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Book Covers For Indie Authors: Making An Informed Decision

Self-publishing is one of the most exciting, exhilarating journeys a writer can take. You've taken the time to curate the perfect story and now you're filled with the enthusiasm to share it with the world. One aspect of this process (and arguably one of the most important) is designing your book's cover. Last week we started this series by providing 5 DIY Options For Making An Awesome Eye-Catching Book Cover. Continuing on with this topic, today we're going to be comparing the options you have as an Indie author to help you make an informed decision.

You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover...Or Can You?

As a writer you always hope that your book will sell and that you'll see rave reviews. Deep down, you might also hope that your book will attract attention simply because it's a fantastically written tale but truthfully the world doesn't always work that way. If you think that covers don't matter...well, you're in for a shock. When you walk into a bookshelf or browse online a book's cover is the first thing you see, whether it's while strolling through the stacks or scrolling across Amazon or Goodreads. To stand out in a literal sea of books you have to have a cover that is eye-catching, interesting, and easy-to-read.

Taking the time to seriously research and consider all your options when it comes to book cover design is crucial for the success of your novel. The more time, money, and effort you put into this aspect of your book development process, the greater the potential for profits once you publish will be.

Needless to say, book covers can get expensive. If you're an indie author, chances are you've got a set budget and not a lot of wiggle room. That's okay! There are many ways that you can get an amazing book cover without the superfluous price tag.

Consider This: Professional or DIY?

After you've realized the impact your book's cover holds, the next step is to decide which way you're going to go to create it. There are two options: hire a professional or do it yourself. Both have different benefits and drawbacks, so let's take a moment to explore them.

Hiring a professional is automatically associated with a hefty price tag. Generally speaking, having someone design one for you will average between $500-800 for a single project. That being said there are variations depending on the skill level of the designer and your timeline. The biggest benefit of hiring a professional is the quality of work. You know that when you go with this option you'll be receiving a product that will ensure the sales of your novel. It will be appealing, symmetrical, vivid, and competitive. Something to be aware of is to verify your professional's credentials before forking over your cash. Look at their portfolios, check out their reviews, and compare them with other designers for the best body of work.

On the flip side, DIY'ing your book's cover can be inexpensive and achieve similar results. If you have design experience, are particularly tech-savvy, and want full creative control then this might be a better option for you. With the right tools and some research you can create a cover that will bring your novel the audience it needs with a fraction of the price associated with it. A word of caution, however. If you don't know what you're doing (meaning you have no graphic design experience and have never made a book cover before) this can be a frustrating avenue. But with time and a learning curve it can be done. The other thing to be aware of is the pitfall known as "homemade". A cover that clearly looks like it was done DIY often has an opposite, undesirable outcome.

How Do I Hire A Professional?

There are many places and ways to find a designer in your price range. The smartest way to go about this is to create a budget and stick to it during your search. Here are some places to help you get started:

Fiverr- A freelance website featuring a wide range of skill levels and price ranges.

Reedsy- A community of professionals specializing in every aspect of literary services.

Upwork- Another freelance website that features a verified screening process for their freelancers.

99 Designs- A go-to graphic design service by Vistaprint, it provides a network of designers.

Ebook Launch- Cover design services for both Ebooks and print.

100 Covers- Cover design and book production services for $100.

BookBaby- A full-package publishing service for self-published authors, including design services.

Deviant Art- A social site connecting a network of designers and artists.

Need more options: Check out this amazing list brought to us by The Creative Penn: Book Cover Design.

When hiring a professional it's important to remember the following:

  1. Keep your ultimate goal in mind: Pick the BEST expert you can afford.

  2. Remember that you're hiring this person because of their skills and network. Once you hire them, you don't need to micromanage.

  3. Decide with your head, not your heart. You may really love the personality of a designer, but if you're not in love with their designs at first glance, you won't love it once it's on your book's cover.

  4. Go with your gut. Choose the designer that speaks best to your needs, and listen to your gut when it warns you to go in a different direction.

  5. Determine the level of expertise you want and find a designer that fits the bill. Double check all credentials and ask to see prior works before hiring.

  6. Communicate your time-frame clearly. Figure out when your deadline for your project is and be sure to confirm with your designer that they can meet it.

  7. Compare pricing to your budget. Stick to what your pocket can afford, not what your eyes find enticing.

  8. Ask yourself: What will my ideal audience think? If the answer to this question is that they'll love it, then that's your answer.

How Do I DIY My Book Cover?

There's lots to consider when choosing to create your own book cover. Here are --- steps to help you get started.

Find Your Inspiration

You know a great cover when you see one. Search for the best of the best online and save the ones that appeal to you, are appropriate for your genre, and the ones that have made the bestseller's lists and have won awards. These will be your guides when it comes to designing.

Take Note of Trends and Patterns

If you pull up the bestselling novels in your genre on Amazon, you'll automatically notice a trend in cover designs. Each has particular visual styles and motifs that repeatedly appear. While you should consider using these elements, don't let them make you feel boxed in. You can use inventive fonts, creative imagery, and design elements to make yours stand out. Pro Tip: Standing out doesn't mean doing the complete opposite of what is currently on the market. Keep in mind that what you see sells for a reason.

Choose Your Medium

There are many different programs and software out there that you can use to design your book cover. Ranging from beginner-friendly to advanced to specialized for authors, a simple Google search will bring a myriad of options. Places like Canva, Adobe Photoshop, Gimp, and Microsoft Word are all great options. To read more in-depth about these check out our last blog post: 5 DIY Options For Making An Awesome Eye-Catching Book Cover. Another author-oriented option is Book Brush.

Find Copyright Free Images Online

Places like Shuttershock, Canva, and other image collectors provide free, copyright-free images that you can access and use for a small fee. These images can then be taken and re-worked into a design for your cover. Whatever image you choose, whether it's one you've taken yourself, one you've gotten from an online platform, or one you've had a character artist create, you want to make sure it's clear, in-focus, and perfectly embodies what your story is about.

Pay Attention To Your Cover's Dimensions

Dimensions are important. Amazon provides the appropriate sizing information for Ebooks on their platform (between 2,560 x 1,600 pixels). Many other retailers use similar sizing so sticking within this parameter is playing it safe. For printed books, things get a little complicated. Take into account the following:

  • Standard book sizes within your genre

  • Page count and paper density (so you can estimate the size of the spine)

  • Your plan for typesetting the back cover

This is the area where things get tricky fast. Arguably the most "if-y" to figure out for an amateur, if the thought of designating time to research how to get things right, it may be smarter to hire a professional.

Perfect Your Typography

Typography is vital. Aside from the image itself, this is the second element that attracts a reader's attention (sometimes the first). This is the second area that many authors designing their own covers find difficult. There are so many details to consider: What is Typography, And How Can You Get It Right? by Reedsy has an excellent article that explains what typography is and why it's important. As with the cover design itself, you can pull inspiration from already published novels. Research different fonts, find what you like, and keep it simple.

Don't Trip At The Finish Line

Remember to double and triple check your files before you upload them. It sounds silly, but mistakes happen. A stellar design won't amount to anything if it's not delivered properly. Uploading an Ebook is as simple as exporting your cover as a JPEG. For print, again, things are a bit more complex. It depends largely on the rules of your Print on Demand company (POD). Different companies require different formats, so make sure you abide by them. Typically these parameters have to do with the images being a PDF, the correct resolution and color system.

Regardless of whether you choose to hire a professional or opt for the DIY approach, your book cover will be the best it can be only if you choose to invest in it.

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