Book Covers for Indie Authors

bookcoverlayoutIf you’re self-publishing, you’ve already got your hands full with writing and laying out the book interior/text for book and ebook publication.

You may or may not have the time, interest, or skills to create the book covers, too. …but you DO have options.

DIY Options

There certainly are DIY (Do It Yourself) options. You can use the Cover Creator options provided by Amazon KDP or other built-in wizards. You could also create your own cover from scratch using InDesign, Photoshop, or less expensive graphic tools like GIMP, Canva, etc.

All of these options, however, require your time, effort, learning curve, and adaptability to create ebook and print covers. To do covers well, you should also have the skills of a cover designer. Most indie authors are writers, not techies or graphic designers, so this might be one of those elements you choose to outsource.

Outsourcing Options

There are, of course, a multitude of designers out there ready and willing to create your cover for you, and their skills vary as widely as their pricing. You’ll need to decide what your budget can afford and what your book really needs.


For simple or small books in a small niche market, you may be perfectly happy with creating your own cover or having a cover created through a fiverr gig. For $5-50, you can have your ebook and/or print book cover designed for you.

A basic $5 gig will be a relatively simple jpg ebook cover based on your request or a pdf print cover layout based on an ebook cover you already have. The added expenses grow when you also request source files, commercial rights to the images and fonts used, additional changes, etc.

Even with the additional fees, however, fiverr is one of the cheapest options for having your ebook and print book covers created. Just make sure you check out the provider’s ratings, stats, and examples of previous work. Quality at this price ranges from adequate to truly exceptional. …but the exceptional ones will cost more.


You can also post a job on UpWork, much like you would post a job in the local newspaper’s classified ads. You establish the job needs and the pay amount, then wait for interested designers to inquire about the job. Generally, this will cost 2-4 times as much as a fiverr gig, but the interaction between the writer and designer typically goes beyond the limited communication of a fiverr gig.

99designs99 Designs

Similar to UpWork, you post what you need to 99 Designs and let the designers pitch their ideas/designs to you. Essentially, you are posting a design contest. Again, this is a more expensive option, but you get to pick the designer/design(s) you like best.

Usually, the quality of the covers created on 99 Designs is exceptionally high, so though you’re paying top dollar, you’re also getting top notch results. Costs can range between $299-$1,200, but that’s still cheaper than hiring an individual designer, and you get several options.

Individual Designer

If you happen to know a professional designer or know how to request service from an accomplished individual designer, you can certainly try this route. Most new authors won’t have these kinds of connections in the beginning, so the option is a bit far-fetched. It’s also extremely expensive. To hire the absolute best for a dedicated project, you’ll be paying for the best. Unless you’re already an established author with an impressive income and budget, you may want to wait for this option…maybe to rebrand all your 20+ book covers in the future.

Working with Cover Designers

Whether you’re creating your own cover or working with a professional designer, there are some basic specs you’ll need to gather and provide before your cover can be created.

Spine and Trim Size

First, if you want a print book cover, you MUST create the interior file for your book first. You have to know how long/how many pages your book will be at a specific trim size (6×9 inches, 8.5×8.5 inches, 8.5×11 inches, etc.) to determine the spine dimensions (how thick your book will be).

Ebook covers are a little more forgiving. You can play with the dimensions a bit, and book length doesn’t matter since the ebook cover is basically just the front cover of your book. You should probably plan ahead, though. If you plan to provide your book in print as well as an ebook, you might want to use the same trim size for both the print and ebook covers.

POD Service

You’ll need to let the designer know if you plan to use Createspace, Ingram Spark, or another printing option. The designer will know that there are slight requirement differences and can adjust accordingly. Each is a separate task for the designer, however, so you may want to pre-arrange a bundle price if you think you’ll need covers for more than one service.

To be safe, it’s best if you can clearly define the exact specs required for your print cover. (Your ebook cover can always be created FROM the front of the print book cover with a quick crop.)

measureCreatespace Specs Example

To determine the exact layout specs for your Createspace book cover, login to Createspace and click the Books tab to select Publish a Trade Paperback.

Click on the Cover tab and scroll down to click Follow these submission requirements to create a cover PDF.

That will give you the exact math needed to layout your print cover.

You need to pick a trim size and know the length of your book AT that trim size to proceed.

The example provided by Createspace is for a 60 page book at a 6×9 inches trim size.

Once you do the math, you’ll provide something like the following to your cover designer:

  • Title; author; exact text for front, back and spine; color theme preference (if any); examples of similar covers you like – that are similar to your book; specific images or image ideas (if any); and the general gist/blurb of your book, so the designer knows what message the cover should convey.
  • Need: Print book cover PDF (for Createspace) and a cropped jpg of the front cover for the ebook cover; source files and commercial rights to images/fonts used (as needed)
  • 300dpi
  • Space provided for ISBN
  • Trim Size and Book Length – Example: 6×9 trim size (60 pages long) with layout dimensions of 12.385 inches wide by 9.25 inches tall.
    • Width includes 0.125″(Bleed) + 6″(Back Cover Page) + 0.135″(Spine) + 6″(Front Cover Page) + .125″(Bleed) = 12.385″ (Full Layout Width)
    • Height includes 0.125″(Bleed) + 9″(Cover Trim Height) + .125″(Bleed) = 9.25″(Full Layout Height)
  • NOTE that these specs are calculated for Createspace. These may vary for Ingram Spark or other printers.
  • Provide a jpg of your current ebook cover and images used (if you’ve already created one and just need the print layout expanded with the same front cover as your ebook)

NOTE that a book spine needs to be a certain thickness before it can include any text. Books under 100 pages may not be thick enough. The spine may need to remain blank for thin books.

Final Thoughts

It’s a lot of info to gather for your book cover, but you’d have to gather it all anyway if you wanted to do these yourself.

Whether you decide to create your own covers or to hire someone else to create them, you’ll need to know the exact specs required if you want to upload acceptable cover files.

Remember that to create your own covers, you really should have experience with professional or sufficient software tools like InDesign, Photoshop, or cheaper online options. You should also have at least some knowledge of good cover layout and design. (People really do judge a book by its cover, so it needs to look professional and appealing.)

If you decide to hire a cover designer, you could save yourself a whole lot of time, effort, and maybe even money if you don’t own professional graphic and layout software by having these done for you. You’ll need to weigh your options for quality and cost, but you DO have options. …and now you know exactly what kind of details you or your cover designer will need to successfully complete the project.

Best of luck to all my fellow indies out there, and feel free to post links to your covers in the comments below and let us know which options you chose. If you’ve had an exceptionally good experience with a cover designer, give him or her a shout out in the comments, too. It’s always easier to choose designers when others can offer recommendations and examples of their work.

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