Feed a Writer AND an Artist: Buy Books New!

“Do you know how much it costs to pay an artist to design a custom cover for your book?” Was a question I recently asked of somebody in a book group. This was in response to how “cheap” self-published and indy book covers look, and that they “put readers off”. While readers are drawn to attractive covers, I’m afraid that writers alone are not fully responsible for this problem. Readers must also accept some culpability.

I pointed out that the minimum cost of designing such a cover is in the region of £300. That’s a lot of money in a saturated self-publishing and indy market. It’s a cost way beyond the average self-published writer, many of whom are producing high-quality fiction for an eager market. Some of the best self-published books I’ve read in the last few years have had covers that were simply ok or were actually quite bad. It’s got to the point not that I judge a book solely on the title and the blurb.

The Writer’s Conundrum

To date, I have sold 15 copies of Dead Heat. The doesn’t cover the £25 I paid to a freelancer on Upwork to design the cover. I asked my partner to redesign it just before Christmas and she also designed the cover for Dead Lock (I’ve sold about 5 copies). I can only hope to eventually earn back that cost and the price of Facebook adverts I’ve paid for over the last couple of years to promote both books. But with the market the way it is, that is unlikely. In turn, readers complain about the poor quality of covers and the price of ebooks (with some thinking £2 is too expensive).

I would dearly love to pay a starving artist £300 or more to design a custom cover for any of my so-far published ebooks, but something must give – I simply cannot afford to do that for every book until sales make it viable to do so. Most writers are not rich; only a select few become millionaires from their craft. A small number earn enough to live on but for the most of us, it’s a side business. We can only hope to sell a handful of copies each year at the most. The lack of sales makes hiring an artist to custom design a cover way beyond our budgets. It’s like complaining that a local restaurant isn’t creating fully-CGI adverts for television instead of the 30-second video consisting a sweeping view of the restaurant interior only showing on local TV. They don’t have the budget.

How Readers Can Help

I feel the demand for cheap books and an unwillingness to pay more than £1-2 is creating and fuelling a problem. Amazon with its daily deals, monthly deals and regular sales is partly responsible for creating this environment of cheap books. But readers are also partly responsible. The unwillingness to take a chance on a new writers and equal unwillingness to pay more than a couple of pounds means writers simply cannot commission high quality covers to go with their lovingly-crafted books.

Both writers and artists are suffering here. Artists aren’t getting work; they’re being undercut by cheap producers and self-designed covers by writers who can’t afford (but would love to) employ their services. In turn, writers can’t sell books to readers who reject their titles on the basis that they’ve never heard of them and that covers look a little too cheap.

7 responses to “Feed a Writer AND an Artist: Buy Books New!”

  1. Absolutely…
    I’ve worked as a graphic designer and as a writer. Writing pays less. Which is why I’ve always made my own covers, I simply could not afford to pay one of my friends to do it (and knowing how much work is involved couldn’t ask for a freebie).
    I have actually considered selling book covers (rather than writing as my main business) as some ‘Indies’ seem to have a lot of cash to throw around… But I hate doing anything to a deadline…

    1. Few people realise the amount of work that goes into writing a book. It’s so frustrating to hear apparent reading addicts complain that £3 is too much to pay

      1. I’m guilty of lowering prices on older books to encourage sales… Works a bit… But generally I agree, although I do not understand charging print costs… Like some publishers do…

  2. The sad truth is, unless an author is a known entity, books can really exceed a budget for some of us. This is where I appreciate the free sample. If I read a chapter and want to know more, I’m more inclined to invest. I just wish I were smart enough to know when I’m buying a full story or novel rather than a serialized snippet. Having this happen a few times has made me leery of risking more on the e-book market.

    1. Of course, the free sample is useful for that very reason. and I’m sure it’s proven more beneficial than not to up and coming writers and readers taking a chance on an author who is new to them.

      However, I’m deeply concerned about the “something for nothing” entitlement of some readers who don’t seem to understand the amount of work that goes into writing and publishing a novel. It can take a year or more to write a book. Then there is the cost of publication and marketing, and artist fees for the artwork. £10 (around $13US) is quite reasonable, I feel. But some will only buy from charity shops (which means the writer gets 0% royalties) and complain that £2 is too much to pay (about $2.75US). I’m not saying people shouldn’t buy cheap books, but that they should understand the hard work that goes into a book and be more than willing to pay full price.

      Literature has a value as well as a price.

      1. I don’t think you are wrong at all. Any author is justified in expecting a return on their hard work. It’s that sad fact, though, that not every book is vetted, edited and, quite frankly, ready that goes to the self-published market. This has made the willingness to venture high-price purchases contingent on some test of said quality. Sadly, I’ve been burned by a few too many less-than-stellar works. Also, I’m pretty restricted in what I can afford. But, given unlimited budget, all of my money would go to books and I would be happy to shell out the actual worth and feel happy to do so. It’s just so pesky not being independently wealthy.

  3. Of course 🙂 self-published books are cheaper because they don’t have the editor, artist and marketing costs to add on.

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