Covering the Basics - by Debbie Bennett

So you've written an ebook? What next?

A few people ask me this. I always reply saying you don't write an ebook. You write a book. There are several types of media you can distribute it on - one of which is an ebook. But don't ignore print, audio etc - they all have their merits.

But let's assume you've written the best book you can. You've put it away to gestate for a while, then edited it several times (and preferably at least once professionally). Now you need to clothe your baby with a cover.

Don't assume it's easy to slap some text on a picture and upload it. You've sweated blood and tears in delivering this baby and it deserves the best clothing you can give it. Design skills are every bit as valuable and respected as writing skills, and just because you can write a book does not mean you can design its cover.

Your cover is your biggest marketing tool; it's the first thing a reader will see. Make it work for you. Look at other covers in your genre - study what works (and what doesn't), what the current trends are. If all books in your genre have a headless body in regency clothing, then that's what your book needs to have, so a potential reader thinks Yes, I know I like books like that ... and clicks. A cover isn't always the place to be innovative and daring - although there are exceptions to every rule. It doesn't need to depict an actual scene from the book, or even an actual person - although if it is relevant to the plot that your heroine is a redhead, then your cover model probably needs to have red hair. Its purpose is to convey an idea, a theme. Light and fluffy, dark and gritty, vampire, dystopia, historical romance - aim your cover in the same direction as your novel. And if there are spaceships or giant lizards on the cover, there had better be spaceships and giant lizards in your story. Somewhere.

Cover for my audiobook, adapted from the ebook
If you are planning a series, find a style that is easy to reproduce, so you can begin to build a brand. My first crime trilogy used the same fonts, the same shadow-person-against-urban-background theme and the same idea of an overall colour-wash (although I used a different colour for each book). My second series has a more recognisable figure and more natural colouring (which shows it is a different series) and I used the same stock model from the site I buy my images from. But I kept the same fonts to tie the two series together.

So you have several options for your new baby's clothing:

1) Design your own. Unless you are experienced with the software and genuinely do have an eye for design, just don't do this. You need to know how fonts work with text, how to make a cover look balanced, how to make something that is eye-catching and legible at thumbnail size, yet has enough detail to be interesting. Have a look on amazon - the home-made covers jump out at you.
New cover for my work-in-progress!

2) Fiverr. Worth a look but caveat emptor! You get what you pay for...

3) Buy a pre-made. These are covers which have already been put together with an image and a title/author font. You pick one that suits your genre and the designer will put your title and name on it. If you're lucky, he/she might make changes for you - maybe add a tagline or change a font colour, but really these are what-you-see and for a price starting as low as $20, you shouldn't expect more. Check out The Writers' Cafe on, where lots of these designers hang out and there are always plenty of links and recommendations. A great way to grab a bargain!

Bear in mind that most designers will not sell the same cover twice - therefore your cover is uniquely yours. But photos are for sale on lots of different image sites and there is nothing to stop somebody else from picking the same photo for a book cover. Have a look at these....

4) Buy a custom cover. These can cost you anything from maybe $50 to several hundred. Here, a designer will create you a cover - blending one, two, three or more images and adding text. Don't expect them to read your book first - it's up to you to tell them what you want. I started out emailing a load of links to my guy - things I liked, that "spoke" to me etc. Then he put together a couple of ideas - sometimes we'd go with one and develop it further or sometimes it'd be back to the drawing board. Some designers specify the number of choices and/or revisions they are prepared to make for the fixed price; others are more flexible and will fiddle around for days or weeks for you. While you pay for what you get, you might strike lucky and find a designer who you work well with - who understands your work - if this happens, stick with him/her as it makes life so much easier!

5) Buy custom art. If you are really rich, this is where an artist will draw (or computer-generate) your cover from scratch. You can tell him what your hero looks like and your setting and you'll get a scene right from the book. But unless you know the right people, think several hundred to several thousand dollars.

Some useful sites to get you thinking....


julia jones said…
Very useful to have this info so clearly presented. Have just been asked this same question and was dreading trying to collect the bits and snippets of info that I only vaguely know. Now here it is. Thank you.
Very useful. I've also found it helpful to make a Pinterest board of images that seemed to me to represent the book (I make these anyway, even before I start writing!) and then sending the artist/designer a link to the board. Helps to give a flavour of the book.
Lydia Bennet said…
Good summing up of the cover situation Debbie, very helpful. Your covers are very distinctive, good idea to have a 'house style' for your books. The great thing about ebooks is being able to change the cover if you decide it wasn't a good idea! Ebook covers have a slightly different set of criteria, e.g. have to look good at thumbnail size, and clear too.
glitter noir said…
Perfect timing, Debbie. I decided to experiment with a different style of cover for Charlotte Kills, the third Boss MacTavin mystery--and am taking the next step for m winter release: using a new artist. One step at a time. I'm thinking of replacing another cover that doesn't seem to be working. Russell Blake, I read, went through a similar process: trying this and trying that.
Sandra Horn said…
Thank you, Debbie - very helpful

Popular posts

What's the Big Idea? - Nick Green

A Few Discreet Words About Caesar's Penis--Reb MacRath

Meet Author Virginia Watts, a Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award, and Find Out How She Does What She Does

I Wish I May, I wish I Might... Understand What These Writers Are Saying says Griselda Heppel

Misogyny and Bengali Children’s Poetry by Dipika Mukherjee