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Book Covers Using Stock Images

 If you decide to design your own cover, you must understand licensing for images.  Just because you can find an image on the internet or through a simple search does not give you the right to use it for your book cover, or any other purpose such as blog posts or other personal use.

There are some truly "free" images available for any use, but you need to make sure that is stated in writing somewhere from the artist. If they post on a site such as Deviant art, they may only ask that you for attribution.

Most professional image providers have different levels of permission and licenses for purchase.


It is also important to note whether you will have exclusive rights to the image or if they resell it. As you can see from the example on the left, this image was used for two different covers. It happens quite often in traditional publishing these days as well as self-publishing.

Royalty free (RF) images give you almost unlimited usage "in perpetuity." You are free to manipulate the images for your covers and marketing items for as many projects as you like. Some RF images are free, other providers charge for the image but do not require a licensing agreement.

Rights managed images (RM) come with restrictions on how and where you can use the image, the duration of use, type of usage, etc.

standard license will cover a certain amount of books (say 500,000). You can use the image for promotion and giveaways but not for promotional items that are sold. To do that, you need an extended license from the creator of the stock image.

Stock Photo License has answers to most licensing questions.  

This primer from 99 Designs explains the legal aspects of licensing and protection from lawsuits.

You should consult the licensing data from each stock photo site you utilize.

You should also credit the artists, at the very least mention their name or username and webpage on your copyright page: "Artwork courtesy of Jane Doe at www.janedoe.com."

There are many exciting resources for stock images as well as illustrations.

1. Adobe Stock Images charges you for access with different subscription levels. 

2. Alamy offers book cover images. 

3. Deviant Art is one of my favorite sites. Artists from around the world upload their work. Many let you use their images for free as long as you credit them. You can search by keyword or genre. If you find an artist whose work you love, you can look at their entire gallery. You can also search "Book Covers" and find many talented book cover designs and original artwork. 

4. Deposit Photos offers book cover art as well as stock images. 

5. Dreamstime is another excellent source for stock images.

6. Fantasy Background Store features high resolution fantasy backgrounds and images. A few are free. Most are for sale. 

7. Free Images provides free stock photos, not necessarily for book covers but if you can use Photoshop or the like you can manipulate their stock images. 

8. Getty Images has high resolution royalty-free images. Image usage and cost depend on the license you purchase.

9. iStock has high quality images with different levels of licensing for purchase.  

10. NeoStock images start at $75 and up. 

11. Period Images is a wonderful source for costumed characters and other book cover art. The images are not exclusive to you.

12. Shutter Stock  has a photo manipulation tool in addition to different cost and license levels.

13. Stock Fresh offers book covers as well as stock images. 

14. Unsplash offers high resolution images provided by photographers. You can join for free.  All photos published on Unsplash can be used for free for commercial and noncommercial purposes. You do not have to provide credit, but it is appreciated. You have irrevocable, nonexclusive copyright license to download, copy, modify, distribute, perform, and use photos as long as you are not providing them for sale on a competing site.

15. Wallpapers Craft has wonderful high resolution background images you can download for free. Search by keyword like Fantasy, Fairies, Earth, etc. 

There are many talented artists and photographers advertising their work on Facebook. A simple search for "book cover designers" or "illustrators" will bring up a wide range of image providers.

Next week, we discuss font licensing and how to utilize typography for your cover.

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