How to become a book cover designer

photo of woman writing on tablet computer while using laptop
A lot of young designers (or old designers!) reach out and ask me how they can become a book cover designer or get started in this business.
If you want to start book cover design… watch all the videos on first; then make 50 sample mockups and put them in a portfolio; then contact a bunch of authors with platforms and offer to remake their covers for free in exchange for a link and testimonial.
If you have great samples, and your price is reasonable – between $100 and $1000, depending on your experience, quality and expertise – you’ll get orders.
How many orders depends on traffic and conversion. So you need to find more ways to convince people to trust and buy from you, and then you need to find ways to build traffic.
I started with nothing and had to work at it for a few years. I priced really low. I did a lot of free work (I still do!). Now I’m focused more on building great content.
If you want to start quickly; run a contest every month for a free cover design and use it to build links, shares and traffic, as well as an email list (of people you know need covers).


Prices are going up this month!

I just wrote a pretty long post about book cover design on my blog and figured some things out.

One of which is that I’m not longer competing with other book cover designers.

As a 1-person business, I no longer have to appeal to a big range of authors with lots of price points.

And because I’m really good at what I do (and it’s instantly obvious by comparing my portfolio to others) I don’t need to compete on price.
It doesn’t matter if I’m “in the range of” other cover designers of my skill level.

I don’t need to be cheaper than the big mainstream options.

I’m not saying you should work with me – because maybe you shouldn’t. There are lots of other options, and I have a big list of other cover designers on my resources page who are amazing. What I am saying is that I can focus on providing the value I’m best at, and charge a higher than average price, and I will continue to get clients because they want the best book cover they can get.

It’s late, I’m rambling.

My main point is this: rather than offering a bunch of stuff, I’m going to start offering one-size-fits all packages.

While my stand alone cover design prices may seem high, my formatting+cover publishing packages are going to be very average, compared to the mainstream big services like Createspace, Lulu, or Author House, or small presses.

Which means a lot of authors can choose me, instead of them, for the same price and get much higher quality design.

But I’m ALSO going to offer something totally different; a hybrid publishing option…

In that scenario, authors will partner with me 50-50; I’ll do everything for free and guarantee them a bestselling book, and we’ll spit the proceeds of book sales (basically, just like a traditional publishing deal works, except you’d be earning 50%, which is much higher than traditional publishing contracts).

Tentative Pricing Plans

The main thing is that I’ve been trying to offer options (with formatting, without, extras, etc.) And I don’t like formatting, so I was almost ready to remove that option – the problem with that is then authors have to get it done elsewhere, like through Createspace, and the formatting won’t match the cover, and that means my covers are on less professional books.

Since nearly all authors need formatting, I’m just going to make formatting mandatory (ie if you want one of you covers, then you also need to let me do the formatting, so that the whole book will look great, not just the outside). I’m also going to include things I know authors need and want. If you compare my prices to other book cover designers, they may seem expensive (but so what – I can charge more because my reputation and talent is in demand). On the other hand, compared to publishing packages, you’ll get everything you need from me for about the same price – but everything will be much higher quality (because you’re paying me directly, rather than a big company that is going to farm out the work and make more money by giving you cheap design).

Ebook Package – $999

  • Ebook cover and ebook formatting
  • Unlimited revisions, unlimited image insertions
  • Help with distribution/publishing options
  • Help with title and subtitle, keyword research
  • Help writing/editing your sales copy and author bio
  • A blog header, Facebook or Twitter backgrounds
  • Advertisement boxes
  • 3D book mockups
  • One-on-one author support

Print Package – $1999

in addition to everything above…

  • Full print book cover and formatting in InDesign
  • 200 bookmarks and 200 business cards

Marketing Package – $2999

in addition to everything above…

  • Help building your social media platforms
  • Help getting your first 10 book reviews
  • Research partners or blogs for guest posts
  • Help writing/sending a press release (if it makes sense for your book)
  • Targeted Facebook ad campaign (managed for you).
  • Guaranteed #1 bestseller in your genre on launch day
  • Guaranteed 250 copies sold in first month*

*for this to work, you’ll need to give me a lot of control over the ebook pricing for the first month; and I probably can only take on books with real commercial appeal

Add ons:

  • One round of expert-quality copy editing and proofreading – $1000
  • Well designed and professional author website – $1000

I was a full-time book editor for many years and now run several book editing companies: I don’t really do book editing any more but I’m better at it than anyone I know, which is why I normally wouldn’t edit a book for less than about 4cents a word. $1000 to edit a book is a lot of money, but less than you’d pay on any of my editing sites. But it’s only for clients who buy a package.

I’ve been making WordPress websites for a long time; my sites are polished, work well and start getting traffic right away. I can help you set up your url or domain, hosting, install WordPress, pick a theme, add plugins and extras (email optin form, etc), help you organize the right pages, excerpts, links to Amazon, buy buttons, etc. What I won’t do is move everything around to where you think you want it. I’ll make it look nice, match your book or theme, and make it focused on selling the book or building your email list. It will be better than 90% of the indie author websites out there.

The full package

I can probably offer a full package deal, like everything included for $4500 (so you’d save $499).

If I’ve done my job right, you won’t have to pay for publicity or promotion, you won’t have to figure anything out or go with a small press for extra hand-holding, everything will be finished and taken care off.

You’ll have full access to me for any extra help or questions for a full year (I usually charge $500/hour for consulting).

I’ll try and take on 3 to 5 clients per month.

Why book cover design is the best job in the world

I get stressed and busy sometimes, but some nights (like tonight) my job rocks.

I’m working on one cover, the author wants a sketch of pre-1757 London in black and white, with a color photo of a girl, dressed as a boy, wearing a tricorn hat.

Another cover, I need an ancient Persian tent in the desert with beautiful stars (I was having trouble, but I just got in touch with a group that does desert tours in Dubai and they have the perfect image, which they said I could use).

I also need a fantasy dragon type of cover, which is tricky because there isn’t much good “dragon” art, and of course there aren’t any stock photos, but I’ve got it mapped out pretty well in my mind: ancient castle door, sweeping view of mountaintops, a stream of fire burning down from the sky… mostly it’s just searching the internet until I find enough material to start putting things together.

How book cover design works

I think most authors think that book cover design is just like art: you just tell the artist what you want and they can make it, like magic, from the end of their pencil. But that’s not how it works.

Unless you’re illustrating everything – which I don’t recommend unless you are doing children or very young adult books – nice photomanipulated covers work better.

But we have to have the raw materials to work with.

I can blend and change colors, I can crop and paste, I can move and rearrange – and after it’s all done I can get things to look pretty awesome together by applying some filters over the whole piece.

But for example, if we use a model with strong shadows and the light is coming from one direction, everything we add to the picture that doesn’t have the same lighting will look funny (especially if there are several models put together). We can fake it, but changing shadows isn’t something you can do easily (this isn’t 3D graphics, just 2D images).

We never really know how things will work out until I’ve found a bunch of images and tried them out. Often they come together and look brilliant. (Of course they do, I’m awesome). But they weren’t exactly what we “had in mind” when we started.

Anyway, I usually blog over on my main site,, but I haven’t posted for awhile here and thought I would.