The temptation to make your own book cover and saving money is strong. And it can be done.
There are no inherent drawbacks to doing it yourself; but without the experience you are likely to make amateur mistakes that scream “self-published!” to would-be readers.
Actually, the truth is, nobody cares about that anymore, so instead you’re announcing, “I’m too cheap to invest in producing a quality product!”
Most readers will assume that, if the cover is ugly, the rest of the book isn’t very polished also.
But how do you know if your homemade, DIY book cover is ugly? This simple how-to guide for making ugly book covers should steer you in the right direction (if you’re doing any of these things, you’re on the wrong path).
1) Use a personal photo, not a professional one
Even though you can get cheap, high quality professional pictures on 123rf.com, bigstockphoto, and dozens of other places, you should take one yourself of your backyard.
The image doesn’t have to say anything about the book, content, plot or characters. Bonus points if it’s washed out, unclear, boring or blurry.
2) The picture doesn’t have to cover the whole thing
If the picture isn’t the right shape or size, it’s fine to just leave a big chunk of white space. White is clean and easy on the eyes. Lots of space is good, so it’s not too crowded.
3) Make a long, rambling title with no meaning
Avoid any keywords that people would actually search for. It should be a bit pretentious and try to be poetic and literary. It still doesn’t need to say anything about what’s in the book or what the book is about (readers love surprises!)
4) Make your author name really small
It shows your humility. Besides the author isn’t that important, and you’re not famous… and it makes you feel safer somehow. So make it little and unnoticeable. You can even change the color so it doesn’t stand out so much.
5) Use the basic fonts already installed on your computer
It’s looking good, but let’s change it up with some fun, fresh fonts! You are drawn to Mistral and Rage Italic. Or maybe Comic Sans.
6) Add some text effects to make the text stand out more
You can use bevel, drop shadow or add a stroke/outline to make the text “pop.” In fact, do everything you can to make the cover “pop.” Poppiness is good!
7) Add “Bestseller” because you know it’s going to be one…
People are going to love this book, and it’s going to sell a million copies. Soon. Plus you’ve chosen an obscure Amazon category and got 10 of your friends to buy it at the same time, and it was #1 for 5 minutes. So why not just write “Bestseller” now? It’ll save you work later. Make sure to use all-caps and a heavy drop shadow to make it “pop.” And use a lot of exclamation points, because you’re awesome.
8) Add all your book award seals
You know, the ones for those book contests that you paid to get into. Use anything, even “runner-up” or “finalist” or “7th place.”
Don’t be choosy, they’ll all fit.
9) Super! Now email it to everybody!
You’re ready! Your book isn’t finished yet, you’re about halfway done, not sure if you want to get editing. But that’s no reason you can’t start to market your book and raise awareness. Plus you need to find beta readers. So start emailing your cover to everyone you know, add it as your Facebook profile pic, and Retweet it every 4 hours with a few catchy excerpts or links to your “coming-soon” page on your unfinished website.
PS) #8 isn’t a slur against book awards contests, although they can be scammy and are definitely for profit, and I don’t think they have much business on a book cover. Some are respectable. Feedback can be valuable. Some readers like to see them, even if they don’t know the organization. In my opinion they are part of the cerebral/rational buyer response and should go on the back of the cover, rather than the instant/emotional response you need to make with the front.