Selling photography for book covers

This is not a paid article. It is my personal experience which I share to answer the many questions I received, lately, about what I did to sell my work for book covers.)

Monica Lazar

When I discovered photography, I didn’t know exactly where this will get me. At first, I thought I wanted a food blog, however, I discovered quickly that it was not food I liked to write about, it was creating an image, photographing the final product, working with light, colors and textures, in order to create a moody scene, I loved most. I studied food photography almost two years. I learned many things, but at one point, I felt limited. You can’t make lots of changes in post-processing when working with food.

One day, some friends asked me to take some pictures of their children. I was scared to try something new, but I accepted the challenge and I immediately fell in love with it. It was so different. I instantly knew that this is what I need, in order to learn more and evolve.

I sold all my food photography props, and I started shooting portraits. First year, I took photos of friends and family. Then I started booking clients. I tried to set up a business, thinking that family portraits are what I was going for. I liked photographing people, but when it came to delivering the final product, I felt so limited. I couldn’t deliver the product I wanted. I tried to give people high quality fine art portraits, but this meant they would receive only a few images. In my country, clients expect to get hundreds of photos from a photography session. Even if I knew the pictures I deliver are unique, I felt that people are not educated to value quality over quantity. So, I gave up. I decided that if I sacrifice my free time for something I love, it will be on my own terms. No compromises.

I photographed friends for a while, so I could improve my skills in Photoshop. I still didn’t feel that I found a way to create I was comfortable with. I could not afford to work with professional models. Even if I had, traveling with a model would complicate the whole situation. It wouldn’t have been as easy as working with models in a studio.

One day, I found a beautiful dress in a second-hand shop. The next day I was going to travel to my grandparent’s village, situated in a beautiful place, with an amazing landscape, so I took the camera with me. I planned to take some self-portraits with the dress I bought.
I couldn’t use a tripod, so I asked someone to just press the button after I made all the necessary settings. It felt so amazing to have control over everything I wanted to create. I knew exactly what I wanted to express, what story I wanted to tell, what atmosphere I wanted to create. I discovered my way to create, a way that fitted my personality and my resources.
Doing self-portraits gave me the freedom to do what I want in post-processing. I didn’t need to ask myself anymore if the one I photographed will love the picture or not. I only had to count on myself.

Monica Lazar

From that moment on, I edited almost every day, for a year. I tried to shoot at least one new series every month. I took about 500-700 images, from which I edited 7-10 final images. Out of 10, only one or two were the stars of the series. I ended up having a considerable amount of work, but nothing practical to do with it. To be able to invest further into this, I needed to monetize my passion.

Creative stock agencies

I needed to reach something that would let me create my own way, in my own rhythm. While searching, I found out about book cover industry. It was a perfect fit for me. Not long after, I came across Arcangel and Trevillion, the best creative stock agencies.

Arcangel specializes in creative, conceptual imagery. They have a category for images made with smart phones, and a vintage collection. Similar to Arcangel in terms of theme and content, Trevillion has a much smaller and more exclusive collection.

My first choice would have been Trevillion, but at that moment, I didn’t meet the criteria, so I sent my work to Arcangel. They contacted me the same day, I signed the contract, and that was it. Communicating with the Arcangel team was great from the beginning. The upload process was really easy, and now they made it even more efficient.

I uploaded my first photos in April 2015 and I sold my first book covers after 6 months. I knew from the beginning that, how much I will sell, will depend on how much I upload. Since then, I sell regularly, even if I upload a really small number of images every month.
Last summer, the Trevillion team contacted me and asked me to become a contributor. It was the biggest compliment I could receive. I accepted, so now, I sell my images with them too.
The Trevillion team is also great to work with. The only inconvenience about working with two agencies is that the amount of work you should upload doubles, because both agencies ask for exclusivity.

The third alternative I discovered was ImageBrief. I haven’t sold any covers with this agency, still, I think it is a great choice for flexible photographers that are used to shoot images following a client brief.
ImageBrief is a platform where direct connections are made between professional photo buyers and photographers. You will receive image requests delivered straight to your inboxes, and you can create the requested image meeting a deadline. Then you will upload your work and wait to be short-listed. You will know from the start about the payment and how the image will be used. When working with agencies as Arcangel and Trevillion, they will contact you only after a sale was made, informing you about the payment and the images that had been sold. The payment is made the same day you receive the notification.

Selling photography for book covers, suited perfectly my personality and my way of working. The patience and the fact that I didn’t give up the pressure when everybody told me that I won’t be able to gain from photography without doing compromises, are the things, I consider, helped me the most in this process, and this is exactly what I would advise anyone who is starting in this field.

Have patience and don’t make concessions!

Monica Lazar