Design a Book Cover for Less than $50

More and more authors want to publish ebooks and need covers, but many don’t feel they can afford the services of a designer. To be frank, I see author-created covers that do not serve the author well.

But I also see well-done covers, so I thought I’d offer some resources for creating professional book covers for a low cost in case you’re handy at design. Full disclosure: the examples here are cover designs for client novels and memoirs.

Revenge thumbnailDesign goals
Your first and foremost goal for a design is, in my view, storytelling: The cover begins to raise story questions in a viewer’s mind and/or gives a viewer a sense of what the story is about. A strong cover design can evoke mood and emotion that foreshadow the story.
eye-catching example
Secondly, the title and author’s name need to be legible in the small thumbnail sizes used at online booksellers such as Amazon. The example to the left is the size you’ll see on Amazon’s search page. Some design clients prefer that their name be smaller, but my feeling is that your name is the core of your brand, so it should be legible at small sizes.

Lastly, and obviously, covers need to be eye-catching—if a browser’s eye isn’t drawn to your color by color and design, it won’t be seen (right).

Free graphics software
First up is the software you need to create a cover complete with an image and typography. I use Photoshop, but that’s a costly program. There’s a sophisticated free application called GIMP that offers just about all of the tools that Photoshop does, but at no cost. It’s available for Windows and Mac OSX platforms. One caveat: the only color option it offers is RGB (red, green, blue), the system your monitor uses. For ebook covers, that’s all you need, but for a print edition you will need a capability to utilize the CYMK (cyan, yellow, magenta, black) color system that is used by most printers ( I think Lulu can utilize RGB images).

I found a free online converter (RGB to CYMK) here. And there is a plugin you can download called Separate + available that will add CYMK separation capabilities to GIMP. It appears to be free, but I haven’t tried it. [Read more…]