“There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”
-Charles Dickens; Oliver Twist
So, everyone says not to judge a book by its cover, and that can be true, but other times, it’s just not.
These days, with more and more authors turning to self-publishing, they have to do a lot more of the work themselves which means cutting costs and putting the money where it really matters. Not everyone has the money for a great, costly cover, but it can be worth the effort to pay someone or to learn photo editing software yourself. There are thousands of free tutorials online to make pictures and covers look better, but even then, without professional help, some people are lost.
I design my own covers, and of the two I’ve actually put out, you can see definite improvement from the first to the second. What is most important is the message that your cover conveys to the audience and the potential readers.
If you are going to design your cover yourself, think about what your book is about. A cover is just as important as the title in most cases. Think about the theme, the mystery, the characters. What is the most important and what do you want to convey in just a few pictures and colors on the front of a book? As with movie posters, there are formulas for book covers that publishers use.
There is the text-only format usually with a solid colored background and a special font. There’s the hand-drawn format which can be used for children’s books, YA, fantasy. Romance books often use real photographs with models. YA, especially lately, has a tendency to go for dark covers, blacks and reds. Go to a bookstore and check out your book’s genre to see what typical covers look like. There is also the “classical” book format with a picture and a block of color with the title.
Of course, there is nothing to say that you can’t break the rules of cover formats. Show your mock-up to others and ask for their opinions. Their opinion may be that you need a professional, and if that’s the case, think about it. There are those out there that judge books on the cover, so make yours as good as it can be.