Book Cover Musings

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As I edit A Bridge To The Quiet Planet (Motto: “Sorcery, Science, Sarcasm”), I’m back to practicing book covers. I’ve been doing more of my fake book covers, with attempts at colorful kitch and e-book pulp action. I’ve realized I want to get better because I’ve got more books coming out – though my “tentpole” books are best with professional art.

I also realized some of my other books desperately need a cover update, so if you start seeing some of my older or smaller stuff look different, you know why. This has led me to get all philosophical about book covers, and you get to read about it.

Actually, this is pretty good stuff if you’re an author.

Royalty Free Art Grows Over Time

CanStockPhoto and Shutterstock are great resources for royalty-free art cheap, but even free sites like Pixabay have good resources – and think how more and more is being made over time. Every artist who joins, every upload of that “thing in the portfolio I haven’t used,” every additional piece, is another resource to be used. Over time, there will be more art available to users.

That would mean that in time it may take more searching but *the perfect piece of cover art will be more likely to be out there over time.* Also this means the perfect piece is just going to run you $8-$15 (as of 2018 numbers). even in my experiments, which use free sites, I’ve been surprised how I could find close or near-perfect art to my vision.

Cover Art Resources Keep Growing

I tend not to use stuff like Canva, etc. that let you build book covers I like the control of learning and of building my own templates. But these resources are out there and there’s more and they’re getting better. It’s going to be easier to make a good book cover over time.

Combine that with the above truth of more and more art being available and it’s going to be easier to have a half-decent cover for your book – at least an ebook.

Cover Art Ages

It’s weird to think how some of my books that looked appropriate for the time look a little aged or just poor right now. I can also see which styles may last versus which may become outdated.

For instance, now the trend of covers for fantasy and sf that are abstract or minimalist or symbolic is kinda wearing thin on me. I miss the covers that looked like they should be posters on your wall.

Also, some trend-jumping is going to be problematic. Remember how many things looked like Twilight Covers? Have those aged well? How many trendy things won’t work a few years down the road?

Cover Art May Matter More

When you see how people can make their own covers, how there’s more resources, and how art ages, I think good book covers matter more and more. At some point the market changes, the competitors ramp up, or your style is outdated.

Maybe authors need to consider swapping out cover art every two years or so. Of course if we do that then the value of art changes and it becomes far more a disposable commodity.

This Changes The Market For Cover Art

At this point I see that the market for cover art is changing and may change more rapidly. This is going to affect artists.

A good piece of cover art can run you $300-$1000 right now. Meanwhile a premade cover like you see at GoOnWrite might be $30-50. Something from CanStock Photo applied to an existing template may cost you $8.00.

If art becomes a variable commodity, the value changes – as is what people will pay for it.

Going Forward

Not sure if I found some massive magical trend (or if I’m seeing something everyone else has seen), but it’s something I’ll be keeping in mind. All we authors have to live with what’s happening – and decide where to invest our time.


– Steve