Making Sense of 95% Rejection Rate at Arcangel Images (Book Covers)

As I’ve received a flurry of rejections at Arcangel over the past month I’ve been desperately trying to find some patterns in order to improve my acceptance rate. After all, the more images accepted the more likely there are to have sales.

If you’re unfamiliar with Arcangel, they are a premium book-cover agency, a small and friendly agency that offer high prices and a welcome escape from submitting to ever-degenerating microstock agencies.

Recent sale to soften the rejections blows!

Speaking of potentially high-value sales, I recently spotted the following image used on a book cover (still not sure how much I’ll earn but I suspect will be many hundreds of Shutterstock subs). Putain!

Here’s the original image…

Visiting nearby “Pueblos” near Madrid

I’ve been taking advantage of the nice spring weather to visit nearby “pueblos” in the Madrid region. These are small historic towns dotted around Madrid (I much prefer being outside the big city centres). I was visiting small cities dotted around Milan when I lived there back in 2014-2016, although was more enjoyable on a bike!

Overlooking Lake Como, Italy

Here’s a map to give you an idea of where I’ve been exploring in and around Madrid:

Exploring the Madrid Triangle to capture book covers!

Fuck you, Covid!

I would love to venture outside Madrid and visit Toledo and Avila for instance but there are restrictions on non-essential travel outside the Madrid triangle. Anyway, there’s lots of see in the surrounding areas.

So every weekend or so I was visiting these towns and capturing stock images…with the primary goal to capture book covers because you all know that uploading to micros these days is probably a giant waste of time.

So many rejections at Arcangel! Why?

So back to the reason for this post…those damn rejections at Arcangel…just how many in the past month alone (since February 28, 2021)?

Images submittedAcceptedRejected% Rejected

Ouch, only 5% accepted! Really struggling to reach the 1,000 accepted images (currently at 997). Link to my port on there!

What makes for a strong book cover?

If you’re unfamiliar with the book cover market, I would suggest to read the following posts to understand what Arcangel are seeking and which types of images make for useful book covers:

7 tips on creating book covers

Tips on creating book covers

Latest Fine Art Book covers at Arcangel

Transitioning to Book Cover Photography

Pick the Lucky 7 Winners! 😀

So, let’s play a game and tell me if you can spot out of the following batches which 7 images have been accepted. Try to make a mental note.

Day-trip to El Pardo
Day-trip to Juan Carlos I Park
Day-trip to Manzanares el Real
Day-trip to Alcala de Henares

Not easy right, well here they are…

From the Pardo batch (5):

Juan Carlos I Park batch (1):

From the Manzanares el Real batch (1):


From the Alcala de Henares batch (1):

Lessons learned from a tough month

By now I have a pretty good idea about which types of images will be accepted and why but this month has thrown me a curve-ball and I’ve had to duly adapt to new standards. From the latest batch, I’ve come to the conclusion that:

  • Symmetry is most welcome – check out these amazing tree-lined paths!
  • Plenty of copy space is obligatory
  • All days I was out were super sunny with few clouds in the sky, perhaps they would prefer cloudier/more moody types of light…or just post-processing
  • Wide shots of castles will probably be rejected due to potential legal issues
  • Same with artwork, even if post-processed as a silhouette
  • There appears to be a limited market for doorways, windows and facades, unless captured extraordinarily
  • Planning ahead is important, where to visit, lighting conditions and benchmarking on what is already available on offer
  • Avoid uploading in black and white, just limits commercial value too much
  • Keep exploring the nearby regions for interesting subjects….

Its not all gone to waste

Well, even if there are so many rejections, some of the subject-matter (not similar to the ones accepted) can still be placed on micros to be licensed for peanuts.

How are you getting on with your book covers?

Please comment below, would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy to hear that J. Whyte sold his first image on Arcangel and vlogged about it here:

About Alex

I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Madrid, Spain, on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when things go back to normal (mid-2021??). 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). 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. I have been very discouraged with stock. Now, abandoned rural America for me doesn’t sell. However, a contrary trend, people running from big cities to the country because of covid and now being able to telework, might. If we find a way to photograph it.


