I have been thinking for some time about the cover of my upcoming book Stone Cold and whether I should try to design one myself or get a professional designer to do a cover for me.

As I have said before I don’t yet know whether to try to secure a traditional publisher or go down the self-publishing route on one or more of the various ebook platforms. Whatever I decide to do I still think it is a good idea to have a cover for the book, even before the book is finished, to put here on the website and use in any other marketing I need to do for the book.

Below is some information that might help you make certain choices when it comes to thinking about designing a cover for your book.

Whether you decide to design the cover yourself or provide a brief for a graphics designer/ artist to do the job here are some general tips:

  • the cover design should be relatively simple with clear and easy to read text showing the author name and book title.
  • don’t give away important plot elements in the cover, such as giving away the ending, or showing the killer in a crime novel, giving away their identity with distinctive characteristics.
  • do try to give a feel of what the book is about though, maybe give an idea of where the book is set, or a lone silhouetted figure to represent your main protagonist (again this is popular with crime novels).
  • have a look on Amazon’s website to get an idea for examples of book covers within your chosen genre. Think very carefully before you deviate too much from these norms. Readers have come to expect a certain type of cover for a given genre of writing. You don’t want readers to pass you by because they think your book isn’t the genre they like to read.
  • if you plan to upload a cover image to an ebook platform make sure you follow any guidelines put in place by the publisher – so no pornography, offensive content or copyright infringement.

Designing a cover yourself

I quickly discarded this as an option for myself. A book cover is the first thing that a potential reader will see. Even before they read the blurb. So it is vital that the cover looks professional and gives the reader an idea what the book is about. I know my limitations, so I decided to get someone else to design a cover for Stone Cold. More on this later.

If you do decide to design your own cover there are plenty of resources available on the internet for the budding graphics designer/ author. A quick search online should yield a wealth of images to use in a cover design. There are however some important considerations when sourcing images for such a project:

  • The image needs to be high enough quality, both so it looks professional as part of the cover design, and also so it meets the requirements of each ebook platform.
  • The image should ideally be royalty free so you don’t need to keep paying royalties to the photographer or artist. Also you cannot use copyrighted material. Generally the images which come up after a google search are copyrighted, so be careful.
  • You need to know the terms and conditions under which you are allowed to use the image. You can download some images from image websites but these generally need an attribution. To purchase an image means you can use it freely without attribution. However, a word of caution here – Amazon’s content guidelines dictate that they may refuse to allow a cover if it contains readily available images. In other words your cover should be unique to avoid confusion for readers.

Any image editing software package should be able to design a basic book cover using such images and text tools. However, I am not an expert on design, so please refer to others who know better than me.

Using a professional designer

This is the route that I chose to go down. There are plenty of professionals offering their services online. Fiverr (www.fiverr.com) is a website which puts professionals and people wanting to engage their services in touch with each other. Do a search for book cover design and you will find a list of designers willing to help out. Services or ‘gigs’ as they are called start from $5, hence the name. However to get a professional looking cover will likely cost a little bit more. Although it still won’t cost you a lot. Maybe up to $50 or approx. £35.

I used Fiverr for the cover which is currently on the website. However I am not totally happy with it. It doesn’t really show what I wanted it to. My book is set in Las Vegas and the Mojave desert region. The current cover doesn’t really show this.

The designer who worked on it for me was extremely talented but I found the website difficult to use, to get my brief across using the tools available. Once the design was underway, for the money paid, it was difficult to get further revisions. You may have more luck than me with Fiverr. There are plenty of very happy customers and very talented designers on their website.

Another website which is more costly but I will most likely try next is www.99designs.co.uk. You put a design brief for your cover online as a form of contest for designers to enter. The amount of money you pay becomes the prize for the winning design, and you can offer feedback and get revisions for any number of designs which come through.

There are four levels of payment. The more you pay the better the designers who are likely to enter. You can enter very specific information about your book – the plot, the characters, title etc. and designers interpret your brief in their designs. I think this will work better than Fiverr. But I can’t personally recommend the site as I haven’t used it yet. There are plenty of examples of contests and their winning designs and the results look impressive. The prices however start at £189 and go up to £749 at the most expensive level.

I will of course let you know how I get on with 99designs if I choose to go down that route.

Some important links for content guidelines on Amazon and IBooks as well as some of the image websites I have downloaded images from are below for your reference:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2J0TRG6OPX0VM

http://www.ebookcoversize.com

www.freedigitalphotos.net

www.photopin.com

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