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Cover Design: Finding Graphics

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Book covers require both images and text. Tempting as it may be to Google and find a cute image, it can get you sued for copyright infringement. For your own sake, don’t chance it. Aside from the risk of a lawsuit, Amazon and other book sites can and do yank titles. If it’s a repeat issue, they can ban you for life from their platform.

Sadly, I can’t recommend free image sources for book covers. If even one book is sold, it’s a commercial project and requires commercial licensing. Copyrights are detailed, picky, and can 100% get you sued. It happened to one man who used an image from a free site on his blog – not even a book!

When taking your own photographs, copyright and trademark issues can come into play, as well. Snapped photo that caught a Mickey Mouse toy and he was included on your cover? Disney is notoriously sue-happy and will come knocking.

Stock image sites aren’t perfect even when you pay to use their images. Images may inadvertently contain copyrighted content, site TOS can be extremely restrictive, etc. Currently I recommend DepositPhotos. Their Terms of Use are decent, allowing up to half a million imprints covered under their standard licensing. Physical products other than books require special licensing, as is true for most stock sites. Their photos can be purchased via membership or package. The better solution is to buy a reduced-price package offsite, such as this ongoing one at MasterBundles. And 2-3 times per years, AppSumo offers a package of 100 photos on DepositPhotos for as little as $39US.

There are several other sites, including Adobe Stock. For books, however, sit Adobe out. Their TOS are unfortunately a source of headaches for designers. Among other things, they’ve barred use of their images for romance covers. Talking to their agents gets you different answers on how their images can and cannot be used. Their inconsistency makes them a bad player in the cover-design arena.

One huge advantage with paid sites, however: if you purchased one of their images in good faith, and someone launches a legal copyright claim – the stock site has your back, at least up to a few thousand dollars. If you’re aware you’re publishing something that infringes on copyright, it’ll probably be on you. But if you genuinely didn’t know, you’ve got some legal backup.

AI-Generated Images

For the moment, we don’t recommend using AI-generated images for book covers. The copyright details are still very much up in the air. Until they’re resolved, it’s best to avoid them. This does NOT apply to images created through programs like DAZ 3D, nor does it apply to images modified by Photoshop’s Neural Filters, the latter of which is an AI-type of editor.

Artisan Sites

Several individual photographers and designers offer generous licensing terms. We have our own photo store on Etsy. All images purchased from Gerani Photo are licensed for commercial use. Our site is fairly new, so our image library is still very much under construction. Visit our landing page at geraniphoto.com.

As model licensing is a huge copyright hot button now, many people are using (and selling) 3D-rendered images using DAZ 3D and similar software. Since there are too many of this for us to list here, we’ll refer you to check in with one of our Facebook groups for updates. One especially high-profile source for both 3D rendered and real-life photographic models is NeoStock, for example. Price per-image is higher but they’re images created expressly for book cover design, and are less widely-used than imagery from bigger stock sites.

Aggregator Sites

Don’t forget about aggregator sites that also cater to crafters, etc. Many of their graphics are available for low- or no-cost with a license allowing for unlimited print-on-demand copies. My personal favorite is The Hungry JPEG. They offer numerous free and low-cost images, Photoshop add-ons, and fonts, and graphics under their generous license. Just be sure to read the details for any given product, as licensing can vary from one to another. Also be sure you’re purchasing items flagged as graphics, vs. something marked “crafters”, which carries a different license.

Other popular aggregators include Deal Jumbo, Creative Fabrica, and more. (We have a Facebook group dedicated to graphics and font resources, which routinely highlights sales and products you might not otherwise find.)

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