Using Stock Photos to Make Your Book Stand Out

by | Apr 9, 2012 | Book Marketing Basics, Social Media for Authors

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Guest post by Adria Saracino:

Finishing a book is hard work, so the last thing you want to hear at this point is that there’s still a lot of work to be done. You’re exhausted, you’ve pored over everything and you just want to get it out there – so imagine how miserable you’d feel if you sent it on its way only for it to be ignored by the big wide world.

The spine of the book is an important aspect i...

If you want people to notice your book, it’s got to look great. People do judge books by their covers (you’re probably even guilty of it yourself). Publishing houses spend a lot of money on the cover of a book, so how are you supposed to compete on a modest budget?

The answer is stock photos. Using stock photos in your design is an affordable way of creating a professional looking cover, something a lot of book publishers both big and small do. However, there are a lot of considerations if you plan on going this route. Here is a how-to guide to using royalty free images.

Cover Design

The look of your book says a lot about what’s going on inside. Do your research and find where your book should be placed in the market, try and figure out what works for bestsellers in a similar genre. Get inspired and learn from the big guys – after all, they’re the ones you’ll be competing with. The Book Designer: offers practical and easy to understand advice for those delving into book design for the first time.


Royalty free photos

“Royalty-free” is a type of stock photo license that will allow unlimited use of an image as long as you stick to the licensing terms: – more about these later. Most stock photo providers offer royalty free: and don’t require individual licenses. Images with these licenses are fine for eBooks, however they usually have clauses in the license which state a limit on the number of times you’re allowed to use them.

Royalty-free licenses can be extended in order to reduce the number of restrictions on usage. It’s best to purchase an extended license if you’re using an image for an eBook as it covers you if you sell more than the number defined by the standard license.

Licensing Terms

As mentioned previously, read these carefully. When you’ve gone to such trouble to design the perfect book cover, you don’t want to get into a legal battle over what you’ve done with the image. There are restrictions  on how you can use stock photos, and most of them you won’t be surprised by: Common sense prevails here – don’t use images in a fashion that could be construed to be pornographic, obscene, immoral, infringing, defamatory or libelous in any way.


International symbol for Copyright

International symbol for Copyright (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One final note – why stop at the book cover? If you purchase an extended license for your images, you’re free to use them for merchandising purposes which you may want to do if your book is successful. But remember, your success is down to you. These days self-promotion is paramount; creating a personal social media campaign could just give you the edge : Use stock photos or stock footage from sites like or on your personal website too and you could be well on your way to the bestsellers list!

Adria Saracino is a marketer, blogger, and occasional photographer. When not consulting businesses on content strategy, you can find her out with a camera shooting fashionable people on the streets of Seattle for her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.

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