Self-Publishing: Book Cover Designers?

Sarah M

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Hi. I'm not sure if this is the right section, but I'm reconsidering self-publishing and am starting to look into book cover designers. I've found several, but I'm having difficulty finding reviews on them that are not on their own websites or facebook pages. Any suggestions on what Google or sites to go to?

Also, is it better to pay someone to format your book(s) for the different e-book formats or to do it yourself? If I do it myself, is there a good software for Windows that's easy to use? Thanks in advance. :)
 
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Woollybear

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I'll be curious what the more experienced people say, but I found the covers I liked first, and backtracked from there to the artist. That way I knew that the artist I have lined up is capable of the sort of cover I am looking for and I feel we will hit the ground running.

Since you'll be better off in the end with a good idea of the (unique) cover you want, to help the artist come up with a good draft, it seems helpful to be able to point to an artist's past work for conceptual details (like degree of 'busyness' or font or layout or whatever.).

I learned through my efforts that different artists include different numbers of revisions and so on, so you might put that sort of information into your spreadsheet of possibilities, too.
 
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LJD

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For covers:
I asked for personal recommendations, then looked at their portfolios and prices. Some of the really popular ones you might have to book well in advance. Finding covers on indie books you like, then seeing if you can find the cover artist (I list mine after the copyright) is not a bad approach. What genre do you write?

For e-book formatting:
I just use Draft 2 Digital. You can't do super fancy stuff, but I'm okay with that. I then use D2D to upload to B&N, iTunes, and a few other places.

The popular formatting software right now in (romance) indie publishing is Vellum, but it is Mac software. There may be a way to run it in Windows...I'm not sure. I prefer to do it myself so I don't have to pay someone to reformat when I want to make changes. (eg. update my book list at the back, etc.)
 

KBooks

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If your book just contains text without anything complicated, I would suspect you could probably read on the internet and figure formatting out. But you can pay people to do it for you, too.

For a cover, that was outside my skillset, so I hired a cover designer. Some people recommend that if you're going to spend money on anything (long before ads, etc), make sure you have a great cover.
 

Sarah M

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What genre do you write?

My books are Contemporary Romance and the main heroine has a disability. So I have a couple specific ideas for the cover, at least for the first book.

And thanks for letting me know about Draft 2 Digital. After a quick look at the site, I like it. I also like that they make a Table of Contents page for me and then distribute it to the different stores and apps.
 

LJD

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My books are Contemporary Romance and the main heroine has a disability. So I have a couple specific ideas for the cover, at least for the first book.

And thanks for letting me know about Draft 2 Digital. After a quick look at the site, I like it. I also like that they make a Table of Contents page for me and then distribute it to the different stores and apps.

I upload to Amazon and Kobo directly, and use D2D for everything else. I would recommend uploading at least to Amazon directly, since it will likely be the bulk of your sales, and D2D takes 10% for distribution, and I don't think it can do pre-orders for Amazon on D2D, though it does pre-orders for other retailers. But you can just take the epub/mobi created from D2D and upload it elsewhere.

I also write contemporary romance, and I use Flirtation Designs for my covers. It is very reasonably priced, IMO. You can see my covers if you go to the link in my signature and she has other covers on her website.

I do choose all the stock photos myself though, and that's my choice, because no cover designer is going to spend the amount of time that I do on that, not for the amount I'm paying. All but one of my covers have East Asian characters on the cover, and the selection for stock photos with East Asian people is...not always the greatest. You may want to find your photos yourself, too, or find a few that the cover artist can pick between.
 

Margrave86

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Formatting a manuscript is actually super-easy, provided you're using styles in your word processor. Just define a style, and you can change every instance of that style from one menu. Plus, eBooks are HTML files, so figuring out where columns break isn't necessary.

I use Calibre to convert manuscripts from .odt to different eBook formats. It also lets you edit the raw HTML files too, if you need to make corrections but don't want to go back to your original draft.

As to book covers, it depends on what you're looking for. I paid an artist on Reedsy for an illustration, and although he also did the lettering, I ended up redoing it in Inkscape. Once you get the hang of Inkscape, it's pretty good for text layouts.

Both Calibre and Inkscape are totally free, and if you don't have a word processor with styles I can also recommend LibreOffice.
 

Marissa D

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You don't really need reviews of book cover artists/designers--you need to look at a lot of their portfolios and decide for yourself. It would also be a good idea to go onto Amazon and look at the first ten pages or so of listings for books in your sub-genre, and see what the covers on the best selling books look like.
 

Al X.

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I intensely dislike D2D's autoformatting, as I can't get my format to look quite right regardless of what I do. I have no issues with Kindle/KDP formatting or Smashwords formatting (save for the wonky table of contents creation issue.)

In terms of covers, I'm no photoshop jock so I've been farming out my covers. Fiverr is a great resource, and you can spend as much or as little as you want.
 

Auteur

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I'm going to pay for a photo for my cover and do all the layout work myself. It's not very hard. I did the cover for my first book and it came out good.
 

Auteur

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You don't really need reviews of book cover artists/designers--you need to look at a lot of their portfolios and decide for yourself. It would also be a good idea to go onto Amazon and look at the first ten pages or so of listings for books in your sub-genre, and see what the covers on the best selling books look like.

