A question that often pops up in the indie author space is whether an author can design their own book cover. Unfortunately, the answer is not black and white. As a book cover designer, I might be tempted to say “Of course not!” But the reality is that there are plenty of authors who design their own book covers, and those books sometimes go on to be great successes.
In this post, I’m going to take you through the positives and negatives of designing your own cover. This should help you make an informed decision about whether it’s something you should do. If you decide to take that path, you can continue to read my next article “Tips for Making your Own Book Cover” where I suggest some great resources that you can use to get the best possible results.
The benefits of designing your own book cover
The biggest advantage is the cost. Indie authors who are just starting out often don’t have a lot of money to spend on their book, and buying a professional custom cover might not be something they can afford (and might be the reason you are reading this article). In this situation, designing their own book cover can be a great way to save money.
A second advantage is that you’ll have complete control over how everything looks down to the precise details. That can be a great benefit as you can edit your design for as long as you need until you are 100% happy with the final cover. Of course, this will depend on how competent you are with a program like Photoshop.
Further, when designing your own cover you will avoid potential miscommunication with a cover designer. No one else knows exactly what you have in your head quite as well as you do. A designer can be helpful in turning your ideas into a tangible image, but he might not fully understand what you envisioned in your mind.
Finally, there is the risk of making a bad investment. There are a lot of cover designers out there and it is possible that you might select someone who is not quite the right fit for you. However, this risk can be limited by carefully going through their portfolio and making sure that you like their style for your own book. Many cover designers, including myself, offer some form of money-back guarantee to mitigate this risk.
The negatives of designing your own book cover
If you’re reading this post, you’re probably an author, not a designer, although you might have some graphic design experience. The important thing to realize is that a book cover design is a very specific part of graphic design and if you haven’t designed book covers before, you might face a knowledge gap. A good book cover designer doesn’t only have the knowledge of design, but he also understands the specifics of the industry. They will know what style of cover works well in each genre, as well as all the formatting requirements needed. This is something that even a non-designer can learn, but there is a cost to it – the cost of time.
While designing your own book cover can save you money, the cost of time can be equally important. You’ll need to learn about current book cover trends and styles. In addition to that, if you have no design experience, you’ll also need to learn the basics of design in general. A successful cover design is more than just throwing a couple of stock images together in Photoshop, and slapping some text over the top. Or at least I’d like to think so…
Another thing to bear in mind is that there might be an additional financial cost even when you don’t work with a cover designer. Stock photos are expensive. You can go to the big websites like Shutterstock, Depositphotos or Bigstock and you can see that a small package of 5 images can cost you $40 or more. Book cover designers get these for less because they buy in bulk, meaning that they can use multiple images in a cover, and not have to charge a fortune. There are some alternatives to stock images, though – and I will cover those in my next blog post: “Tips for Making your Own Book Cover”.
Finally, there is the knowledge of the creative software. Learning how to use these programs can be very time consuming and you might need to think about whether this is a time that could be better spent elsewhere. Also, if you don’t want to use free software with limited functions, buying the professional programs can be expensive.
The last thing I would like to mention here is that you might be missing an additional perspective. This is something that provides a huge benefit when working with a cover designer. They can bring fresh ideas that can help make a cover that will appeal to people who are unfamiliar with your book – like potential readers.
Hopefully, I didn’t put you entirely off designing your own book cover even though it might seem that there are more negatives than positives to it. Designing a book cover is not for everyone, but it can be worth considering, especially when your budget is limited (plus, it is always something you can replace later).
For tips on how to make your own book cover, check out my next post “Tips for Making your Own Book Cover”. As always, if you have any comments, feel free to reach out to me in the comment section below.