Since launching Damonza in 2012, my aim has always been to increase the quality of the book covers we offer our authors. This goal has seen us continually expand our cover design toolkit over the years.
We’ve always used digital tools to edit and manipulate illustrations, photographs, fonts and other design elements. We don’t paint our covers or draw them with pencils, but we may use a Photoshop filter to recreate these effects. That’s simply how the art of cover design works.
Initially I was quite concerned that AI image generators – Midjourney, Stable Diffusion, DALL-E 2 – would make my team and I redundant. Simply tell a tool to design you a book cover, and hey presto, it’s done.
But cover design is so much more than the generation of a nice image. As I began to play around with generative AI tools, it became clear that they are simply processors that carry out your instructions. You need to know what you want, and you need to know what to tell the tool for it to generate what you want.
Ultimately generative AI is just that: another tool, albeit a game-changing one. Digital artists didn’t replace traditional artists. Photoshop didn’t replace cover designers, it helped them. Generative AI is simply an advanced and very impressive version of Photoshop. Quite literally, as
Photoshop now includes a generative AI feature: if I want to add a flamingo to an image, you can now highlight the area and prompt it to do so.
Major stock image websites like Shutterstock already include AI images as part of their libraries and allow you to generate images yourself. Canva, a website that thousands of authors use to design their own book covers (generally with average results), now lets authors generate AI imagery. AI-generated elements are already part of thousands of book covers. You’ve already seen them, and you may have already bought one.
In short, the genie is out of the bottle. There’s no going back. How, then, do we move forward?
The ethics of AI-generated images
When these tools were first released I felt that I understood some of the criticism about the use of copyrighted images to train AI. But the more I considered that criticism, the less I agreed with it. And I’m not alone.
At Damonza we have designed over 10,000 book covers. I’m sure almost all of them have been used to train these AI models. Prior to AI, I’m certain our cover designs have inspired other cover designs from different designers. Many of our covers are distinctly ‘Damonza’ in style, and style can be replicated. But you can’t copyright style, nor should you be able to. If Pablo Picasso was able to copyright cubism, we would’ve been denied the work of Georges Braque, Fernand Leger, Juan Gris, Marcel Duchamp, Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger.
(FYI: you can’t copyright book covers made with stock photo elements anyway.)
I learned the art of book cover design by studying different styles. AI works the same way. It learns the underlying patterns and techniques, then uses these rules to create entirely new pieces of art. It just does it much faster than a human can.
At the beginning of our design process, many authors provide us with examples of book covers that they love, which serve as inspiration. The authors and cover designers haven’t given us permission for their book to be used in this way. So is this immoral? Unethical? A dog act?
I’d argue no. Our cover will never be a copy of their cover, nor pretend to be anything other than the cover of the book for which it was designed. This is just how art works – taking the old to make something new.
The same applies to generative AI images. AI can’t copy art. In fact, it can’t even copy itself, as identical prompts deliver different results. Everything it creates is new.
Like all tools, Generative AI is only ever as ethical as its user. People can use Photoshop to create fake images that they pass off as real. People can use a scanner to forge official documentation. Generative AI can be used for nefarious purposes too.
But at Damonza we’re committed to doing it the right way. All AI-generated imagery is created with a commercial licence for use on a book cover. We then combine generated images with stock images and/or text to create a design that does what it’s supposed to do: sell the book. We never prompt with a specific artist’s style or work.
We can now make your cover dreams come true
Using only stock photos, as we have previously done at Damonza, is limiting in a number of ways: databases can lack representation, usable materials for historical periods can be difficult to find, and available images for genres like sci-fi and fantasy don’t often align with an author’s vision.Often the same element will be used over and over again on different covers, often in the same genre, so your design may not be as unique as you would like it to be.
Covers with AI-generated elements are guaranteed to be completely unique. They can also make the impossible possible, giving life to things that have never existed before. By producing a truly one of one generative AI image (that comes with a commercial licence), your book gets a truly bespoke, truly stunning cover.
Where once we were limited to stock elements, we now have literally infinite options. We’ve been able to eliminate our ‘character creation’ fee because AI has made it possible to create a character that doesn’t already exist.
"Where once we were limited to stock elements, we now have literally infinite options."
At Damonza we see generative AI as another tool in our toolbox – one that makes us better at what we do, and that ensures your book is wrapped in the cover it deserves.
And when generative AI is used – and it isn’t every time – it is under the following strict conditions:
– Only separate elements are generated, never the full cover.
– AI elements are combined with traditionally licensed royalty-free stock photos and/or text.
– No real people or artists are used as part of the prompts.
– All AI images are generated privately – they are not accessible to anyone else.
– All AI images are created with a commercial licence for use on book covers.
Note that our order forms now have an opt-out checkbox for AI images, but with the integration of AI within the software itself, this ‘zero generative AI’ policy may be difficult to implement into the future.
Want to learn more about generative AI and how we’re using it at Damoza? You can read our take on the subject in the articles below:
What now? The Legal and Ethical Use of AI in Book Cover Design
AI in Design: Just Another Tool in a Cover Designer’s Toolkit
Addressing Concerns: Understanding and Overcoming Hesitation About AI in Book Cover Design
Boosting Creativity: How AI Enhances Book Cover Design
If you’re interested in the viewpoints of other designers, minus the hot takes and hyperbole, I strongly recommend you look at this article by another experienced designer, James of GoOnWrite.com.
More of an audiophile? This podcast, featuring New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Joanna Penn, is worth a listen. Penn is also Enterprise advisor for the Alliance of Independent Authors, with whom we are a partner member.
I’m also more than happy to answer any questions, so you’re welcome to email me at any time.