Help Pricing a Cover



  • Hi guys! It's been a while since I checked in with SVS, because I was busy with some life stuff, but now that's calmed down and I'm ready to dive back in! I missed you all a lot.

    A couple of months ago, I sent out emails to publishers, and today, I got my first response back! I'm super excited, but I also want to make sure I respond correctly.

    He asked how much I would charge for a 5" x 8" cover. He gave a brief description of the scene and attached a rough sketch to demonstrate the spatial relationships between the three characters.

    I probably need to ask a few questions before giving an accurate quote, right? I'm thinking...

    • What is the time frame it needs to be completed within?
    • Should I ask what the rights will be? (Licensed vs work-for-hire?)
    • Can you think of other things I should ask?

    My next question is: what should I charge? Or at least does anyone have any good resources for calculating a cost?

    If it helps, we're both located in the United States. It's a small publisher, but they've got a good handful of titles.


  • Pro

    @baileymvidler The questions you have are musts for sure, especially copyrights! Another question is how many copies they'll print. If they're printing 1000, we're talking a much smaller revenue from the book as if they were printing a million copies!


  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @baileymvidler said in Help Pricing a Cover:

    My next question is: what should I charge? Or at least does anyone have any good resources for calculating a cost?

    Head out to your local library or bookstore and get a copy of The Graphic Artist Guild's Pricing and Ethical Guidelines (shorthand is "PEGS")

    This book is not the "bible" of pricing but it is a good place to start and get a sense of what other illustrators have gotten for similar projects. (the pricing ranges included are determined by polling lots of different illustrators from all over the country)

    A quick look in my copy indicates you would be looking at low 4 figures. Which is in line with my experience.

    For me the rights licensed are the most important part of pricing.

    • If the publisher only wants the ability to print the artwork on a hard cover book, then that tells me they only intended to make money from the image in one book form only.

    • If the publisher want ability to print artwork on hard cover, and paperback versions of the book, that tells me they intend to make more money. Ergo I would charge a higher fee.

    • If the publisher wants the ability to print in printed hard and soft cover and digital book form and international translations the publisher intends to make more money. And the fee goes a big higher.

    You can see how this logic works.

    And of course if the publisher really wants Work For Hire (WFH) -- well then we are talking really big numbers. (for me, minimum of 5 figures)
    For my studio a WFH license fee is much bigger than any number in PEGS. But that is because I actively discourage my clients from licensing WFH. As a freelance illustrator (and particularly for a book cover project like you are describing) I see no reason a publisher would need a WFH Transfer of Rights. The only reason is that it is "easier" for the publisher.

    Your other questions are good!

    • Shorter time frame = higher fee

    @NessIllustration 's point about print run size could be a factor as well.
    Most publishers will want to license the right to print the artwork with the book for as long as the book is "in print" (that is, available for people to buy) BUT the publisher could have the intention to only print 1000 copies.
    A license tied to a specific (small) number would argue for a lower licensing fee.

    You might also want to pin down number of revisions.

    And this is a weird one, but I had an interaction with a small publisher a couple months back that I cancelled (in part) to "feature creep".
    At one point in the negotiations the AD mentioned casually that I would also be doing title type treatment on the book series. I let them know that type design is typically handled by a designer and to have me do it would be an additional fee which they were completely surprised by. So just make sure that you both are agreeing to the same scope of a project.



  • @davidhohn @NessIllustration Thank you so much for your responses and reminding me about the scope of distribution. I just sent off an email asking a few clarifying questions and I'm going to hunt down a copy of PEGS. I'll update if the project goes anywhere. Thank you again!


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