Business, Publishing

The Argument for Spending Money Part 5: Book Covers for Indie Authors

Photo via Pixabay

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 own covers in PowerPoint or Adobe PhotoShop and guess what?  It looks like it!  There are so many indie books look God awful!  Today there are several sites dedicated to mocking lousy book covers by both indies and trade publishers.

The cover of your book is too important to leave up to personal taste.  For example, when my favorite blogger came out with a book, I was stunned when I saw their cover.  It was literally a rainbow of purple, I immediately thought, how can I take this book seriously?

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

Money Issues

The reason why I and most indie authors choose to design our own covers is lack of cash.  Many designers charge hundreds, if not, thousands for their services and they deserve that kind of money.  Sadly, we 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 and gorgeous.

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.  The designers then jockey for your project by submitting their work.  It generally costs $299 for a book cover.

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 page banners.

Similar sites where you can hire freelance designers are; Elance, Odesk, and Guru.  You post a job, and freelancers from all over the world will then bid on your project.  At these sites, freelancers are paid by the hour or per project.  You either have to set a budget or agree to someone’s per hour rate by coughing up the cash and putting it in “escrow” as a sign of good faith.  There may also be fees to post on the site, contracts that you have to sign and 10-99 tax forms.

Direct Hire:

There are agencies either ran independently or consisting 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.

  • The Scarlett Rugers Book Design Agency uses royalty free stock photos and does ebook, print and can even design banners for Facebook, or your website from $350 to $1095.
  • Robin Ludwig Design ( creates book covers using stock photos as well, prices here range from $80 to $120 depending on the time and turnaround.
  • offers unique book covers starting at $150 and going up to $224 for print.
  • Indie Designz that provides basic book covers at $75.  They also do print covers and format ebook covers for print as well.  The first two drafts are free but those afterward, will cost you $5.

Premade Covers:

It’s just what it sounds like, here authors purchase book covers based on work already completed by a designer.  Here what you see is what you get, after the purchase it’s up to the author to add text, and font.

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 and see for yourself.

It’s so common in fact, that blogger Danielle Perez, of Book Whore has a monthly feature called Cover Wars it’s like a who wore it best, only with book covers.

The Perils of Stock Images: Terms of Use

It’s imperative that an indie author reads the conditions in the licensing terms very carefully before putting down any cash.  Not all images are being licensed the same way.  For example, an editorial license may forbid you from altering an image.  Also, there are licenses that limit the amount 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

Be weary of prices, I’ve seen pictures advertised as .20 cents but you have to buy “credits” on these sites which come in packages ranging from $9.00 to $1,000.  So that .20 cent photo is really gonna cost you $8.80.  Go figure!

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

Book Covers on a Shoe String Budget: Freebies

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 gotta 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 PhotoShop and even Corel PaintShop, but if you don’t have these programs, you can always get the same photo editing capabilities for free.

Free Downloadable Software:

There are plenty of places that offer free software but you have to be careful about updates and read their privacy terms.

Free 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 your photos and alter them 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.  If you know of an indie author who needs to read this, please pass this along.  Maybe one day, we’ll be able to put that “self-published look” to rest.

Now it’s your turn to sound off, do you know of any designers/artists that we should know about?  If so, give us a heads up and a link to their site.

3 thoughts on “The Argument for Spending Money Part 5: Book Covers for Indie Authors”

  1. Thanks for this, and all your other informative posts, for new writers. I appreciate the real and useful information you give out.

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