My book cover photography story
Over the last 6 months especially I’ve had a lot of questions asking about my book cover photography story. How did I get into book cover photography etc etc.
So I’m here to tell my tale.
The day I was supposed to graduate university I hopped on a plane to Canada and basically spent a couple of weeks in the mountains instead. I needed to get away and university had killed my vibe. I had no idea what I wanted to do and most of my work was on Getty Images selling a little each month and that was the only thing keeping me going. But I felt VERY lost. I’m sure a lot of photography post grad students do.
So I was in Edmonton, in a library trying to find a map and timetable for the greyhound buses to get to Jasper. I walk in and my face was on a MASSIVE 7ft poster promoting this book ‘Girl Crazy’ by Russell Smith. I stopped dead in my tracks staring at my own face.
The image had sold through Getty and the statement hadn’t been released yet, don’t worry it was all legal.
The woman behind the counter was watching me and suddenly it clicked and she very excitedly asked if that was in fact me. I nodded and asked if they had a copy, she rummaged around and actually bless her heart, gave me a copy of the book to have. She took a photo with me too, which was utterly surreal.
On the bus I read the book, it was good, it was a decent book and I still read it from time to time. That was the first spark, my coals had had a little kindling put on them to keep them going. The ironic thing was, this book was only being sold in Canada at the time, it wasn’t a world wide release. I wouldn’t have gotten a copy or even seen it if I’d gone anywhere else.
Upon getting back I did fall VERY ill for a year and my focus wasn’t on photography.
The years to come I tried to do work I thought would be good for book covers (Oh my naive young self) and I had one or two after that but nothing significant, I still felt VERY lost. Everyone was urging I went to London to be a fashion photographer. I didn’t want to be in London and I didn’t feel I could fit in the fashion photography world at all, my work was inspired by Tim Walker, there was already a Tim Walker, it didn’t feel right to me; plus my work was a lot darker too. Inspired by blood and witches not fairytales per se.
After a couple of failing years a random interaction with a woman broke my whole world open. She asked if I was with the agencies I’m now with and I asked about them. Book cover photography specifically. WAIT, HOLD UP, THEY EXIST? I couldn’t believe it. I contacted one and he said they’d been watching my work for a while and would be absolutely delighted to have me on board and the other agency also wanted me and said they’d seen my work here and there too. 50% royalty rate compared to the 20% at getty seemed like an absolute dream and it was ALL rights managed which pulls in bigger money too.
I then took a massive risk.
Within a week I dropped my contract with Getty, pulled 99% of my work from there and started uploading to my new agencies instead. I knew the first couple of months would and could be rough money wise but it felt right. It felt like coming home. But the first month I made just under £1K with ONE SINGLE PHOTO (Neverhome by Laird Hunt). An image I took when I was 16 just trying out photography, a nothing special image to me. It was like a reassurance that I was in the right place. Finally. Don’t get me wrong I’ve had bad months along with good months, but those bad months are very occasional.
Being a book cover photographer is something I never thought was possible, but here I am. Living MY dream.
It’s tough, it’s ongoing, I never stop thinking about it and some bad months make me want to sell my camera and cry in a corner (dramatic much?) BUT nothing compares (for me) to walking into a local supermarket, Waterstones or even a billboard in a tube station and seeing my photo on a book.
I’ve done photography for Ray Ban, National Rail and many many other big name brands and it has never come close to the little spark of magic I get from seeing my work on books. I have a special relationship with books, being part of that authors story is irreplaceable for me.
I made a ton of mistakes when starting my book cover photography journey so I created an online video course covering every single aspect of book cover photography so people can avoid the mistakes I made, check it out.