15 Royalty-Free Stock Image Sites to Source a Book Cover Picture

royalty-free stock image sites

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a common phrase because a majority of people make up their minds about a book on the basis of the cover. One could also dare to say that humans are visual creatures. We are easily swayed by what is appealing to our eyes. All these statements are here to highlight how important your book cover and the image that comes along with it is. “A picture is worth a thousand words” and you have to choose the right one to get people to read your thousand and more words. Through the course of this blog, we will look at 15 plausible royalty-free stock image sites that could help you find the perfect image for your book. Before we dive into the listicle part of this blog let’s take a brief look at:

What are royalty-free stock images and why is it a good idea?

A stock image can be described as professional images that are available for purchase for usage rights. The owner of the image still holds the ownership rights over the image, however, one can become a license holder for the same image and use it according to usage terms and conditions. A royalty-free stock image is one that doesn’t ask the license holder to pay the owner a percentage of their future earnings. In such a scenario an author is not required to pay royalties to the image owner. Royalty-free stock images work on a one-time payment if not free. It’s important to note that usage rights vary from site to site. It is very crucial that you read the fine print before your purchase. Every licensed image has its own set of terms and conditions. For example, some of these stock images will be free of cost for digital usage. However, the same may not be permissible for hard copies of the image. Similarly, many sites or images have alteration difficulties. Even adding your title to the image can be considered as alteration and you could get sued for the same. It is extremely critical that you read the fine print thoroughly and check the legitimacy of the site before making the purchase. 

Royalty-free stock images are a great idea for authors who don’t have (or want) a generous budget to spend on their book covers. Getting a stock image would substantially reduce your designing cost, even if you get a professional designer. Additionally, stock images look professional and are aesthetically pleasing. The right kind of image would help your book stand out. Stock images could also inspire you towards coming up with a design of your own. One can always merge and create something specific to their taste. Most royalty-free stock image sites come with tags, genres and mood boards. This allows the author to gain clarity on the kind of tone they are setting for the book. 

Here are 15 Royalty-free stock image sites that could help in bringing your book to life:

1. iStock 

iStock provides a large pool of images that are categorised into different trending topics and utilities. The site also offers illustrations, videos and the option to make your own board where you can save images and video clips. The site presents the user with 3 types of pricing packs. You can choose between, Credit, Month-to-Month, or Annual plans. An image could cost anywhere between Rs.345 to Rs.110. 

2. Pixabay  

Pixabay is one of the most popular sites for royalty-free stock images out there. The site holds a collection of over 1.9 million stock images, videos and music. According to the website “all contents are released under the Pixabay License, which makes them safe to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist – even for commercial purposes.” 

3. 123RF 

123RF provides the user with over 100 million royalty-free stock image options. They have more than 60 categories on their website. Their clients include the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. The website offers both credit plans and subscription plans. You can get an image for as low as Rs.36. 

4. Shutterstock

Shutterstock is another name that is very popular when it comes to stock images. The site offers a free trial with 10 free images. Shutterstock also provides the user with template options. The site has subscription plans as well as on-demand plans. An image costs approximately $5. According to the website, one can “access over 350 million images with 1,26,000 new images added every day.” 

5. The Stock Alchemist 

Regina Wamba, the creator of The Stock Alchemist, made the site to “bridge the gap of diversity in books.” The website intends to do the same “by creating access to images that are diverse.” The website has a limited resource as compared to other sites but features inclusivity in its content. A stock image can cost $25 that allows unlimited digital impressions and up to 250,000 print copies.

6. Pexels 

Pexels offer a wide range of images that are aesthetically on-point contributed by various artists around the world. All photos and videos on Pexels can be “downloaded and used for free” according to their site. The site also allows a user to upload their own work or become a member. The artists on the website are well-versed with tagging their photos which makes it easier for a user to find what they are looking for. 

7. Unsplash 

Unsplash is another site that’s again super popular owing to their free high-resolution images. They offer a collection of over 2 million images contributed by photographers around the world. The website has several topics making it easier for the user to navigate through the images. 

8. Canva 

Canva is super popular amongst designers and students. The site primarily offers templates for different projects from social media posts to work resumes. Fortunately, Canva also provides a wide range of free images and high-resolution images for licensing. Canva is also recommended for indie authors who want to learn a bit more about templates and designs at the beginner level. 

9. Dreamstime 

Dreamstime offers a collection of over 100 million images. The website provides the user with the option to download free images and license images. The site specifies that it only allows a person usage and not ownership. The website also has blogged on different topics pertaining to photography and images. An image could cost approximately $10 depending on the fine print. 

10. Arcangel 

Arcangel was created in 2004 that provides the user with exclusive creative stock images. The site offers a collection of over 300,000 images with the list being constantly updated. Arcangel is also good with book cover images specifically. They showcase a wide range of images for the same under different book themes. 

11. Getty Images 

Getty Images have been in business for over 25 years and is seen as a credible source for images. The website is also sensitive towards world affairs and contributes towards change like the Black Lives Matter moment. Getty also allows the user to make boards to save their images and footage. The images are more on the pricier side with one picture ranging from anywhere between Rs 7,000 to Rs 23,000. 

12. Rawpixel 

Rawpixel is a website that is motivated towards “smashing stereotypes to create design resources that reflect today’s society as it is.” The site offers a wide range of diverse images. Rawpixel has also partnered with ‘hope for children’ to help children around the world. The website provides the user with free images as well as premium plans that cost money. Even the premium plans are budget-friendly with $3/month to access all pictures for personal use. 

13. Stockvault 

Stockvault provides the user with free stock photos along with ready-to-use web layouts and logos. The site is committed to helping authors who can’t afford royalty-free agencies. The site offers over 130,000 images that are updated every week. 

14. Bigstock 

Bigstock offers over 104 million royalty-free stock photographs and illustrations curated for various topics. Bigstock is budget-friendly with plans for $79/month that provides 5 images per day. The website also offers a free trial with free images and videos. The site also features different topics and trending keywords making it easier for a user to navigate through the images. 

15. The Image Apothecary 

The Image Apothecary provides marketing images exclusively for books, brands and businesses. The website offers a wide range of “stylized stock photos that are ready to use and compatible on all social media platforms.” An image could cost $12 on average. 

Some important notes to keep in mind

Having the perfect image for your cover could be very instrumental in marketing your book. It is important to take your time selecting the perfect image. It is advisable to consult your designer while choosing an image for some professional guidance. It is also encouraged to add your own touch to the sourced image. It is important to note that with so many sites providing free images one must thoroughly check and avoid generic images that are used at other places. If your book cover image resembles another it may take away from the traction. Google image search is one way to avoid using an image that has already been used. 

Another crucial thing that an author must take care of is not to get carried away with “free” images. One should still read the terms and conditions before taking an image. Additionally, the legitimacy of the site must be verified. Either consult a professional or read online reviews to conclude the same. As quoted before, “a picture is worth a thousand words” but you don’t necessarily make a dent in your pocket for the same. Be patient and cautious, the right image will come to you!


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