I was answering a question posted by a Facebook friend about where to find free royalty-free images, and while perusing my blog for another article, I found several comments on that article that somehow I had missed.

One of the comments was a great question: “I read somewhere yesterday that just because an image is ‘royalty free’ does not mean that it has unlimited use and most cannot be used on a poster or a book that will be sold. Can you explain this?”

If you’re using the image to sell a product, such as a mug with only that picture on it or a poster made of just the picture and a tiny bit of text, you’re really selling the picture, not the product. In that case almost all “royalty free” sites have an “extended license” you can purchase to allow you to use it for products like that.

Books are different than POD (print-on-demand) products. While books CAN be printed with POD technology, they’re not considered POD products. While the image enhances the book cover, usually it’s the author’s name, book title, and what the book is about that sells the book – not the image itself.

Therefore royalty-free images are used on book covers a lot, and it’s perfectly fine.


Are you looking for a professional e-book cover design without the cost or time of a professional designer? Check out all the awesome book cover design resources and courses in The Book Ninja Academy!

Kristen Joy

Kristen Joy

Kristen Joy Laidig is the founder of The Book Ninja. She has authored over 40 books, started over 50 publishing companies, trained over 10,000 authors worldwide, has her black belt in karate, and eats way too much chocolate. She currently changes lives through her students… one published message at a time, manages her two retail stores Toy Box Gifts & Wonder® and Nerdvana Outpost in the heart of her newfound hometown, Chambersburg, PA, is in the start-up phase of at least three new businesses at any given time, and generally causes anyone reading this bio to be out of breath. On her “off” time (what’s that?) she brainstorms business ideas with her awesome husband, the great Public Domain Expert himself, Tony Laidig, and hangs out with her two ragdoll kitties. She’s even been known to sleep... occasionally.

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