Why you can’t afford a free book cover

Self-publishing is hard work, and expensive. With the costs of writing, editing and formatting text, aspiring authors are probably feeling pretty broke by the time they start thinking about their book cover. And if publishing on Lulu or Createspace, using their free online cover generator tools may seem like a bargain.

But the truth is, using a free or cheap cover is the quickest way to sabotage your book’s success. Reviewers will pass it up because it looks cheap and tacky. Readers will give it a miss because it looks unprofessional and homemade. And bookstores will slam their doors in your face.

After all the hard work, time and money you’ve invested in your book, you’re committing the cardinal sin of publishing: thinking that you can get readers to buy what’s on the inside without caring about what’s on the outside.

Packaging is everything. Everybody cares about how a product looks. You are creating a product and putting it out into the world. You are competing with multi-million dollar publishing industries that spend thousands of dollars on each book cover.

If you can’t afford a book cover – save up until you can.

There are lots of designers who can create a nice looking book cover for under $100, shop around for them. Post your project on guru.com or elance.com and find talented designers who work cheap. You could probably even find a neighbor or facebook friend that knows how to use photoshop and can make something better than the free templates on Lulu or Createspace.

While getting a “free” cover may feel good right now, you are sacrificing an untold amount of income from lost book sales.

Free Createspace Book Covers: Using the CS Cover Generator

What’s the purpose of your book? Why are your writing it, and who do you expect to read it? Recently I’ve met several authors who don’t plan to pay for a book cover, because they can get a free cover made with Createspace’s cover generator. Many self-publishing authors may feel that the purpose of their book is to get their writing into the hands of interested readers – and that those readers won’t really care what the cover looks like.

Maybe your book isn’t intended to be “mainstream” or “commercial” – so why should you spend any money on a book cover when you can get one for free?

Here’s why: Writing a book is about much more than the text itself. That book is a calling card, a reference point, that will be used to judge you and everything your ever do or write in the future. If you have a book cover made by a program like Createspace’s free cover generator, people will assume you are an amateur, and what’s worse, that you don’t take pride in your projects.

If you want anybody to read it, you’re going to have to send it out to reviewers and get some positive reviews – but many reviewers will pass on books with obviously cheap covers.

Maybe your writing is brilliant. Maybe people love it despite the cover, but imagine them introducing it to their friends like this: “Yeah I know the cover is ugly, but the writing is actually very good!”

Conversely, having an amazing cover can draw attention to your book regardless of the quality of your writing. People may share and talk about a book’s cover even if they haven’t read the book!

However, spending a few hundred dollars on a book cover may not make sense if

  • you’re only planning to sell a few copies
  • you just want a couple copies for yourself
In which case, using Createspace’s Book Cover Generator is an easy way for you to get something on the front of your book. Below are some examples of the templates you can choose from – with patience and some very good photos, you may be able to hack together something decent.