When I decided I was going to self publish my novel Rock of Aeons on the Kindle, I had no idea how to get a cover made. I knew that my skills with photoshop were probably not up to the job. I didn't know how the pros did it. The closest I'd gotten to that was a friend a friend who commissioned cover art for a dead tree game back in the nineties. From a friend of his.
We keep circling around to the subject of friends, personal contacts. So the first thing I tried was personal recommendations. I remembered that Tim Pratt recommended a design group awhile back, but search as I might on his blog, I couldn't find the link. So I asked a friend who had self published a great novel on Kindle, and done it with a pretty good cover. She kindly passed me the contact information for her guy, and I surfed over to their page only to find that they were no longer taking new clients. Hmmm.
The next logical thing was to try the net. A couple of Google searches later, I found four companies that were advertising their services as creators of ebook covers.
The first three sites all had fairly straightforward deals going on: you work with them to develop a cover for a price.
eCover Makers charges $97. After you place your order, they will contact you by email or phone to discuss your design.
Absolute Covers starts at $47 and goes to well over that, depending on the on the number of drafts you order and what additional work you require. For instance, if you wanted a back cover for a possible print edition? That's extra.
They sounded fine, but looking at their sample covers didn't stir me. They looked like grocery store packaging, and skewed towards non-fiction.
Author Support charges a whopping $400 for the bare minimum work, and you supply the art. For what I wanted, a full design where they chose the art, they charge $750. Their covers looked better, but by no means 7 times better.
99 Designs had something else going on. Apparently, there's a whole niche of websites that offer design "competitions." On 99 designs, you offer a fee, ranging from 150 to 600, and designers compete to win a portion of it. They're probably art school students, but when I looked at some of their winning designs, they looked very good, comparable to the cover the propelled Amanda Hocking's Trylle to a million sales. When I was originally looking around the site, it looked like the contest I wanted would run about $200. The contest I ended up running cost $150.
Crowdspring, which is linked to Amazon's create space, looks like it offers a similar service.
That $200 set the ceiling for my expenses, in my head. I decided to look around for other designers, and see if I could find a good one that would do it for less, but if I didn't find one in a couple of days, I would go back and launch a contest.
There are probably other shops than the first three. I'm a very lazy librarian, and didn't search very far. But $200 seemed reasonable, and the other searches I had done hadn't turned up great options. So I decided to try to go local.
I put an ad on Craigslist.
I am looking for an ebook cover for an Urban Fantasy novel. I would like quotes for service. I need price, turnaround time, and links to a website with examples of your designs. I will send more specific details after I receive a quote.
I recieved 13 replies within two weeks, 7 in the first three days, the rest starting about six days after. Of the first 7, I really liked three, would have looked at two, and didn't like two. However, none of them quoted me a price less than the 99designs contest I was looking at.
I gave it three days, and launched my contest on 99 designs. The process was pretty easy, much like joining any other site, with, of course, the $145 fee for the contest required up front. The standard length for a contest is 7 days, so they seemed confident of a quick turnaround.
This was my contest spec:
I need a design for a book cover, titled Rock of Aeons. The book is loosely taglined: "It’s the angels versus genies in the fight to determine who controls the future of mankind, with one apathetic bounty hunter who can’t keep a boyfriend deciding who wins."
The main character is female and a redhead the angels look like angles, the genies do not look like I Dream of Genie or Mr. Clean. I know alot of Urban Fantasies with female protagonists show alot of skin, but I don't think that would be right for this title.
It should be 500 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall, and RGB, and .JPG
I got nothing for a day, and kind of forgot about it. I received email from the 99 designs site on the second day. It told me that I had 10 entries, and when I went to look at them, a couple were suitable. It was very gratifying. I felt like a pretty pretty princess, with everybody courting me.
After talking to one of the designers, who asked a lot of good questions, I added a comment to the contest.
It's an ebook. I use a lot of white and gold when describing things in the book, but I'm not really a designer and am interested in anything. I tend to prefer more rounded font styles. Abstract or contemporary would be fine. The story takes place in an modern, urban environment. I would probably prefer illustration to photos. I don't think genies photograph well. But anything exciting is... exciting.
I'm aware that there are probably limitations to a contest like this, especially at the level I'm participating, so I'm hesitant to ask for specific images. I know Trylle did quite well on Amazon with an abstract cover, so I don't think I'm too anxious about non-representational art. In fact, a really good non-representational cover would probably trump okay illustration.
That said, If I had my pick, I though it would be cool to have an illustration of a baboon in mortal combat with a naked angel holding a laser gun that shoots lightning bolts. :) That's probably too ambitious. I've also thought gold magic circles, the kind you use to summon demons, would look nice on a white background, or spatters of white and gold blood intermixed.
(Also, as a note, I am liking the photos I am seeing very well).
After that, I got a lot of more interesting entries, including the two I ended up choosing between. I ended up with 55 entries from 17 designers. A lot to choose from!
All in all, I found 99 designs very satisfying. There were some drawbacks: I'm not sure how fair it is to force designers to compete for a prize. But, they did. Also, I failed to ask them to show the design at large and thumbnail size, so although I got a great cover design, I am unsure how it will look as a thumbnail on Amazon.
It was a really exciting process, and pretty inexpensive. The cover was the biggest out of pocket expense for the entire process.