Book Covers: One of the Most Important Marketing Tools You’ll Ever Use

Book covers are probably the most important marketing tool at our disposal.  Before people read the title or the book info, they will see the book cover.  Images are immediate.  They are the initial impression someone gets of our books.

The cover is your first impression to a potential reader, and if you don’t take the time and care in getting one that attracts your target audience, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.  Think about it.  If you don’t have a cover at all (which is extremely tacky) or have a bad cover, then you’re telling your target audience that you really don’t care about the quality of your work … so why should they?

And despite what some people will tell you, you can get a great looking cover for dirt cheap.  We’re talking $7 – 10 cheap.  Despite the myths flying around indie world, you do not have to spend a couple hundred dollars to get a great cover.

I spend about $10 per cover, and it takes me five minutes to slap everything together.  What’s my secret?  Glad you asked because I’m about to share it with you.  😉

1.  Pick a royalty-free photo site. I prefer www.shutterstock.com and www.dreamstime.com.  Search around until you find a picture that targets your genre and is attractive.  Question your readers or author friends if you can’t decide.  Readers are better though because they will be the ones buying your book, and I’ve found they love to be part of the decision process.  I prefer www.dreamstime.com because their selection is better.

2.  Then you buy the picture, making sure it’s royalty-free.  Most of the pictures are, but there are a couple that aren’t so just be on the safe side and check.  I opt to buy the larger file size so anything above medium will work best. Sometimes I go for Extra Large because you can use that size on your paperback too if you want to make a paperback cover.  The difference in price at dreamtime between a large and an extra large cover is about $1 or $2.  Go ahead and splurge.  Even if you’re not thinking paperback today, you might end up making a paperback in the future.

3.  Pull up your book cover making program. I bought a software program called BookCoverPro back in 2008 for about $200.  Since then I have made 20 covers.  It’s paid for itself many times over because I didn’t have to hire someone to make my romance covers for me.  All I do is open up the program, select ‘new’ and put in the amount of pages my book turned out to be.  Then I upload the picture and resize it.  Then I add my name and title.  That’s it.  Here’s an example of the cover for my upcoming book next month:

Now, I did opt to have Joleene Naylor make my fantasy covers under my pen name because what I wanted to do there was too specific.  She’s a great cover artist, btw, and yes, she’s also a friend.

4.  But let’s say you’re struggling to pay for groceries and can’t afford more than the $10 or you only publish one book every year or two and can’t see spending money on a program like BookCoverPro. Then what?  Joleene has written a couple of posts teaching you how you can use a free program like GIMP and Paint Brush to make a cover.

Here’s the GIMP post.

Here’s the Paint Brush post.

However, this is what I’m able to make for a paperback cover off BookCoverPro, if interested to see how I do with the $10 image I bought.  (The boots came off a subscription I had at the time, and the rings are my publishing logo so that was a one time fee.)

The red border on the front cover is trimmed off when it prints out at CreateSpace.  The lower left corn on the back cover is where the ISBN goes.  It takes about 15 minutes to make the full cover in BookCoverPro.  When I started, it took me awhile to figure out what I was doing because I didn’t read the instructions.  😛

5. A final thought. It will take you longer than five minutes to make your cover the first time, and you’ll probably have to experiment with the program you’re using, but it’s well worth the investment in time if you publish 6-8 books a year like I do.  (Some are novellas and some are under pen names.)  If, however, you don’t publish as often, it might be worth it to pay someone to do the cover for you.  But whatever route you pick, please get an attractive cover.

A bad cover will result in a loss of sales.  I recently changed one of my book covers because it was my worst selling book for the past year, and suddenly it’s selling well.  Book covers do make a difference.

13 Comments

  1. asraidevin says:

    I’m about to embark on this again. I’ve done my previous covers in similar fashion but with tweaking they tend to take me an entire day before I am happy with it. Thanks for the tips.

    1. If you use just one stock image, it doesn’t take long. However, if you get more sophisticated and want to use two or more images, this is when it takes longer. I now work on covers that take a total of four days. The hardest part is finding the right background to fit the main person I want featured on the book. I’ve learned that certain colors work better, and whether the picture is taken inside or outside makes a big difference as well. So it’s a lot of trial and error. When I finally have the pictures I want, it takes about three hours to get them to look right. 😀

  2. M T McGuire says:

    This is an excellent post. Covers DO count. A lot. When I finally bit the bullet and got a more appropriate one done for my first book – I write fantasy too – it made a difference to sales.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. I’ve heard that a change in cover does boost sales. I think part of the book’s attractiveness is the visual appeal of the cover, and the cover says so much about the genre, which is nice when reaching your target audience.

  3. A good cover does make a difference. I pay a friend of mine who’s also a cover artist to do mine, but back when I was new to publishing, and not making any money, she did them for free. 🙂 I think, with the right software, I could make my own covers if I didn’t have such an awesome cover artist. And if I had TIME. LOL. I think you do a great job designing your own covers.

    1. Your cover artist does a great job. I see no reason to stop using her. 😀 It is a huge learning curve when it comes to covers. I think I’ve had GIMP for a year now and am finally at the point where I can make something decent.

  4. I made my cover with Art Text 2 from Belight Software ($40)

    1. Thanks for letting me know about it. I’ll have to check it out and see what it’s like. 😀

  5. I’ve got a graphic designer, Collin, who’s done the cover for my book. I’m very happy with the final product. He’s really done well with it, as well as the other designs he’s done.

    1. I think hiring out for covers, banners, etc can be a huge time saver. I’m glad you have someone who is good. In my experience, I’ve always had good luck with people who provide these services. There’s a lot of talent out there.

  6. Jen says:

    A good cover always make a difference because it is the first thing people will see. Take for instance, the book “Lady Lawbreaker” by G.J. Fuller, one of the best books I ever read (You can see it’s cover on Amazom.com); that book’s cover hooked me instantly. It’s simple, but really gets your attention. So yes, the cover makes a big difference.

    1. Good point. A catchy cover doesn’t have to be complicated. I think some authors try to make their covers more complicated than it needs to be, and this ends up being so busy that people have trouble figuring out what’s going on. I agree that the cover you mentioned is a great one.

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