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Designing Your Own Cover

After seeing all the stuff that makes this site what it is, you probably won’t be surprised that I encourage indie authors and self-publishers to hire someone for book design.  You don’t necessarily need to spend a bazillion dollars with original art and everything; a competent designer (and you determine competence by entirely by previous work, not by degrees or resumes or price range) can do wonders with some simple typefaces and free or nearly-free stock image resources.

But let’s say that even despite my efforts to dissuade you, you are determined to design your own ebook cover.  Maybe you claim poverty; maybe you’re determined to take the indie ethic all the way by doing everything yourself; maybe you’ve always had an interest in graphic design and think that you have a latent talent for the work. Whatever your reason/excuse, here are some pointers for designing your own book cover.  This isn’t a complete how-to course, because for that you should expect to pay at least a couple of years’ worth of tuition, but these ideas should get your head pointed in the right direction so that, whatever you turn out, you won’t find it on this site in the months ahead.

(Note: The assumption here is that you have access to, and at least a rudimentary working knowledge of, suitable image manipulation software like PhotoShop, or at least GIMP.  If you can’t even bring that much to the table, then you really really really need to hire someone else who has the tools to do what you need done.)

Step 1:

Browse through Amazon and find at least twenty books with good covers that you would expect to appeal to the same readers as your book.  They can be self-published, small press, or Big Six; what matters is that these are the books that your book is going to be both palling around with and competing with.

What is a “good” cover?  It’s one that appeals to the reader who would likely enjoy the book.  You wrote your book, so you probably like books in that same subgenre, so use your own taste to decide whether the book covers you explore are good or not.

Step 2:

Of the twenty or more covers you gathered, pick four or so that you could imitate given your design tools and skills.  I’m not encouraging you to copy outright, but to use a template to give you guidance where you don’t have skills.  You’ve just researched how potential buyers are accustomed to being marketed to; you’re now going to take what you learned and apply it.  Make sure you don’t choose four images which are variations on an almost identical theme; you want four different book cover ideas, not four iterations of the same idea.

Where can you get images?  There are free stock photo repositories such as Stock Exchange and Every Stock Photo; you can also search Flickr with the Creative Commons filter on, or just google variations of “public domain images.” Be warned, however, that if you settle on a not-quite-right image just because it’s free, your book cover will likely look not quite right.  There are a number of cheap stock photo sources — iStockPhoto, BigStock, Shutterstock, and a host of others — where you could license appropriate images for under twenty dollars.  The other option is to check out Flickr or DeviantArt for completed artwork that you like, and offer the (quite likely amateur) creator the same money you were going to use on stock photos.

When look at stock photo sites, remember: You’re not looking for “that perfect photo” that you can slap a title on and, presto, you have a cover.  You’re looking for an element on which to build the cover that you already decided on.  In too many cases, a stock photo with a title for a cover looks like, well, a stock photo with a title. It looks cheap.

Step 3:

Make “sketch versions” of your batch of four covers. If you need me to tell you how to do this, you shouldn’t be doing this. Hire someone instead.

Step 4:

Take your four covers and show them to people in your peer group.  Now you see the utility of making multiple covers: If you had only one to show, you’d run the risk of getting “Oh, I love it, it’s just perfect” from people simply because they like you. With multiple choice, they have the obligation to say which one they like best, and will probably even volunteer why. For added oomph, ask them if there are any elements that should be transplanted from one cover to another (one font with another color scheme or image, for example).

Step 5:

Make your for-real cover.  Pay attention to how it looks both big and small — you want it to be understandable and appealing at postage-stamp size because that’s how potential readers will first see it, but you don’t want their second look to be a turn-off, either.

Following these five steps doesn’t guarantee a great cover, but you should turn out an adequate one. And that’s all you can really hope for — because if you’d wanted a great one, you would have paid for it.

Comments

  1. Nathan – you speak GREAT truth! I personally know of several talented cover designers who charge less than $200 for a full print flat, and half that for an ebook!

