Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Hire a cover artist or make it yourself?

Ruth Nestvold covers
Some of my covers*

I’m starting this post off with a random selection of my covers — what came up when I searched for covers in my Flickr account, since I just don’t have the time to put together a banner specifically for the purpose right now. Still, it’s a pretty good selection for what I want to explore today: how professional do you want your covers to look? What are you willing to invest to ensure that your covers don’t scream thrown together in an hour with free art found on the internet? (That was the basis for the only cover above that I did completely on my own, in response to a challenge on Joe Konrath’s blog, to write, create the cover, and publish an ebook within 8 hours. It shows. *g*)

Aside from the cover I slapped together just in time to make the 8 hour deadline, I think the differences between these covers are most obvious in the typeface. My daughter — the architect with all the Photoshop expertise who helps me with my covers — can manipulate images wonderfully, much faster than I can, but when we work on a cover together, we often seem to spend much of our time tweaking fonts.

Those who follow this blog probably know which of these covers were designed professionally, and which I designed with my daughter. But if any random visitors want to pipe up in the comments as to what they thought, I would be very interested to see if it’s as obvious as I think it is!

I already talked a little bit about covers and how to find cover artists in my post on the cost of self-publishing. In this installment, I would like to go into covers in a bit more detail, in particular, resources for those who want to try to make their own. But a word of warning up front — if you don’t have any background in design (or someone to help you who does), it will very likely show when you make your own covers.

Then why even bother if you can get a cover on Fiverr for five bucks? When you buy stock art on Dreamstime or Shutterstock, it usually costs more! Here are a few reasons for doing it yourself:

– First off, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to like that five buck cover. Most of my experiences with cover artists have been great, but one of my forays into hiring someone turned out to be a waste of time and money — and it was quite a bit more than five bucks. After that experience, I stuck with making covers with my daughter for a while, since I really didn’t feel like throwing any more money out the window.

– Another advantage of making your own covers is that you can tweak the information on the cover without having to go back to the cover artist, possibly paying more. Let’s say, for example, that you win some big award, and you want to add that information to the cover. Or you decide to make a book into the first in a series, and you need to add “Book 1.” If you created the PSD file in the first place, it’s much easier to do.

– It’s almost as much work finding a cover artist as it is making a cover. It takes plenty of time to go through lists of cover artists, look at examples of their work, and decide which one might fit the tone and genre of the work you need a cover for.

– Perhaps you’re a bit of a control freak, and you have very precise ideas about how you want your cover to look — and you don’t trust anyone else to get it the way you want it.

– You have a background in design, photography, art, or something else along those lines. You enjoy making covers, and for you it’s a part of the creative process. Bestselling indie author H. M. Ward even does the photography for her covers herself. You can read about her cover making process here.

Stock Art

So if you decide to get creative and attempt to make your own covers, where are the best places for getting stock photos? And how much will you have to pay? And is it possible to find stock that isn’t already being used by everyone and her sister?

Some of the main stock art sites:

Shutterstock

Canstock

Dreamstime

iStock

Bigstock

123rf

Depositphotos

Fotalia

Envato

Razzle Dazzle

On most of these sites you can either buy packages of credits for the purchase of stock images, or you can subscribe and download a certain number of images a day. Prices for individual images vary from site to site and also according to the size and start at a couple of dollars. For larger images, however, you can easily pay $20 for a single photo. So if you are going to be making a series of covers and you have a general idea in advance of the kind of images you’ll be needing, it can worth it in the long run to subscribe for a month and download your daily allotment of images during that month. I did this about a year ago, and now I have an excellent collection of images for use on covers, in banners, on my web site, you name it.

Unfortunately, most of these sites do not tell you how often an image has been downloaded, and you just might find the image you wanted to use on another cover in your genre. The license you buy from these sites is not exclusive. As a result, it makes sense to search by popularity and skip the images on the first page.

Another possibility for finding cover art is through Deviantart. This would involve contacting the artist / photographer directly and working out terms and pricing.

A reminder: make sure that the license you are purchasing allows you to use the art in ebook covers, and if you intend to make a POD book, print as well!

Fonts

When making your own covers, you may also want to use fonts that you don’t by default have on your computer. Here are some places where you can get new fonts:

Dafont.com

1001 Free Fonts

Font Squirrel

What if you decide to hire a cover artist after all?

There are a couple of threads on Kboards which I mentioned in this post which include links to cover artists and premade covers. The article also has a couple of other links to help you find a cover artist to do all the above work for you. 🙂

* The professional covers are the first and the fifth in the row.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

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