You wrote a book. Awesome! Most people never finish, so give yourself a pat on the back and maybe enjoy a glass of your favorite adult beverage. While actually finishing your draft was work enough, it's not over yet. If you've been in a bookstore (or, thanks to the pandemic, browsed books online), you've seen some covers which caught your eye. You need one of those. While a cover needs to catch the eye (for the right reasons), its most important job is to tell the reader the genre. If you wrote a science fiction novel, you want to tell readers of the genre they'll be interested in your book. Ditto romance, thriller, etc. The easiest way to do this is with a genre-appropriate cover. Here's the reality: the vast overwhelming supermajority of authors—like 99%—should not make their own covers. Do you understand the cover design tropes for your genre? Which fonts to use? How about which colors to use and which convey something else entirely? How to blend images and typography together?
It's OK if you don't. I'm terrible at pretty much every aspect of graphic arts. The good thing is a cover designer is pretty easy to find. (And they don’t have to break the bank, as we’ll see below.)
Let's look at five ways to get one.
1) You already know one.
Woo-hoo! You hit the friend or acquaintance lottery here.
We all probably know or have worked with someone involved in graphic arts. Let's clarify this a little: I mean you know someone who actually designs quality book covers in exchange for money. Being a good graphic artist isn't enough. Remember when we talked about tropes and fonts above? Simply being a graphic artist doesn't confer understanding of those things.
If, however, you do know an actual cover designer, ask them about doing yours. Do so with the caveat it’s their job (even if it’s a side hustle), and you shouldn’t expect any blazing delivery speeds or cut-rate pricing. We all gotta eat.
2. Ask another author.
This is easy. Reach out to another author in your genre and say, "I love your covers! Who's your designer?"
You might think a competitor would never give you this information. There's a community involved in being an indie author, though. We're all in the same struggle. Even people in the same genre will be willing to help out another indie. Why? Because someone probably helped them when they were starting out. Most authors will pay it forward. If you see a fellow indie whose covers make you stop and stare, ask who the designer is. They'll probably tell you.
They might also post these details on their website. I found my editor this way. If you’re leery about reaching out to an author you don’t know, check their site first. They might have some information about the professionals they work with right there.
3) Look in the book. Most indies will credit their editor and cover designer. This could be in either the front or back of the book.
On Amazon, you can use the "Look Inside" feature to browse the first ten percent of an ebook. This is designed to help customers preview the book and see if it's for them. You can use it to look for artists. If the credits are in the back of the book, you'll need to read it (or skip ahead) to find them. If you're writing in a genre, of course, you should be reading in it, too. Think of the artist credit as an Easter egg at the end . . . a reward for reading a good book.
4) Use Facebook groups.
There are groups dedicated to cover art as well as some created and run by designers themselves.
Either is a good place to start. You might meet your designer in one. At worst, you might see something which gives you a bolt of inspiration for your cover. Either way, it's a win.
5) Search for premade covers.
This is the way to go if you're on a budget.
Prices vary, but you can expect to pay $100-500 for a custom-made cover. (This is with stock images. If you want actual custom artwork, multiply those figures by five.)
A premade cover is exactly what it sounds like: the artist has already put the images together. Title and author names are placeholders, and these get changed once you buy the cover. Good Googling will reveal a bunch of designers selling these. You should be able to find something for every genre.
While the upside is savings--budget $25-100 for a premade--the downside is customization. Other than your name and the title, the artist probably won't do any bespoke work on your cover. Don't fret; this is fine. The cover's main job is to convey the genre clearly. It doesn't matter if the figure in the design has hair slightly longer or shorter than your protagonist. (Truthfully, you shouldn't be too precious about those sorts of things, anyway. Your readers won’t care.)
Another perk of going the premade route is speed. The hard work is already done. Changing the name and title is a quick process. Doing a new design from scratch takes longer. If your time and cash budgets are both strapped, this is a good way to go.
*** Buyer Beware: images.
Your designer will almost certainly use stock photos. A reputable artist—and many of them are—will select images which can be used commercially. They'll get them via subscriptions to sites like Depositphotos or Getty Images, and they'll pick one with the proper licensing.
It's very important not to just do a Google image search for something, find a photo you like, and make it into a cover. You’re probably violating copyright. Some cut-rate designers may even do this.
Ultimately, your name is on the cover, and you're the one selling the book, so you're on the hook for making sure everything is on the up and up.
What does a cover cost? Like I mentioned above, you can expect to spend somewhere in the range of $100-500 for a typical design. It’s an outlay of cash, but it’s also an investment in your work. Your cover is essentially the first ad people see for your book. If they have a good impression, you might get a sale out of them. If the cover turns them off, you’ve probably lost them for good.
Covers are an investment, and you can earn back the money you spent via increased sales.
I hope this gave you some ideas for finding your cover designer.