    • Frustrating. Mind sharing a link to your port and perhaps we may give you some pointers? That’s a good concept, but I’m afraid it’s about a year old.

      Nowadays what would be trending are vaccines and inter generational reunions after many months/years. Also crypto trading.


      • Don’t worry, thanks for the offer. I’ve given it up, I now upload whatever from my photo walks, I don’t make a concerted effort anymore, to make it profitable . Shutterstock was the drop of water. How many photos of vaccines, cdc vaccination cards, will they need? Then, how many .10c sales, to make it worth it? But I sell consistently on Alamy and I am now working on my RM collection. If nothing else I end up with a collection of photos of unrepresented places and plants in their database…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello from Valencia! I am a landscaper and a microstock photographer, seriously for just over a year. Arcangel sent me an invitation to collaborate with them and I made a first upload of 6 images. None of them were accepted. That made me discouraged and I no longer upload images. I’m looking at portfolios to get an idea of what the most opportunities for acceptance are. Maybe mine were too processed.
    Thanks for your information


    • Hi from Madrid! As you’ve seen I uploaded just some 149 images in the past month and only 7 accepted…so if you’re trying to get just 6 it’s like playing a number in the roulette wheel and trying to win big.

      Try to upload at least 500 (perhaps within 6 months) and take it from there is my advice!


      • This sounds like a waste of time to make a sale of u$ 400? I’m coming to the conclusion that the best way to make $$ in this industry is to get a job and when I feel like spending money on anything, fold the bill back into my wallet, also pick up .10 c coins I find in the sidewalk, which I used to leave fir the homeless and beggars .

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, working with clients is much easier and better paid. Stock photography is never meant to be a full-time job but for the top 1% of contributors. It’s just a way to earn supplemental income for upgrade gear and travel, nothing more.

          Yes, the return per download is going down fast at SS! Not having a great month….Alamy will beat SS for the first time EVER in April! Stay tuned 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi thanks for the interesting post. Do you know if a collection gets rejected completely, can you upload that collection elsewhere or with another rights managed agency? I’m trying to understand if rights managed is just for the uploaded pictures or all works, rejected or not? Thanks


  4. Interesting article, Alex, thanks. A couple of questions: 1) Can you have people in images without model releases if they are not identifiable eg silhouette? 2) If an image hasn’t sold on Alamy and you delete it there – once it’s gone could it be uploaded to Arcangel? Cheers


  5. It’s impossible to predict if an image is accepted by Arcangel. I’m tired of the rejections also because my images can’t be used anywhere else. Another thing that puzzles me is their very short captions which often are misguiding or in worst case wrong …


  6. We have been rejected at stock book cover agencies (Arcangel and Trevillon) 3 times by now. I believe what they want is quarter-turned female figures in a long red dress. Truly disappointing that they are pretty narrow in their preferences. Still, I will simply shoot those stupid female figure fantasy shots and get accepted. Bet?


  7. A lot of people have been getting frustrated with such high rejection rates with Arcangel. I have been getting 100 percent rejection lately.
    Are you in the telegram group? We have been given information about what they are looking for and more guidance. Of course you can not publish such info but it can help you make more sense of whats happening.

    I fell very unmotivated by the last rejection tough.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am frustrated .I try to submit and work on my catalog everyday. I just spent the week submitting (its quite the chore because of bad wifi connection) and get my catalog up to 400 images .At first my acceptance rate was about 40 percent now it is terrible and I thought I was figuring it out. out of 50 images they chose one! I have only been submitting for a year and I am making a few sales so It is worth the effort but still..

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What I find frustrating is you see in the AA library lots of similar images from the same shoot from a photographer (its even lots more at Trevillion) and yet I submit maybe 6 images of the same model and they take one and reject all the others.

    When I look at the newest images on AA, most of them imo are absolutely terrible. You would never see them on a book cover and yet AA library is littered with them. I really don’t get it.


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