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Earn Money Selling Pre-Made Book Covers to Authors

Updated on March 9, 2017
Blond Logic profile image

Having met with business owners both locally and internationally, I bring fresh ideas to help you generate more income.

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.

Designing  Online
Designing Online | Source

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 bookcovers, I begin with a size of 4167 x 3125 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 with 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.

Source

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:

  • Fiverr
  • Upwork
  • People per hour
  • Freelancer
  • Guru
  • 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 which will help sell your customer's book.

If you are creating a design specific 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.

Banish Boring Book Covers
Banish Boring Book Covers | Source
  • 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.
  • 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.

Other Tips

One thing I would like to mention: authors don't always wait till after 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.

Avoid Litigation

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:

  • Pixabay
  • Pexels
  • Morguefile
  • 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.

Still Reading?

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.

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    • simplehappylife profile image

      SA Williams 2 months ago from Earth

      Great, informative hub :) Thank You

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I hope it has given you the confidence to start making covers for yourself or as a way to generate extra income.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Mary, this would require designing, and I don't have a design bone in my body. Having said that, this is a great idea for making some supplemental income. I know someone who stays quite busy doing exactly this.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Bill,

      You're right about it being a good sideline. The world of designing and graphic arts is expanding rapidly. That combined with authors searching for a reasonably priced cover makes a business opportunity.

      Thanks for reading, have a wonderful week.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 months ago from England

      Great advice for someone who wants to follow this path. I can't even design Wix, lol! but great to know!

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Nell,

      I think you underestimate yourself, you're a talented woman.

      Thanks for reading.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 2 months ago from Hamburg, New York

      How much money can you make on a book cover? Have you sold any?

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Nancy,

      On the site I sell through the artist can set their price. The lowest being $69.00. If it sells for that the artist will receive 72%. If you opt to sell for more, the artist will receive 70%. Plus on every sale there is a $1.00 fee for server space. I have looked at other similar sites and all are about 70%.

      I am one of the sites multi-cover sellers. The majority of artists on their books have sold multiple covers and one artist has sold 800 I believe! That company has just celebrated its 5th anniversary and has many authors who are repeat buyers.

      I hope that has answered any questions you might have.

      Thanks for reading.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for revealing the money-making potential in creating book covers. Very informative and helpful.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Dora,

      It is something people, who enjoy designing, art or manipulating photos can do well at. It's another avenue available to earn extra money from design skills.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 2 months ago from Georgia

      This is a great idea and even gives people who might need a book cover created some places to look. Thanks for the information!

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Karen,

      Yes, you're right. The internet has opened up many opportunities for both authors and artists. It's brought about a worldwide audience to us all and pulled us together like never before.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • KDanielleBurton profile image

      KDanielleBurton 2 months ago

      Hi Mary,

      I am a designer for Self Pub Book Covers. Do you have any advice for selling more covers? I've been a designer there for a while now but barely make any sales, only about 12. I post new covers daily and have 200+ in my gallery. I also promote on facebook and twitter and have had my covers chosen as Cover of The Day several times, but still sales don't come. I'm not sure what else to do.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi KDanielle,

      I'm so pleased another artist from the site is here. I understand how frustrating it can be to have several covers and only a few sales.

      There are a few things I would suggest.

      Keywords.

      How are your keywords? How many do you use, and how effective are they. Great keywords are crucial to getting your cover found. You may have an excellent choice of covers and perfect for what an author is looking for but if they don't type in a keyword you have, then they may never find it. People are impatient and won't scroll through too many before either buying or becoming frustrated. Whatever you do, don't keyword spam, that hurts the site as clients will get frustrated and go elsewhere. For keywords include the suitable words on the upload form, plus more. I use a thesaurus, ask people, and do keyword research.

      I'm pleased to hear you're using Facebook and Twitter, both of those can be excellent. I say can be because if your Facebook page is only filled with family and friends and they aren't writers, it is likely it isn't getting in front of the people who need to see it. Twitter, I find is easier to get authors to follow you. Plus when you tweet, SelfPubBookCovers will retweet. Contact Shoshana from the site and she will give you examples of how to do this and popular hashtags to use.

      Also just supporting the site helps all of us.

      Something Rob touched on in his recent newsletter, was to make a small banner ad. You will have seen examples of these with some of the longstanding members. When they sell a cover they say thanks and have a square or rectangle with several of their covers. It is just another opportunity to get your name out there.

      I would also suggest Pinterest as it has more of a permanence to it than Twitter and Facebook.

      Although not related to book covers, I design on Zazzle and from my experience there, things can take some time to sale. I know that isn't what you want to hear but it can take a long time. I think we need patience and a thick skin. As Rob says, his site can open up another avenue of earning. I don't know if any are solely making their living from it or not.

      You are doing the right thing by publishing frequently as this keeps yours on the front page when the genre is clicked.

      You could have your own website and sell from there or direct them back to Self Pub Book Cover. The problem with doing that is the competition to get your site found, plus you may spend more time working on the site instead of your covers.

      To recap:

      Check and improve your keywords

      Continue with social media but target authors

      Continue publishing frequently

      and lastly, just hang in there and keep producing beautiful covers.

      I wish you the best of luck and hope you keep us posted on any new sales.

    • profile image

      Humphrey Mwanza 2 months ago

      Thank you for such an informative article I have quietly been beavering away designing covers haven't sold any yet band may now have to redesign them due to the creative commons litigation issue which I was not aware of, how can I find out more about which images I can use?

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 2 months ago from Brazil

      Hi Humphrey,

      The best way to avoid any problems with images is to create them yourself from your own drawings or photos. Even then, you have to be certain what you are drawing or photographing is allowed. For instance, just this week I learned a popular tree which has been photographed by many in California, is not allowed to be used on images.

      To see all the various licenses associated with Creative commons, type 'creative commons licenses' into Google. You want to be using CC0 which is considered public domain. In my article, I have listed a few places to find images.

      Another option is to purchase them from a stock photo site. If you shop around you can get a good price

      Good luck with your book covers.

    • KDanielleBurton profile image

      KDanielleBurton 2 months ago

      Thank you for the information.

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 8 weeks ago from Brazil

      You're welcome. I hope many orders will be coming your way soon.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 weeks ago from Central Florida

      Mary, this is a great idea for making extra money. I'm sure it's quite satisfying when an author buys one of your designs. How much custom work have you done (for individual clients)?

    • Blond Logic profile image
      Author

      Mary Wickison 5 weeks ago from Brazil

      Hi Shauna,

      I work strictly through the site I mentioned, Self Pub Book Covers. There I can put up various designs and targeted keywords so authors can find my covers. In the future, I may work individually with clients and sell through a personal website or on People Per Hour or other freelance sites.

      The problem I have with doing that, is the back and forth communications and potentially endless revisions.

      You're right, when someone buys a book cover or a product from Zazzle where I upload designs, it is very rewarding. We are in a world where everyone will 'say', "that's nice" but to have someone put their hand in their wallet and pay for something, then you know they love it.

      Glad you enjoyed this article.

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