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Finding models for your ebook cover images

Self-publishing means all the work is on you; not just writing the book, but marketing it too. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use a team to get the promotional images you need for your dynamic eBook cover. Let’s discuss finding models to represent your work.

What to look for in a model

The biggest misconception is that you simply have to find someone who’s attractive. That will work right up until the model moves in awkward ways and can’t capture the emotional space of your character.

Now if you’re not using their face, that may work. But most covers have a face, so…

Wait. “Emotional space?” you ask. You don’t want a model with a blank stare on your book cover. That works in fashion photography, as the clothes are the star — despite the whole supermodel phenomenal.

On your book cover and promo materials, you need that model to convey the mindset of your character. You want your potential reader looking at the cover wondering what that character is thinking. They’ll buy your book to find out.

A potential model hire has to have a portfolio, even if it’s posts to social media that aren’t family photos. You need to see what looks the model can do, how well they pose, and if their look will work for you. Search through a variety of looks per model; the better they can work as a chameleon, the better shot you have of getting them to capture the mood of your work.

Finding models – where to look

When we talked about photographers, I mentioned that you may get lucky and find an amateur who can pull you through. I’d recommend against that for a model. This person will make or break your efforts; best go with a professional.

Or, at the very least, an amateur working to become a professional.

If you have a photographer already, ask if they know any models that fit what your vision.

Home page for (finding models)

Home page for

Model Mayhem makes finding models very easy. It presents a great many models in all levels of experience. Even with those newer to the business, if they had the initiative to sign up on this site, they’re what you’re looking for.

Model Mayhem provides full details on the models in regards to height, weight and clothing size and whether they work for pay. It also provides portfolios for all the models. You can search by location, and then narrow that down to specifics like hair and/ or color or ethnicity.

If you want models to come to you, you can post a casting call. Pricing starts at $30 for a week and non-members can post.

Home page for (finding models)

Home page for is another good site. It’s really for actors, but that’s what you’re looking for anyway, and some actors moonlight as models. You’ll find the same detailed info about the actors here.

They also post info on various extracurricular skills they have. Need a martial artist? You might find a stunt person with skills here.

One caveat: DO NOT confuse “Backstage” with “Backpage.” You’ll find a completely different set of “actors” on

You’ve been warned.

Since we’re all geeks here, I’m also gonna throw out the idea of searching at your local comic book and anime conventions. Cosplayers are all over the place. They already like to dress up as various characters; why not have them dress up as yours?

True, this goes against the edict of finding a professional, but watch the cosplayer. They’re usually posing all the time, so they may just fit the bill. Plus, they’re costume designers, so they can help you in the wardrobe department.

Working the model’s deal

If you’re really lucky, you may get the model for free. Or maybe you can do what’s called “TFP” or “Time for Print.” This means that instead of paying the model, you provide them with either digital or print copies of the shoot for their portfolio.

That deal may work with cosplayers, new models or friends of friends, but odds are high that if you have a pro, you’re going to pay.

As with photographers, models work on a flat day/ half day rate or hourly with a minimum. I’ve found that $100-$200 for a half day is reasonable (at least in Florida!). Negotiate with your model. Explain your concept. You may get lucky and they like the concept so much they’ll work at a lower rate.

How you use the pictures could also affect the model’s rate. If it’s strictly promo work and book covers, that’s one thing. But if you’re putting their image on a t-shirt and selling the merchandise, you may have to either up the rate or cut the model in on the action.

The model will also need to know if you’re providing a makeup/ hair stylist and if they need to provide any wardrobe for the shoot. Most are fine with either, but the more they have to bring to the table the more their rate may (and should) go up.

Once you’ve worked out payment with the model, book your date for the shoot. Book an alternate day in case of, particularly if you’re planning for an outdoor shoot. And then, before you sign any contracts, figure out the legal stuff.

Since the legal stuff is fairly similar to the photographers, I’ll cover that in a separate post.

Click this link to go to the how to find a photographer or make-up artist posts.  This link will take you straight to the boring (but necessary) legal stuff.

Have questions? Comments? War stories? Post them in the comment section below or post to @Shadowdancesaga on Twitter.

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