For years, decades, centuries people have been selling books, and all of those books have one thing in common: a cover.  Perhaps you’ve looked inside a paperback and seen a notice that it is not to be sold without its front cover, because that was step one in remaindering the book.  Book covers even entered into cliche, as we’ve all been told not to judge the book by them.  It’s just part of the mental image.  It’s a book.  It has a cover.

Electronic books have changed that, and I don’t understand why.

Alright, I get it, you’re not an artist.  Okay, you are, but your art is literary and not graphical.  And graphic designers cost money unless you’re smart and marry one.  But books need covers, even if they’re going to be sold entirely through online sites like Smashwords or the Kindle store.  That means, quite simply, if you’re going to self publish, you need a cover.

So where can you get one?

Well, thanks to Smashwords selling my information to anyone who wants it, I know there are companies out there that will design one for you.  Everyone is willing to take the money of the would-be self published author.  It’s not a bad business model for someone with a few minutes of spare time and the interest in making a few dollars, but if you’re considering anything that costs money you need to first weigh it against how much money you’re going to make off the eBook.  If you can’t cover the cover, then don’t pay for one.

You can crowd-source.  Maybe you know a friend willing to do you a favor.  That’s how I got my cover for Rust, by posting that I wanted/needed a cover and offering a copy of the book for it.  And I’m very happy with the result, and have used it for all subsequent editions.  That works great if you’ve got artistic friends who are willing to help, but don’t go trying to guilt people into it.  If graphics is their job, don’t try to guilt them into donating their time and skills for you.  But if they’re willing, great.

You can make your own.  One of the criticisms that came forward when Wylie went to directly publishing eBooks through the Kindle store was the quality of the covers.  They were just words.  But you know what?  That’s still one step up from the blank cover that Amazon gives you, and it’s enough to cross the cover requirement threshold from Apple.  Open up paint, create the right size image, bucket fill the background so it isn’t just white, and put your title and name there.  Boom, you’ve got a cover.  If you feel a little more competent then get a copy of GIMP and go to town.  Just be careful about bringing in images, make sure you either own them or the copyright holder has released them for what you want to do (if you’re looking at Creative Commons you want to avoid anything tagged “Non Commercial” and “No Derivatives” and make sure to include attribution somewhere in the first few pages).

And you know what?  This applies to your novel, your novella, or the standalone short story you’re selling.

Books are naked without covers, and there are people out there who will skip right past a book with no cover on it in the electronic book shops.  Don’t give them that excuse for not reading you!

DL Thurston can be found at Rust is available now for Kindle, ePub readers, and iBooks, coming soon to Sony Reader.  And it has a cover.

About the author

DLThurston DL Thurston is a writer of novels, screenplays, and the occasional short story. He has short stories due out soon in the Steam Works anthology from Hydra Publications and in The Memory Eater. When he's not writing, he also brews beer and even drinks it sometimes. Check out his exploits either on his blog or on Twitter.