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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Everyone judges a book by it's cover, it's pretty much a fact of life. That doesn't necessarily mean you won't pick it up for a read if the summary is good enough, of course. But what I want to know- seeing as there are quite a few self-published authors on these forums (and quite a few of them with gorgeous covers!) just how many of you designed your own covers?

And if you designed it yourself, what skill level would you say you had?

If you hired someone, why? And how did you find the experience/cost?

As both a backpacker and an aspiring author, I don't have access to the sorts of funds I'd need to purchase a cover right now. That said, the cover I am using for my debut novel Amanzimtoti (image via the link or in my signature), is one I managed to design using an online photo editor and a text generator! ...which says alot about my skill level! ;)

The image is a photograph I took myself of the Inyoni Rocks on Amanzimtoti beach, which is where my novel is set. The rocks feature quite significantly throughout my story and I liked the idea of giving a nod to them on the cover, especially so that readers could have the visual aid to refer to. I then used an online editor to give it that 'sketch' effect as a nod to my main character, Wayne du Preez, who likes to sketch but due to certain circumstances (hint: spoilers!) he has to keep his artistic abilities hidden. So again, it's a bit of a nod to events that happen within the story.

I then engaged my friends on social media and got them to vote through the various designs I'd come up with and we all agreed that the one I've selected to use was the favourite.

That said. I guess I still worry that my story will be judged in a negative way, especially as I have no real artistic abilities!

So what's your experience with buying/designing book covers? How do you think it's affected you? And... er, how do you think it'll affect me? XD
 

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I do everything but my grim reapers myself. I can manipulate photos but not draw and I wanted something illustrated for those. I pay $500 each for those. I was trained on Photoshop before I started but I watched tutorials online to pickup new skills.
 

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Both. I'm OK with covers with symbols, artwork and some photo-manip. I'm not OK with anything that involves photos and people.

About a year ago I went on a mission to re-do my covers. I still haven't done so for two of my series because, 1. money, 2. they seem to sell ok with the covers I did.

I am very happy with the covers I had done, but I have a lot of books and don't want to spend $900 a pop to have custom covers drawn for all of them.
 

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Hi Carmen,

I'm also in the DIY section, for now. I've designed the covers for Mindguard and The Vintages from scratch, and recently made the third one in the series, trying to keep a similar theme:



When I started out, I was in a similar situation, in that I didn't dispose of any money to invest in the books, so I figured I'd put my decent-if-not-good Photoshop skills to use. I'm a hobby photographer, so I played around with image manipulation before and I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the covers to look like. Some people seem to love them, others not so much. I've had readers tell me they bought the book specifically because they loved the cover (Mindguard, in this case) and some KBoarders tell me they'd never buy the book because they hated the cover (I had asked for honest feedback). I sell some books, but not a lot and I think one of the main reasons for that is that my covers don't hit the tropes (they don't necessarily scream out science fiction adventure). It also might be the reason I've been passed up for a BookBub about ten times.

I'm definitely planning to change the covers once I can afford to do that. For now, the first move was investing in professional editing and getting the actual manuscript in near-perfect shape, before moving on to things like "presentation". But the next move will definitely be re-investing the money from sales in professional covers for the whole series.
 
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I've done both.

Aisuru's is DIY and version 3 (with version 4 likely to happen). Being my first book, I was trying to keep costs down and the pre-made market is absolutely abysmal for representing different ethnicities and the like, so I've mostly given up on them for my first three releases (all set in Japan). My guess is you probably are seeing a similar issue with potential premades for your story because of the setting.

Unfortunately, I suspect it worked against me because while the first version was pretty (especially in print) and much like yours spoke to the themes of the work it did absolutely nothing to draw in readers and sales have mostly been non-existent since it's release. It's cover was more literary while the story itself is YA love story with fantasy elements.

