My journey through the wilds of ebook self-publishing has included getting my butt smacked a few times over crappy covers. And not in a fun way.
Understand that covers are important in attracting readers to look at a book. If they won’t look, they’re not going to buy. When Amazon, Smashwords, or other sites show a potential reader a bunch of thumbnails in a search result, that person has to find your tiny image appealing enough to click and read your blurb. So, first impressions count.
You can build your own cover or hire it done by someone else. For cover ideas, check out the Amazon Top 100 in whatever genres you write. I’m not going to address principles of design here. Unless you’re well versed, your covers will likely stand out for all the wrong reasons. I went that route on most of my covers. Now I’m in the process of taking my own advice and updating my covers. So far, I’ve only worked with a designer on Their Wish List. All my other books are on the ebooks page, if you’d like to do a quick compare and contrast.
If you work with a cover creator for your ebook, these are your three basic options:
- Many ebook cover creators offer an assortment of pre-made covers. You shop their virtual shelves and pick a cover from the available inventory.
- Once a cover is purchased, it is removed from inventory. Check your favorite sites often, some artists add and remove covers frequently.
- Start looking as early as possible once you know what your story will be about. I missed a fantastic set of series covers because I hesitated. Still kicking myself for that.
- Note: Some covers are sold only as a set (for use in series), others are sold individually. Prices can vary from $30 to $200 (as of the time of this post).
- Send your title/author name information, usually via email or a form on the website.
- Get a draft cover back and check it carefully.
- Send back any changes. You’ll only be able to change the text. Even if you’re willing to pay extra, most cover artists will not change the artwork or font on premade covers. If you know of any who will, please leave a comment.
- Once you’re good on the cover, send payment. Typically, you’ll use PayPal. Some cover artists offer discounts if you buy more than one cover at a time.
- You’ll receive an email with a zipped folder (usually) that contains versions of your cover (for example, a small, medium, and large jpeg file).
Custom cover: You send the image(s)
This process is quite similar to the pre-made cover one, except you’re picking an image to use. This is a relatively basic design service.
- You provide one or more images, your author name and title, and usually a brief synopsis of the book. At a minimum, the designer needs to know your sub-genre.
- About the image: if you own it already, you can send it. If you found one you want to use on a stock site, send the link to the image. Usually, the designer has an account and gets a discount on the image. The only drawback is they now own the image, not you.
- Anywhere from 48 hours to a week will go by, and you’ll get an email with 2 or more draft covers offering a variety of different background colors, font sizes and colors, and your image(s). The more specific you can be about what you want, the quicker the designer can get the drafts done. Expect to spend at least a week of back-and-forth before you’re done. Two weeks isn’t uncommon. Especially if you’re in a long line.
- You’ll often be limited in how many changes you can request before the price starts increasing – which is only fair, every change you make takes the designer’s time. See above about being specific – you need to know what you want.
- Prices vary from $5 to $400. Yep, that’s a big gap. And paying more is NOT necessarily equivalent to better quality.
Custom cover: The mind meld
Nah, I’m just kidding. Kind of. This type of custom cover design requires working closely with a designer. The folks who create highly personalized custom covers have details on their websites about the process. Expect to shell out big bikkies. Hundreds or thousands.
Some of the custom cover sites offer a range of services that extend from the “provide your own image” option to “we’ll set up a photo shoot with models, costumes and props and give you exactly the image you want.” And that’s about all I know about the upper end of cover design.
Links to cover designers
The links below are for sites which I know design ebook covers for erotica. The only one I can endorse is Cheeky Covers – great experience working with her. The rest are sites which you, too, could find with a simple Google search. There are many, many more than I have listed here. Know of another designer who works with erotica authors? Leave a comment with the link. Make sure you specify whether they handle custom, premade, or both.
* means premade covers only ^ means custom designed only
Want more? Check out the blog post at Big Sky Words for a top 10 list from 2013, which describes services and price ranges for several ebook designers. Or, see this Goodreads thread on finding a book cover designer – at least 50 posts by designers with links to their sites. Or, see Mark’s list at Smashwords, Low Cost Ebook Formatting and Cover Design. I don’t promise all these sites design for erotica.
Update Sept 9, 2016: Great post on BookBub about cover design resources!