Book covers: Worth The Money

Book covers: Worth The Money

Unless you are an established name with thousands of fans who will buy anything you put out, you need a good book cover for your novel. Covers sell books.

But how do you find a good cover? What makes a good cover? There are plenty of questions surrounding this issue and, for a lot of us starting out in e-publishing, the main worry is the cost.

What did your novel cost you?

You can see from the two cover images below, what €140.00 meant to the look of my book. The first cover was done by me, the second by a professional designer that I found through People Per Hour.

the judas inheritance
My attempts at a book cover for my horror-thriller, ‘The Judas Inheritance’

If you add up how many hours you have spent on your novel and then multiply that by a decent hourly rate, let’s say a very modest one at only €3.00 per hour, you will come up with a surprising figure. I don’t keep a log of how many hours I spend on a novel, I think of it in terms of years. ‘The Saddling’ (due out in May) took four years from initial idea to now, the final reading of proofs and checking the layout. I once took a week out of my usual routine to work on it and in just that one week I worked for seven hours a day, so let’s say 35 hours for that one block of writing. I also spent two hours per day on it in the second draft stage, a further two per day on the third, and a few hours a week on editing. I am currently spending around two hours per day on the proofing and ‘fiddling’ — that’s slaughtering the windows and orphans and looking at the final look of the pages. I’ve already lost count of the hours, but I’m going to guess at 1,000.

The Judas Inheritance
My designer’s professional cover for the same book

So, we can say that ‘The Saddling’ took me 1,000 hours. Incidentally, that works out at ten words per hour. ‘Remotely‘, my gay/straight body-swap comedy, took me a little longer, as it’s a longer story, say, 1,300 hours; and these are very rough guesses. So, I have put in at least €3,000 per book of my own, unpaid time. At least. Some of us take longer, and some less time, but the point is, when you’ve invested so much in the writing of the thing, it’s pointless not to sell any of the work. Leaving aside marketing, usually the biggest budget in any book sale, how much do you actually then spend on a cover? I know you don’t pay out any money to yourself for the writing and even a publisher’s advance won’t cover the work. When it comes to a cover, you’ve actually got to either do it yourself or pay someone. Unless you have a friendly designer who will do it for free or for a share. The trouble with using friends is that, if you don’t like what they do, you’ve got the tricky problem of telling them you are not going to use it.

My advice? Save up and pay someone who knows what they are doing, which brings me to where to find designers.

People Per Hour

I was put onto People Per Hour by an author friend of mine who had been looking for an illustrator for a children’s’ book. It took a matter of minutes to register and have a look around. There are excellent instructions for ‘Buyers’ as you will be known, as you are seeking to buy someone’s services. I got the hang of it very quickly and prepared my posting in advance.

Fairfield, Romney Marsh
The church at Fairfield, Romney Marsh, that inspired ‘The Saddling’

You will need to know what you are looking for, and have an idea of what you want to pay. You can either set a top budget, or leave it open. You can choose the level of the expert, in that those with more experience will cost more, newbies will cost less, and you simply make your job open to offers. The designers then tender for the work. You’re able to check their profiles, read any testimonials from those who have used them before, and see what their hourly rate is. Post your request, sit back and wait for the offers to come in. I had loads of tenders for ‘The Saddling.’

Be cautious

Here’s where you need to be professional. Some of the replies I had for my first cover were along the lines of: ‘I am designer, do great work, please, I will be good for your services. Like me.’ Which to me immediately shows a lack of professionalism. I can understand my language not being their language, but that reply told me nothing about the designer except that English was not his first language.

the saddling, James Collins
My designer’s cover for ‘The Saddling’. As you can see, it incorporates the inspirational church

I was much more drawn to those who wrote a full reply that outlined their prices and those who showed me examples of their previous work. You also have to look out for those who are mainly web designers etc., who show examples of that kind of work, but who have no book cover designs. The person I used not only showed me a variety of designs for already published books, but showed me his website, and told me there would be an Author’s Form to complete where I could put own all my ideas in detail. He would then produce five mock-ups, his price, and the estimated hours which took into account the to-and-fro discussion process that would inevitably follow. I knew his hourly rate in advance and got a good estimate of how long he would take. It was an honest reply and not the cheapest, but I still think, the best.

By the way, there are also protections built in. You can withhold money if you don’t get the service; you pay into an escrow account, so the designer sees that the money is there, but you don’t release it until you are happy; the site will help you if there are disputes. And there are loads of other artists with different specialities on the site checking for work and making offers. You can find someone to do you whole e-book layout and preparation if you want. I already have an editor and layout artist working with me on those things, so I make sure the inside of my books is as professional as they would be if prepared by a publishing house. As that’s the case, why not the cover also?

A good cover design is worth paying for

All I am saying is: you’ve spent hours on your work, you should be able to save and pay for a few hours of a professional designer to get the cover looking perfect too. And, in my experience, you can do that through this site, People Per Hour. There are others, of course, but this is the one I used. I think you will agree, the difference is outstanding.

The back, blurb, layout to fit Create Space specs – all included in a one piece cover

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