Indie publishing on a budget - Part three, the cover

Few things strike fear into an author like choosing the right cover. Why? Because despite the age-old advice against it, readers judge a book by the cover. The advice rings true. I've read plenty of amazing books with crummy covers, and some awful messes with beautiful covers. As an indie author, your cover is important if you want to compete with other authors in your genre.

There are really three primary ways to get a cover for your book. I'm going to touch on them in this blog, then go deeper into each one in subsequent blogs because it really is a labor-intensive process. The three most common options are:

  1. Purchase a pre-made cover

  2. Commission a cover with a designer

  3. Design your own cover

There is no right answer here BUT you must do your research. And that goes for each option because covers can eat up a sizeable chunk of your budget if you're not careful. I've paid as little as nothing for a cover, and once I paid $500, but it can get much higher when getting into commissioned work.

Let's begin with what I think is the easiest option--pre-made covers. There are dozens of reputable places to purchase a cover, but be careful. Some sites use the same stock images and only change font type and arrangement, or make other minor changes like adding a little detail. If you go with these covers, you'll end up looking like a cookie-cutter author. After all your hard work writing your book, you don't want that. Instead of using a mass-produced pre-made site, I recommend finding a cover designer who also sells pre-made covers.

My favorite designer to work with is Lily Dormishev. Her designs are unique and reasonably priced, and she is happy to work with her clients. This is important. Any reputable designer should discuss font options and minor changes to a pre-made cover. At the risk of ruining a future cover reveal, I decided to show one that I ordered from Lily. At under $200, these are a steal!

Other options for pre-made covers are Book Cover Zone, The Book Cover Designer, and Self-Pub Book Covers. I've used all three, but I prefer independent artists over these sites.

The next option is to hire a private commission. This is usually the most expensive option but also ensures your cover is exactly what you want AND is unique. The hardest part about this option for me was finding a designer I trusted. For Evernigh, I wanted something specific, and I wanted it illustrated by hand. For that, I went to my tried-and-true illustrator, Meaghan Ward. She has done the portraits for Eiagan's Winter and several for my Grimm series. A few of those are below. I can't wait for the Evernigh cover reveal later this year, but it will knock your socks off!

That said, commissioned work comes with a steep price. If you are on a budget (which is probably why you're on this blog,) I would recommend finding a reputable (as in, loads of great reviews) artist on ArtStation, Deviant Art, or Fiverr. Often, these artists are just beginning their careers and offer work at lower prices.

Below are a few illustrations for the Grimm anthology drawn by Anna Bazyl from Fiverr.

The last option takes the most skill on the author's part--design your own cover. I would not recommend this unless you have some knowledge of how to use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, or another design studio. There are other options, such as Canva, but you don't really get the manipulation tools you need with Canva. That said, it is a great option for a budget. Canva offers a free version and a pro version.

When I do my own covers, I usually spend some time browsing similar new releases in my book's genre. I get a feel for what's popular, but I also try not to copy it exactly. I want my cover to stand out, after all. I use Shutterstock for most of my images, but I have found some great ones on free sites such as Pixabay.

Once I've chosen my images, I cut, paste, blend, and manipulate my way to a cover I love. Then I go font shopping. There are many free font download sites (just make sure they are free for consumer use and not private use before adding them to your cover) and just as many sites to buy fonts. I can go crazy font shopping, so I have to be careful. Once I choose a font, I arrange the titles and the author's name with varied and complementary fonts. Since this process is extensive, I will do a whole blog on designing your own cover in part four of this series. For now, I'll leave this topic with one example of a self-made cover. Here's one from Eiagan's Winter that uses three images layered and manipulated with several fonts.

No matter which route you choose, researching beforehand can save you heartache and money. Browse current titles, follow the trends, and learn how to draw elements from your book to display on the cover. Stay tuned for the next blog, which will go more in-depth into designing your own cover!

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