Earn Money Selling Pre-Made Book Covers to Authors
Covers for Self-Publishing Authors
In recent years the number of authors choosing to self-publish has soared. In fact, in your circle of friends and associates, you probably know someone who has written a book and chosen this method of getting their book on the market.
This has created a boon for designers who can create book covers for this vast market. After completing their book, authors need a suitable cover, this is where there is money to be made. Many self-publishing authors can't afford the high cost of a specialist design company so opt for alternatives which they can afford. By offering a quality premade cover, both the designer and author can win. I want to show you how you can earn money with minimal design skills by giving people what they want, a low-cost alternative to an expensive custom designed book cover.
Using programs that are low cost or even free, you can design a cover either for yourself or design one for someone else to earn extra money.
Design Programs to Use
There are many photo editing programs which you can use to manipulate images. I tend to use Serif PhotoPlusx6, PicMonkey and occasionally Gimp. If I need something more technical, then I ask my husband to assist me, he uses Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom. I will load the image to a pen drive and he will work his magic on it. He is a photographer and has a better eye than I do when it comes to ensuring the angle of the light is consistent across the combined images. He also used to restore old photographs and can help me if I run into something unusually problematic.
All the programs have their pluses and minuses, but for me, I tend to use Serif the most.
Design Sizes of Covers
For my book covers, I begin with a size of 3125 x 4167 pixels. This is the size required by the company which I sell through. Although this is the size I use, if you were asked to make one smaller or larger, you would simply set your parameters differently at the beginning. I then begin loading my chosen images onto the page. I combine different layers until I am happy with the end project. This is then saved and exported as a jpg with a dpi of 300. This would be suitable for a printed book but I also do a small size for an e-book cover which is 288 X 216 pixels with at 72dpi (dots per inch). The customer receives both sizes.
The smaller size is also where I give an example of generic writing on the cover so the customer can see how it would look and if it would be suitable for their needs.
This is just a sample of the covers I have.
Where to Sell Book Covers
Once you have your cover designed you need to decide where you want to advertise it for sale. At the moment, I exclusively use a site called selfpubbookcovers. They have an easy to use website and pay promptly when a cover is sold. I merely upload my design and once it is checked and approved by the creative director, it is available for sale on their site.
Uploading it is straight forward as they have a page with boxes where you have to state that your image is either your own work or a combination of stock images or creative common images. There is also a section for entering keywords and a checklist of things to verify before submitting. It is also necessary to show them where the images come from, for example, Pixabay or the page of the stock photo site if images were purchased.
Although I use that site exclusively, there are other similar sites. Plus there are other freelance sites such as:
- People per hour
- Design Crowd
There is also the option of creating your own website and selling premade covers through that or creating specific designs for a client. I don't want to discourage you from doing that but you will be spending a good deal of time trying to get your site found by the search engines when you could be designing artistic book covers.
What Type of Designs To Make
Stop for a moment and imagine yourself in a bookstore. You're looking at the selection of books and the first thing you see is the front cover. If it looks intriguing, you'll flip it over and read the back cover and if that has piqued your interest, you'll likely purchase the book. The cover design can make or break a book, so it is your responsibility, as the artist, to create something that will help sell your customer's book.
If you are creating a specific design for a customer, they will have an idea, hopefully, of what they want. This could be showing a representation of characters in the book or it might feature the location of where the story takes place. Listen attentively and ask questions to ensure you don't waste your time and your customer gets what they want. What you don't want is a back and forth communication of things to change as this may cause problems and become a source of irritation for both you and your client.
Selecting a Genre
If you're producing covers for sale to the general public you'll want to start by picking a genre. Although some designers stick with one genre, I don't. Why limit your market? Here are a few ideas for different subjects:
- Thriller or espionage: You might design a scene in an alleyway or tunnel with a silhouette in the distance. Or a knife with dripping blood on it. Think intrigue and suspense.
- Law enforcement: Police and military angles are popular, in fact when reading the Amazon profiles of those who have purchased some of my covers, many of them are ex-servicemen who have taken up writing as either a sideline or as a career change.
- Chick lit: If you're designing a chick lit cover you want something with a touch of humor. Often these are drawings and feature quirky writing and often a mishap.
- Romance: A cover for romance would likely be a couple in a romantic scene or interesting background. Don't limit yourself to a heterosexual white couple, as same-sex couples and people of color all are subjects of books. Erotica also is a popular genre but be forewarned, it can't be too explicit otherwise, Amazon might not allow it. Although the book might fall into that category, the cover should allude to it, but not slap you in the face. I recently had a submitted cover rejected because it showed butt cheeks.
- Inspirational: An inspirational book cover might show sunlight breaking through a darkened sky. Also, someone blowing a dandelion seed into the wind. Something which shows openness and hope or conquering adversity.