    (May I suggest Buildin’theDream.com as one resource to learn how to successfully self publish? Author resource directories will be available there, and afterward by mail.)

    1. As my income is less than that, can I please ask you what I should do? Should I give up the little money I have so that someone can design me a nice cover?

      1. Find a friend. Find an art student who wants to do something for his portfolio. Find someone on Fiverr. You need to show people that YOU think your story is worth a good cover, or THEY won’t think it’s worth it. Even with a bad wardrobe, you’d find some way to wear nice clothes for a job interview; this is no different.

      2. Go to deviantart.com and look for artists you like. Make them an offer that’s within your budget. If they say no, try another artist. Then another. And another. And another. And keep trying until you find someone who can work within your price range.

        Or make friends with artists. I’ve got a very talented artist and graphic designer who I asked to design the cover of my next book. When I asked him how much he charges for that, he said he’d do it for free because I’m his friend and because as he’d never done a book cover before, he was interested in the opportunity. I had to argue with him to accept something. So yes, having friends who are artistically inclined can be very beneficial for you.

        Try the free cover creator many POD companies offer. May not be perfect, but it’s better than nothing.

        Failing all that, save up as much as you can. Because if you slap together a substandard cover, you won’t be doing your book any favors.

      3. You’re not “giving it up”, it’s an investment. People absolutely will pick books to read based on the cover design and you have a much better chance of success with an enticing, eye-catching, professional looking cover.

      4. You either give up the money now for a good cover, or give up the money later when nobody buys your book because the cover is hideous.

        When you do the math, hiring a cover artist is most certainly the cheaper option.

      5. You can try our prices at http://www.bookcoverarthq.com. I am also a self-published author but a 16 year graphic designer so I know what good design looks like. I come to this site all the time to see what new covers are here. Check it out and let me know what you’re interested in. Consultations come standard with the packages.

        1. Sorry, but if you don’t know which side of the number to place the dollar sign, I don’t want you designing my book cover.

      6. I sell printable Pre-Made Covers (6″x9″ at 300dpi) on my RNC stock image website http://www.RomanceNovelCovers.com for just $45 each, and I have RNC professional cover artists who make custom covers for $50+.

        The next few times you go food shopping, don’t buy the soda, chips, donuts, etc. (if you don’t eat those exact foods, you get my point). If you smoke, quit or cut back and use that money. Have a yard sale. Sell those things that have been in your basement/attic/closet for so many years that you never use.

        This is a brutally honest fact… Authors who make their own covers instead of hiring a professional cover artist, or finding a way to save that very little ($45) for a professional Pre-Made Cover, do not think they are a good/great author, hence they don’t think their story/book deserves a good/great cover. If an author thinks their story is great/amazing, then they would not settle for a cover less than great/amazing.

        Think about it, would you pay for a quality, new paint job for your rusty, beat-up, 1980 Gremlin? No, because it’s not worth it. Would you pay for a quality, new paint job for your 2014 Mercedes? Yes, because it’s worth it.

        I constantly hear the excuses of “I’m on a fixed income”, “I can’t afford it”, etc., and yes, they are all excuses. I’ve been broke before, I lived paycheck by paycheck right after college, and if I wanted something bad enough I found a way to buy it. I ate 4 for $1 generic macaroni & cheese everyday without adding butter and used water instead of milk. I ate generic cornflakes for breakfast, etc. So using the excuse of “I’m on a fixed income” or “I can’t afford it”, that really means you don’t want to pay for a cover for your book, because you don’t think your story is worth it.

