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How to Get Your Photo on a Book Cover and Make Money as a Photographer

How to Get Your Photo on a Book Cover

Recently, a French book was published with my photo on the cover. Seeing the book was exhilarating. And motivating. Getting featured in magazines, books, blogs, etc., (and getting paid for it) are all very attainable goals. And I’m here to tell you how to do it. Getting published on a book cover is valuable for your brand and it’s a great way to earn money. But where to start…

Books were a major part of my life even before I started shooting. So when I became a photographer, I already understood the importance of book covers and I remembered how important they were to me as a reader. Though I never directly judged a book by its cover, its design served as a first impression, and greatly determined whether I would pick up the book or pass by it on the shelf. When I became a stock photo contributor, I learned even more about the importance of styles, themes, and subjects in the literary and photography worlds. Being aware of the type of photography that’s needed in the publishing world, and knowing which communities to join, will help open the door to literary photography.

Find Out What Publishers are Looking For

The literary world is an ever-changing system; storytelling techniques evolve as quickly as the need for fresh, striking photographs. Being aware of what’s going on in the world at the moment, and getting updates from stock photo communities, will give you a better idea of what publishers need.

Examples of themes that are popular right now:

  • poverty
  • family secrets
  • remembering the past
  • everyday life
  • healing
  • self-discovery
  • running away to a better life

In addition to familiarizing yourself with such themes, research your favorite books. Which parts of the cover instantly catch your eye? Take note of colors, clothing, design, and emotion. Experiment with all of these things: take faceless portraits of people in medieval dresses, create a dramatic black & white portrait, or photograph a lonely silhouette against a burst of city lights. Most importantly, remember to tell a story.

Join a Community that Values Your Skills

Carefully research stock photo agencies. Make sure you’re happy with what they offer; a stock agency like Almay offers artists 60% of each sale, while Fotolia offers 30-61%. Some websites offer more if you make your content exclusive on their website. But for every site, make sure you read the terms. Thorough research and comparisons will help you find the best possible agency for you.


If you visit Goodreads, a pleasant book community of avid readers, you’ll notice a consistent visual pattern in recent publications: creative, faceless photos or simple (albeit effective) portraits. Keeping these themes in mind while shooting will enable you to think more creatively and to find new ideas outside of your artistic comfort zone. The results could be potential book covers and great additions to your portfolio.

If you’re a landscape photographer, add a few closeups to your portfolio. If you focus on portraits only, try photographing animals. This diversity will enhance your collection of stock photos and will provide you with a greater chance of selling your images. Stock agencies love diversity and a wide range of skills, so take risks.

Photograph and Upload Fearlessly

The more you upload, the better. However, don’t jeopardize the quality of your images just to have hundreds of photos in your collection. Be consistent and creative, remembering to post as often as you can without abandoning your unique style. Document spontaneous moments during any shoot, even if you’re not photographing for a stock agency. It’s the unexpected and joyful moments that end up becoming memorable shots, so make sure you keep your eyes and mind open at all times. Also, don’t be afraid to get out of your own way to focus on a shoot that may or may not fail. With time, you’ll lose the gripping fear of failing at an experiment and will instead embrace the unknown.

Moving Forward

As I sit here with the knowledge that my photo is on covers in French bookstores, I feel a sense of pride, along with a deep-seated need to create more. This isn’t due to greed. Instead, it stems from a love of literature, art, and the distant worlds that make ours such a beautiful place.

When I first started photographing, I lacked both experience and confidence. But what I soon came to understand was that what mattered more was an openness to expanding my skill set and repertoire; tenacity to keep learning and producing, even when I felt stuck; and clear goals, like having my work featured on a book cover. Experience and confidence then just slowly happened. They were things that came with time, hardship, and success. As the old cliche goes, life’s a journey, not a destination.

So go, create. And one day you, too, may enter a bookstore and discover your image adorning a universe of words. And when you do, don’t stop there.

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