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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Raab

How much do people pay for book covers? And does it matter?

How much do people pay for book covers? And does it matter for book purchases?

Let me just say that I don't particularly like the terms "emerging" and "successful" because it's based on income and the terms are value laden, but it's what the researchers called the categories. So we will just go with it for now and roll our eyes at the researchers together.

This data is from 2017. From this graph [1], you can see that most of the emerging authors (those who are not making $100,000 a year or more) spent less than $50 on book covers. You might notice that there are two peaks: $0-50 and $100-250 for book covers. This makes sense. There are writers who trade for or create their own book covers, so they spend no money on the book cover. Most pre-mades would've been around $100-250 range with some custom work being at the upper end of that range during that time period, if memory serves.

The mid-range for both emerging and successful authors was between $100-250 a cover, where the emerging writers were spending a little less. The most that authors spent on covers was $2000.

So does it matter how much you spend? Yes and no.

Once a book buyer has picked up a book and is deciding on whether or not to buy the book, other factors are more important: genre, author, reviews, and price [2]. So pricing is an important as a marketing tool. The important thing to remember is that the book buyer already picked up the book... or already "discovered" the book.

Limitations (Caveats)

What this data doesn't talk about is how many people didn't pick up and examine the book when they were browsing for books. This data only looked at a specific point in the purchasing process.

Let's back up the train. I'll explain.

So a person is looking for a book. They are scrolling through a website or walking along bookshelves at a bookstore or library. They are browsing.

The first thing that's going to catch their eye is the book cover. So they either click on the link or they pick up the book and read the blurb.

This data doesn't talk about how many books the people ignored while they were browsing because that would be nigh on impossible to track with a survey. Who remembers what they ignored? You could track it online with cookies and scrolling rates, so that would be possible, but it would be very difficult to know if it was the book cover that wasn't catching their attention, the title, the author, the genre... you get the idea.

Since they are ignoring the book, you can't go back and say, hey why did you ignore Book X? As for tracking in person browsing and ignoring, that would be possible too, but the methods for that would be rather involved for me to explain so I'll continue on.

You get the point.

The book cover may be the thing that catches the book buyer's eye. It may not be. But, it may not be the reason that the book buyer ignores the book.

The key to the question for all of what I just mentioned is: how do I stand out from the crowd?

But really the question is: how do I get people to pick up my book to see if they are interested in what I have to say?

That's the real question. Unfortunately, I can't answer that here.

What I can answer is some other things that the data doesn't answer... to drive home the point on what your take away should be from this survey.

This data also doesn't talk about for the number of books that people clicked on (or picked up). How many did they buy? So these questions would actually give more information on how important book covers are to the importance in the buying process. We could start asking the question: once someone is looking over a book does the book cover matter? Does it matter how much money was spent on the cover?

This gets into more nuanced numbery behaviory marketing sciency questions, but important questions nonetheless because... it would be able to look at the actual question of: how much money should I be spending on my book cover, assuming cost is a factor in the talent and skill level of the book cover artist.

If the assumption is that more money spent on a book cover means that I am getting a more creative and skilled visual storyteller, will that investment translate into better sales?

The surveys that I mention here don't answer that particular question, unfortunately. But there is one question that is answered: how much should I budget for a book cover? What are other people paying?

Take away

In 2017, emerging writers were spending anywhere from $0 to 250-ish with a mid-range somewhere... in the (estimating here) $75-ish area. There were two groups of emerging writers (it looks like). Ones that we not spending any money, and those who were probably buying premades or "low-cost" customs. Most successful writers were spending around $100 to $250 on book covers with a low end of $50-ish and high end of $500-ish. No one in 2017 who was survey spend more than $2000.

These are good numbers to know when looking for book cover designers and for budgeting for your book covers. The current prices may be different (as in higher), but probably not that much higher. If I were you, I'd look around to see what the average premade book covers are and guesstimate from there what the other numbers should look like when budgeting.

What about you?

If you'd like to share your experience in getting book covers, I'd love to talk with you. Either share your experience in the comments or drop me a line at

Data sources



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