        If you think you are a “great” author, you won’t settle for anything less than a “great” cover for your book. If you think you are a “good” author, you won’t settle for anything less than a “good” cover for your book. If you think you are an “ok” author or an “I’ll make up a story, type it on my computer, edit it myself and upload it to Amazon to see if anyone will buy it so I can make a couple extra dollars” author, you are completely happy making your own cover for your book, as that lack of cover design experience matches your lack of writing experience. Why else would you settle for an amateur cover for your book? (Tough Love)

        Thanks,
        Jimmy Thomas – RNC
        http://www.RomanceNovelCovers.com
        http://www.RomanceNovelCenter.com
        http://www.RomanceNovelConvention.com

  2. Great advice. There are also a number of blogs out there that provide countless articles on things like choosing fonts that work best for your genre, theme, and overall book design, or how to plan the overall layout of your covers.

    Amazon is also beta-testing a built-in book cover design program. I tinkered around with it a little, and I actually think it’d do a half-decent job. At the very least, it’ll help authors avoid some of the more common mistakes you see here, such as skewed image proportions, horrendous fonts laid over graphics in a way that makes them illegible, and so forth.

  3. This is a great article! With the massive rise in self-published books, we actually need a lot more articles on this subject. Writers often underestimate the significance of their book covers. So much of ourselves is put into writing a book that the cover really should be a reflection of that, and not an afterthought or last-ditch effort.

    I have a blog, http://www.coverdesignstudio.com/blog that talks a lot about design rules for making a cover, but I’ve never discussed it from this angle. Thank you for your contribution to making self-publishers successful!!!

  4. I look forward to your posts on Tumblr everyday, and I am especially glad that my own novel has never made the cut! From studying your posts I’ve learned so much about how novels should NOT look. Surely these are self-published books and not from legitimate publishers???

    I’ll definitely continue to use professional graphic artists for my book covers.

    1. Thanks, Cathy. Most of them are self-published or put out by small presses; there are a few from mid-sized presses, but nothing from the Big Five/Six.

  5. This is why I can’t get much work done, because I get an email to check something out (like this post), and I end up reading a lot of it, or all of it, then responding to it, which overall takes a few hours 😉 But, that is me so here I go…

    Thank Nathan, I teach this very topic at many romance novel conventions, as well as write articles on this topic for romance novel magazines and websites. Let me first go through your post…

    “Step 1: Browse through Amazon and find at least twenty books with good covers…”
    The problem with that is so many authors who are making their own covers who shouldn’t be, do not know what good covers look like to point them out. If they did, they would not accept the horrible covers that are made for them by others (friends, novice cover artists, new publishers – someone who wants to save money by making their own covers for their authors) and posting them all over the web with write-ups about how happy and proud they are of their new cover.

    Same for those who make their own covers that are horrible and feel they are great to represent not only their book/story, but also their reputation as an author. This is because, ever since eBooks became big, anyone and everyone who is home all day, bored, sees how many authors have books for sale online, they figure “I can make-up a story and type it out on the computer, slap an image with some text on it, upload it to Amazon for sale too, and then I can tell everyone I’m an author!

    Professional Authors will not make their own covers. They will let Professional Cover Artists make their covers for them. Sure, those Professional Authors may know how to purchase a stock image, how to open it in a photo manipulation program, how to add text to it, even how to do a few fun special effects to it (since they found the options in the pull-down menus), but since they are business-smart and professionals, they also know that it takes so much more than just adding text to an image.

    They KNOW their book cover is their product packaging, that their book sales with an amateur cover would be like the sales of a computer in a brown cardboard box with the brand, model and specs written on it by hand with a Sharpie. They know that you have to know what image is best for your cover, not just an image you like or find beautiful or hot/sexy, but an image that fits your genre, the level of sensuality/sexuality their story is, where to crop the image to draw attention to where it is needed, which means they know where the attention is needed to begin with.

    They know how to balance the image to the cover art used/created, they know to start with the image and create the rest of the cover around that – not the other way around. Authors don’t know how to properly clean “PEOPLE/MODELS” in the images, while only the VERY, WELL-ESTABLISHED and EXPERIENCED Glamour and/or Fashion Photographers and Models know this, and VERY FEW Professional Cover Artists, which is why SO MANY stock images all over the web are raw/untouched, or at least look like it, because those who shot them and/or uploaded them, are not Experienced Glamour or Fashion Photographers or Veteran (well-experienced) Models.

