Since I’ve just completed my first experience with a designer for Pennies from Burger Heaven, I want to share with you what I’ve learned. Know this above all else:
You should fall crazy in love with your book cover.
First Impressions Matter
I’ve watched traditionally-published friends write amazing books for their Big Five Publishers, then turn around and weep because the marketing departments changed their titles and slapped crappy covers on there. These authors survived, but they weren’t pleased. Fight tooth and nail for what you believe in for your cover. It’s your right.
This is one of the benefits for indie authors. You have 100% control over what goes onto your book. Here are some good, reputable sites to find designers to fit all types of budgets: Reedsy, Elance, Fiverr.
Most writers don’t have the graphic design ability to create their own covers, but many still do. And, it shows. I know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but there are millions of books released each year. If your cover is amateurish, readers will assume your writing is, too. That’s another sale lost. Your cover is your first, best shot. Make the most of it.
If You Must DIY
Look for stock photos that are both royalty free and editable, such as Dreamstime. Be sure to also buy high-resolution pictures since they’re better quality. Use wonderful covers in your genre as a guide on how the space your title, author name, etc. Find a friend with graphic design capabilities to help you (offer to buy them dinner, a beer, chocolate – whatever).
My Book Cover Journey
After I stopped crying when my literary agent left publishing in 2014, I began debating whether or not to return to the querying process, or to self-publish. I’d already been noting covers I liked in my genre, so I started researching them. One artist whose covers I loved charges a mere five-thousand dollars per book.
Man, I’ve got great taste. I moved on (but, email me if you’d like her name because her work is amazing).
My Three Finalists
Damonza: Author K.M. Weiland of Helping Writers Become Authors uses them. I like how Damonza’s different packages outlines the details. For example, for $595, you get all three covers (print, ebook and audio book), all the Shutterstock photos, as well as the generated ISBN bar code, and more. They offer extras, too: Facebook and web banner, book formatting, etc. Strong contender.
99Designs: Cool concept. Thousands of designers create everything from logos to websites to book covers, with packages from $299 to $1,199. You say how much you’re willing to pay, give all the details for your book, then interested designers create actual covers for your approval (anywhere from 30 – 90 designers participate, depending on the prices). I really liked the idea of seeing my cover before I paid for it, but I also knew my personality. Receiving 30 – 90 choices would overwhelm me, so I moved on once more.
JD Smith – Design: Gorgeous covers. No prices listed, which worried me again. Jane Dixon Smith explained her process and pricing. I loved how collaborative she sounded and her price was well within my budget, under $500 for print, ebook and audio. We really clicked, so I chose Jane. I paid her half of the price up front, then the balance upon completion. Afterward, Jane said she doesn’t really take on new clients, but thought my project sounded compelling and agreed to work with me. Nice compliment.
Book Cover Magic
What Jane requested from me:
* My title (subtitle – I have none).
*One-paragraph summary of my book.
*Synopsis (it didn’t have to be “agent ready,” just enough to tell her what happens).
*A few images I could envision on my cover.
*Six to ten covers in my genre that I loved and why (this helped her know what emotions I wanted to evoke with my cover).
Once I sent Jane that information, she sent me about 30 Shutterstock photos that might work. I picked my favorites, leaving 15 choices. Next, Jane offered four different covers designs. They were all fabulous and I struggled for days because I loved each one. Next, I reached out to a handful of people whose opinions I value: my family, my critique group, my former agent.
Two pieces of advice struck me the most:
1) You want a design where your title/name shows up well for a thumbnail-size image online.
2) Forget what everyone else says. Pick the cover that you like best.
By Monday morning, I knew I had “the one”. For the DIY designers out there, see how Jane took bits and pieces from two photos above to create one special image. The wording and the colors – it all stands out, yet works well together.
A Dream Comes True
It still feels surreal because I’ve wondered about my cover for so long, but it took less than three weeks to bring Pennies to life. I really wanted the tone to be “literary” and “book clubby” (why, yes, that’s a made-up word). My designer took my subconscious emotions, then created the perfect image for me. I hope this information proves helpful to you in creating the book cover of your dreams.