6 Reasons Why Authors Should Pay for their Stock-Photography even if they have someone else design their Book Covers

I’m sure someone will read this article and think “She’s so untrusting of people,” for which I’m going to say, “You bet your ass I am!” and then blame it on my teenage life when I thought that I wanted to be a forensics scientist or a behavioral analyst. I’m also going to blame my untrusting nature on all the scammers out there who decided that it was easier to steal from hopeful authors who just want to make their dreams come true and can be just a little too trusting of others.

Now, let me tell you why I think authors should pay for their own Stock-Photography even if they have someone else design their book cover. As an Indie Author and Publisher, you are a business person who wanted to control every part of the publishing process, you should also want the protection that purchasing an image license provides you. There are several reasons I suggest that you purchase the license for the image or images that will be used in your cover design:

  1. Licenses are not transferrable. You need to make sure that you have the right to use the photos.
  2. You can’t be sure that the designer got the right license for your project. There are limits to every license. Some only cover the sale of 250,000 items. Others may be unlimited for certain things, limited on others, or not to be used on others. If you overstep those limits, it is you who will pay, not the designer. Read the fine print when purchasing a stock photo and make sure you buy the one that covers your intended use of that photo.
  3. You can’t be certain the designer attributed the purchase to you. Now hopefully a reputable cover designer won’t do this to you, but there are those who are careless or willing to scam others to make a quick buck thinking no one will find out. What if the cover designer you hired doesn’t attribute the purchase of an image to you, and someone comes to you looking for proof of license. What if your cover designer won’t give you that proof. You could be liable for thousands of dollars.
  4. When you purchase the images you have the proof of purchase, so if someone comes to you wanting compensation for you using the image you have the proof that you legally purchased the license from a reputable website and have the right to use the images according to the stock provider’s terms of use. Why can’t I give you this proof of purchase, because it would have my company name on it and what happens if I go out of business or cannot be reached for verification? Or, heaven forbid, I do something stupid and the stock provider kicks me off their website and revokes my right to use any of the images I purchased? Icky thought.
  5. There may come a time when you need an extended license, for example the creation of merchandise, exceeding the printing amount, etc., and you might not have the option of going to the designer because they’ve gone out of business, cannot be reached, etc. With an account you can manage this yourself and purchase the correct license for what you are doing.
  6. Lastly, I ask my clients to purchase their own image(s) for their book covers because I don’t want to be libel for any violations of the license agreement once the cover design is complete. Please be aware of what the license allows you to do with each image.

If you fail to purchase the photos and secure the proper proof of license, you will potentially be hearing from the stock-photo company with an invoice for your unauthorized use of the image. Some of these companies are very aggressive about this. It will be a LOT more expensive than $5-$50 you might have paid for the proper license to begin with.

So now that my reasoning is out of the way and if you chose to purchase your own stock-imagery, please make sure to read the licensing agreements to the stock provider’s website carefully. The standard licence covers most book cover usages, but there are limitations to what you can and can’t do with the images.

Stock-Photography Resources

I use dreamstime.com, however I’ve listed some reputable stock resources for you. I assume no responsibility for information that is out of date or for the usage of your book image in compliance with any of these guidelines.

The image sources I work with are easy to purchase from, just like using eBay or Amazon, and most images are between $2.49 and $20.00. So if you are asked to purchase the agreed-upon image, follow the appropriate link below. Read the standard license first and purchase the image, sending it in an email back to the designer.

Stock Image License Agreements

Fotolia.com – Standard Licence
Fotolia.com – Extended Licence.
Depositphotos.com – Standard Licence
Depositphotos.com – Extended Licence

Why would you need an Extended License?

All image licenses have limits of how many print runs you can make with the image and how you can use the image. If you plan on printing more than 500,000 copies of your book or if you plan to use the image on merchandise for sale (e.g., mugs, t-shirts, etc.), go with an extended licence.

Most sources are royalty free, which means that for a one-time-only fee, you can use the purchased image wherever you like within the confines of the license and never pay another penny. However, some sources like Depositphotos require a standard licence for each use of the image, such as on bookmarks, a website, or business cards.

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