Ebook Cover: Stock Images vs. Custom Illustration

I’m so excited to finally share the book cover for Intertwined!

Three and a half months ago, this was little more than a vague idea inside my mind. I was debating on whether to use stock images (a more affordable option) or to have the cover custom illustrated. I was torn because, although, stock images can be modified to fit the tone of your book, I couldn’t stand the idea that it could end up on someone else’s cover–especially, if the cover happened to portray two people who represent your lead characters. In fact, this ALMOST happened!

I was browsing for stock images on Shutterstock and found one that resembled the two main characters in my story. In the end, I decided not to use it because I prefer to leave the characters to the readers imagination, and I’ve always been drawn to simpler, more symbolic covers like Twilight, Divergent, Hunger Games … etc. A couple months later, I saw the exact same stock image used on two other book covers. By that point, I had already resolved to pursue the custom illustration route. This process ended up being twofold. I’ve always envisioned the cover with two black and white snakes, swallowing each others tails, but finding a talented artist to make this happen was extremely difficult. First of all, having anything custom illustrated is VERY expensive.

After tireless research, I discovered that if I wanted the cover done to the same quality and standards as traditionally published works, I’d have to shove out thousands of dollars, which was definitely not budgeted for. Then I discovered Elance–an online staffing platform where you, the hirer, can post your job criteria and review bids/portfolios of freelance artists all around the world. Within seconds of posting the job, I had ten proposals, and within a few days, twenty five. After reviewing their portfolios, I selected an artist, and so began the custom illustration process. Drafting the snakes took several weeks. I was amazed at how the tiniest detail could make such a huge difference. From how small the scales should be, to how large the heads should be in proportion to the rest of the body, to how the heads should be angled and positioned, to how bright the white should be in contrast to the black. It was an interesting process to say the least. But one that totally paid off.

Once it was finished, it was everything I imagined it would be and I paid no where near what I would have paid had I hired an established artist with years of experience. Once the snakes were done, I contacted Damonza–an established Ebook cover design company. They designed my book cover using the custom illustration in place of stock images, and a month later, I had my very own unique book cover. Altogether, I paid well under a grand, which isn’t bad considering the alternative. And, although it was a LONG process, I really enjoyed being involved with the cover creation. That said, it took a lot of patience and time on my part to explain, guide and direct the designer at every step of the process. I was not prepared for that. For some reason, I thought that giving them the synopsis of my book and a few pointers here and there would be more than enough. Nope. I learned that designers, at least the one that I worked with, rely on very specific feedback, which isn’t a bad thing, just wasn’t what I was expecting. This was my experience–I’m sure there are tons of designers who take more creative control.  All in all, I’m extremely happy with how the final product turned out! If you have the means, I highly recommend investing in a custom book cover.

Should you decide to do so, however, start the process at least six months within the projected launch date of your book. If you’re on a super tight budget, don’t fret! A talented graphic designer can take any stock image and make it look unique to your story. Whatever path you decide to take, just remember–it’s your book cover! Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra if it means having a cover worthy of your story. Your story deserves the best! And so do you!

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