After accepting my pretty cover wasn't cutting it, I did version two after several months using a stock image from Shutterstock for $10, then tweaked it again to the current version. That improved sales some after a promo but I know it's still not quite as good as it could be. I'll probably do another version to fix typography some more and maybe tweak the image a little more, but either way it was a learning experience. I'll still DIY for shorts I'm giving to my newsletter subscribers.

For my skill/experience - nearly two decades in web development/design and enough knowledge with Adobe Fireworks to work with it (and a sweetie who is awesome with Photoshop and helped me learn and do stuff). Still, he's busy and doesn't have time to do heavy work and he mostly does photo fixes and touch ups, not heavy manipulation and art stuff (though he can do some with time), so mostly for the current version he helped me do some tweaks to the stock art and we left it at that. I also was lucky in that I already had Fireworks and Photoshop, so working with them cost me nothing but time.

Deviations cover was designed by Kerry Hynds of Hynds Studio (a regular poster here too :) ) after she came up with a great concept in my thread on "OMG I have no idea what to put on this darn thing" :p You can see her prices on her site, but it's under $300 for eBook and print. She is great to work with and the cover is gorgeous. Well worth the money! I'm now waiting for my first proof from CS so I can drool at it in person :-D I plan to work with her on the cover for the next novel as well. I've also considered having her redo Aisuru's, but most likely for now I'm going to focus my money on upcoming works.

CarmenShea said:
That said. I guess I still worry that my story will be judged in a negative way, especially as I have no real artistic abilities!
It is "pretty" and I wouldn't say it would be judged negatively per se, but you'll likely find it won't aid you in sales anymore than my pretty one helped me because it isn't in keeping with genre. Until I checked your site, I'd have never in a million years guessed the genre; I figured it was literary fiction.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Amanda M. Lee said:
I do everything but my grim reapers myself. I can manipulate photos but not draw and I wanted something illustrated for those. I pay $500 each for those. I was trained on Photoshop before I started but I watched tutorials online to pickup new skills.
A part of me wants to cringe at the price but another part of me knows that good artwork should never be cheap and you really do get what you pay for! I'm very impressed with the ones you did yourself actually, it's great that you have the skillset needed to design them so well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Patty Jansen said:
Both. I'm OK with covers with symbols, artwork and some photo-manip. I'm not OK with anything that involves photos and people.

About a year ago I went on a mission to re-do my covers. I still haven't done so for two of my series because, 1. money, 2. they seem to sell ok with the covers I did.

I am very happy with the covers I had done, but I have a lot of books and don't want to spend $900 a pop to have custom covers drawn for all of them.
Meep! I look at like kind of figure and think of all the places I still want to travel to! But I guess if you're serious about sales then it's a good investment. I'm not quite ready to give up the travelling so I hope my cover passes muster :S

I've just taken a peek at your site and your covers are lovely! I think you've still got some of the old ones up under your 'book' tab so I was able to see the difference and whilst (what I assume are) the originals are good, there's just something nice and shiny about the new ones.

Have you found the new ones are helping with interest at all though?
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Andrei Cherascu said:
Hi Carmen,

I'm also in the DIY section, for now. I've designed the covers for Mindguard and The Vintages from scratch, and recently made the third one in the series, trying to keep a similar theme:
...
When I started out, I was in a similar situation, in that I didn't dispose of any money to invest in the books, so I figured I'd put my decent-if-not-good Photoshop skills to use. I'm a hobby photographer, so I played around with image manipulation before and I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted the covers to look like. Some people seem to love them, others not so much. I've had readers tell me they bought the book specifically because they loved the cover (Mindguard, in this case) and some KBoarders tell me they'd never buy the book because they hated the cover (I had asked for honest feedback). I sell some books, but not a lot and I think one of the main reasons for that is that my covers don't hit the tropes (they don't necessarily scream out science fiction adventure). It also might be the reason I've been passed up for a BookBub about ten times.