    The #1 job of a Glamour and/or Fashion Photographer is to make their models GORGEOUS! So they know what to clean/edit. Same with well-established models who have shot with hundreds of photographers for hundreds of photo shoots, who are very involved in their modeling career to learn the ropes of what makes their images of themselves better or worse in regards to poses to do and not to do, hand, arms and leg placements, head tilts, body language, their expressions, body language, their best and worst angle, how to appear taller, thinner, younger, older, more muscular, prettier or more handsome, more feminine, more masculine, etc.

    If you ask the owners of stock image websites who shoot, select and upload their own images, or even if they have someone with an expensive camera shoot their images for them, hence calling themselves a photographer, what kind of photographer are they, the response you’ll get is “I shoot a little of everything”. They will also tell you that they’ve been a photographer (or they’ll even say a “Professional Photographer”) for 20+ years, which means they are referring to when they made their first pinhole camera in elementary school and took their first photo, yet they don’t even have a website to show their 20+ years of work, just a Facebook page or blog page to show the images they shot in the last year.

    Ok, back to Professional Cover Artists… They know the typical cover size ratio (height to width) that is used on the majority of websites, the safety margin sizes for print books, even if they are designing an eBook, as most end up wanting to print them, which means they would have to make their cover all over again if not set correctly from the start. Professional Cover Artists have thousands of professional fonts they purchased to use and they know which is best per genre, per your title, per the cover art, per the length of your book title and author name, the size of the font to be sure it is legible when your cover is at thumbnail size. They know which colors to use and not use for fonts, they know various ways how to make fonts stand out from the background to be legible without it looking superimposed.

    Shall I go on? Because I can list reasons all night long… Professional Cover Artists know what colors to use on your entire cover and altering the image coloring to match the feel/mood of your story. They know not to use an image that was shot indoors and put it on an outdoor setting and vice versa, as they know that outdoor lighting is completely different from indoor lighting and it how it shows on the skin. They know how to adjust skin tones, change hair color, eye color, wardrobe color, lengthen and/or shorten hair, add or remove clothing and/or props, how to strip people from the original image and apply them to a background image and not have it looking super-imposed.

    Professional Cover Artists know not to put too many items on the cover, while so many authors want everything they mention in the story on their cover because they are important items used in the story so they think viewers need to see them all on the cover (a certain hat, gun, ball, lamp, phone, glass, building, car, dog, tree, book, fireplace, etc.). They know not to squish an image to make it fit on the cover within a certain area. Professional Cover Artists don’t have a 9 to 5 job and then fiddle around with cover art on the side for extra money. Their schedules are full with cover art orders and that is their full-time career…

    Ok, I think you get the point. So who am I to know all this? I’m Jimmy Thomas, creator of the first stock image website specific to the romance novel industry, my first RNC business, ‘Romance Novel Covers’ (www.RomanceNovelCovers.com), where I’m the producer, art director, casting director, wardrobe stylist, set designer, image selector, photo manipulator, website designer, marketing and advertisement director, and public relations for my ‘Romance Novel Covers’ business (everything but the photographer). I’m also the male model in the majority of the images on my stock image website.

    I specifically set the majority of my images to look like romance novel covers, with backgrounds, settings, and props selected and arranged to be the cover art for those who want to use the images as they are, and just needing to add proper text/fonts for their book title and author name. My RNC images consist of countless different looks from young to mature, lean to big, short hair to long, with genres from historical to contemporary and everything in between, from Romantic & Sensual to Erotica, and with hundreds of different female models.

    I’ve been modeling for 15 years, which is my full-time+ career (“+” because I am working a good 12+ hours everyday with my cover shoots and RNC businesses). I’m on more covers than anyone in history (over 5,500 covers and counting – Fabio is on about 230). I’m flown to various romance novel conventions, conferences, events and book signings all over the country to teach classes on stock images, covers, networking, marketing and branding.

