Why Indie Book Covers are So Expensive

Just a few years ago, I cringed practically every time I saw a self-published book cover. But, more and more frequently, I’m finding fantastic indie covers. So fantastic, in fact, that they look better than many traditional covers. Here are some examples of some indie covers I’ve recently fallen in love with:


Flutter by Melissa Andrea

Flutter by Melissa Andrea

Sovereign Hope by Frankie Rose

Sovereign Hope by Frankie Rose

One by LeighAnn Kopans

One by LeighAnn Kopans

Beautiful, aren’t they? After looking at these gorgeous covers, you kind of have to wonder why all indie authors don’t have this quality of cover. Good covers bring in sales, make the author look professional, and attract readers. So why don’t all indie authors have kick-ass covers?

The short answer? Because they’re expensive as hell. One of my CPs uses a cover service that charges around $1000 dollars for one cover. While that’s generally considered a high price, most good indie design services charge at least $200. I’ve heard a ton of grumbling from indie authors about the prices cover designers charge, and this tends to drive me a little bonkers.

I’m a cover designer myself, so I’m one of the lucky authors who knows the whole cover-designing process. I thought I’d take a moment to break down the expenses of covers, so indie authors can see why these type of designs cost so much.

1. Design Equipment
Photoshop CS 5, the version I use, costs around $800 dollars. My Wacom Tablet (used for digital painting aspects) cost $240. My high quality laptop, which I need to run Photoshop, cost around $700. Most cover designers need all of this equipment, and sometimes more. Already, you can see why cover designers have high prices.

2. Stock Images

The average price is about $10 per stock image, but I’ve paid up to $75 for stock. These prices add up quickly, especially since covers can easily incorporate 5+ stock images.

3. Design Process
It takes me at least three hours to design a cover. My cover for “Frost Fire” took around 22 hours of work, and months of tweaking after that. Let’s say someone wants a cover like the one I made for “Frost Fire”. If an author paid me minimum wage for each hour I worked, that’s around $200.

4. Fonts
Fonts are pricey to buy and use for commercial use. They average around $75 for a commercial license. But, if you want pretty lettering on your cover, the designer has to pay for pretty fonts.



So, as you can see, the design expenses are extremely high. This is why cover designers ask for so much money–because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to stay in business. Make more sense? I hope so!

Are you now wondering why it takes so long to design a cover? I have that answer, too. Below is a start-to-finish look at my 22 hour process of creating the cover for “Frost Fire”. Obviously, it’s quite a condensed version, but you can see the drastic differences between the original image and the end.

Frost Fire

Frost Fire


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