It’s one thing to get a book cover designed, but it’s quite another to turn it into an actual book cover.

Getting a front cover designed by a freelance designer or graphic artist, whether that’s someone sourced on the Internet or someone local, is a popular option among indie authors. While we’ve seen some great designs, the main goal of authors who go this route is to save money. However, once the cover design is selected, the covers must be sized and submitted for print, tasks that often are left to the author to look after.

As a result, we get authors coming to us all the time with their files, asking us to make them fit the cover requirements requested by their printers or POD company. Sometimes this work includes designing the spine and back cover, meaning that the author must have ready the back cover text and author bio, along with the retail price and ISBN (we provide the bar code free of charge). Designing the spine means the author must also know the spine width, which is based on the final page count, something they would not know for sure until the book is typeset.

It’s no wonder that many authors come to us for proper sizing and placement of the design to make the cover print-ready! But, doing so will cost extra, not something they anticipated upfront and which makes their budget-friendly design more costly.

But, what really makes a cover costly is choosing to publish your book with a cover your readers don’t like! Remember, readers will judge your book by its cover.

Moreover, readers will judge YOU by your cover.

How do you avoid this costly mistake?

Choose a designer who specializes in cover design, someone whose work looks like it belongs on the covers of best sellers. Confirm with the designer that they will research best sellers in your genre to make sure yours will compete. Do some research yourself. Ask for different design concepts with different images, not just variations on the theme.

In particular, be cautious about design contests, where designers are asked to submit designs upfront (for free) in the hopes that their design will be purchased. What designer is going to spend any time researching book genres and book-selling trends, or give any thought to the best image for your book, or even coming up with a unique design, knowing they are probably doing so for free? In fact, what designer would care enough to get to know you and your book and create a cover that gives your book its best chances out there in a ferocious marketplace?

Only one that is getting paid.

If you like the idea of choosing from multiple cover designs, ask your professional book designer to provide you with at least three distinctly different cover concepts. Now, you might think that getting multiple, if not hundreds, of designs to choose from by submitting your project to an online design contest is much more cost effective than receiving just three or four from a professional designer.

First, you do end up purchasing the cover that you select from the contest.

Second, there’s the cost of getting the file properly sized.

Third, there’s a hidden cost as described above: the cost of a book cover that readers don’t like—one that sends the wrong message, looks overtly self-published, doesn’t compete with best sellers in your genre, and that does a poor job of getting people to buy your book. One that makes you look bad.

And without the input of a professional book designer with an in-depth knowledge of the book industry, how will you really know?

To learn more about the file sizing requirements for cover design files, please refer to a guest blog post by Sandy Gould of Colorhouse Graphics, Preparing Digital Print Files (Cover Files), or contact the design professionals at 1106 Design.