    Soon after my ‘Romance Novel Covers’ stock image website was launched (back in 2008) and filled with thousands of passionate images loaded with emotions, feelings and depth, including hundreds of Pre-Made Covers designed by specific Professional Cover Artists, I saw how much the industry was lacking knowledge in so many areas of their romance novel industry careers, especially in regards to finding Professional Cover Artists and knowing, not assuming, how much they charge, where to find them, where to see their work, and to find all this in one easy location without having to run massive online searches only to come up with pages of everything BUT what they were looking for.

    This is when I created my 2nd RNC business, ‘Romance Novel Center’ (www.RomanceNovelCenter.com), a profile-based, profession database website solely for the romance novel industry, to find any and all careers within it that you are needing/looking for, and to see their work, rates, etc. (Note: Many, Professional Cover Artists, including my RNC Professional Cover Artist who make my ‘Romance Novel Covers’ Pre-Made Covers, have a profile on ‘Romance Novel Center’, and clearly show their rates of only $50, $75, and $100 for a Professional Cover). I also link on this website, my articles I write for romance novel magazines/websites, like ‘InD’tale Magazine’ (www.InDtale.com), which focuses on indie authors. You can easily find them under ‘RNC Articles’ in the navigation bar.

    Still knowing the romance novel industry was growing fast with so many new authors joining in, my articles I’d write just weren’t enough, and weren’t getting to enough people to make a bigger impact to help them. So, from going to numerous romance novel conventions, conference, events and book signings each year for over 10 years, I witnessed first-hand what these events were lacking, what they needed, why they were getting so many complaints, and why they weren’t making their attendees happy.

    This brought me to creating my 3rd RNC business, ‘Romance Novel Convention’, my annual, 5-Day/4-Night, all-inclusive romance novel convention (www.RomanceNovelConvention.com), which this year was August 7-11, 2013 at the Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, and next year will be the same location, but July 9-13, 2014. And yes, I have many more RNC businesses in the works, to launch in 2014!

    Ok, had to get all that off my chest, now back to work for me 😉

    Thanks,
    Jimmy Thomas – RNC
    http://www.RomanceNovelCovers.com
    http://www.RomanceNovelCenter.com
    http://www.RomanceNovelConvention.com

  6. |I have designed all my own covers, 6 to date, and only have one that I am still not satisfied with.

    There are templates to download for free, plenty of free art and design programmes and literally hundreds of free pictures and art galleries who offer free downloads.

    Anyone with a little patience and knowledge should be able to do a good job for themselves.

    How do cover designers come up with their ideas of what your book cover should look like. Do they ask the author, or do they offer their pre-conceived ideas of what is required.

    Try it, you never know, you might enjoy it and save yourself a few bob.

    Good luck,

    EVJ

    1. So when you break your leg you’ll go outside, grab a few branches, tie them to the sides of your leg and hope it heals right?

      As for your question on how do cover artists know what they’re doing, etc. Um, how do authors know what they are writing? You are saying that cover artists are just anyone who decided to try a new career and make covers. In that case, you’re also saying that authors are just anybody who decided to write a story and upload it to Amazon. Which also means that anyone who can speak can sing and should.

      We hire professionals for a reason, to get QUALITY work. Anyone can fix a plumbing leak themselves, by taping it up and then “see how it does” (like making your own cover), but we hire a professional plumber to have it done right and work.

      Just because you made 6 of your own covers does not mean they are good or marketable, as you could have any 5 year old make 6 covers as well. Does that mean they are good and will get people to click on them just because they were made? Just because you know where to get images and found a program to make a cover with, doesn’t mean you will make a great, marketable cover.

      Hey I know, why don’t you use your cell phone’s camera and become a photographer? Or your cell phone’s video camera and make movies? Why not, you know how to press the record button right? Well then you can make great movies and take amazing photos that will sell really well, right?

