More than once I was asked what is the "formula“, if one exist, to be successful in this kind of professional activity: the production and licensing of images for the book covers market. My answer is for practical reason best summarized in these five (six) points:
Send images regularly, at least once a month is the bare minimum, better still should be to deliver small batches weekly, that is in fact what I try to do myself. Many photographers, not used to stock photography and to work with agencies, think is enough to send some images once and sit in wait, to commit seriously only after some licensing. Wrong tactic!
Do not think to start earning money from the very beginning, it is necessary to built a consistent portfolio of very good pictures and in a decent number, to get some licensing. In stock photography patience is of the essence. Believe me, nobody has never had success in this way. You need to be patient and persistent with regular production of new images.
Concentrate on one or two specific genre and you will get more results (I wish I had known this from the start!), because specialization is very important. Allows you to get more focus and gain quickly experience. Moreover, you should choose a subject for which you feel you are naturally inclined. Study the catalogues of publishers and see what genre looks more for you. Personally I was attracted by thrillers and crime. As an avid reader of these kind of novels I was naturally inclined to create images for that kind of books. Another genre is the literary fiction, where I could explore my more poetic/surreal inclination.
Analyze and study the market, so go into bookstores or online stores (Amazon for example) and look at book covers for the genre you are more interested in. Collect data and try to extrapolate if there are any kind of trends in book covers for that genre you want to do. Also, you should adhere to the kind of pictures that are expected to be on covers for that kind of genre. For example, a crime/thriller book cover will have often some blood, guns, weapons, figures running, dead person, broken objects and so on.
Work hard every day, try to know the book covers market, improve your skills with Photoshop, try to use the social media to promote yourself and your work, never give up especially in the first two years, when you will be building your portfolio. It is essential also to be constant and resilient, never give up also if licensing is not happening at once or in amount lesser than you expected. Time will eventually reward the hard work.
One last extra-tip. Try to be objective and review your work constantly, because I have learned on myself that to remain in the so called „comfort zone“ in the long term is not a good thing. Change your style, improve, do new things and explore new subjects.
Here you can see two examples from my portfolio of images for Thrillers and Crime book covers
and here another two images for book covers for the Literary genre
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