I highly recommend Cover Creator which is free on amazon. There are hundreds of images to choose from and you can then insert the title, blurb, etc. on your own. My philosophy has been to learn each aspect yourself (proof-reading, covers, editing, marketing). After four years of publishing on Amazon, I'm great at proof-reading, decent on editing, mediocre on covers and pathetic at marketing. The good news is that the sales I do generate are pure profit because my overhead is zero (less a couple of bucks a month for the Amazon ads).
For my first novel in 2012, I paid a vanity publisher $3,000 for the cover and 250 softcover copies of my novel. Eventually I sold about $2,000 worth of the novels but learned a valuable lesson. Vanity press is expensive whereas Amazon self-publishing can be cost-free.
I agree with the others, while less-overhead is always great, and I can't recommend enough learning basic cover design, sometimes you don't have the time or the skill necessary to pull off a decent cover.
But you don't want just "decent" do you?
Nah, you want a GREAT cover. And just like everything else, you will get what you pay for.
If money is an issue, try Fiverr. It's an app where you can pay people a small fee (mostly around $5) and they can design a decent cover for the price. Some charge more for more premium products, which I recommend. I just used it for the first time and got a decent cover, but had to use my own skill to adjust it more to my liking, so there's that.
Also, check out 99designs, where design artists will enter a contest to make your cover, and you will pick the winner. I think contests start around $299, which sounds like a lot, but your cover is so important. So important. You don't want a crummy cover.
And lastly, if you know anyone personally, you may be able to talk them into doing it. Just pay well, because even if you're friends, this is a business transaction.
Tips/recommendations, yes. The cover must work as a thumbnail image about 1 inch wide and 1.5 inches tall! So a simple image with large bold contrasting type for the title is best. For something like that a simple photo that looks good when that small size, and a bold contrasting color title work best. Try chep designer by all means, but also consider a photo with superimposed title in large type (author name in type 1/3 or 1/4 as high as the title, since no one's heard of you, no offense intended, no one's heard of me either) and saved in .jpg format.
And you do get what you pay for (if you do it yourself you pay in time, not money.) Any cheap cover is likely to use artwork/photo that may be used by others.
Edited by: Finch Field Drake on Nov 27, 2017 10:28 AM
There are so many options out there for creating covers. I think it greatly depends on your genre.
For instance, to compete in the highly competitive romance field, I almost think you need to hire a professional designer. But if you can't afford one, a pre-made cover like the ones offered by some design houses might fit the bill.
Some people dismiss fiverr as a good source for covers, but I've been pleased with the work that a couple of sellers have done for me. But they were for non-fiction books rather than genre fiction. I'm not sure their quality would have been high enough for the latter.
I've used Kindle Cover Creator for my series of genealogical reference books. I make an assumption that buyers of these books don't really care about a fancy cover; they just want the information. So, simple (or even boring!) is better.
I've also done my own covers using Photoshop. Some I've been very pleased with, others not so much. I have no design training but sometimes I manage, after messing around in Photoshop long enough, to produce a cover I think is very cool looking. But it's definitely a big time suck for me.
Lately I've been using a premium cover designer software, Studio FX. A free counterpart is Canva, which you might want to check out (canva.com). But I like Studio FX because it's easy to create 3D cover images in it.
A book cover is not "art", it is "communication". It needs to convey the mood / theme / vibe in a blink.
Simple is best. Clear text, a graphic or photo that sets the mood, and it needs to work when it's the size of a stamp.
Take a look at the best sellers in your genre and study what works, what fits the vibe of your book, then do a variation of that.
I learned the hard way, keep it simple but not plain. Avoid stock photos and standard text. Even basic graphics programs can use different fonts, alignments, and effects like drop shadows.
When using a custom font, make sure you have permission and avoid anything resembling a trademarked font. Even if a creator authorizes commercial use, if they patterned their work off something trademarked you might have a problem.
Avoid people on the cover. If they are drawn they often look silly, particularly from a less-skilled artist. If they are real, they usually need to be composited and that looks amateurish if you don't know how to match the lighting and color correct between layers. Instead, consider something abstract, with soft shapes or a random texture for a background.
I found some great royalty-free textures on DeviantArt:
I combined them to create this for my next book:
I am not an artist, but have found creative ways to produce covers a few steps above the capabilities of the Cover Creator.
I have found two exceptions for spending money on your book. The first is copyright (the clincher for me is that I can easily leave my works to my family when I die), and the cover. Frankly, the time spent on a cover isn't worth what I can get for $50 - $60. In the last 15+ years, covers have really become amazing, and in fact to the point where you usually CAN tell a book by its cover. If you really have the skills, then by all means go for it, but run it by some unbiased people first.
Lastly, however many edits you do, do one more
Preferably by someone harsh and unbiased.
I wish we could swap manuscripts on here, but an online writer's club is probably not very realistic.
Sadly, the writer's forums have devolved into enabling forums, where people can post incoherent gibberish and be told it's a masterpiece. Most of these aspiring writers don;t want real feedback and constructive criticism, which is why the publish first and then ask for opinions, which really means they want praise. My work has been torn apart by editors and readers, and it has only improved because I accepted that criticism.
I actually found the countless hours I spent learning how to create covers rewarding. It's yet another skill I am developing, and it's taught me a lot about what should be on the cover, not just how to put it there. That's worth far more than the money I would have spent paying someone else to do it. But that's me.