We all know the phrase “never judge a book by its cover.” And we all know that we actually do judge books by their covers. Possibly unfair? Well, yeah. But it’s true nonetheless. Your cover is what catches most readers’ eyes–and it sends several messages almost at once, most importantly genre.
Gone are the days when indie authors’ book covers left a lot to be desired. We’ve caught on, and these days it’s difficult to tell the difference between an indie and a trad published book by just the cover alone (in fact, a lot of indie covers are actually BETTER than the trad pubbed books we’re seeing these days). So how do you get a great cover that captures the spirit of your book AND readers’ eyes? Usually in 1 of 3 ways:
AKA Do It Yourself. Lots of authors choose this route for a myriad of reasons: lack of funds for a custom-designed cover, a DIY-spirit, previous graphic design experience, etc. I choose to design my own covers because I have graphic design experience, and I’m pretty confident in my design abilities. That being said, I would not hesitate to go the pre-made or custom route if I felt like either of those would be better options.
If you do go the DIY route, here are some resources.
Stock Photo Sites:
Please note: be sure to check the licensing documentation on ANY font you download for free. If it’s open source you can use it however you want. If the licensing documentation says you can only use it for personal use, you need to buy a license in order to use it on your book cover since you will be making money off of said book. Google Fonts is actually a great place to start for open source fonts.
Pre-made covers are a great option between DIY and Custom, in that they’re usually more budget-friendly than a custom cover but you don’t have to do it yourself. There are several pre-made cover sites out there that are fantastic and that offer a range of simple to not-so-simple graphics. A lot of them will tweak things for you, too, which is fantastic. A good pre-made cover will usually cost anywhere between $35 and $70, with print bringing up the cost a little bit because those take more work. With a lot of sites, you can pay a little more for the exclusive right to use that cover, which means no one else will be able to purchase it and use it.
Custom covers are an option a lot of indie authors turn to, especially when they’re having trouble finding pre-made covers that really do their books and/or characters justice. Again, there are lots of great custom cover designers out there, and pricing will usually run you anywhere from $75 and on up, depending upon art, complexity, licensing, etc. If you’re looking for a great cover designer, I highly suggest browsing the Yellow Pages on kBoards.
Now that you’ve got the cover out of the way, the next thing to worry about “packaging” wise is formatting. For ebooks, there are several ways to skin a cat, and no one way is right or wrong–just better or worse. Scrivener easily compiles your book into a .mobi file for Kindle and an .epub for everywhere else. A lot of people will just upload a Word doc to KDP, and that’s fine too (I’m a fan of uploading the .mobi and .epub files because that way I have more quality control, but I’m also a control freak). Some people will upload HTML files, and that works fine, also (it doesn’t for me for some reason, and I’ve been programming websites since Angelfire was a thing). You can also use Jutoh and Vellum to create really pretty ebooks with special text effects like image dividers, swirly fonts, etc.
Print is another beast all together, and unless you know how to format using a program like InDesign or Quark, I would highly suggest you hire someone to format for print for you. If you’re willing to learn either of those programs, fantastic; that’s also an option. A lot of folks find people on Fiverr to do their print formatting for them, and at a very reasonable price. I think some people just upload the word doc, but again, you’re losing a lot of quality control and your print product won’t be anywhere near as professional as it could be. That being said, if you want to DIY but don’t know anything about formatting for print, there ARE places where you can purchase templates. Joel Friedlander’s site is honestly the best one I’ve looked at.