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Ebook Cover Design: How-Tos, Costs, and More


The first thing about your book that will catch a reader’s eye is obviously the cover! It doesn’t matter how fabulous your book is if no one ever picks it up to read it, and readers absolutely will judge a book by its cover. That means we need to put the same care and attention into our book covers as we do into the story itself.

If you’re a self-published author, the cover designs are up to you, which means you’re responsible for finding, vetting, hiring, and paying for your cover design. While designing a cover yourself is always an option, graphic design can be a tough skill to cultivate! Since your book cover is one of your most important marketing elements, it makes perfect sense to hire out for it.

Let’s look at some different options for doing your ebook cover design yourself and how to hire a designer.

Can I pay someone to design my ebook cover?

Yes, you can pay someone to design your ebook cover!

There are many companies and freelancers who offer cover design services. You can often bundle an ebook cover design with your paperback cover and hardback cover, as well as an interior format, so you have fewer people to hire. Bundling services like this is typically a cheaper option than hiring a cover designer and interior formatter separately.

If you’re only publishing an ebook, your cover design should be fairly affordable to have done, whether you design it yourself or hire out.

While good design skills take a while to cultivate, one of the easier book projects to practice on is the ebook cover. It’s much simpler to design your own ebook cover than it is to design a full wrap (with the spine and back cover), like for a paperback or hardback.

When deciding if you’ll hire out or DIY your cover, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How much money do I want to invest in my book?
  • How much time do I want to invest?
  • Do I want to learn a new skill, even if it takes some time?
  • Is my skill set at, or close to, a level where I can accomplish what I’d like to accomplish with the cover of my ebook?

Answering those questions should give you a pretty clear idea of which avenue is best for you and your publishing goals.

When you’re looking to cut costs on book production, cover design is not one we usually recommend. The cover is one of your biggest marketing tools, so if you’re investing money anywhere, the cover design is a great choice.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever design your own covers, so we’re going to go over a few ways you can do it yourself, as well as the best practices when it comes to hiring a designer.

Ebook Cover Design

How do I make an ebook cover design?

It can take quite a lot of time to nail the skill of graphic design, but it’s not impossible! Here are some things to consider when designing your own covers.

1. Research your genre.

The genre, subgenre, tone, themes, and target demographics should all be reflected in the cover design of your book. That means you need to know what other authors in your genres are doing with their covers! It’s also important to research for each one throughout your career, as trends and expectations evolve rapidly in the publishing industry. You can give your book a leg up or a kick down with the cover design, so try to be intentional and thorough with your research and designs.

2. Focus on readable text.

Physical books meant to sell in stores have covers designed to stand out in big print on a brick-and-mortar shelf.

For ebooks, your sales will happen online. That means a lot of glimpses at your book cover will be in thumbnail size! Try to design your cover in a way that is the most readable. Avoid too many distracting designs, make sure the text is big and clear enough to be seen in a smaller image, and make it eye-catching.

Even though this article from TheBookDesigner.com was written in 2010, the examples he includes clearly illustrate this issue of going from print to ebook.

3. Learn the basics.

Look at LOTS of examples from other recent books in your genre. Learn about symmetry, scale, framing, fonts, imagery, and other basic design fundamentals before you jump in. You can check out one of our articles on the topic; or you might try a class like Wend Fessler’s “Design A Book Cover – Graphic Design Basics” or Jeremy Deighan’s “Canva : Book Cover Design” for a guided experience. If book learning is more your speed, try Book Cover Design Formula by Anita Nipane.

4. Book design software.

The software you choose to use for your cover design will affect the process, timeline, and finished product. You might invest in something a bit more high-end, but you don’t necessarily have to dump a lot of money on software, especially if this is your first book. Here are some common ones you might consider.

Photoshop

Lots of designers use Photoshop or copycat programs, like GIMP, to design their covers. This may not be the best choice for a beginner, as these options are less intuitive than some other cover design software options, but if you already have an Adobe Photoshop subscription or a knowledge of the software, you can create beautiful covers.

Cost: $33.99 per month

InDesign

Adobe InDesign is a great software purchase for indie authors, because you can use it to format the interior of your books, as well as for your covers. If you’re a do-it-yourself indie author, a program like InDesign that will allow you to handle multiple parts of the publishing process is a great investment, as well as more time-effective, as you only have to learn one program. There are tons of great Skillshare classes for Adobe InDesign, my favorite of which being Nadège Richard’s classes for formatting the interior of paperbacks and ebooks with InDesign.

