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.

Business, Publishing

The Argument for Spending Money Part 4: Book Formatting

Image via Pixabay

The big problem most indie authors have is how to format their book for either print or ebook.  Honestly, there are many methods that range from free and irritating to expensive and not worth it.  When given a choice like this, it’s always best to learn what you can and whatever you can’t, farm out to a professional.


Despite what you may have heard, ebooks are not easy to produce especially, if you have images, or live links in them.  Though you wouldn’t know that by the accounts of some authors who’ve described the process as, “Just click publish!” I can’t tell you how wrong they are.

I ran into several issues uploading my Word document to Kobo and Barnes & Noble.  For some inexplicable reason, the darn thing wouldn’t upload.  So I had to convert my .doc to an .epub file however, in order to do that, I had to get Scrivener, a type of software that converts Word documents into .epub, .mobi, and .pdf files.  Scrivener cost me around $40 and I soon discovered why it’s so cheap.  Apparently, Scrivener doesn’t read its own compiled (converted) files!  To read the .epub or .mobi file you just created, you’ll have to get an extension on your web browser, or download some free ereading software.  See, I told you, it was a pain!


If you must try to convert your own files, here are a few resources to help you get started. Be warned, paid services generally have customer service, so if something goes awry, you can get help.  The free sites however, don’t always offer those options so read the conditions carefully.  P.S. I am in no way affiliated with any of these companies, their products, or their websites.

Downloadable Software that Help Convert Word documents to eBooks

Websites  That Convert Word Documents to ebooks

  • Press Books (Free Website to convert files but if you want distribution to stores like Amazon, B&N and Apple it’s $99 and it’s done through )
  • Smashwords (Website 20% cut of royalties).
  • Book Tango (Free Website)

Ereader Extensions for Your Browser in Case You Want to Read Your Darn Book!

Print Books

I published my paperback on CreateSpace and regretted every second of it.  First, I’m no expert in book design or layout.  I didn’t know which size I should choose, 6×9, or 8 ½ x 11?  I had no idea which would look best.  When you can’t make a simple decision like this, you know you’re in a lot of trouble!  Foolishly, I listened to the advice of the self-publishing gurus and made the size of my book too large, which made my book appear too short, like a novelette.

I spent days adjusting gutters and formatting the cover, when a professional would’ve had my book done in hours.  I even tried using the templates provided by CreateSpace but it just turned my text into all caps.  Even when I got my book looking somewhat decent, I still wasn’t very happy with the results.  There were still obvious rookie mistakes like starting a chapter on a left page instead of a right one, headers on the chapter pages etc.

To add insult to injury, after fixing my mistakes, the print books didn’t sell nearly as well as the eBooks.  That wouldn’t have happened if I had done a little market research.

If I could do it over again, I would skip the print book, or at least pay for a professional to do the interior.


Paying Someone to Format Your Print Book

Paying a freelancer or professional designer is going to cost you anywhere from $35 to $375.  Many services charging per page or even according to genre.

  • CreateSpace has its own designers and professionals who will help you design the best book possible, but it’ll cost you around $249.
  • has prices starting at $250 for up to 160 pages and $375 for up to 500 pages.
  • has a service starting at $100 for fiction, $150 for children’s and $250 for nonfiction.
  •  has a book formatting service starting at $35 for short stories and $85 for novels.


If this is out of your price range, you can go with a template to format your print book and do a copy and paste.

  • Recently, Joel Friedlander of the created affordable and professional looking templates for MS Word starting at $37
  • Self-Publishing Inc. has templates that come in three book sizes for free
  • Book Baby has some very basic templates to help you with the layout of your print book also, for free.


Before signing up with any services, always read the fine print especially, when putting any money down.  Also, do your due diligence to find people who have actually used their services.  Google the name of the company and the words, “reviews”, “complaints”, and “rip off” to see if there are any dissatisfied customers.  Remember an educated author is a happy author.