What Should a Book Cover Cost?

Recently I was asked: “What is the best way for a self-published author to create a book cover for under $500?”

Everyone knows the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Everyone also knows that’s exactly what happens. You don’t want a cheap-looking cover, and depending on where you go and who you hire, $500 might get you a nice cover, or it might get you something less desirable.

Do your homework, get some quotes from designers, and understand what is included in their price (and more importantly, what is not). Here are some questions to ask when you request quotes:

  • Will images be an additional cost? If you receive a quote that seems very low, beware. Some designers hide the footnote “plus the cost of images,” which are then sold for a substantial markup.
  • How many hours of revisions are included in the price? There is no such thing as “unlimited” revisions, despite claims to the contrary.
  • How soon can you expect to see initial designs? Cheap designers are often scheduled far in advance, so you may have to wait quite a while. And what is the expected turnaround on getting your questions answered?
  • How many concepts are included? There’s never just one way to design a book cover. You should be given a choice of cover concepts, but more concepts = more time = higher cost.
  • If multiple concepts are offered, clarify that they will be distinctly different ideas, not the same idea with different color backgrounds (these are variations on the same design).
  • Will your designer research bestsellers in your genre and design your cover so that it looks like it belongs and will compete? Buyers will take a chance on an unknown author if the cover is well designed.
  • Does the designer provide “trouble-free” files to your chosen printer? At least once a week an author calls us because someone they “hired” at a contest site can only create a front cover and doesn’t have a clue how to add the back cover and spine to the printer’s specs.

Cheap covers generally look “off” because the designer doesn’t possess either the skill or time to adjust fonts, sizes, position, images, and colors until everything is “just so.” Your book cover is your 24/7 salesperson. Save up if necessary, or try crowdfunding to raise the money, but please don’t skimp. People DO judge books by their covers!

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