If you’re self-publishing, you have to handle everything on your own, and that means getting cover art for your book or ebook too. Even if you’re e-publishing and don’t intend to create a physical product, you still need a cover, since that’s the first thing people see in the store. They may not even click to check out the blurb if the cover doesn’t appeal to them.
There are a few options for creating cover art.
First off, if you’re artistically inclined, you might be able to design your own cover. If you have some Photoshop skills (or Gimp is a free alternative that works just fine), you can visit a site such as Photos.com and buy a couple of stock images to use (it’s usually only a few dollars, if that, for the rights to use a picture). Spend an afternoon tinkering and see if you can come up with a good-looking cover. (Make sure to ask some friends if they also think it’s good looking — i.e. professional — because we’re not always the best judges for this sort of thing!)
If the DIY route isn’t for you, then it’s probably time to hire someone.
If you know other indie authors, you can ask them for recommendations (make sure you like their cover art first!).
I didn’t know too many other authors when I was first getting started. I went to Deviant Art and posted a gig on their “Job Offers” forum. Several artists responded, and I was able to browse through their galleries to find a style I liked. The artwork (a custom illustration), ended up being good (and affordable), but it didn’t represent my characters very well (the artist was from a different country and I was never quite sure how well he understood my emails), and I ended up having the covers redone later. That said, I still think Deviant Art can be a good place to look if you want a custom illustration. As indie authors, we don’t usually have a lot of money to spend, and you can find some deals on there from up-and-comers.
If you have a little more money, and you want someone who has experience doing book covers, you can give 99 Designs a try.
This is a site where you post a job and a prize (payment for the winner), and numerous designers will read your description and take a stab at designing your cover. It’s essentially a contest, and they’re competing with each other for the gig.
This is a fun way to do it since you can choose from so many designs. You can also respond to each designer and give him or her input (maybe you really like the style, but you’d like a couple of things changed). As I write this, 99 Designs has a money-back guarantee as well. If you don’t like any of the designs you get, they’ll refund your money.
This is the way I’d go if I was looking for a new cover art person today (I wasn’t aware 99 Designs had a cover art section when I was getting started). I just love the idea of having multiple covers to choose from.
What to ask for when you post a Cover Art Design Project
Okay, you’ve got your eye on an artist, or you’re planning to try 99 Designs, but what do you ask for exactly?
The obvious things are to give the title and genre of your book. You might include a blurb and some ideas for symbols or scenes, things that might be key to the story or book topic.
When it comes to size, there are no hard and fast rules, but it’s much easier to shrink something down than to blow it up (this won’t look good at all), so it’s better to ask for something a little bigger than you think you’ll need. Some suggestions I’ve seen from artists are 600×800 or 900×1200 and a 300 dpi resolution.
This blog post has much more detailed thoughts on size and making sure your art looks good, even when someone zooms in for a close look.
Paperback or Ebook Cover Art?
One last thing worth mentioning is the difference between an ebook cover and a real cover that’ll be used on a paperback. With an ebook, you just need a front, but with a paperback, you’ll need a side and back as well. Even if you’re thinking the money is in ebooks and you’ll never publish a paperback (this was my thinking for a while), you may want to go ahead and have the artist do both for you at the same time. You’ll probably want paperbacks someday, if only to sign for contests or to give away as promotional prizes (and I do sell some now and then on Amazon).
Resources listed in this post:
- Gimp — free photo manipulation software
- Photos.com — buy stock photos
- Deviant Art Jobs Forum — post a gig
- 99 Designs — start a contest and have multiple artists offer you cover art designs