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What! I just spent all this time writing my manuscript and now I need to be a graphic designer, too?
Not necessarily! I know there is real pressure on Millennials and younger generations to be adept at a 100 different things just to get an entry level job, but don’t kill yourself over something you might not have the skills to accomplish. Remember, this is supposed to be the fun part. So stay calm and follow the steps below to source the cover your novel deserves!
Go To The Book Store
My bet is that you’ve had a book cover or two in mind since before you wrote your first sentence, but you should curate a group of 5 – 10 of your favorite covers for inspiration. You can search the web for popular new titles in your genre, but hitting up your favorite book store also doubles as therapy. Poke around, see what covers stand out to you, ask yourself why they stand out to you, and snap a picture if you don’t plan on buying anything this trip.
Note: I personally keep an Inspiration subfolder in all of my Titles’ parent folders. This usually contains a covers, fonts, graphics, and images that keep my mind on my story.
And please, don’t just visit Barnes & Noble. All they have are the books with their upcoming movie posters on the cover. Your local bookstores are much more likely to carry unique and/or original covers for the books you love.
Note: Study spines and back covers as well!
Grab The Pen And Paper
I know, I know, sketching something is the most terrifying thought a non-artistic person can think. I am beyond awful at drawing, but I had to get something visualized on paper to show the artist that I reached out to. It helped me see what I wanted, and helped them understand just what the heck I was talking about. Your artist will likely not read your book, and you don’t want to wait for them to do that anyway, so YOU need to know what you want.
Besides, in the right hands, my shitty sketches turned into something I love with all my heart. (See below.)
With Our Powers Combined…
…Starving artist, (s)he’s a hero!
Sorry for the weak 90s cartoon reference, but I just had to!
Look, the “Big 5” publishers have wads of cash they can throw at professional cover designers and then buy focus groups to approve the design they think will sell the most copies. You don’t. And your book isn’t going to be sitting on B&N’s shelves at first, nor is it going to be side-by-side any of those “Big 5” corporate books anyways. Those are just the facts. So why not make your project a locally-sourced work of art?
That’s right, contact your friends and local artists! Chances are you at least know someone who knows someone that is making cool stuff. Graphic designers, street artists, painters, etc… give them a call, explain your vision, and see if they can do what they do best. If you’re still at a crossroads, they probably know someone who knows someone as well!
Duh, you will have to pay them, but it will be a lot more reasonable and something you both will be extremely proud of. Why not have another champion in the ring with you?
To be honest, I don’t have ANY experience with outsourcing any work. I’m famously a stubborn DIYer. And, to be frank, I am much more excited about someone I know making my cover instead of a stranger I hired online. That being said, there are great options out there!
Fiverr: This might be the second best route. Fiverr is filled with freelancers that will more than likely simulate working with real human beings. With just a quick Fiverr search of “Book Cover” I can see pricing anywhere from $10 to $300+. I am assuming you get what you pay for here, and there are some designers with the “verified” stamp to look out for as well.
99 Designs: Again, same story as Fiverr but centered specifically around book covers. These are the experts, but they come at a premium. If you’ve got the money, and you want to spend it here, I’m sure you will be happy with the results.
Maybe you do have a little graphic and art experience under your belt and want to make your own cover. I 100% support this! The project will be completely yours in every way. There are just a few suggestions I have:
- Don’t over-complicate it! Many popular covers nowadays are extremely simple or “minimalist”. Think anything from Penguin Random House. I particularly love these minimalist designs because they can be just as impactful as full-blown scenery with character models.
- Google “Minimalist Book Covers” and you’ll see what I mean.
- Your cover will be seen on the internet before it is seen anywhere else. Make sure your title and your name are in LARGE print, make sure your fonts are easy to read, and make sure they both stand out.
- Think the little thumbnail images on Amazon or B&N.com when searching for books yourself.
Free Self-Publisher Cover Designs
Amazon, Blurb, B&N Press, IngramSpark, Bookbaby, Lulu, etc. Just…don’t.
A Quick Recap Of My Experience
I reached out to an old coworker and friend (Brent Plooster of Brentiisdesign) who also left his job to pursue self-employment full time. He always posted his great work on social media so I called him up one day and explained my situation. As it turned out, a book cover was something on his bucket list and he was over the moon to help out. We agreed on a price, I sent him my sketches and ideas, and he got to work. It turned out to be even more fun and rewarding because we would hop on Zoom together and he would draw in real time while I watched and made suggestions. Overall great experience. 10/10, did partner up again.
In fact, we later decided that a map of my characters’ journey across Colorado and Utah would be a great addition to Man, Kind and leave the reader with more exciting visual content. About every reader I personally sold to said something to the amount of, “Oh my gosh, I LOVE maps!” I’m not saying you need to specifically include a map, but maybe brainstorm a way to make your interior a bit more special.
Moving On From The Creative
Alrighty, fun’s over. You’ve spent lots of time and creative effort finishing up your manuscript and developing a cover you’re proud of. Now it’s time for the mind-numbing, meticulous, fury-inducing business and formatting side of things.
Don’t worry, I’m right here with you! Let’s take that next step together as you begin Part 3 of my Definitive Guide To Self Publishing: ISBNs, Imprints, & Legal Stuff