Self-Publish Like a Pro: How to get a quality book cover on a budget PART 2

In the first part of this post, I covered the DIY methods of creating an ebook cover – using your own photo, creating a simple cover yourself, or buying a stock photo and adding text. If your are not confident in your designer skills, or you just want something more, you’ll need to hire extra help. The good news is, you can get a professionally designed ebook cover for as little as $30.

Photo vs. Illustration

One important decision you need to make is if you want a photo or an illustration on the cover. As I researched book covers, I saw many claims that photos sell better and that photos create more powerful images. Coincidentally, all of these claims were made by designers of photo-based covers.

I myself find that illustrations give your cover a magical, fairy-tale like feel, which is appropriate for some genres, but not so much for others. Also, illustrations can create powerful imagery that can’t be achieved through photos. Take these three gorgeous Life of Pi covers:

life-of-pi2 life-of-pi3 life-of-pi

You can’t replicate any of these with photos, and a photo couldn’t set the same mystical and magical mood.

Generally, children’s books’ covers are always illustrated. Perhaps it’s easier for children to suspend disbelief and accept that a picture of a cat is a real cat. Or perhaps for some reason adults believe children perceive illustrations better than photos.

I believe illustrations work best for fantasy, fairy-tales, magic realism, historical, SciFi, and YA works. Mystery, crime, thriller, and romance usually go for photos, and an illustration could mislead a potential reader.

This doesn’t have to be a strict rule. Below is an illustration of the 1960 Penguin edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a controversial erotic novel:


The cover is stunning. However, nowadays most romance books have photos on the cover, so an illustration could misrepresent the book’s genre. I checked the Amazon Top 40 Kindle books in the Romance category, and each of them has a photo-based cover:

romance_coverI checked the Top 20 Kindle bestsellers in a variety of genres. History books tend to use illustrations or simple covers. Humor books are exclusively illustrated. Mystery, Thriller and Suspense tend to use photos, with the exception of “cozy mysteries” such as this:

 mystery-coverSciFi bestsellers are mostly illustrated, while Fantasy and YA are a mix.

Looking at the bestseller list across genres, I see 12 photo-based covers among the Top 40.

The statement that photos sell better isn’t based on any solid evidence. In fact, quite a few massive bestsellers have a very simple, stylized illustration for a cover. These include hugely successful books, such as The Fault in Our Stars, Eleanor & ParkFangirl and The Perks of being a Wallflower:

the fault in our stars - cover wallflower eleanorpark fangirl

Simple, yet extremely effective. You’ll be hard-pressed to find many books with photos on the cover that sell better.

In conclusion, if you feel that an illustration is right for you, go for it, and don’t get scared if a designer tells you that a photo is better.

No matter which option you choose, the next step would be to decide if you want a premade or a custom cover.

Premade covers

Premade covers work like this:

– You look at a gallery of ready covers. They all have dummy text instead of title and author name.

– If you choose a cover, you can purchase it, and the designer will add your name and title. That’s usually done in no more than 24 hours.

– The cover is removed from the gallery and no one else can buy it.

– The designer is sometimes willing to make minor changes to the original cover as per your requests.

Please note that even though no one else can buy your cover, if the design uses a stock photo, it’s possible another designed created a cover with the same image. Try to look at books in your genre to make sure the photo hasn’t been used already.

Premade covers are usually $40–$100 although some designers offer them for $150 or even $195.

A huge advantage of premade covers is that you already see what you are buying. When you commission a custom cover, you don’t know what the final product will look like and if you’ll be happy with the result (Usually that shouldn’t be a concern for you. Good designers won’t stop working and making changes until you are completely satisfied, and some won’t even charge you if you don’t like the end result).

Here are some website that offer fantastic premade covers:

This website offers two premade options – Bargain Basement Premade Covers, priced at $70, and Premium Premade Covers, priced at $150. The difference is that Premium Covers have taken more work to produce, but looking at the gallery, I wouldn’t say the amount of work reflects the quality. Some of the Bargain Basement Covers look way better than the Premium.

The website is well-organized into categories, and it’s easy to find what you are looking for.

Sample “Bargain Basement” Covers – $70

bargain2 bargain3 bargain4 bargain5 bargain6 bargain1

If you purchase any of these, the designer replaces the text on the cover with the one you provide and gives you the right to use the image for your ebook. Also, no cover is sold twice.

Sample “Premium” Covers – $150

premium2 premium3 premium1

These are beautiful, but I don’t think $150 for a premade cover is worth it, considering you can get a custom cover for less. Still, if you see something which is perfect for your book, go for it.

This site offers some gorgeous premade covers, starting at $69. The site could have been organized better – the categories are too broad and with the huge selection, it can take a long time to look through everything in your genre. Still, it’s worth it since there are some real gems out there.

I especially love their illustrated covers:

illustrated1 illustrated2 illustrated3

These are so lovely; I’m tempted to write a book that fits just to get one of them. All of these are priced $69–$79.

Their photo-based covers aren’t bad either:

photo1 photo2 photo3

Each of these is $79.

Damonza has some stunning book covers, but they charge $195 for a premade design, which I think is unreasonable, no matter how good. Here are a few examples of their premade offers:

damonza1 damonza2 damonza3 damonza4 damonza5 damonza6

Flawless design, professional and beautiful to look at, but again, unless you find an image that is a perfect match for your book, I think you’ll be better off getting a custom cover.

These are affordable though I don’t think the quality is as good as on the other websites I’ve shared. All covers are $40–$80, with a few covers on sale for $20.

If you you look around, you can find some good ones:

indiecovers3 indiecovers2 indiecovers

Each of these is $50. Cupcakes seem to be really popular on book covers for some reason.

Also, EbookIndieCovers have a large Romance premade cover selection, so if that’s what your book needs, you’ll likely find a suitable cover there.

This talented designer offers regular premade covers for $70 and sale premade covers for $30.

Sample $70 covers:

alchemy3.00 alchemy.00 alchemy2.00

Again, the titles and authors names are dummy text. They’ll be replaced with what you provide.

Some of the $30 covers are pretty good too:

sale2.00 sale3.00 sale1.00

However, I was a bit shocked to see this in the gallery:


Looks familiar? Remember this picture in my previous post:


I found it while browsing through free stock photos. As soon as I saw it, I thought “This could work for a book cover.” It looks like someone else thought the same. That’s just another reminder that the world of book covers and stock images is very small, and you have to be extra careful.

Overall, I think premade covers are a great option – you see the cover in advance, they are more affordable than custom covers, and come designs are stunning. Moreover, you can get your final product in less than a day, while you may need to wait for weeks for a custom cover. Unfortunately, when I was trying to pick a cover for my book, I went though hundreds of premade designs at various galleries, and none of them worked for me. If that’s the case for you too, you’ll probably need to consider a custom cover.

In the next part of this post I’ll cover ways to get a custom cover – designers, artists, or custom photo shoots.

Thanks for reading and I hope the info was useful!

2 thoughts on “Self-Publish Like a Pro: How to get a quality book cover on a budget PART 2

  1. Pingback: Self-Publish Like a Pro: How to get a quality book cover on a budget PART 1 | Kingdom of Ashes

  2. Pingback: Self-Publish Like a Pro: How to get a quality book cover on a budget PART 3 | Kingdom of Ashes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s