Nov 26 2013

Getting Started: Cover Art for Self-Publishers

Blank white book(Updated 1/26/14 with more cover artists below)

In an article by Terri Giuliano Long on IndieReader.com, founder of Smashwords, Mark Coker, says, “Our brains are wired to process images faster than words. When we see an image, it makes us feel something.” A great cover can “help the reader instantly recognize that this book is for them.”

We all know how important good cover art is for a published book. It’s even more important for self-published authors when competing with traditionally published books on the market.

The perfect book cover does three things:
  1. Grabs attention
  2. Gathers further interest
  3. Gets the sale

Getting the sale usually depends on other factors such as: genre, price, back cover description, interior quality, etc. However, a great book cover should get you one step closer to a sale.


Where to Start

Start with writing down your book cover goals and ideas. Depending on your book’s genre and audience, you should have specific goals in mind when planning your perfect book cover.

Erotica: Do you want to portray a specific scene from the story? Do you want sexy cover models? Do you want the mysterious bookstore-appropriate cover like the Fifty Shade books?

Romance: Do you want the hero and heroine to attract your readers? Want silhouetted images or specific body parts so not to throw off your readers and their interpretations of your characters? Would a pretty rose or other object better signify your book’s message? What about colors, does red match the personality, theme or mood of your book?

After you have an idea of what you want to portray, you start looking for a professional cover artist.

Professional Cover Artist

Sure, you probably can whip up a book cover over the weekend using GIMP or some other free graphic manipulating software. But unless you are a skilled graphic designer or a pro with Photoshop you should probably look to someone who creates book covers for a living to assist you.

Cover artists are professional not only because they know how to manipulate images and graphics, they also understand book covers and the genres they create them for. They have specific ideas about the right kind of feel for the genre, the perfect placement of text, fonts and images, they use the highest resolution of the perfect stock photos, and more. Some may even design promo material for you (bookmarks, Facebook headers, etc.) which will come in handy when marketing your book.

Are you still in control?

Of course, you are in control of your book cover. You provide very detailed descriptions and examples of what you desire for your book cover to the cover artist, and they try their best to deliver, usually not stopping until you are absolutely satisfied with the cover. Some cover artists have limits to the amount of revisions you can make, which is understandable if you consider they have other clients and projects to tend to as well.

Will you own the cover rights?

Yes. If you are a self-published author, you are paying for the full rights to use the book cover in any way you please, provided the cover artist acquired the necessary stock photo rights. Still, I would advise you to clarify this with the designer ahead of time.

Aren’t the pros expensive?

It depends on who you work with, your exact needs, and your budget. Sure, a full cover wrap is more expensive than an e-book cover, because you only need a front cover for an e-book as opposed to the front cover, back cover, and spine for a POD paperback. Custom book cover designs cost more than a pre-made cover design. Higher resolution photos cost more for the cover artist, so in turn, they’ll cost more for you. It all depends on your needs.

You said, “Pre-made book covers?”

Yep. You can get pre-made book covers for as low as $25 through some cover artists. The best book cover designers have an online portfolio where you can browse covers through genres or themes. But remember, it’s on a first comes, first served basis. In other words, once a particular book cover is sold, it is gone forever. And although they are pre-made, the artist will still customize the cover with your author name, book title, series title, tagline, etc. For authors with a low budget or debuting, using a pre-made cover can be your best bet.

Finding Professional Cover artists

Finding a professional book cover designer is as easy as Google. Below is a list of a few I’ve either worked with or checked out myself.

Variety of genres.

Art by Karri | http://artbykarri.com/ | Prices starting at $45
RomCom Pre-Made Book Covers | http://www.romcon.com/pre-made-book-covers | Prices starting at $125
Farah Evers Designs | http://www.farahevers.com/ | Prices starting at $50
Mina Carter Designshttp://art.mina-carter.com/ | Prices starting at $40
Cover Art Collective | http://www.coverartcollective.com/ | Prices starting at $30 (This link also lists 10 other book cover designers)
Amazon.com KDP Cover Creator | https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/signin | When publishing on the KDP platform you now have an option to create your book cover complete with images and templates | currently priced at FREE
Selfpubbookcovers.com | http://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/index.php | prices at $69
Mallory Rock (Graphic Artist & Interior Formattor) | http://www.malloryrock.com/ | prices (must query)


Suggested by blog readers & visitors:


Scarlet Tie Designs Pre-made Book Covers | http://scarlettiedesigns.weebly.com/ | Prices starting at $30
Meredith Orioli – Graphic Designer |  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Meredith-Orioli-Freelance-Graphic-Designer/1430358920512362?ref=hl | Prices (must query)


You know some great and affordable book cover artists? Let us know about them in the comments.


