Cover Art Options for the Self-Publisher

When you produce a novel on your own, you get the pleasure—and burden—of full control over the creative process. This places the responsibility for good cover art strictly upon your shoulders. Here’s how you can tackle the mission.

The Importance of Cover Art

Book covers can sell a book—or kill it. Even if your novel is polished and gripping, a bad cover screams out an amateurish production. Few people would look beyond it to the novel itself.

A good cover, on the other hand, may convince people to give your novel the chance it deserves, and set out on the journey of exploring your work page by page.

It’s that critical.

What to Look For

Keep an eye out for the following:

  • Your cover art should intrigue and capture attention. It should convey the atmosphere of your novel, and set up the correct kind of expectations. For example, if you write pure action, a kissing couple and a puppy on the cover would be a bad choice.

  • The novel name and your byline should be clear and easily readable, in terms of font, layout, and color contrast.

  • Fonts are just as important as illustrations or photos. The font has to resonate with the atmosphere of the cover and its artistic concept.

  • All elements should combine to create a cohesive design concept. If the cover image conveys soft romance, don’t go for a heavy, blocky font.

  • If you have a catchy, short review from a well-known author in your genre or niche, add it to the cover with proper attribution.

Getting the Cover Done

You have several options here.

  • Do it yourself.

    Unless you’re a professional designer, most chances are you’ll produce amateurish art. There’s so much to consider: imagery and composition and layout and fonts and colors… Unless you’ve been trained to make the most of all these channels, leave it to someone else. Don’t save money at the expense of killing your sales.

  • Buy a pre-made cover.

    These represent a middle ground between doing it yourself and hiring a professional artist for custom work.

    With the rise of self-publishing, cover artists have quickly filled the need for professional covers at a sane price by creating stock covers. There are quite a few websites that offer large collections of covers. Most of them list covers by genre.

    Make sure that by purchasing a cover, you are made its exclusive owner! You don’t want other books out there with a same cover as yours, especially not in your genre.

    Make sure that the file you get is in high enough resolution for your purposes. If you’re planning on having your novel printed, you’ll need a high-resolution file of 300dpi (dots per inch) at least. For eBooks, 72dpi should suffice.

    Make sure your purchase includes entering the correct novel title, sub title (optional), and author name.

    Some good sources for pre-made covers are: SelfPubBookCovers.com, The Book Cover Designer, and Go On Write.

    Prices usually range around $50-$200.

  • Hire a cover artist.

    Getting a custom cover from a specialized artist is the best option for your book, but it might hit you hard in the pocket. You get the most control over what goes on the cover, and the artist’s job is to make it look good together.

    Expect to pay $200-$500 on a customized design which includes an illustration or heavy photo manipulation.

    A noticeable exception are cover artists at a marketplace called Fiverr. As the name suggests, most basic works (called “gigs”) in this marketplace start at $5. For some gigs, you may then select power-ups and add-ons, and quickly hit the $50-$100 range. It’s still a low-cost venue for custom covers, especially if your cover centers on a single premium image. (I have worked before with pixelstudio with great results on such covers.)

    Again, make sure that the file you get is in high enough resolution for your purposes. If you’re planning on having your novel printed, you’ll need a high-resolution file of 300dpi (dots per inch) at least. For eBooks, 72dpi should suffice.

There’s nothing like the feeling of seeing your novel take shape under your hands. Cover art is a big step towards that end, so don’t forget to enjoy it!



Tal Valante

Tal Valante has been writing science fiction and fantasy from a young age, and she can't seem to kick the habit. When she’s not busy crafting fictional worlds, she’s buried in heaps of programming code as webmistress to Riptide Publishing, and as a new entrepreneur with Readership Pro. You’re welcome to connect with Tal on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter.

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