The old adage is actually right: people really do judge a book by its cover. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, of course, but humans are visual creatures. We often make snap judgements and decisions based on the first thing that we see. Your book might be the best thing ever written, but nobody’s going to read it if you have a bad cover.
I’ve come across a lot of independently-published books that are actually pretty good and could have actually sold a few copies if the author had bothered to do anything to market it. These books almost always have a cover made by typing the title over one of Amazon’s stock photos (yes, really). The time and effort spent writing the book is completely negated when they don’t put any more time and effort into getting an attractive cover that will draw in readers. If you value your book at all, then you need to get a cover that does it justice. So, here’s how to make a book cover that won’t kill your book’s marketability.
A good cover is hard to define. A book cover is art, and art is always subjective. However, most people can agree that what makes a cover good is its choice and coordination of color palette, text fonts and size, visuals, and overall design. If the design can both attract a potential reader and give some indication of what’s inside the actual book, then it does its job.
If you are not a professional designer, then you are probably not going to be able to achieve that through any DIY efforts. Amazon’s Cover Creator will not be enough here. If you’re willing to spend the money and time to buy and learn a software program like Photoshop, then you may be able to produce something that can be called “good enough.” But do you really want to go through all that work and stress to settle for “good enough”?
Choosing the right cover designer is more than worth the money when you consider that they know what they’re doing, they can give you what you want, they can give it to you on a schedule, and they can often also create multiple version of the cover to fit the varying size and file requirements across the different formats.
A professional is definitely the recommended way to go, but you do have to thoroughly vet and carefully choose who you’re going to give your money to. Keep in mind that the lower your budget, the higher the risk of getting ripped off or a low-quality cover, so you need to exercise as much caution as possible. Places like Fiverr offer freelancers with what’s often the cheapest rates that you can find, but it’s often a “you get what you pay for” situation. There are some skilled people on there, though they don’t tend to stay long before they realize that they can get paid more. So, it’s possible that you can get a great design on the cheap if you do enough searching.
If you really want to get a great cover, then you need to be prepared to spend a bit more. After all, people do deserve to get paid fairly for their work. Sites like Reedsy often have freelancers who ask for more, but have the credits and portfolio to back their rate.
If you’re more open-minded about the design, then you may find that 99designs will work best for you. This site lets you either contact a designer directly or run a contest. A contest allows any and all designers on their platform to submit a mockup based on your specifications and preferences, and you get to rate all of the incoming submissions and give feedback. Ultimately, you pay the winning designer and get a cover that you absolutely love.
This is just one way out of many to get a cover designed. There’s only one way to guarantee a bad cover, and that’s to do it yourself. As long as you pick the right professional to do it, you’ll get a cover that will help sell your book.