Let's face it. Most writers aren't artists. They also don't have a ton of money to devote to book covers, because they can run between $20 and $300 a piece…and up (or so I've found).
So what do you do? For me, personally, I create my own, or have my daughter create mine (we bought her a student's version of Photoshop, since she had the class in school). I'd rather do my own, because she's 16 and has a teeny bit of an attitude with me, but she does a good job. She did these for me:
She also did this one for an upcoming second book in the Natalie series ('Diplomats'):
I did the rest of my covers myself. I downloaded Paint.net (free program) and studied different book covers on Amazon. I haven't figured out how to do blending well, but I can do the basics on Paint.net by using levels and various other tools. I also buy credits on fotolia.com for the pictures. That way, I have the rights to use the pictures. I also make my cover 600 X 900 pixels so it’ll be standard sized across distributor.
For my covers, I try to give an idea of what the book's about, use an easy-to-read font, and also look at it in thumbnail size and in black and white (which is what will show up on the Kindle before the title page). I try to keep the cover simple, so it's not distracting.
I did a web search to find a few articles to see what makes a good cover. Here's what I found:
But what do the readers think? I had to go find out from my guru reader friend I meet for coffee once a week. I’ll call her ‘V’ to keep her anonymity. I took the extreme sacrifice to go out for coffee this morning (LOL!) with V (we always laugh for hours) and asked her what she thought. Now, V reads a lot, is intuitive and intelligent (she made me write that down). She’s a typical reader, middle-aged (she’s around my age of 50) and reads deep drama/dark fantasy/mystery books. She told me she mostly buys because of cover.
She’s given up on reading romances, because they’re always about beautiful people who end up having sex. She mentioned that the ‘girl needs to be ugly, too. Good looking people aren’t the only ones who have sex.’ Now realize, she wrote that on my piece of paper after a few cups of whatever she was drinking. LOL! She did say she likes eerie book covers with easy-to-read text in block letters. She said no sexy woman built like Barbie (it ticks her off to see that).
I asked her if she reads the reviews at the top on a typical Amazon page (she has a Kindle), and she says sometimes, but doesn’t put much stock in reviews. She did say she will read a few pages of the sample if she doesn’t know the author. She takes a look at the blurb, but the reviews at the bottom of the page might be written from young kids or people with an agenda, so she doesn’t put much stock in those.
She reinforced some of my thoughts…a good, easy-to-read cover that describes the book’s content. But she also mentioned that a book needs a great sample of the opening paragraphs (the hook). I never thought of the sample as part of the curb appeal, but she’s right. It is. That hook really matters.
So the next time you create a book cover, realize that the one thing that draws in your reader is the cover first. Make sure it looks professional and fits all requirements.