How to Make a Book Cover: If You’re Self-Publishing, Here Are Your Options

After spending weeks, months or maybe even years perfecting the words in your book, you’re probably ready to toss it online and cross your fingers you’ll receive rave reviews.

But before you jump on the self-publishing bandwagon, take some time to make sure your book cover is amazing.

When people browse books, whether physical or electronic, the cover is often the first piece of information they see. If your cover looks amateur or out of line with your book’s genre, readers will likely move onto the next option without a second thought.

How does a wordsmith cultivate the images and graphic design skills needed to turn a blank cover into a captivating collage — especially while trying to keep your self-publishing costs as low as possible? When it comes to how to make a book cover, what’s the best approach?

Whether you’re ready to call in an expert or DIY your cover, here are some inexpensive options for creating a book cover.

Hire a professional designer

Not thrilled about the idea of creating your own cover? These options may cost more, but can help ensure a polished final product… which could mean more book sales.

1. Ask for referrals

Referrals from other self-published writers, writing groups (online or in-person) and writer friends are a great way to find good designers at reasonable prices. If you’re not sure where to start, Facebook groups for writers can be a great resource.

If you already work with designers in a professional capacity, consider asking if they’re interested in working on your book cover; those trusted sources can also provide you with referrals for other designers.

2. BookDesignTemplates.com

Book designer Joel Friedman offers professional-looking, customizable templates for as low as $199. Friedman is well-known and respected in the self-publishing world because he offers so much helpful advice on his site, TheBookDesigner.com, and he’s been doing it for years.

He explains why self-published books often look self-published, and suggests five great fonts for book covers. We’ve added him to the “hire a professional” section because he offers made-for-you book cover templates, but this site is also a fabulous resource if you decide to make your book cover yourself.

2. 99designs

This site can design not only your book cover, but also your author logo, character merchandise and anything else you can dream up.

Start by creating a design contest for your project. Write a “design brief” explaining what you’re looking for, and 99 Designs will present your specifications and budget to its marketplace.

Designers then respond to your brief with their ideas. After a time period where you get to review designs, you select a winner, request any edits, and that designer earns the money you’ve budgeted for the project. You retain full copyright ownership of the final design you select.

Book covers on 99designs start at $299, and ebook covers start at $199.

One potential bonus for using a site like 99designs: If you discover a designer whose work you love, you can continue working with that designer on future products.

3. Fiverr

Fiverr offers the chance to get a professional book cover for just $5. The site lets you review designers’ portfolios and see ratings left by other clients before committing to a designer.

Some people swear by Fiverr, while others have ended up frustrated. In one case, ebook writing team Frankie Johnnie had to work through 20 design iterations (at $5 a pop) before settling on a design that resonated.

However, the duo still recommends using Fiverr as a basic cover designer and a way to test out cover design options. “For as little as $5 bucks, you can roll the dice…” Frankie says in a tell-all on James H. Mayfield’s blog.

The DIY option: How to make a book cover yourself

If you’re not too keen on hiring a professional and would rather tackle design duties yourself, here are a few resources to help you along the way.

4. Use Microsoft Word

Believe it or not, you can actually design an entire book cover using only Microsoft Word.

The Creative Penn offers an incredible DIY book cover design tutorial by Derek Murphy. His tutorial notes how important it is to select the right picture (“Simple is better,” he says) as well as the importance of balancing colors.

The tutorial also discusses where to find images, whether you’re taking photos yourself, sourcing stock images or using other online sources such as Etsy and DeviantArt. Then, it walks readers through the step-by-step details of designing a captivating cover.

5. DIYBookCovers.com

Derek Murphy’s own site offers customizable templates so self-published writers can easily design their own book covers.

You don’t need to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for special design software to create a cover that will make people snap up copies of your book. Murphy offers a training video that teaches how to design a great book cover in 30 minutes or less.

He also offers a free, online cover creator tool, along with video tutorials to help you make the most of it.

6. Pixlr

Pixlr offers a variety of photo editing apps. “Pixlr Editor” offers opportunities to use layers, replace colors and transform objects. Another popular option is “Pixlr Express,” which offers quick fixes and personal touches with a simpler interface.

The site helps you create and touch up gorgeous images, as the “Made with Pixlr” gallery shows. While some of Pixlr’s tools are free, if you want to use the desktop version of Pixlr, you may have to pay a fee.

7. GIMP

GIMP, a free program you can use for photo retouching, creating and composing images, stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program.”

While many tools allow you to create and edit within your web browser, you’ll have to download this software before you get started. GIMP can be used with GNU/Linux and UNIX, as well as Windows, Mac and other systems.

8. Canva

This design software is super popular with non-designers because it makes it easy to create professional-looking designs. While some design elements will cost you, many of Canva’s templates and features are free.

Canva’s drag-and-drop setup makes it easy to create your simple book cover. It features millions of images (including stock photos, vectors and illustrations) as well as photo filters, free icons and shapes, and hundreds of fonts.

If you’re not sure where to start, visit Canva’s free Design Schoolwhere you can learn even more about design, as well as a book cover-specific tutorial.

This is an updated version of a story that was previously published. We update our posts as often as possible to ensure they’re useful for our readers.

Photo via Unsplash

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