Cost: $20.99 per month

BookBrush

BookBrush is a simple program for creating marketing images, as well as book covers. It’s definitely worth checking out, since most of their features are available for free. This is a good option for less experienced designers, since BookBrush provides intuitive tools and a library of solid templates to get you started.

Cost: $8.99 per month for a premium account, but you can access most of BookBrush’s features for free!

Canva

Like BookBrush, Canva offers most of their features for free, as well as many great templates. I design most of my covers with a combination of InDesign (for the most complicated bits of design) and Canva to finish it off. Canva is a strong tool for indie authors, even if you aren’t using it to design covers—go take a look at their social and marketing templates if you haven’t yet!

Cost: $12.99 per month for the premium version, but most features are free.

How much does it cost to design an ebook cover?

The price of a cover design can range from $5 (no joke) to a thousand dollars, with most being around a few hundred bucks.

The final cost of your cover depends on factors like the complication of the design, how many edits you request, the experience level and location of the designer, and the morality of the company (for example, if they’re being particularly predatory in the way they hire and pay their designers).

I paid around $150 for the ebook cover design of Little Birds, while I paid $395 for the ebook design of Starlight. I think the quality difference between the two is clear, so keep in mind that you’ll usually get what you pay for!

For other pen names in different genres, I’ve made my own covers with Canva and InDesign, obviously only paying for those subscription services.

The most cost-effective route is typically to hire the same designer for your ebook cover design, paperback cover design, interior formats, etc., in order to get a bundle discount.

The price of your ebook cover can have a very wide range, so it comes down to your personal goals and where you decide to invest your book budget. But like I said, your book cover is one of the most important marketing investments you can make, so prioritizing a cover design is never a bad idea.

How to hire an ebook cover designer

If you’ve decided to hire a cover designer, the first time will be the hardest. It’s great to put the time into researching anyone you hire before you do so. Whether that’s editors, cover designers, interior formatters, marketers, etc., you’re trusting someone with your career! It should be a partnership, so choosing the right person and making sure you keep open communication will save you a lot of time and stress later down the road.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind for hiring a designer for your ebook cover:

  1. Make sure you do your research on the designer, read through their testimonials, and see examples of their previous work. Bonus points if you can find testimonials that aren’t directly from the designer’s website. (Try searching their mentions on Twitter, for a starting place in your research.)
  2. Try to get those bundle deals to save yourself money. (That said, look out for tacking on too many of those “extras.” For example, many designers offer add-ons like audiobook covers and the Photoshop file of your design—you don’t need both! It’s easy to format the cover into a square for your audiobook cover if you’re already adding on the Photoshop file.)
  3. Be open and communicative of what you want. While being cordial is a must, your designer can’t read your mind! Practice being clear and direct with your expectations.
  4. If you arrive at a disagreement on something, be sure to hear your designer out on their opinions. After all, you hired a professional because they know more than you! That doesn’t mean rolling over for anything they think is best, but try to keep an open mind and appreciate the expertise you’ve paid for.
  5. If you’re happy with their design job, hire them again! Finding people you love to work with can be difficult in any industry, so keeping connections with people you like to work with can save yourself a lot of grief. It’s a big time investment to find someone new, and repeat customers can sometimes get a discount. That means it makes good business sense to try and find a good designer the first time.
  6. That said, if you’re unhappy with the job they did or the interaction in general, don’t be afraid to shop around for someone else on your next project. The cost-effectiveness of keeping the same designer doesn’t matter if you aren’t happy with their performance. It’s a balancing act.

Next Steps

Hopefully, that’s enough information for you to feel confident in your choice to either hire a cover designer or try it yourself! At Self-Publishing School, we offer in-house book cover design, as well as other done-for-you services. If that’s what you need, book a call with our team and let’s discuss how we can help you.

Self-publishing can feel like a big old game of trial and error, but following expert advice and the tips in this article can help you avoid a lot of the errors.

Find a system that works for you, then follow that process again and again, so you’re not reinventing the wheel with every new book you write. Now, let’s get your current book designed and published!

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Book Cover Design Checklist

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Disclosure: Some of the links above may contain affiliate partnerships, meaning, at no additional cost to you, Self-Publishing School may earn a commission if you click through to make a purchase.

Hannah Lee Kidder

Hannah Lee Kidder is a contemporary and fantasy author, writing coach, and YouTuber. She has published two bestselling short story collections, Little Birds and Starlight. Hannah is currently minding her own business, streaming a variety of writing and life content on Twitch, somewhere in the Colorado mountains with her roommate, Saya, who is a dog.

https://www.facebook.com/HannahLeeKidder

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