      I’m not a cover artist trying to get myself work. I’m someone who knows this business more than most, and am trying to help you all succeed. I’ve been in it for 12 years and am flown all over and paid to give workshops on marketing, branding, promoting, and cover art, and only from my knowledge and experience in this business and other businesses I’ve been in that relate to it, am I able to put on my own 5-Day/4-Night, All-Inclusive Romance Novel Convention each year, that I put together and put on by myself. But what do I know, maybe you or anyone else can do that too.

      It’s those who settle for mediocre who don’t succeed.

      Jimmy Thomas – RNC
      http://www.RomanceNovelCovers.com
      http://www.RomanceNovelCenter.com
      http://www.RomanceNovelConvention.com

  7. So when you break your leg you’ll go outside, grab a few branches, tie them to the sides of your leg and hope it heals right?

    As for your question on how do cover artists know what they’re doing, etc. Um, how do authors know what they are writing? You are saying that cover artists are just anyone who decided to try a new career and make covers. In that case, you’re also saying that authors are just anybody who decided to write a story and upload it to Amazon. Which also means that anyone who can speak can sing and should.

    We hire professionals for a reason, to get QUALITY work. Anyone can fix a plumbing leak themselves, by taping it up and then “see how it does” (like making your own cover), but we hire a professional plumber to have it done right and work.

    Just because you made 6 of your own covers does not mean they are good or marketable, as you could have any 5 year old make 6 covers as well. Does that mean they are good and will get people to click on them just because they were made? Just because you know where to get images and found a program to make a cover with, doesn’t mean you will make a great, marketable cover.

    Hey I know, why don’t you use your cell phone’s camera and become a photographer? Or your cell phone’s video camera and make movies? Why not, you know how to press the record button right? Well then you can make great movies and take amazing photos that will sell really well, right?

    I’m not a cover artist trying to get myself work. I’m someone who knows this business more than most, and am trying to help you all succeed. I’ve been in it for 12 years and am flown all over and paid to give workshops on marketing, branding, promoting, and cover art, and only from my knowledge and experience in this business and other businesses I’ve been in that relate to it, am I able to put on my own 5-Day/4-Night, All-Inclusive Romance Novel Convention each year, that I put together and put on by myself. But what do I know, maybe you or anyone else can do that too.

    It’s those who settle for mediocre who don’t succeed.

    Jimmy Thomas – RNC
    http://www.RomanceNovelCovers.com
    http://www.RomanceNovelCenter.com
    http://www.RomanceNovelConvention.com

    1. Calm down a bit, Jimmy.

      Designing a competent (not stellar, but adequate) neither takes the expertise not holds the consequences of setting your own bones. Like I said above, authors who also have done a little bit of design work on the side can manage to create a non-embarrassing cover, especially if they realize the limits of their skill. It’s those who don’t realize how much still it takes who end up with their reach far exceeding their grasp.

      1. I understand what you’re saying Nathan, but with that said, it still holds true that:

        “It’s those who settle for mediocre who don’t succeed.”

        I don’t want to help people just do “ok” in their business, I want to help them do “GREAT”, which requires GREAT book covers to get their book clicked on or picked up.

        From there, it is up to their writing to prove themselves as a worthy author/writer, but their writing will barely be seen when it is packaged with a mediocre cover among many great covers. Why would anyone choose to click on any mediocre cover in a genre section full of gorgeous covers? As the viewers know that the gorgeous covers are most likely on great books, just as the viewer assumes the mediocre covers are on mediocre books.

        I’ve learned many things over my years, and tough love is the best way to get through to people who continually use excuses. They can’t be coddled and told that their way is ok when it’s not. That is just giving them bad advice just to make them happy and have their excuse supported.

        I’m not saying any of this in a mean or aggressive tone, I’m saying it as tough love, plain and simple, to the point, no fluff. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if I settled for mediocre and didn’t give tough love advice.

        1. “It’s those who settle for mediocre who don’t succeed.”

          I take you aren’t familiar with Dan Brown’s sales figures, or with his “writing” “style.”

