level (warning: design skills don’t necessarily improve proportionately to time spent in the industry – 10 years in design does not mean designer is better than Intermediate).
Sometimes you can get lucky here and find a good designer who is just starting and just wants work but their skills are already World Class. That’s a Steal! Rare and won’t last long (as the designer will be raising prices as time goes). If you can find that deal, great.
$250-600 (often includes print cover version too, but often the price is for ebook first)
This is the range where the best value-for-price is. It’s the place where the designer can charge normal rate and get paid for their craft well, and where indie authors don’t have to overpay inflated rates. There are also quite a few designers here so competition keeps the prices here, without driving them up more. The most common range seems to be $250-500. Print cover versions can be additional $50-150 (so if ebook cover costs $299, print+ebook would be $349 or $449).
Now, $600 for a book cover is expensive. For indies, it’s considered Premium. Not many indies should spend that much and most won’t benefit much from that. But this is not to take away from designers. It just takes longer to get Return on Investment for the average author.
In general, some absolutely awesome designers can be hired here (like Bookfly Design who I would personally call currently the best designer for indies at the moment). They could easily be making covers for big Publishers and make 2-4x but choose to work with Indies (as working with huge Publisher comes with dealing with Marketing department’s opinion, who often don’t know design and start telling you what to do.. Which can be an irritation…). So lower price than $1000 per cover makes sense for designers who want more creative freedom and no interference.
It’s also the place where choosing between designers might be the hardest. There are many good designers and some lame ones, so for authors, it can be hard to choose. Not to mention that it’s hard to tell design skill levels as authors have not been equipped to judge designer’s skills easily (that requires knowing design rules and ‘playing around with Photoshop’ doesn’t count as knowing design).
To pick a designer look at their articles on the blog, social media to see their personality, even ask questions in emails, as those give you more personal context on how it would be to work with them.
Also, pay attention to differences in what is offered for each price, some designers have a lower price but deliver less initial concepts of design or limit the use of stock photos (only one per cover etc). Others have a higher price and seem more expensive but they work faster (first concepts in 3 days instead of a week etc). Some add bonuses, some don’t. I add 3D mock up cover for free, others don’t. Some charge more for a print version, some less.
So the cheap price may not be so cheap once you add it all up, or expensive one may not be as expensive as it seems at first sight.
Refunds and Kill Fees
Most common thing is to offer 100% refund. Terms may vary, but it’s rare for Indie designers to have Kill Fees (think of it like Deposit that doesn’t get paid back, the designer gets paid for some work, but not all of it). Check if the designer you want has any Kill Fees before you hire.
Highest-End (and some crazy prices)
This is where covers cost $1000-$2000. That’s a common rate for cover designers working with bigger Publishing companies. It can be argued that it makes little difference from previous tier design-wise, but there are some designers who are definitely worth that (and for books with a big promotional budget, cover quality makes an even bigger impact on ROI since they spend more on ads which means cover has bigger impact).
Not many indies go this route. Not only prices, but the design process is also different when working for trad. published books (designers have way more time to make the cover and have to read the book often, which makes the process longer than working in indie books).
Premade Book Covers
A more recent option for indies has been Premade Book Covers. They are cheaper than custom made covers, often as good if the designer has high skill level.
Why are they cheaper? Because we designers can make them easier, faster and with complete freedom creatively so there is less work hours-wise. Many Premades are cover concepts that were not used when the cover was being designed for a custom order. But there are designers who specifically focus on Premades as the main option and only make whatever covers they want to match the needed genre. This is a great freedom to have, thus an attractive option for us designers (I’ve sold over a 1000 of premades now and have created over 3500 of them probably by now).
Their average price is currently around $40-80 (per ebook/front cover) but the whole range is from $15 to $200.
Just as with Custom Covers, extremes are not what’s most used. Super cheap Premades will be from amateur designers (who also have lower custom cover prices too) and most expensive ones better be super good covers (and not just stock image + text slapped on it). It’s hard to justify big prices for premades if they are not illustrations or intricate manipulation work. Illustrated (or digitally painted) premade book covers are becoming more common too even tho they are priced above $150 and sometimes over $300 even (certain genres).
The prices have been rising last few years, sometimes due to stock photo price increase. Tough to say if they will keep rising. But in any case, Premades are a good option for any author’s first book or those with limited budgets.
This article is not meant to say, you must pay X rate for a book cover. This is a guideline, something to know and use as context when judging cover designers. Some pay more, some pay less. Some people boast about getting the cheapest deal, and others about buying Premium etc. It’s personal preference and we live in a great age for self-publishing, where anyone can find a designer for their budget.
P.S. For more tips and advice on how to hire the right cover designer, read this about 12 Things to Expect from a Cover Designer.