Chacron's picture
Chacron from England, South Coast is reading Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb March 10, 2014 - 12:02pm

I'm reasonably good at judging a book's cover, but I know nothing about the business practice of getting and using one for my own book. Not where to ask these questions, so I thought I'd try you guys first. Here's what I've done so far...

I have a friend of mine drawing me a potential cover for a self-published eBoook. No money changing hands for this because it's a favour I called in, but if I end up using it:

(1) What sort of permission should I get to use it, seeing as technically the drawing is someone else's copyright? He knows what the picture I requested is for and he's fine with it already, but just for the sake of good practice, should I go as far as written permission or a contract of some kind?

(2) If yes to the above, any tips on professional ways to draw it up?

(3) I promised this friend of mine that if I used his cover and the book sold, then I'd give him something for the cover, no amount specified. Gentleman's agreement, if you like. That said, is it the norm to just pay for a cover illustration in full up front, or to give the illustrator a cut of each single book sale?

Rob's picture
Class Director
Rob from New York City is reading at a fast enough pace it would be cumbersome to update this March 10, 2014 - 12:49pm

I self-published a novella, had a friend do the cover. No contract, and I paid her up front.

A cut of every book sale seems to be a little much. 

But that's just how I handled it. Curious to know what others have done. 

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore March 10, 2014 - 2:05pm

One-time fee for the artwork up front. I commissioned a painting from a friend that he created according to my direction, and I suggested I just "license" it from him for a reasonable/lower fee so that he could continue to make money off of it selling prints and whatnot (even though it was technically a "work for hire"), so long as it was never licensed to anyone else for similar use. But then I ended up buying the painting and copyright from him outright afterward anyway. So it's not like a photographer who keeps his negatives; I now completely own the rights to that image, which mightn't be the case otherwise. Same problem you have when using stock images is they're non-exclusive and may well end up on others' book covers.

I don't like asking artists to "invest" in me based on my potential sales or whatever, because that has absolutely nothing to do with the service they provide that deserves to be compensated for regardless. How much that costs, if it costs anything, is up to you two to work out. If you're friends, maybe you can just return the favor somehow. But I wouldn't make anything contingent on the book's sale. Most people would say to get something in writing, but I'd say it also depends on your relationship and how seriously he takes his artwork.

James R. Tuck's picture
James R. Tuck from Atlanta is reading SEND MORE HEARSES by Harold Q. Masur May 19, 2014 - 12:09pm

Pay up front. The copyright lies with the artist and if you don't add a 'do not use' clause to your agreement then they can use the artwork on their own in shows, to make prints, to sell the original, won't be your book cover, just the art.


Linton Robinson's picture
Linton Robinson from Nowhere. I'm an expat and army brat is reading A computer scren December 4, 2014 - 12:10am

Get something in writing.  For "value received".  It's one of those things like asking for a receipt... you just do it because it's businesslike.