Most indie authors are working on a budget. Usually a very tight one. We still want a cover that’s good enough to make sales. I’m going to show you how to do it on the VERY cheap.
My first book, One More Day, was an experiment. I wasn’t sure I wanted to commit to this whole indie author thing. I certainly didn’t want to spend a few thousand on an attempt that might go bad. I also happen to have a whole lot of experience in marketing and advertising design. In other words, I was pretty sure I could make a cover that would do the job. The final version is doing well on Amazon, and One More Day is currently my best selling book.
In other words, the cover is working.
But let me tell you how it started. THAT was not my first cover. With a love story that is about a girl with cancer, I didn’t want a cover that would come across as sensual. I felt that would give the reader the wrong impression. It’s a story about hope and friendship, not jumping in the sack with a hot guy. Hell, the main character has CERVICAL cancer. (To quote a character in the story, “I know where the cervix is, man”) So sex was off the table from the start of the book. Instead, I needed to push the emotions.
I started with something easy. My first cover was decent but not great. It had the right idea, but did little to make potential readers feel a connection.
I took a lovely stock image of a hand-drawn heart and some art supplies. In the story, the main characters are a tattoo artist and a girl who went to college to paint, but had to drop out due to real life. Her drawings are what brought them together, and art has a major place in this book.
Sadly, that’s not what the potential reader will KNOW when shopping. They aren’t looking for someone drawing hearts with oil pastels. They are looking for a story about people. This is a romance novel afterall.
But I still had a cover that sold a few copies. The font was free from 1001 Free Fonts. The effects are little more than a couple of button clicks in Paint Shop Pro (like Photoshop but a lot cheaper and with less toys). Total cost of this cover? $80 bucks for the software – which I can use over and over to make many more covers, teasers, and such.
But, I realized that it’s not about crayons. This story is about a girl struggling to make it one more day, then one more after that. In other words, I needed a better cover. So I found myself a half decent free stock image:
Ha! This one had the cup of coffee that keeps cropping up in the story. The look on her face is perfect! Like she’s lost in her own thoughts and nothing else matters. The lighting draws the eye to her face, but it’s too dark.
So, let’s crop this up a bit.
Then color the whole thing in cervical cancer purple.
Make it a bit bright and adjust the contrast around.
And now we’re looking at her face. Increase the vibrancy of the color, add in the title, layer on the author’s name (ahem, mine) and…….
Eventually, I got something that made the reader want to know more. It’s not the best cover in the world. It’s probably going to be replaced one day, when I can figure out how to do it better, but it is a massive improvement on the stock image that I started with, and took a few hours. It was within my budget.
I’m not trying to say that I’m the best cover designer out there, but after seeing so many crappy books being hawked on Twitter the other day, I think that showing how “easy” it can be might help. I’m hoping that some author out there is willing to put in a little more effort, and see that it does have a huge impact.
This book, with this cover, is my best seller. It’s in the top 1% of all books on kindle, and even seven months after release, it’s selling very nicely. Total investment: $80 bucks for the software. I made that, and more, in the first month. Plus, that investment allowed me to create:
Now I have some options when talking about my book on social media.