While everybody agrees that creating a beautiful book cover should be the work of an artist, hiring book designers could be very expensive for most self-published authors. What happens if you can’t afford a designer and sell your book on Amazon or upload it to Wattpad?
Yes! It's totally possible to create a great cover image for free: you just need to learn a few tricks to make one that looks professional.
This article explores what the main steps of creating an eye-catching book cover are. Self-publishing a book isn't always easy, but an amazing book cover can help you get it right.
To read more about ebook covers, check out our other articles on this topic:
- Book cover requirements
- Create an ebook cover with Canva or Spark for free
- Complete guide for book cover sizes
- Complete guide to choosing your book cover font
- 3D covers and bundle covers
(Article was updated with more information on April 07, 2020.)
Checklist on being your own book cover creator
Here are the items you’ll need to take care of when creating your own book cover:
- Your title and your author name. There is no need to put anything on the cover other than the author’s name, the title, and the subtitle.
- A suitable image or images. These will be used as the main part of your cover. It is uncommon to create completely typographic covers unless the book is literary fiction.
- A genre-specific font. Serif or sans-serif?
- You can use a book cover maker like an editing app, online service, or get a professional photo editing software.
- A feedback group. Just as you wouldn’t publish a book without getting somebody to read it first, you can’t publish a book without getting feedback on your cover either.
Let’s dive deeper!
1. Your title and author name
If you need help with selecting a good pen name or giving a title that really sells, check out this article. Before you try your design skills, let’s see what to include and what to leave out on a book cover.
Do put on the cover your name, your title, and your subtitle. You might also put the series name or volume on the cover, but if your covers look visually similar, it is not necessary.
If you won a prize and reached #1 on Amazon in a category or sold over a million copies, you can also put that on the cover. Subtle, short quotes from your reviews are also allowed.
Please don’t put on your cover any price references (neither ebook nor paperback) or keywords. Prices simply change too fast! And definitely don’t overstuff your cover: less is often better.
2. A suitable image: find a royalty-free photo for your book cover
There are only a few genres where a text-heavy cover works well. These genres include literary fiction and university textbooks. Readers of literary fiction usually don’t pick their next read by the cover but by recommendations of critics and prize-givers).
And readers of university textbooks usually read what they have to. It’s not like text-heavy, typographic covers cannot be fascinating. Here are two examples (the 1984 one is not real though, it is only a plan):
Most other genres, however, require a photo in the background - below we go over how to find one.
Find a free stock photo (or a very cheap one)
If you can’t afford to pay an artist or a photographer, you’ll have to use a free stock photo. There are many collections of free or cheap stock photos online. (P.S. Browse our list of self-publishing resources here for low-priced stock photos and graphic design assets).
A stock photo is a photo that can be licensed by many different companies and used for many different purposes. And it is used for all kinds of things! For some insight on how wide the usability of stock photos is, check this article.
If you decide to use or buy a stock photo, it is likely that other covers in your genre will have the same photo, or even: you can see your beloved main character on a billboard, advertising a toothpaste – or something much worse. See the following stock photo on four covers and two ads.
If you decide to use a stock photo, you can easily find a free or very cheap one even under 10 USD. Never use a stock photo without purchasing its commercial rights. You’ll need to make sure that the image is free to use and modifiable for commercial purposes. If your photo has watermarks, or if it is not available in a format large enough, you are likely not using it legally.
If you liked what we shared so far, do know that PublishDrive helps indies throughout the entire self-publishing process. When you have your bomb cover design and polish manuscript ready, be sure to publish on our platform for easy and wide distribution to thousands of channels! Publish your 1st title now!