After spending weeks, months or maybe even years perfecting the words in your book, you’re probably ready to toss it online and cross your fingers you’ll receive rave reviews.
But before you jump on the self-publishing bandwagon, take some time to make sure your book cover is amazing.
When people browse books, whether physical or electronic, the cover is often the first piece of information they see. If your cover looks amateur or out of line with your book’s genre, readers will likely move onto the next option without a second thought.
How does a wordsmith cultivate the images and graphic design skills needed to turn a blank cover into a captivating collage — especially while trying to keep your self-publishing costs as low as possible?
Here are eight inexpensive options for book cover design, whether you’re ready to call in an expert or DIY your cover.
Hire a pro
Not thrilled about the idea of creating your own cover? These options may cost you more, but can help ensure a polished final product.
Referrals from other self-published writers, writing groups (online or in-person) and writer friends are a great way to find good designers at reasonable prices.
If you already work with designers in a professional capacity, consider asking if they’re interested in working on your book cover; those trusted sources can also provide you with referrals for other designers.
2. 99 Designs
This site can design not only your book cover but also your author logo, character merchandise and anything else you can dream up.
Start by creating a design contest for your project. Write a “design brief” explaining what you’re looking for, and 99 Designs will present your specifications and budget to its marketplace.
Designers then respond to your brief with their ideas. After seven days of reviewing designs, you select a winner and they earn the money you’ve budgeted for the project. You retain full copyright ownership of the final design you select.
99 Designs is the most expensive option on this list, and rates vary from the “Bronze” package at $299, where you can expect around 30 designs to select from, to the $1,199 “Platinum” package which features around 60 “premium” designs preselected for you by the 99 Designs staff.
One potential bonus for using a site like 99 Designs: If you discover a designer whose work you love, you can continue working with that designer on future products.
Fiverr offers the chance to get a professional book cover for just $5. The site lets you review designers’ portfolios and see ratings left by other clients.
Some people swear by Fiverr, while others have ended up frustrated. In one case, ebook writing team Frankie Johnnie had to work through 20 design iterations (at $5 a pop) before settling on a design that resonated.
However, the duo still recommends using Fiverr as a basic cover designer and a way to test out cover design options. “For as little as $5 bucks, you can roll the dice…” Frankie says in a tell-all on James H. Mayfield’s blog.
Do it yourself
If you’re not to keen on hiring a professional and would rather tackle design duties yourself, here are a few resources to help you along the way.
4. Use Microsoft Word
Believe it or not, you can actually design an entire book cover using only Microsoft Word.
The Creative Penn even offers an incredible DIY book cover design tutorial by Derek Murphy. His tutorial notes how important it is to select the right picture (“Simple is better,” he says) as well as the importance of balancing colors.
The tutorial also discusses where to find images, whether you’re taking photos yourself, sourcing stock images or using other online sources such as Etsy and DeviantArt. Then, it walks readers through the step-by-step details of designing a captivating cover.
Derek Murphy’s own site offers customizable templates so self-published writers can easily design their own book covers.
You don’t need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for special design software to create a cover that will make people snap up copies of your book. Murphy offers a training video that teaches youhow to design a great cover in 30 minutes or less.
He also offers a free, online cover creator tool, along with video tutorials to help you make the most of it.
Pixlr offers a variety of photo editing apps. “Pixlr Editor” offers opportunities to use layers, replace colors and transform objects. Another popular option is “Pixlr Express,” which offers quick fixes and personal touches with a simpler interface.
The site helps you create and touch up gorgeous images,, as the “Made with Pixlr” gallery shows. If you want to use the desktop version of Pixlr, you’ll have to pay about $15 per year.
GIMP, a free program you can use for photo retouching, creating and composing images, stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program.”
While many tools allow you to create and edit within your web browser, you’ll have to download this software before you get started. GIMP can be used with GNU/Linux and UNIX, as well as Windows, Mac and other systems.
More than 5.6 million users have created more than 31 million designs (and counting!) with this free software program. While some design elements will cost you, many templates and features are free.
Canva’s drag-and-drop setup makes it easy to create your simple book cover. It features millions of images (including stock photos, vectors and illustrations) as well as photo filters, free icons and shapes, and hundreds of fonts.
If you’re not sure where to start, visit Canva’s free Design School, where you can learn even more about design, as well as a book cover-specific tutorial.
What about your own self-published book cover? Would you rather design your own cover or hire a pro?
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you purchase through our links, you’re supporting The Write Life — and we thank you for that!