If you plan on self-publishing an e-book, the cover will likely be your greatest investment not measured solely in time and personal effort. This is fortunate, considering that your book’s cover is its first opportunity to impress a potential buyer. It’s also often your book’s last chance at making an impression, since it, well… it sucks.
Above is the cover of Hayden Thorne‘s Arabesque, a book I finally bought because the cover was just that neat, unique, and strikingly designed. It didn’t turn out to be something I enjoyed all the way through, becoming rather muddled in the middle, but I did drop cash on it and the cover did the final convincing necessary to get me to do so. Had it been a physical book I could hold in my hands and flip to the middle of (as I am shamelessly wont to do) I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Such is the cover’s power; this is why you need to make it count.
The internet connects us daily with sprawling networks of other creators, with thousands of artists, writers, and designers. Many artists take commissions, and it’s not hard to find free design advice and extra sets of eyes to appraise your cover before you publish. The couple hundred dollars you stand to drop on a simple illustration from a good artist is probably the largest lump sum you’ll spend promoting your book, and it’s a great reduction in cost from self publishing in print. Lurk in artistic communities online, get to know people, familiarize yourself with the process of commissioning art and which artists are willing to do promotional work and under what conditions.
While we’re on the subject of acquiring knowledge: Learn what works and what doesn’t, please. Make use of Google. If nothing else, familiarize yourself with which fonts are the most despised. Shop around for ideas, learn about the concept of white space, and for the love of God search out genuine free font files. Many websites offer fonts that are free for personal use, but some also offer fonts free to independent creators for use in their design and lettering.
Your cover can sell your book, or it can scare people away. “Dear God, what is that?” will get your curiosity clicks, but it’s far less likely to sell a copy to someone who’s on the fence already.