With most activities there is a problem of “expert blind spots”. The idea is that once you start understanding a domain of knowledge, you forget what other people don’t know. When you talk about it, you assume a background similar to your own – other experts. USUALLY, it would be reasonable to listen to the top experts in a field. When you’re trying to learn the fundamentals, expert blind spots can lead to the situation where another learner or someone who isn’t a master can better relate basic information to you.
This post, and my other self-publishing posts, comes from this place. I don’t feel anywhere close to a master. However, there are things that I’ve figured out that experts don’t seem to be highlighting that I feel may be worthwhile to point out.
One of the early ideas with covers on your book is that they’re massively important. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is wrong, wrong, WRONG. In many ways, an attractive cover that gets buyers to consider your book, wherever they’re buying it from, is the most important marketing you’ll do.
Many experts follow this up by chastising new authors for cheaping out on their covers. Experts suggest that, whatever that expert’s approach to covers is, that’s the only way to do it. I strongly disagree. When you’re putting out your first books, it’s reasonable to control costs everywhere you can and what might make sense for an author who is making thousands (or 10’s of thousands) of dollars a year doesn’t make sense for a new author who might make less than $100.
If you’re trying to massively reduce your costs, Amazon has a cover creator that can be used to make a workable design. It will be ugly and obvious to everyone that it was made for free through a software program, but it gives you a cover and the price is right! I first put out “Sunday Game Sessions” after posting it as a web serial and I intended mostly just to understand how Amazon and KDP worked. I was hopeful that I might sell a few copies or get paid for some KDP reads, but neither happened. It didn’t sell a single copy and only one person ever looked at it on KDP and they gave up after a few pages.
Another free option is to play around with an image editing program, such as Photoshop, GIMP, or Canva. After you’ve created an appropriate image, you can use this in place of the automatically created version. There’s a skill to graphic design, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll naturally produce anything pleasing. This gives you a cover but, as above, it’ll be an ugly one that will hurt sales. When you’re first getting going, this might be a reasonable compromise.
My wife and I both tried making a cover this way and nothing came out as usable.
Having tried the free options, the first cheap option that might present itself is “pre-made covers”. If you google the term and the genre of your book, you’ll find a ton of options where graphic designers have made a cover, with images and whatnot, that has “Book Title Placed Here” and “Author Name” on it (or some similar variation).
Prices range from $40 to $200 for these and, after you’ve bought it, they will swap your book’s title and author name and send you the image. The default image is sufficient for an e-book, but you can pay extra to get a wrap around image for a print book, extra wings for a hardcover dust jacket, images for an audiobook and all sorts of marketing material. I was considering using the “Fear of the Dark” premade cover for my book Merchant Magician. It was for sale for $50 when I was considering it. Beyond changing the text, they will often want to know the “trim size” for a print book to scale the image properly.
I mentioned that I was planning to buy a pre-made cover to an author friend, and she told me that she gets her covers custom made on fiverr (affiliate link) for less than what a pre-made cover costs. I dug through the various sellers and eventually bought a cover for $43.75. I had to describe the cover I wanted created and pick out the stock art that I liked from depositphotos.com I then went through multiple iterations with the designer and ultimately got the finished product.
It’s important to understand with both of the cheap options above, an artist *IS NOT* creating an original composition entirely from scratch for you. They aren’t painting, drawing or photographing the cover themselves. They aren’t even creating it from scratch on the computer. Instead, they’re using stock art and photoshopping it. The final result can be nice to look at, but there are a limited number of images and it’s possible that other books and products will have elements from your cover. There’s a funny compilation of “hottie in a hoodie” which are all romance novel covers made from the same photoshoot (and often same image) of some dude.
I talked to a man on fiverr who had done my friend’s covers. His price was initially $25, but while we were talking he raised it to $125 and wanted me to pay the higher price. I then got talking to another woman who wanted to charge me separately for both the ebook and print covers (the ebook cover is just a portion of the print cover, so this didn’t feel right to me). She also had a cover in her portfolio which, after I contracted the author and asked about, turned out it wasn’t hers!
Eventually I found a woman who seems to be a cover making machine and hired her – pro_ebookcovers. It was a very step-by-step process where she asked me what I wanted then tried her best to deliver it to me. It was well worth what I paid, but it wasn’t a designer listening to my description of my book then creating a cover to surprise and delight me. It felt more that I was designing my own cover and she was executing my design with greater skill than I’d be able to myself. In part because they’re doing such straightforward work, you can usually get your cover designed within a few days.
You can send them an image you own the rights to, or pick stock art and the fiverr designer should be able to compose them in a reasonable way and do simple photoshop editing (minor changes, filters, etc.). I let the designer decide on fonts and colors for the text.
The end result looks better than the free options but, in my opinion, won’t look as good as a professional, mass market cover. There are some designers on fiverr who will produce a cover for a shockingly low price, even $5 or $10. I have trouble imagining anyone, who can spend time writing a book, who couldn’t afford this. I suspect it would be money well spent.
Spare No Expense
I haven’t experienced this, but custom design boutiques become available if you want something nicer than fiverr or a pre-made cover. Deranged Doctor Designs were the actual designers of the cover that the fiverr designer above was pretending was her design. If you look on their site, the covers are definitely more attractive, but start approaching 10 times the cost. They also take far longer, with a turn around of months.
For covers like these, you’ll still be getting stock art, but the designers will do more work coming up with a concept and making something more beautiful and unique.
Beyond this, you can begin hiring artist and illustrators to create original works of art that become your cover. This is way beyond any consideration for me, but I suspect it will quickly get into the thousands of dollars.