          Come to think of it, you must also not be familiar with the content of the vast majority of those romance novels you make covers for.

            1. > I’m not a cover artist Karl, I don’t make covers. I create the images that are used on the covers.

              Ah, well then, that totally invalidates my point, doesn’t it?

  8. Hi there,
    I agree that if you’ve spent a year or so writing (in my case a collection of works together) then when you come to publish you don’t want to take any chances. I used a professional company to design my cover because I know where my own talents lie, if you trawl the many pages of Amazon you’ll see many good and bad examples of cover design and at the end of the day it does become a business decision – do I want my book to stand out and be successful?

    I used the guys below and would recommend them, I hope this helps and good luck!!
    http://www.jdandj.com

  9. I know as an author myself that the self design route (although a cheaper option) is not always the best, you just need to look through the archives on this site and you’ll see some classic examples of that. Again, when I had finished my own book I researched designs and the online book stores for examples and saw the good, the bad and the down right ugly!! I think you have to play on you own strengths and understand in which areas you need the skill of a professional, after all, you are SELLING your book and need to understand that. I used designers from http://www.jdandj.com to complete my cover for me (Clarity of Daylight), I’m currently working on the next and I will use them again. Its the same with the editing and formatting, you use a professional, I suppose with these areas people are a little scarred to get involved but seem happier to put their hands to home made covers. For me personally I will always go down the professional route, you only get one chance to grab a readers attention!!!

  10. I love it when Jimmy Thomas goes off on his tirades about cover design. He get’s a little hot under the collar, but he speaks the truth in an unvarnished, no-nonsense, no pussy footing around kinda way. He’s not a designer, so it never comes off as “promotion.” I am a professional designer, so I love it that he speaks for me. (I have a couple pre-made covers on Jimmy’s site) So, thanks Jimmy, for extolling the virtues of professional designers everywhere!
    Kindly,
    Tamian

  11. I produce covers for ebook and print.

    I’ll be honest that when I found none of my covers here…well, I breathed a sign of relief.

    I’ve attended a few workshops put on by Dean Wesley Smith and have learned an enormous amount about cover-making. I am truly thankful for it too…because you guys are ruthless. And correct in many ways.

    The worst thing an author can do when outsourcing their covers is constantly poke at and tweak the product. Coming into the project with a specific, solitary idea with no room for creative input does only four things: 1) frustrate the cover designer, 2) increase the cost of the project (sometimes exponentially), 3) give birth to a monstrosity such as some of these, and 4) cause the end product to sit lifeless on the bookshelf.

    Amazon is full of horrific covers hiding what I choose to assume are some worthy stories. Not all…some.

    I have a couple of cringe – worthy covers sitting out there. We all do. But I can guarantee those are the ones where the client demanded the very hideous elements you are trying to highlight here.

    If your friends flinch when you proudly display your “baby”, back away from the computer and find someone who knows what they are doing. Firstly being they know how to search for royalty-free stock images.

  12. I create ecovers and print covers as well – http://www.tbwecovers.com, and I have to say, some of my most cringe worthy covers are the ones where the client has been totally rigid with their concept and not open to anything I have to say or suggest.

    I have this one client who is a gem! She gives me a synopsis of the cover then let’s me have carte blanche, those covers usually turn out the best in terms of her bottom line, which is never a bad thing.

    Take time to find a designer who you can work with and whose style you like – we’re out there and we’re affordable.

    Great luck to everyone <3

  13. Don’t listen! Cover Art is a scam. People don’t even look at the cover, they instead look at your book as a work of art. If you decieve them by hiring a talented artist to do your cover it detracts from your beautiful words. Its like hiring an editor they just want to make your words common and vulgar. (Note to website host. We enjoy seeing these images, please don’t teach them how to get better!)

    1. Don’t worry — with the paltry number of people in the world who listen to me, we’re not in danger of running out of raw material for this site.

  14. in a pinch, in the old days we’d run a contest for art students at a particular school – in our case, Pratt – offer $100 first prize.

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