I'm definitely planning to change the covers once I can afford to do that. For now, the first move was investing in professional editing and getting the actual manuscript in near-perfect shape, before moving on to things like "presentation". But the next move will definitely be re-investing the money from sales in professional covers for the whole series.
Hey Andrei!

Thanks for your insight! I like your covers, and whilst I agree they don't "scream out science fiction adventure", I wouldn't dismiss them based sorely on the cover, but I can see how maybe they'd be overshadowed by other SF books with more specific cover designs. I think hate is a very strong term to apply to them though, especially considering some of the covers that are up on Amazon! ;)

Yeah money is the biggest factor when it comes to these things though. I'm just hoping my own novel won't be too easily dismissed :/ or scrolled passed because it's not catchy enough. My skills are purely limited to writing (I hope!), not so much to the arty side of things.
 

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I have have a decent eye for composition but very rudimentary graphic skills and trying to design something on my own usually leads to lots of swearing and headaches. I would have happily paid for a cover designer, but my boyfriend's an illustrator and he offered to do it for me for free, so I only had to pay for typography.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Ted Cross said:
I paid for the artwork (two commissioned and one a pre-made) but did the typography myself. I did have a friend help me with the typography on TIG since I was really struggling with it.
TIG is absolutely stunning, and the typography is very well done (just popped over to read the summary and it sounds awesome too! Adding it to my list for when I have pennies!) Was this one of the commissioned ones or the pre-made? And how did you end up choosing the artist(s) you used?
 

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I bought stock images for The Nostalgia Cafe, Dual, and The Medium's Daughter. I did the lettering, and as you can see, my skill level is just about zero. But it was necessary.

I just recently bought two wonderful pre-mades for 45.00 each for upcoming stories, from James of Goon Write. His pre-mades are economical and really well done. So you don't have to spend a lot for a designer if you can't afford it. Sometimes pre-mades really fit the bill until you are able to hire a designer. Best of luck to you. :)
 

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Amanda M. Lee said:
I do everything but my grim reapers myself. I can manipulate photos but not draw and I wanted something illustrated for those. I pay $500 each for those. I was trained on Photoshop before I started but I watched tutorials online to pickup new skills.
And very good they are too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Anma Natsu said:
I've done both.

Aisuru's is DIY and version 3 (with version 4 likely to happen). Being my first book, I was trying to keep costs down and the pre-made market is absolutely abysmal for representing different ethnicities and the like, so I've mostly given up on them for my first three releases (all set in Japan). My guess is you probably are seeing a similar issue with potential premades for your story because of the setting.
...

Deviations cover was designed by Kerry Hynds of Hynds Studio (a regular poster here too :) ) after she came up with a great concept in my thread on "OMG I have no idea what to put on this darn thing" :p You can see her prices on her site, but it's under $300 for eBook and print. She is great to work with and the cover is gorgeous. Well worth the money! I'm now waiting for my first proof from CS so I can drool at it in person :-D I plan to work with her on the cover for the next novel as well. I've also considered having her redo Aisuru's, but most likely for now I'm going to focus my money on upcoming works.

It is "pretty" and I wouldn't say it would be judged negatively per se, but you'll likely find it won't aid you in sales anymore than my pretty one helped me because it isn't in keeping with genre. Until I checked your site, I'd have never in a million years guessed the genre; I figured it was literary fiction.
Yes, definitely. Aside from the price, finding a pre-made cover that spoke to me and could work to represent my novel was proving pretty impossible, which is why I ended up creating one for myself. The more I'm thinking about it the more I realise that "pretty" might not be enough. As you say, it doesn't exactly advertise the story to anyone who ...hasn't read the story? Which is a bit of an issue, and I'm sort of worrying that KindleScout might judge me for it too. At least if people click on it and read the blurb they get a better sense of the story but it's getting them to engage with the cover in the first place.

