People judge a book by its cover, so it logically follows that people judge an ebook by its cover too. Because that’s true to a degree, many Indie authors prefer to hire out for this even though costs can range anywhere from $50 to thousands. However, it’s also true that effective ebook covers can be designed for free. It’s also a bonus to be able to make changes yourself anytime and to save money, especially if you have multiple titles.
Take a minute to check out the top selling books on Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/. These are paper books, not ebooks, and it may surprise you to see how simple many of the covers are. It should also inspire you knowing that books with average covers can still sell in large quantities.
My theory is that the ultimate success of a book is determined by what’s inside. Over time, reviews and referrals sell ebooks. Would you rather have a 5-star cover and a bunch of 1-star reviews warning others to stay away, or the opposite?
Besides, ebook covers are seen as fairly small pictures. People don’t inspect them up close as when browsing in a bookstore. For simple yet effective designs, there are many things you can do for free. Here are a few methods for obtaining and working with images online.
Take photos yourself.
Use a digital camera and take photos either of yourself or things that are in line with the themes in your book. Many cover images include the author or background landscapes that are simple pictures with appropriate text around them. With image/graphic editing software you can create additions to complement the photo. Or you can take photos of something related to your ebook. This worked for my first novel, The Little Universe. My artistic friend held out her arm with a paintbrush in hand. She stood in front of a black background, and the resulting photo worked great. Her arm and paintbrush were cut out with a free editing program and pasted over another image, a public domain one.
Public domain images.
Public domain means anything that is not owned by someone with copyright restrictions. Like the term open source, it’s free to use so long as you’re not selling the image itself. For a book cover, public domain pictures are fair game. This is a public domain image for The Little Universe. It’s a photo of a spiral galaxy taken by the Hubble Space telescope. Since NASA is a government outfit paid for by our tax dollars, the American people collectively own those images. If you like amazing astronomy pictures then definitely see the collection at http://www.hubblesite.org/gallery/. However, most of your ebooks probably won’t have much to do with astronomy. Here’s a list of websites that offer tens of thousands of free, public domain images:
If you want a better selection, you can buy royalty free images for about a couple of bucks apiece. This worked for my second novel, Jim’s Life, where it cost just two dollars for the rights to use an image of a young man’s hands with colorful light energy all around them. It was perfectly in line with the theme of my novel. The image was found by searching Google for royalty free images. There are dozens of places where you can browse millions of images and pictures for book covers and buy them for about one to four dollars apiece. You can also search the stock photos by keywords to narrow the results.
There are plenty, but here are two great sites for royalty free images:
http://www.bigstockphoto.com/ – where the image was found for Jim’s Life.
http://www.istockphoto.com/ – another good place and very affordable.
Photo and Image Editing software.
Simple photo editing might be all you need for creating a simple yet pleasing book cover. With Picasa 3 it’s easy to manipulate the images and add some text, although Picasa is severely limited in what it can do compared to graphic editors. But even if using more complex software, Picasa or Flickr are good to have. People argue over which one is better, but for the purposes of creating an ebook cover, Picasa is great. It’s free, managed by Google and super user-friendly. Simply download Picasa 3 and follow the prompts.
Here’s the short list of photo/image editing software, and more are available through a search:
http://www.picasa.google.com/ – perfect for simple things like image enhancement, cropping, resizing and text additions.
http://www.flickr.com/ – similar to Picasa, owned by Yahoo, preferred by people who want to share their photos with potentially large communities and by many avid WordPress bloggers.
Open Source Image and Graphic Editors.
These are more complicated and capable than Picasa, but if you’re familiar with the original Macintosh Paint program or Microsoft Paint, then you can learn to use these types of software. These programs can alter images in every way imaginable, plus they can create outstanding images from scratch. Remember to watch tutorials and follow along with video lessons.
Using one of these graphic editors is what made the cover of this ebook, How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks – All for Free. The cover design probably won’t win any awards, but it’s perhaps as good as some of the best-selling books on Amazon. Remember, books are ultimately judged by the value within, and people mostly read books that are recommended to them.
Here’s a partial list of sites with free editing software:
http://www.inkscape.org/ – makes vector images, much higher quality than pixels. Inkscape was used for this cover, which is fairly simple but gets the job done. However, art isn’t my specialty, so many of you might be able to use Inkscape to come up with incredible designs from scratch.
These are also recommended image and graphic editors:
http://www.getpaint.net/ – works with Windows only.
http://www.seashore.sourceforge.net/ – works with Mac only.
Now, you should spend some quality time here and come up with a cover design that makes you happy. Remember that it doesn’t have to be perfect, but you want it as good as you think it can be. No need to rush through this one.
What are your thoughts?