When it comes to cover art, this post will help you get started. Now you know what to expect, where to look, and what to budget for your book cover design. Is there anything you would like to know more about? Let me know in the comments.


[Image credit: Oh, Chrys!]

About the author

Leslie Lee Sanders

Leslie is a publishing Industry blogger, freelance writer and an author of over a dozen erotic romance & thriller titles. She self-published over two dozen works of fiction since 2004. Her blog was a finalist in the first annual Goodreads Independent Book Blogger Awards in 2012, and her story Benefits of Sharing is a finalist for the 2013 EPIC Award in the short story category. Her work has been included in the following Writer’s Market books: 2016 & 2017 Writer’s Market, 2016 & 2017 Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market, and the 2014 & 2015 editions of Guide to Self-Publishing. As well as online blogs like Be a Freelance Blogger. She resides in Arizona with her husband and 3 daughters.


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  1. Erica Pike

    Definitely bookmarking this. I primarily use Scarlet Tie Designs, but I do like others as well. Mina Carter is great with romance covers.

    1. Leslie Lee Sanders

      Thanks for adding to my list, Erica!

      I agree, Mina Carter is great with romance covers, mostly erotic romance. She’s designed most of mine. I’ve recently worked with Karri from Art by Karri too, and now I can’t seem to stay off of her site. :) Whenever I have downtime, I go browse her portfolio for inspiration.

      Gotta love a well-designed book cover!
      Leslie Lee Sanders recently posted…Write a Bestseller with Help from a New Blog Series

  2. Meredith Orioli - Graphic Designer

    Hello Leslie!

    Can I add that I am another Graphic Designer who can help self publishers create custom book covers? I offer many different options from covers that are illustrated, are photographic, or are strictly bold geographic designs. A full wrap cover can be made, as well as ebook covers, ads of all sizes, Facebook covers and profiles, etc. Feel free to check out my page of Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Meredith-Orioli-Freelance-Graphic-Designer/1430358920512362?ref=hl to see many projects that I have recently posted.

    Thank you and keep up the great blogging!


    1. Leslie Lee Sanders

      Hi Meredith!

      Thank you for adding to the list, and thanks for stopping by. I’m sure those looking for a professional cover artist appreciates it. :)
      Leslie Lee Sanders recently posted…Big Blog Goals for 2014: Upcoming Posts, Book Releases, and Blog Series

      1. Josh

        Hi there Leslie,

        It’s also worth checking out http://www.jdandj.com for cover design, they create for ebook, paperback and hardback along with the advertising which authors use to help promote their own books.

        All the best,

        1. Leslie Lee Sanders

          Thanks for your suggestion, Josh. Any suggestion is helpful. :)
          Leslie Lee Sanders recently posted…Angel Martinez Reads Refuge Inc. Excerpt

  3. Bruce Dunn

    You do not discuss covers that are painted. Does that impact rights in any way?

    1. Leslie Lee Sanders

      Hi Bruce.

      I’m not sure what you mean by painted covers. Do you mean a custom painting that’s been designed into a book cover? Just like an illustrated book cover, it’s best to discuss with the illustrator about buying and owning rights to use the work. Even get a contract, if necessary. Make sure you both are aware of the project terms so there’s no confusion, the length of terms (lifetime use?), the territory (worldwide use?), the formats (e-book, print, audio?) and any other details.

      When I pay for a custom painting, illustration, graphic design, etc., I am paying to own the rights to use it how I see fit respectfully (in promo material, in ads, in blog posts, etc.), always crediting the work, art, or design to the creator.

      If you have any other questions, please feel free to get in touch. :)
      Leslie Lee Sanders recently posted…My Top 5 Most Helpful Blog Posts for Writers: Part 2

  4. a

    Hello this is kinda of off topic but I was wanting to know if blogs use WYSIWYG
    editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding experience so
    I wanted to get advice from someone with experience.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Leslie Lee Sanders

      I use WordPress and their templates. You can find more info at WordPress.org. :)
      Leslie Lee Sanders recently posted…Wounded Beacon by Leslie Lee Sanders Out Now (free)

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