I like Aisuru's cover, particularly the image, but after reading your journey with it I can see how you'd want to rework it again. Do you think you'd hint more at the fantasy/fairytale element with the next one? It sort of feels like it could be a never ending cycle though. I see now why even the best selling books out there often change up their covers! Did you re-release your book each time you updated the cover?

And the cover for Deviations is lovely! I'll definitely check her out.
 

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Your cover makes me think it's a book of poetry.  This is not meant to be a diss.  The only purpose for a cover is to sell the book.  It doesn't have to feature scenery that the reader will find relevant after they read the book.  If you can picture your target audience then think up a reason they might want to buy a book like yours, the cover should convey that information to them.  You want a coming of age exotic story of angst?  A character on the cover that can get an emotional reaction from a potential reader might serve you better for garnering sales. 

But I come from a comic book and genre fiction background so take my advice with a grain of salt.

I use the direct approach to covers.  I want my covers to scream:  HEY!  LOOK AT ME!  You totally want to read me!  Look!  This is what you were looking for! 

I don't want anyone scrolling past my thumbnail image on Amazon without clicking.

I used to pay $150 to $300 for illustrated covers, but I've moved into photo covers which I do myself in Photoshop.  Illustrated covers help to sell to manga fans...but they just don't buy as much as male/male or sci-fi romance fans.  If you're targeting Young Adult and want an illustrated cover and like any of mine I can give you a lead on the artist.  Their prices have gone up in many cases since I last used them.

My DIY photo covers are selling the best for me.  Since that's the case it doesn't make sense for me pay for illustrations.  When I do my Young Adult mega-block-buster-going-to-be-made-into-a-movie-novel I'll spring for an illustrated cover.  For now the photo covers are doing me fine.


Going from left to right on my signature: 

Eidolon's Conquest I did myself.  I used a tutorial to make a fancy logo.  Put two stock photos together and changed levels and so forth.  I would never charge anyone for my shoddy work, but this is my highest-ranking book to date.

Conquering the Phobe I bought as a pre-made cover and paid $60 for (I think).  Premade covers are great and usually cheap.  I'd go through some sites and see if anything fits your needs.

The Demon and the Emperor and Android's Bride was drawn by a Morrocan artist I work with for $250.  Unprison, Alien's Bride, and Bride Games were done by an Indonesia artist for $150-$200 each.  Maelstrom was done by a Spanish artist for $150 (I think) and Alien's Bride: Meredith was done by the Morrocan Artist.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I clearly need to start upgrading my friends and family! ;) everyone either is or knows someone who's great with these things, haha.

Rinelle Grey said:
I'm lucky that my sister is a graphic designer, and she does all my covers. I have the requisite photoshop skills, but not the eye for design.
Between the pair of you those covers are so lovely!

jazzywaltz said:
I have have a decent eye for composition but very rudimentary graphic skills and trying to design something on my own usually leads to lots of swearing and headaches. I would have happily paid for a cover designer, but my boyfriend's an illustrator and he offered to do it for me for free, so I only had to pay for typography.
I can definitely relate to the swearing and headaches! But at least you were lucky enough get out of before too long :)
 

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I started out with zero budget, so I had to put on the artist hat and do my own. Since I was crazy (or dumb) enough to start with short stories, there was no way I could afford to pay anything for covers. Free images, taught myself to use GIMP -- though I now had access to Photoshop -- and a learning process about genre, and here I am. Still doing my own covers, because I still can't afford it, and I like doing them.

I haven't had any graphics training, but I did win two professionally judged art shows in high school (and a peer-judged one in elementary school), so I figured I had a decent chance of getting something close. I think I did all right, though some of my earlier efforts weren't that great.

My skill level is fair to middling, since I can do some things pretty well, but others not so much (I can't cut things out for crap -- yet!). I'm still learning and practicing. I like to make the cover early on in the writing process. Looking at it seems to keep my spark going for whatever I'm working on.

Here's a strip I made up to use on another site, so you can see more recent covers:

 
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