We all judge books by their covers, both in the metaphorical and literal senses. I don’t think I’m being overly dramatic when I say that a cover can make or break a book, including yours. You can write the greatest book in history, but if the cover is crap, it won’t receive nearly the amount of attention it deserves.
Making or buying bad covers is the number one mistake I see indie authors make, and I would say that the vast majority of self-published books I see have covers that are somewhere on the not-so-good side of the spectrum.
How to create a book cover from scratch is beyond the scope of this module, but there are some general tips and observations I want to share. First, here is a single question that every independent author should ask him- or herself about the cover of his/her book:
Would I ever see a book with a cover like this for sale at the bookstore?
Put another way, could you go to the bookstore right now (assuming Amazon hasn’t put them all out of business by the time you read this) and find a book with a cover that looks something like yours? And be realistic here. If the answer to that question is yes, then congratulations. Your cover probably isn’t terrible. If the answer is no, you need to get a new cover.
Regardless of whether you create an ebook cover yourself or have someone else do it, one thing you should start doing right away—right now!—is keeping track of book covers that you like. You can do this by bookmarking their pages on Amazon, pinning their covers to Pinterest, taking screenshots, or manually downloading the book cover image if you can find a good version of it. If you make your book’s cover yourself, you can use these examples as inspiration. If you have a designer make your cover, you’ll have some examples that you can point to as the kind of thing you’d like for your book.
The point of a cover
A cover really has just two main functions:
1. to attract readers, and
2. to give an idea of what the book is like or about. (Put another way, the cover needs to be appropriate for what you’ve written.)
So those are the two things that your cover needs to do. An attractive cover meets the requirements for the first function. But what may be appropriate for one genre of book may not be appropriate for another. A book about a serious subject like law or medicine will rightly have a cover that is very different from a romantic comedy.
Also, whatever image you have on the cover of your book should be directly indicative of what readers will find inside. A lot of fantasy novels may have a dragon on the cover. Maybe you wrote a fantasy novel. Does that mean that you should have a dragon on the cover? Perhaps, but only if your book has dragons in it! That might sound obvious, but believe me, I see authors mess this up all the time. It’s worth repeating and understanding.
Tools and resources
A future module here on Osmosio will walk you through how to create a good ebook cover on your own. Until then, here are some tools and resources to help you get started:
BookBaby, Ebook Launch, GoOnWrite, eBook Indie Covers, eBook Cover Designs, Creative Indie Covers – These are all professional ebook design services. I’ve never personally used any of them, so use their services at your own risk, but they seem good.
Cover Creator – This is Amazon’s free cover-making tool, and you can access it by click the Cover Creator button in section 4 of the “Add new title” page, “Upload or Create a Book Cover.” The cover you make with this tool won’t be amazing, but it’s better than nothing. See also Osmosio’s Cover Creator walkthrough.
Shutterstock and iStockPhoto – These are stock image websites. For most of my covers, I buy a photo or vector image to use as the base of the cover. Once I buy the image, usually from either Shutterstock or iStockPhoto, I then use Photoshop or Illustrator (you could also use GIMP or Inkscape, their respective free/open-source equivalents) to edit the image, add the title and author’s name, and so on.
Compfight – This is a search engine for Flickr. If you don’t want to pay for an image to use on your cover (which you should be willing to do, since it’s really important…), search for one with Compfight. Note that you can search for images that include a commercial license, which I believe you would need to use on an ebook cover. Otherwise, you can email or message the Flickr user directly and ask if you can use his or her image in return for credit in the book.
Fiverr – If you have a very small budget and have no ability to make a cover on your own, Fiverr is an option for you. Fiverr is a marketplace for $5 services, including book cover creation. Search there for “book cover” or “ebook cover” and you’ll see a bunch of people willing to set you up with a cover for just $5. The quality here will vary wildly. You might get an OK cover, or you might get something that a three-year-old could do. But hey, for $5, it’s worth a short. Hire half a dozen folks on Fiverr to each make you a cover and see which one is the best.
How To Make Your Own Free Book Cover In MS Word – I’m not entirely sure why you would want to create an book cover in Microsoft Word, but you might have your reasons. If so, this tutorial is a great resource.