Last week, I said that the primary error of self-publishing is poor content. The second error, almost as critical, is a lousy cover. People do, quite literally, judge a book by its cover – and even more so when buying online.
Unless you make a living designing book covers – or have at least garnered enthusiastic compliments designing covers for others – then you shouldn’t design your own. Just because you have graphic design software, doesn’t mean you’re qualified to use it – any more than having word processing software makes someone a writer. And don’t tap your family and friends, either – unless they have a portfolio of covers to show you.
While every successful designer, at one time, designed his or her first cover, don’t let it be your cover. Go with a seasoned professional. You can find them online.
Some people will design a cover on spec (which is a controversial subject, but it is an option nonetheless).
Otherwise you can hire a cover designer. In picking the right designer from a slew of options, consider their past work. Do you like it? Would you buy that book based on the cover? Does their work fit your genre?
Cover designs start at about $100 and go up. While you don’t want to pay too much for a great cover, don’t take the cheapest option either. Your book deserves the best possible cover, so don’t be reluctant to pay for it. Your book sales depend on it.