What happened to Createspace’s book cover design prices? (How much does book cover design cost?)

I’m thinking of raising my prices again, and looking around to check the “going rate” for book cover design.

On my book covers site I make a big deal of pointing out that my covers are cheaper than createspace’s $1049 Custom Cover Premier Plus.

But I just checked and that cover design option has disappeared. They used to have an even more expensive illustrated cover option.

What happened?

My guess is, due to a whole community of awesome book cover designers like me that were charging way less money, Createspace wasn’t getting many book cover clients. So instead they dropped their prices by half. Now they only have these two options – both of these are for print covers. The fronts of both are extremely boring; and the font layout of the premier is awful.

cover

 

It’s not just that they don’t show more than one sample for each package, the ONE sample they choose is ugly! What does that say about all their ‘normal’ covers? Here are the full print layouts. They’re OK… just kind of boring. Definitely around average.


covers2

 

Lulu has an “Elite” cover for $599 as well.

Selfpublishing.com has a $275 budget cover and $735 cover that’s about what I offer for $759. But those cheeky bastards don’t even put up ONE SINGLE sample of their cover design quality, which means you’re going in totally blind. And even worse, they add the “premium” cover design which doesn’t come with anything extra except a $640 price increase and a description that is copied verbatim from business books that say you need to have an expensive option just because some people will always buy the best:

PREMIUM Cover Design — $1375

This is designed for authors who know that they require the maximum amount of choices as well as maximum amount of personal contact with designer. This service is not meant for everyone and won’t result in any noticeably different product than any of our other covers but if it’s for you … you know who you are.

 

I’m not sure why Createspace dropped its rates, but probably because cover design is really hard, and they couldn’t justify charging the high rates if they couldn’t pull off the right quality. Selfpublishing.com is just going to keep screwing people as long as they keep paying, while Lulu and Createspace seem to be doing what they can by fulfilling the midrange budget authors.

If they get 100 covers a month at a $499 average, that’s $49,000 a month or $598800 a year. They can easily pocket half a million dollars and use the rest ($98800) to hire 10 full time designers in the Philippines to do the work. And I’ll bet they’re getting much more than 100 orders a month.

This is great business – unless they were doing the high end covers where authors actually demand quality, which can be a pain in the ass and take a long time, which is probably why they quit offering it.

Interestingly, for me and my designer buddies, our prices have just kept going up.

I charge $759 for a full print cover (but I’m raising them).

Rocking Book Covers charge $649.

Georgina Gibson charges $810.

Damonza is charging $549 but has a notice that it’s going up (probably around $700).

BookFly Design charges $599 – but I’ll bet they raise their prices soon too.

And this is why:

Cheap book covers don’t sell books.

Which means if you pay $300~$500 for a book cover, you can get something pretty great – if you find a very young designer who’s building up his portfolio. But if you go with one of the big companies, you’re going to get something really boring, and possibly ugly. Here’s the other thing: about 90% of your book’s success, at least in the first few crucial weeks of marketing, is going to depend on your book cover.

True, the big companies aren’t going to give you something too shitty. It’ll probably get you over that necessary hurdle of “does this look like crap or does it pass as at least a mediocre book” (as opposed to, a completely DIY effort that went tragically wrong, and will scare everybody away and kill your dream of being an author).

And it’s also true that not everybody can afford expensive cover design; nor that every book needs it.

But authors who have the money know the book cover is where most of the money should go.

A big full-service package is never a good deal if it doesn’t come with a stunning cover (and how can you tell whether a designer is awesome? By looking at their portfolios, which is why you should never buy a cover from someone who has no portfolio! Don’t just trust that they can do it! Don’t just go along because it’s part of a big package, and you want that 1 hour of phone consultation and the business cards and the social media setup. All that crap is worthless without a great cover on the book.)

Great covers don’t scale.

The thing is that amazing design takes time and talent. It’s not something you can just teach quickly and hire out cheap; it takes years of experience and an artistic eye. Which means that the best designers usually work for themselves, and as they get better and more well-known, they get more traffic and more demand.

That’s the other nice thing about great cover designers: every cover they do is an advertisement – which means their business naturally grows quickly. As long as they’re really good and they’re getting some traffic, they are going to face this issue:

1. They have too many orders and can’t keep up.

2. They can’t scale or hire out the work.

3. They have to raise their prices.

And this process happens again and again, until our prices are unreasonably inflated and few people can afford us.

“Unreasonably inflated” means we are paid a very high per-hour rate, and this is why: the better we are, the faster we can do our jobs. When we are starting out we’ll play with a lot of things and let clients boss us around and waste a lot of time. When we’re experts we’ll just make a fucking awesome cover and we’ll be done; and our clients will bow to our expertise instead of trying to weaken it with lots of changes.

We’re kind of like lawyers in that sense: people pay us a lot of money because we’re dealing with something really important, that they don’t understand and they can’t do by themselves. They pay us to make covers that will sell their book.

What this means for you.

I’m not writing this to scare you into getting an expensive cover, truly I’m not – I just want you to get the best cover you afford; even if it’s one on 99designs, or Fiverr.com or canva.com. There are many ways to get a “good enough” cover very cheaply. But there are many ways to pay too much without getting anything in return.

How much do you think a book cover should cost?

 

 

 

 

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me

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