Tips on Making Money with Book Cover Photography – Update!

Just over a year ago I published a popular post: 7 Tips on Getting Started with Book Cover Photography. Today, I’m happy to share with you an update on how I’ve been doing on this niche and some new tips on getting started / profiting from this genre.

One of my proudest achievements as a professional photographer is seeing my work published on physical book covers. I’ve been a regular contributor at Arcangel for about three years and in this time I have licensed at least a dozen physical book covers.

Click here to see my 815-image portfolio at Arcangel Images

Over a dozen book cover licenses later…

I feel that I’m still early days in this niche but heading in the right direction, especially now that regular sales are coming through. The following is a slideshow of my licensed images (10 in total and some have been repeat licenses):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking for inspiration?

12 sales is a drop in the ocean and I know of photographers who only specialise in book covers and have 100s of sales. Some very talented photographers, who often give me inspiration, that I would recommend following on twitter include but not limited to:

Two new sales in July!

In early July, Arcangel notified me of two further sales (one was a repeat sale), which will be reflected in my earnings report later on this month…stay tuned for the exact amounts 🙂

5 Updated tips on selling book covers

I’ve been looking at some patterns of which ones have sold and why now that I have a relatively large sample. So here they are…

Tip number 1 –  Shoot more verticals (it’s statistically proven)

I mentioned this in my previous post but worth repeating and elaborating!

A total of 7 out of 10 of my sales were originally verticals, which suggests that contrary to ordinary stock where horizontals are better-sellers than verticals, in the book cover world designers really appreciate the extra top and bottom pixels to add the text(s).

The 3 sold horizontals were easily turned into verticals, such as the following original which sold recently. In this case, the designer chose to focus on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles graffiti, along with the concrete roof and floor.

Original as submitted

However, that small crop used led to perhaps some smaller resolution issues since the original horizontal was only 4142px × 2039px (~24 MB) to be begin with. The sale price was therefore smaller than average at 69.5 GBP or around USD 78 in today’s conversion.

Now, I submit both horizontal and vertical versions of the same image and let them decide but have uploaded far more landscapes (I just didn’t know for sure which sold more in the beginning). See the breakdown of dimensions below with useful status:

Orientation Number of images Percentage Sold as book cover
Landscape 438 54 3
Vertical 312 38 9
Square 64 13 0
Panoramic 1 <1 0

Tip number 2 – Add interesting people doing interesting things

So far I haven’t sold any images with people, which isn’t surprising at all considering that I don’t have so many images with people on sale at Arcangel! In fact, only about 60 out of the 815 accepted images have people.

This is something I’m trying to improve on since images with models, with strong concepts, are far more valuable to buyers in this genre. In my last article, I discussed about the girl in the red coat book cover concept / cliche.


Looking for models

Therefore, lately, I’ve worked hard to use models (which don’t require a model release as people aren’t so clearly identifiable) in my images and have the following 8 images accepted:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My goal is to soon shoot more identifiable models on a dedicated shoot (model-released). Also using period clothes/props (including that elusive red coat) and adding the required filter.

Selecting models is also something that’s quite easy-going. Unlike the world of fashion, models can be any shape, age, size…as long as they’re interesting within your defined concept! Could be that the fatter and uglier the better haha

Tip number 3 – Shoot locally!

The beauty of the book cover niche, as opposed to the bread and butter travel photography is that there’s plenty of material to shoot locally. In fact, in the above slide-show, all but one of the images were captured within 5km of my house in Portugal and one of them within 30km.

Since we’re not able / impossible to easily travel during the epidemic, shooting locally makes perfect sense, as well as a way to keep costs low. What to shoot that will sell is another matter…but you can quite easily start with interesting facades / alleyways, such as the following five recently accepted:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I mean it doesn’t even need to be “pretty”…such as the shooting a construction site:

Coming to a book cover near you….hopefully!

Tip number 4 – Play the long game, it’s worth it!

Selling book covers takes a long long long time and took me a good year and 300 images until I had my first sale…but suffice to say that it’s been well worth the journey, not only for financial gain but because it’s a lot more fun than shooting boring old stock.

Play the long game! (Also shot locally)

There’s something of a legacy aspect to book covers since these will be seen literally by millions of people who will have your image on their book cases for generations. As opposed to the micro-images which are used in a blog post (sometimes a stupid post) here and gone tomorrow, over and over.

As for financial gain, my average earnings for book covers currently stands at around net $200/sale, far superior to the 60cents/sales at the micros (and dropping at Shutterstock), although it’s a sort of apples and oranges-type comparison since there is fortunately little convergence.

cant afford
Sales at SS after June 2020…

Tip number 5 – Dig deep through your archives for potential images

One of the big pluses of book cover photography is that as long as an image has enough resolution and an interesting concept, the remaining technical aspects are not as important (other than enough copy space). In other words, some your blurry, grainy images from the past which are now gathering digital dust may now be suitable for book covers with enough intelligent post-processing.

These may also include images that were initially issued to microstock agencies and rejected for technical reasons, often nonsensical. Two recent examples of old images, with post-processing, captured on a friend’s old Go-Pro were recently and kindly donated to me, accepted at Arcangel, even if the resolution was lower than what they would have preferred (4800px at longest side).

Benagil Beach, Algarve, Portugal (3680px × 2760px (~29 MB))
Pedra da Gavea, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (3497px × 2623px (~26 MB))

Do you have any comments / questions?

Please comment below! Thanks for reading this post.

I’ll be back in  a few weeks with my July detailed earnings report.

Would appreciate if you could help me out!

Above and throughout the blog, as you can appreciate, I’ve given quite a bit of my time to help you make sense of this complicated stock industry and focus on making money. I’ve also given away earnings info on some of my best-sellers which will directly lead to those images reducing their value (how much is impossible to say).

If you feel that the information above and at other posts is useful and if you’re so included, kindly donate as much as you feel is reasonable by clicking on the following link below:

Donate Now!

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Portugal (fled Madrid to escape the brunt of this nasty Coronavirus), on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when things go back to normal (July??). I’ve devoted eight years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer (however, had recently go back into full-time office work to make ends meet, although been recently let go!). I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.

I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography


  1. Hi Alex, thanks for sharing statistics and suggestions: it’s quite rare to find a good and generous photographer that wants to distribute his secrets… You are doing it with your blog. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How did you get approved by them? I filled out their application form a while ago already, but I have not heard back from them. I am not sure whether that means I was not accepted, or whether it just takes a while or whether is it worth trying to re-apply with different samples? Wasn’t even sure I filled out the form correctly, because they had a few lines for smaples of my work with URLs that I used, but at the bottom it said I can e-mail them examples of my work, so that confused me.


  3. Thanks for the info Arcangel does sound interesting…… Am I right in that, once accepted as a contributor (if this does indeed happen), the first submission has to be 40 images? This seems quite daunting for a noob who wants to do more with their photos than “give them away” to Shutterstock and the other micros.


  4. Hi Alex, first of all, my respect for your great blog. I wonder if I can ask you a question.
    It’s not very easy for me to understand in Arcangel where to find my sold photographs. I know that I’ve sold several images (I’ve received emails on this), but I can’t find on the website where is possible to have statistics. Please, could you give me a suggestion on where to look for selling statistics?
    Thank you!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.