Look around the internet, check out our competition. What do you see? You see some pretty nice covers at some pretty rock bottom prices. This is what you’re competing against. Although there will always be the author who cares about their book enough to spend that extra penny to get just the right cover, you get an equal amount of authors who are on a tight budget and those extra pennies simply aren’t there. So this section is written to help you, the artist, to price your work in a way that’s fair to you and the author.
There are some very important things to consider. A lot of new artists start out by charging next to nothing for their work – through this they are not only cheating themselves, they are cheating their client. Sure their client may only have had to pay $5 for that piece of artwork, but often the work isn’t very well put together or like a spoiled child with candy the author starts to expect this unrealistic price and find themselves struggling to find better in the future. Meanwhile the market has been undercut by this simple action. It’s a vicious cycle.
The covers you make not only represent an author’s sweat and tears, they are a representation of your work ethic and skills. Not only do you want to put up your best, you want to set prices in such a way your wallet is padded properly while people can still afford you.
The pricing formula is simple: Cost + Worth + Time = Price
As with math, each element can be added in any order.
1. Time. How much time have you spent on the project? Did you find this image at iStockphoto, take two minutes to give it a soft focus, put title on it and call it a day? Chances are unless you bought extended rights with that piece, you’re not sporting a $500 work of art. You’re talking an hour’s worth of time at best. Even at the best wages, that’s not as much as your wallet wishes it was. Set yourself a base price per hour – say $20 – and keep track of how long you work meticulously. If you have to write down your starting time and then your finishing time every time you work
2. Cost. How much did you spend to get it? If your image comes from the public domain or only cost $5 because of an image subscription, then those are your base costs to build from. Set your price so that you get that cost back 100% and only 100%. . Be honest with yourself as well as with your clients, and you’ll earn repeat business and customer loyalty.
3. Worth. This is the trickiest part and happens to be what determines how much an artist getting paid for. Ask yourself: is my image something being sold exclusively to my client alone or is it something other people have access to? If your image is exclusive, then it is worth more than the average bear – much like the price of gold versus the price of silver. Gold is valued higher than silver in our society because silver is slightly easier to find. So are your exclusive images. On the other hand, stock art you downloaded from a resource is generally available to everybody and isn’t worth half as much. Do not be afraid to ask for more if your images are a one time only deal, exclusive. But don’t price yourself too highly if your image is common.
A special note for those artists doing children’s book illustrations: If you’re going through the entire process, you’re going to be doing a lot of work. Don’t be afraid to charge for that accordingly. Your artwork will be attached to a book in such a way it actually becomes part of the story – your author should realize that and be willing to compensate your work in their commercial venture. It is unfortunate when someone cannot afford to pay fair rates in regards to a project of the type of scope proper illustration becomes, but don’t be afraid to stick to your guns. And never ever ever turn in your work without proper payment in advance.
On the average, premade covers range anywhere from $15 to $350 depending on the above factors. I personally recommend going no lower than $40. Rarely will you find premade covers that price more than that. So price your work competitively while being fair to your fellow artists, your client and your wallet.