Updated: 1/2/2021

It’s one of the biggest mistakes I made as an indie author, and I’m not the only one. Many self-published authors design their covers in PowerPoint or PhotoShop and guess what? It looks like it! There are so many indie books that look God awful! I’m pretty sure it compels readers to mock lousy book covers by both indies and trade publishers all over the internet.

The cover of your book is too important to leave up to personal taste. Your cover is going to be the first impression that readers get of you. It needs to be professional, as well as eye-catching to compete with the millions of other books out there. You have to understand that readers spend literally seconds deciding whether they’ll bother clicking on your book. The cover you chose either draws them in or repels them.

Money Issues

The reason why I and most indie authors choose to design our covers is lack of cash. Many designers charge hundreds, if not thousands for their services and they deserve that kind of money. Sadly, many indies can’t afford those prices unless we bleed our retirement accounts dry, or max out our credit cards. But never fear, there are ways to get cheap book covers that are professional looking.

Project Bidding Sites: Freelance Designers

Here’s how it works, you launch a contest or project telling the potential designers what you want in a cover. You can even submit a sketch or photo to give them a better feel of what you need. Then, designers jockey for your project by submitting their work. 99 Designs is one of the most popular and well-known cover designers to indie authors. They create not only book covers, but business cards, t-shirts, and even web banners.

Similar sites where you can hire freelance designers are Upwork, and Fiverr. You can hire freelancers by the hour or pay them a flat fee. 

Direct Hire:

There are agencies either run independently or that consist of several book designers that can help indie authors with their covers. Some create unique art, while others use stock images that they’ve altered according to the theme of a book or the specifications of the author. Here’s a list:

  • Reedsy
  • Robin Ludwig Design (GoBookCoverDesign.com) creates book covers using stock photos as well.  
  • Indie Designz provides basic book covers at $150 – $250. They also do print covers and format ebook covers for print. 

Premade Covers:

It’s just what it sounds like, here authors purchase book covers based on work already completed by a designer. So what you see is what you get.

If You Must do it Yourself

I know some of you are thinking, “Why should I pay someone to format a stock photo? I can do that myself!” Really? That’s what I thought too. But if you are determined to do it, read on…

Stock Photos/Art: Licensing

When purchasing a stock photo or illustration, you are purchasing a license to put an image on your product. The image will still be available for sale on the site, leaving open the possibility for a copy cat cover popping up somewhere else. However, don’t fret, many big publishers also buy stock photos for their ebooks, just check out this Goodreads thread called: Cover Clones and see for yourself.

The Perils of Stock Images: Terms of Use

Before buying any stock image you must read the conditions in the licensing terms carefully. Not all images are being licensed the same way. For example, an editorial license may forbid you from altering an image. Also, some licenses limit the number of times you can print an image. If the restriction is 5,000 then you’ll have to go back and purchase a new license if you sell over 5,000 print books.

Too Good to be True Prices Of Stock Images

Be wary of prices, I’ve seen pictures advertised as .20¢ but you have to buy credits on these sites which come in packages ranging from $9.00 to $1,000+.

You can buy all sorts of images like; cartoons, art, and even photos from these sites:

If your books feature people of color, then you might want to check out these sites in particular: 

Freebie Images

There are photo sharing sites that allow you to use a photo free of charge because it’s either a public domain work or the owner wants free publicity, which means you have to give them or their company credit somewhere in your book. Again, read the conditions carefully.

Jazzing Up Your Stock Image: Software

There are all kinds of software that help you edit photos, Windows for example, has Paint and it’s standard with most home versions of Windows. Also, there’s the standard Adobe InDesign and even Corel PaintShop, but if you don’t have these programs, you can always get the same photo editing capabilities for free.

Free Photo Editing Websites:

I’m a huge fan of these websites because they’re user friendly and there’s no software taking up space on your hard drive. Here, you just upload an image or buy one directly from a site like Canva and Stencil. There you can alter your image on the website itself. No-fuss, no muss.  

One Final Word…

I hope I showed you that you don’t need a ton of money to have a professional and gorgeous book cover.  For the cover of this book I only paid $1 but I have paid higher prices for my fiction work.  It’s not only about our personal preference but about the preferences of our readers.  What are they attracted to?  That’s the question you have to answer before you decide how to proceed.