Experts often agree that the two most important things to leave to the professionals when you’re self-publishing your book is editing and cover design. You want an error and typo-free book and a great cover. We’ve gone over editing in the previous posts and now it’s time to find a cover for your book.

You don’t have to wait until after you’ve finished writing your book to start designing a cover. In fact, it’s easier if you get the cover done before you’re ready to publish your book. One advantage of having your cover done early is that you can do a cover reveal on your blog or social media pages, drumming up interest in your book before it’s available. You can also use the cover in your pre-orders (which we’ll talk about in an upcoming post) while you’re fine-tuning your manuscript.

But how do you find a cover for your book? You could design a cover yourself using software, but I wouldn’t advise this unless you are already a cover designer and/or have a lot of computer design experience. Book cover design, like editing in most cases, should be left to professionals. I know that these two services can be expensive, but they can also help your book(s) take off and keep readers reading your books (assuming you write engaging stories or helpful nonfiction).

So, most likely you’re not designing a book cover yourself. You may want to find a professional book cover designer. Just like when you searched for editors, the first place you may want to start is with recommendations from friends and other authors. You could also ask for recommendations from book/author groups on Facebook and other social media sites. You could also do internet searches for cover designers. Make a list of cover designers that you like; look at their portfolios on their websites and compare their prices with other designers. Prices can range from under a hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars.

Some writers might think they give the synopsis of their story to a cover designer and then the designer does all the work, but often you will need to give the designer an idea of what you want so you two aren’t going back and forth with drafts of your cover. This is a good place to say that you should have some idea of what you want your cover to look like.

There are basically two ways you can go about this. Either you’ve already got a good idea of the image(s) or artwork you want on your cover, perhaps even something resembling a scene in your book, or you’ve researched the genre of your book and you want to make your cover similar to other books in your genre, or your genre niche.

We’ll start with the first one. Having a picture in your mind right away can make things a lot easier when it comes to cover design, but it still may not be a bad idea to research other books in your genre or genre niche. This doesn’t mean that you’re directly copying other covers (don’t do that), but you’re just trying to make your book instantly recognizable as a book in that particular genre. Experts say most readers browsing for a book give the cover and title a second or two of attention before moving on to the next one, so you have a very short time to grab a reader’s attention. If the cover looks amateurish or confusing or doesn’t seem to fit the genre, then they may pass on it and look at the next books – even if this is a subconscious choice on their part.

Back to the idea you have for the cover of your novel or nonfiction book. Does your cover idea speak to the genre you’re writing in? Would a reader know what kind of book yours is if there was no title on it? It’s important, because many readers shop by genre. And if the cover and title are intriguing enough for them to stop and check out your book, they may move on to the description (which we’ll discuss in an upcoming post). It’s great to have an idea you’re in love with, but if it doesn’t fit the genre or if it could be confusing to the reader, then you may want to change the idea or do more research on covers in your genre.

For some of my books (like Ancient Enemy) the image for the cover came to me immediately, and other covers were a struggle. But when you contact a cover designer, they’re going to want a description of what you want on the cover, and this is where researching covers in your genre will really help.

Another option is premade covers. A lot of cover designers have premade covers for sale for a lot less money. And there are websites that sell premade covers for reasonable prices like SelfPubBookCovers.com and TheBookCoverDesigner.com, to mention a few. You’ll have to look through a lot of covers to find a few you might be interested in, but I’ve found some really good images for some of my covers on these two sites. About half of my covers were made by cover designers and the other half were from premade covers.

But even if I’m looking through premade covers on those websites, I still have a fairly good idea of what I want on the cover of my book. For instance, when I was writing Devil’s Island, I knew I wanted an image of a small tropical island in the middle of the ocean, but I wanted it to be at night, dark and foreboding. I saw the cover image on a website of premade covers and I purchased it immediately because it was exactly what I wanted. I bought software to do the lettering and fonts, so I did the lettering myself. The cover for Sightings was an impulse buy. I saw the cover and bought it immediately. I purchased just the art, tweaked the lighting to make it brighter and more blue, then I did the lettering myself.

One of the problems with premade covers is that you may take a long time looking for the exact image you want, or you may want something more uncommon. This may be the time to turn to a designer. It may be more expensive to use a professional designer, but I recommend going with a professional designer who has a track record of designing book covers.

How do you come up with an idea for your cover? You could jot down some ideas as you’re writing or re-reading/editing your manuscript. You could have others read your manuscript and give you some suggestions. And of course, you could look at other book covers in your genre to give you some inspiration.

One good thing about professionally designed book covers and premade covers is that you don’t have to buy software to create your covers. Your designer will do all of the design work for you after you two agree on what you want, or when it comes to premade covers, usually the designer will add your title and other metadata to the cover.

In closing, I recommend a professional-looking cover from either a designer or a premade cover from a reputable website. Also, keep in mind that your cover image should be clear when seen at a thumbnail size. Many readers may first see your cover at that size on Amazon or in a promotional email on their phone, so make sure the image and title can be seen clearly at a smaller size.

Hope this helps someone out there.

Until next time . . .