With the rise of self-publishing we've also seen the rise of pre-made ebook cover suppliers.
I'll be honest – these pre-made cover sites make me cringe. And they're putting hardworking artists and designers out of work. A quick search will bring you up with an overwhelming number of cheap ebook cover sites to choose from.
But if I were writing a book, I would want a cover made with my story in mind.
Just browsing these sites, it soon becomes clear just how samey many of the covers are; dreamy montages of stock images and typography which looks like anything from the current list of Amazon bestsellers. And you can often spot them a mile off.
Granted, some of these suppliers use their own illustrators or 3D renderings for the covers, and in that case you do at least have a unique piece of work in one sense. But the majority of these sites sell book covers made up of stock image montages, because stock or Royalty Free (RF) images are high quality, cheap to purchase and also quick and easy to work with. You do see some excellent covers, but an equal number of awful ones, and its nearly always down to the execution than the actual image.
The use of RF imagery on covers can be a tricky one – that's exactly the sort of thing these images are intended for, and it is a perfect solution to many covers, particularly when used creatively. But this does mean that anybody else could use the same image on their cover (albeit in another context), and there's nothing you can do about it. With that in mind, it all comes down to the designer's execution and any treatments used on the images – and it is those things which make it stand out.
There are many big-name authors, whose covers are often very well put together stock image affairs (with the suppliers usually credited on the back). The obvious difference here is that a designer has clearly spent a lot of time working up designs for the publisher and marketing teams and striving to get the right cover. It's also highly likely that they've actually read the book, too.
So my concern is not at all with the use of stock imagery, but the one-size-fits-all approach many of these pre-made cover sites take, and the astounding assumption that an author, who has slaved tirelessly on their book for years, will be quite content with a £30 off-the-shelf style cover. This is simply discrediting to the author.
Put two creative people together and you get a synergy, and there's nothing more rewarding than the fruits of a brainstorm between an author or publisher and a cover artist. Why cut that out of the process?
The perfect cover will come out of those discussions. You want your cover artist or designer to care about your book as much as you do, and it is through that process (which also includes visuals, different options and revisions), that your book gets the cover it deserves.
The bottom line is, you get what you pay for.
And your cover should be as unique and individual as your book.