You have some good covers on your books. Very professional looking. :)
 

Katrina S. Forest

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I think what you pay for is entirely dependent on your skill set and what you feel you could learn.

I felt confident I could use OpenOffice and Calibre to format my ebook the way I wanted it, even with interior illustrations. I did not have that same confidence in my cover design ability. ^_^;;

As to the original question, if a cover designer has a large profile of commissioned work, that's a good sign they are reliable as far as delivering the design on time. Beyond that, you can check in with the authors of the books themselves if you want to know how easy the cover designer is to work with. But whether or not their style works for the vision you have for your book, that's something you'll be able to tell by just looking through their previous work.
 

Sarah M

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I upload to Amazon and Kobo directly, and use D2D for everything else. I would recommend uploading at least to Amazon directly, since it will likely be the bulk of your sales, and D2D takes 10% for distribution, and I don't think it can do pre-orders for Amazon on D2D, though it does pre-orders for other retailers. But you can just take the epub/mobi created from D2D and upload it elsewhere.

Thanks for the suggestion.

I do choose all the stock photos myself though, and that's my choice, because no cover designer is going to spend the amount of

What's a good site to find stock photos?
 

CathleenT

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Concerning covers, one thing that I've been very careful about is my branding. Often on the old kboards, I would look at covers in people's sigs, and it was sometimes hard to get a grip on what they wrote.

So I chose to go with one of the more expensive routes--sticking with a single designer. We've had some enlightening email discussions concerning what makes a great cover generally and what specific steps we're taking with mine.

I've worked with Deranged Doctor Design in a variety of ways. I've painted covers and they added font. (Dragon Hoard, Stolen Legacy--in sig.)

I've sent them a mockup of a future painting, gotten feedback, and then painted the cover to fit the joint idea (Twelve Tales of Christmas).

And I've chosen stock art and they added font (The Golden Key, Bellerophon). The last happened after an epic painting fail on my part. I painted not one but two covers for Bellerophon, and they were both branding fails. One looked like a middle grade girl's book, and the other was MG boys'. (Aargh, aargh, aargh...)

It was really nice to have professional people to bounce all this stuff off of. For a font only cover, it costs only around $100. By the time you deal with all the Shutterstock licensing for doing it on your own with commercial licenses, I wouldn't have saved that much. Certainly not enough to justify the time expended.

OTOH, for Snow White and the Civil War I went ahead and hired them for the whole cover. It's not in my sig since it's not pubbed yet, but you can see it here: https://absolutewrite.com/forums/sh...-Civil-War-cover-feedback-on-complete-duology. The good news is that I think these two are the best covers yet. The bad news is that covers like this can run $300 each, and it's hard to make that back in profit. What with the fixed costs of owning my own domain (twice), commercial email account, online classes that I wish I hadn't taken, and cover art, I'm still in the red.

Also, the wait time for DDD is in the neighborhood of 7-8 months. Pre-mades are nearly instant.

So, it's one of those choices. You can get cheaper covers by scouring the pre-made sites. It's much harder to achieve a consistently branded body of work, but you'll be able to actually turn a profit sooner. I haven't seen pre-mades for my genre that I like as much as mine, though--not even close.

OTOH, I write fantasy. It might be easier to find good ready-to-go covers for romance. I'd say it's worth scouring sites with pre-mades to see what kind of fit they are for you. Look not only for a single cover, but see if this solution will actually provide for a body of work. If that doesn't satisfy, then I'd check out a designer and start forming a relationship. Either way, the decision can come with a price tag--possible missed sales vs. paying down that credit card for your covers.

For formatting, I'm still kinda in limbo. I can't make Calibre work, at least not at my current frustration threshold. I tried Vellum (yes, you can use a non-Mac platform if you go through MacinCloud), but honestly, I preferred my own formatting for ebooks (Word files loaded onto KDP, Smashwords, and D2D).

Vellum is supposed to do terrific paperbacks, but I can't tell. A free demonstration version of Vellum is loaded onto MacinCloud, and that only does ebooks.

I'm really dreading going through the whole print book formatting experience again, though. I've done it straight on Word. It's a long, laborious process, and you've got to become conversant with terms like widows and orphans. The headers and footers alone are enough to make me consider ditching writing altogether and taking up a less demanding activity, like drinking.

I wasn't super impressed with the D2D paperback formatting, but I'm considering going that route. A lot of people like Vellum for that, too, but the program is $250, and like I said earlier, I'm already in the red. I don't think I can justify spending that much when I'm already in so deep for covers. Unless you do a lot of book fairs, very few of your sales will be paperback. And what if I'm as disappointed in the paperbacks as I was with the ebooks? Then I'll be even deeper in the red and no closer to a working system. Been there already with online classes, so I'm cautious.

Hope something here helps. : )
 
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Marissa D

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Cathleen, you might look into purchasing a template for doing print format--it's basically a word doc with all the styles preset, and you just cut and paste your chapters in. I do my own print formatting on my SPed books (and also for the co-op I'm part of) and have had a look at Vellum's print results and I'm...not impressed. I'm not a professional graphic designer or anything, but to me, they look cheesy.

Also, look at Jutoh for ebook formatting--there's a small learning curve, but it produces a very nice file.