The Process of Indie Book Covers

IWSG February 2023 – Book Covers

It’s IWSG Wednesday (what’s that? read on!) and the question posed this month is about book covers. We all love a gorgeous book cover! My first novel, Trials of the Innermost, is with an indie publisher so I’ll share how that process worked to design a book cover through an Indie publisher and provide some resources if you are looking to make your own cover for your book.

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group post on the first Wednesday of the month. “Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance.” You can find my previous post here. The group poses a monthly question to answer as well.

IWSG Question of the Month

If you are an Indie author, do you make your own covers or purchase them? If you publish trad, how much input do you have about what goes on your cover?

Book Cover With an Indie Publisher

My friend and I wrote a science fantasy series together and signed with an Indie publisher, Hansen House Books. One of the many great things about working with an Indie publisher is the level of personal input you still retain (speaking specifically of my own experience and can’t comment on all of the indie presses). Hansen House took our ideas and general theme of a cover idea and turned it into the fantastic cover you see below. Throughout the process, our designer sent progress images and asked for our input including the font used. Our publisher was happy and we were happy – win-win!

Options for Self-publishing

There are many websites out there with great ideas and resources on getting an eye-catching cover for your book. I’ll talk briefly about the options I’ve looked at for my own research and potential projects.

Premade Book Covers

Some people (digital artist etc.) make premade book covers. Which means you can add your own text, or the artist can (depending on what they offer), to a cover that has already been designed. You lose the ability to custom pick images and go back and forth to perfect the design, but because it takes less time it costs less. So, this might be an option if you have a limited budget or limit design skills. Note that using stock images means there could be covers out there with the same image on them. Generally, depending on what type of images are used an if they make any edits for you, this option could be $50-$300.

Below is an example from Fabled Beast Designs. I found him on twitter while he was having a sale. He was super easy to work with and made several tweaks at no additional cost. I wanted to have a cover for a short story I had written for a friend just as an adding touch to the overall gift.

Hiring an artist for your book cover

This of course is likely the more expensive option. You are paying someone to design from scratch the art you want for your book cover. This means that you’ll provide source images for inspiration or a text description of what you are looking for, you’ll go back and forth during the progress suggesting changes to really get the exact image you want in the end. Because of the work and talent of the artist, and the time commitment to make the cover fully customized you are going to pay for what you get. And it’s worth it!

I worked with a friend who gave me a small discount (so nice of him!) on two cover designs and it was such a great experience being able to fine tune the cover exactly as I envisioned. We ended up not using the designs (because we went with an Indie publishing house) but are going to use them as preorder bonuses as character prints! Quickly searching, depending on the complexity, this option could be $300-$1500 on average.

No image to share but stay tuned for announcements of preorder goodies for Trials of the Innermost and you’ll see the art there!

Making a book cover yourself

There are lots of great resources already out there and many different directions you could take. You can use your own photography, the photos of others (purchased or free – check the licensing, never steal!), other elements like fancy swirls and fonts. I’ll provide a few suggestions to get you started on your own research into ways to design your own book cover. Check currently popular books in your genre to get inspiration and to see what’s selling! Some of the things you might need:

*Important – any time you are using “free” photos, art, fonts, designs, etc. make sure the service you use and the images have a commercial license. Meaning you are allowed to make money (aka sell a book) with the item*

  • Photo editing software. There are free options, but I like Paint ShopPro – it’s a great software with half the cost of more expensive options like PhotoShop and in my opinion super easy to learn quickly when you’re new.
  • Free stock photos, vectors, and other art. Some sites I’ve used include: Unsplash, Pexels, and Pixabay
  • Template builders. There are apps and websites that have pre-made templates for covers or just in general that you could use and tweak, or use for inspiration. Canva is a great option for this. I made the below mock cover for a future poetry book in about five minutes.

What about you? Have you designed your own cover or partnered with a publisher or artist before?

8 thoughts on “The Process of Indie Book Covers”

  1. I hire all of mine out. I always have a lot of feedback, and even had one cover go through 15 versions before it was right ;). (I LOVE the final version, just too a while to get there-LOL)

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