- Sci-Fi: For science fiction, let your mind go wild. Planets, spaceships, and aliens feature heavily but don't limit yourself to just those. Imagine life on another planet, what would it look like?
- Fantasy: Much like the sci-fi covers, creating a cover for fantasy novels opens up possibilities for your imagination to explore more unusual covers. Pixies, unicorns, and dragons are not the only fantasy stories available what other fantastic imagery can you think of?
- Supernatural: Although not my personal favorite type of stories, vampires, zombies, and werewolves are popular topics for authors. Blood, fangs, bite marks on the neck can be added to an image to give it a spooky demonic look. Others which fall into this category are shapeshifters which will give you the option of combining two different images into one.
One thing I would like to mention: authors don't always wait until they have written a book to buy a cover. Sometimes they will purchase a book cover they like, and write a story based on the that.
It's important not to make the image too dark as many e-readers only display in black and white and a dark image may not appear correctly.
The author has spent a lot of their time creating their book, and they want to see the title and their name. Always leave ample space for these and possibly a tagline or author accolades. Don't be so keen to see your artwork big and bold that you forget your client's needs.
Where to Find Images
If you're using creative commons images, you will want to combine at least two to create a cover. The reason for this is if you just use one, it could already be a book cover and you don't want it to be the same and create a potential problem for yourself or the author.
There are certain things you should do to protect yourself from potential legal problems. Firstly if you are using creative common images, don't use images with people in them. It is unlikely these have a model release and you don't want to receive a letter from someone who wants to sue you for using their image.
This also applies to images of recognizable houses, businesses, boats, and cars.
It may also be worth keeping a screen shot of the page where you downloaded your creative commons image from. These take up only a small space on your hard drive and shows you acted in good faith. At the end of the day though you would still be liable as sites such as Pixabay and other sites which offer creative common photos, state this in their site terms. It is basically saying, use at your own risk. Do your due diligence before using the images other than those you've taken.
You can find images on sites such as:
- Flickr (check rights as most are not CC0)
If you are going to purchase stock photos, check the usage rights. This will also give you the limit of copies which can be sold (usually 250,000 or 500,000) without buying another license. When you buy from a stock site, the model release has been signed. I use a combination of our own photos, creative commons, and stock images.
If you're still reading then you're obviously interested or at least curious. If you're asking yourself if you have the design capabilities let me tell you something, don't wait, just begin. When I look back at my early designs, I'll be honest with you, they aren't good. I could delete them off the site but for me, I like to go back and look at some of my early designs to see how far I've come.
You're not competing with world class designers, they are in a league of their own. Your skills will help an author who doesn't have a huge amount of money to spend on what might be their first or second book.
Just start from where you are right now. If you need guidance about the software program you have selected to use, there are many videos tutorials on You Tube which explain various techniques. Once you begin you'll become more confident and your covers will improve. Go to the library, your own bookshelf or on the internet to get an idea of different styles of book covers. Some are artistic, others minimalistic, and some are downright poor in my opinion.
Whether you decide to create your own website, sell on a freelance site or through a third party, you will have another source of revenue coming in from your artwork.
The sites where you can upload your work are free, so you have nothing to lose except your time spent designing your first cover. Who knows, you could have a flair for it and you might just design a cover for an upcoming best seller!
Don't get discouraged if some of yours don't get accepted. Occasionally I produce one that doesn't get accepted for various reasons. When you make your first sale though, you'll be hooked.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
- Helpful 1
I'm an author looking for a cover for my self-published book. What fair market value range should I expect to pay for a cover? I was considering hosting an Art Contest through my Instagram account, but I would want the top prize to be worthwhile. Do you have any suggestions?
The site I sell book covers through that I mentioned in the article, their covers start at $69.
Regarding the art contest, it sounds like a good idea, but artists won't give away their designs for a small prize. If you and your book are well known, they may enter for the publicity. Plus to run a bonafide contest is difficult as there are many rules and regulations that have to be followed.Helpful 2
Do you know of any site that uses Payoneer?
Yes, one of the payment options at Upwork is Payoneer. The other option would be to create your own website and accept Payoneer payments.
With stock photos, do I need to buy the extended license to sell the design? I use Deposit Photos for my own covers, and I'd like to start designing covers and selling them, but it looks like I have to buy extended licenses, which makes it quite expensive. Are there other stock image sites where this isn't the case?
The stock site I use allows the usage of 250,000. The company I sell my covers through asks that we confirm this as part of the vetting process.
If you were to sell them yourself, you may want to have an agreement with the purchaser that limits them to this amount. If their book takes off and sells well, they can buy the extended license.
© 2017 Mary Wickison