Cover Art with a Marketing Budget of Zero.

In an ideal world a writer’s manuscript is chosen for publication and a team of gifted specialists develop your manuscript into a marketable book. Publishing houses generally have departments for editorial, marketing, distribution, production, sales, legal, and creative just as a bare minimum. If you want to be an indie author you have to manage the publication process yourself.

The book cover is an integral feature of publication. It is thrust in the reader’s face immediately and is responsible for the big first impression.

The ebook cover is a thumbnail chance that someone will click on your book over a million others. An new indie with no other titles under their belt is merely a blip in the digital realm.  If that blip is your first chance that someone looked at your ebook, it had better be presentable. By presentable I mean that the title should be readable, applicable and interesting to the genre it is written for. It should stand out to the eye because of the clarity of the image not because it looks badly done. It has to be good enough to lure a click. Only then will your potential reader have the opportunity to get a look at your synopsis.

I cannot compete with the amazing artwork and cover designs seen on professionally worked covers. I’m not gifted in graphic design, fine art or anything in between. I also have a pre-launch budget of zero for my first novel Dragon Choir. What to do?

Well after scouring the web for clues I have found a solution. An ebook cover can be produced with open source software without any impact on your budget. I used Microsoft PowerPoint (which I already owned) as a simple and familiar program to create the core of my cover design. If you don’t own the Microsoft product, use an open source product, I would recommend Apache OpenOffice Impress. It has similar functionality and is user friendly too. I also used a brilliant graphics program called Gimp. It is also free and very powerful in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing. I am not one of the someones.

I got around that though. Tutorials.

The web has thousands of tutorials that will take you through both simple and complicated tasks to manipulate images to your liking. I found YouTube tutorials very helpful. For amateurs like me, actual creation of new art was not on the menu. I only managed tutorials which manipulated existing images and turned them into something new. After following several tutorials for Gimp I discovered a method to create a fire swirl. You can see this on my cover design.


The basic process I followed to create my ebook cover is below.

  1. Source or Create the image you want to feature on you cover. Save it as a .jpg
  2. Open a new page in PowerPoint or Impress.
  3. Adjust the size of the page to 42.3cm wide x 63.5cm high. (1600 pixels wide x 2400 pixels high)
  4. Change the background colour to suit.
  5. Add a text box for your title.
  6. Add a text box for your name.
  7. Insert your image.
  8. Shuffle them around and fiddle with the font until you have it looking presentable.
  9. Save the file as an image (.jpg) rather than a slide presentation.
  10. Get feedback on the design.

Here are some important things to consider for an ebook cover.

  • It needs to match the genre you are writing for and appeal to your potential readers.
  • It needs to stand out as one thumbnail amongst many many others. Make sure it catches the eye and can be read, even when it is small. Compare yours to other ebooks.
  • The pixel count described above is important. Ebook distributors will expect high resolution covers. There is nothing worse than pixelation on your book cover.

There are alternatives for indies with cash to spend.

  • Outsource the cover design to a professional. Google “ebook cover design” and choose a designer that will suit your budget.
  • If you want to make your own cover but can’t make your own image, buy the digital rights to artwork you would like to have on your cover. There are many stock image resellers online. Once you have the image you want, use the process above to fit it into your cover design.

Does my design compare to one professionally done? No. I don’t think so. It is clean though, with high resolution and it draws the eye with bright colour and a distinct image. I am hoping that it will be different. Perhaps that will help it stand out (in a good way) when compared to book covers with brilliant artwork of glorious warriors, ruthless rogues and arcane magic.

If I go indie with an ebook I would upgrade my cover to a more professional design once my book earns enough to do so. For now though, it will serve.

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