Part of the Indie Author Series
A while back I wrote a post on How to Save Money on Editing Your Book. Since I’ve been covering How to Find and Select a Cover Designer and 7 Tips to Make the Most of Working with a Cover Designer, I wanted to make sure I also talked about cover design on a budget before I ended my mini-series on cover design.
One of the biggest challenges we face as indie authors is financing our books, especially when we’re starting out. Yet we’re told not to scrimp on editing and cover design (which is excellent advice).
If we’re working on a shoestring and can’t skim much money from the family budget, what do we do?
Everything in life costs either time or money. If we don’t have the money to spend on cover design, we could offer our time by finding an indie author with cover design skills and bartering our services. Maybe they need a proofreader. Maybe they need a digital assistant for a couple of hours. The worst they can say is no.
“The thing is,” said cover designer and indie author Melinda VanLone, “the cover is your #1 marketing piece for your product. It is THE most important thing you will do to sell your story, ever (putting aside the whole tell a good story thing, which is a given). That’s the time to do some side jobs, earn extra money, look into bartering if you have a skill of your own that people need (I have many times traded editing for cover design or other things), etc. The goal isn’t to simply get a good looking cover, either. It’s to get the RIGHT cover for your genre.”
Work with a Student/New Designer
This great tip came from author and radio host August McLaughlin, who’s working with an illustration student for her next book cover. “Since she’s newer to the career,” August said, “her fees are lower. She’s also eager to get her work out there, so we get to help each other (which is fun!). As a side note, I found her work on Instagram and had no idea she was so new to the game.”
New doesn’t mean bad. It does mean we need to make sure the new designer has the skills we’re looking for. The real challenge can often be in finding them. If we live near a graphic design school, this can be a good place to start, but as August mentioned, we can also look on sites like Instagram and DeviantArt.
Book Cover Ninja Templates
Because of how many awful covers he sees for his Ebook Cover Design Awards, Joel Friedlander of The Book Designer teamed up with Ed Lewis to put together drag-and-drop book cover templates. These templates also come with video tutorials to show authors how to use Photoshop with the templates. The package includes options for both ebook and print covers.
The benefit of these templates is you pay once and can use them indefinitely. At the time I’m writing this post, the cost is less than you’d normally pay to have a single cover designed ($97 USD).
The drawback to an option like this is that you’re sacrificing originality. It’s possible that other authors also using the templates will create covers very similar in look to yours, including using the same image.
When a designer creates an original cover for a client, they’ll often put together two or three unique options. The ones that aren’t chosen are homeless, so many designers will sell these orphaned covers for a deeply discounted price.
When I was asking indie authors about techniques to save money, this was an option recommended by bestselling romance author Christine Claire MacKenzie: “Many of the Big Name cover designers (like Kim Killion) are doing ready-made covers. My cover designer, Gabrielle Prendergast at Cover Your Dreams, has begun doing the same. Her prices start at $49 and I know she does all genres and discount days.”
This is also how I got the cover for my Scottish historical fantasy that I’ll be releasing in early 2016. By patiently waiting and watching, I ended up with a cover that’s gorgeous and perfectly fits my genre and book.
If you want a premade cover, biding your time is the key. You might have to regularly scan designer sites and wait for a cover that will work for you.
99Designs and Fiverr
I’m personally on the fence about these sites because designers end up working for almost nothing or creating a design that they don’t get paid for (because their design isn’t chosen). That said, those designers have opted to offer their work on these sites and many authors have found success using them.
If you want to know more about how it works, I’d recommend you read these posts on How to Get a Custom Book Cover for $5 Using Fiverr and Looking for the Perfect Book Cover Design? The Crowd at 99designs.com Has You Covered.
Creative Series Design
Every book we write needs a new cover, but if we’re writing a series, we can talk to our cover designer about saving money and they might have ideas.
YA author Julie Glover did this. She said, “I had a series of short stories I wanted to publish, and Melinda VanLone worked with me to get a single cover design, but vary the colors for each one to get it a fresh look each time. It was cheaper than six separate covers for sure, and I loved the result!”
If you follow fantasy author Lindsay Buroker, you might have noticed that this is also what she did with the serial she put out under her pen name. In Lindsay’s case, she only changed the title. Everything else about the cover stayed the same.
Do you have any other tips for getting a great cover on a budget?
Marcy Kennedy is a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance fiction editor and teaches classes on craft and social media. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at marcykennedy.com.
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About Point of View: A Busy Writer’s Guide
Point of view isn’t merely another writing craft technique. Point of view is the foundation upon which all other elements of the writing craft stand—or fall.
It’s the opinions and judgments that color everything the reader believes about the world and the story. It’s the voice of the character that becomes as familiar to the reader as their own. It’s what makes the story real, believable, and honest.
Yet, despite its importance, point-of-view errors are the most common problem for fiction writers.
In Point of View in Fiction: A Busy Writer’s Guide, you’ll learn
- the strengths and weaknesses of the four different points of view you can choose for your story (first person, second person, limited third person, and omniscient),
- how to select the right point of view for your story,
- how to maintain a consistent point of view throughout your story,
- practical techniques for identifying and fixing head-hopping and other point-of-view errors,
- the criteria to consider when choosing the viewpoint character for each individual scene or chapter,
- and much more!