Need an ebook cover? DIY!

This post is specifically for writers:

I’d never heard of William King until a few weeks ago, but now he’s one of my favorite people. Mr. King is a British author of sci-fi and fantasy novels, and since I don’t read a lot of that stuff, our paths might never have crossed. But an odd twist of fate led me to his (electronic) doorstep one dark and stormy night this past June. He saved me a lot of time, effort, and money. Especially money. And if you’re in the situation I was in–a writer who needs good, fast, inexpensive cover art for self-published ebooks–he may be able to help you, too.

I’d just decided to self-publish my out-of-print novels as ebooks, and that afternoon I’d received the brochure from the ebook preparation company I’m using. They’re making my books available in all the usual online platforms, and they’re distributing them to Amazon, Apple, B&N, etc. All I had to do was supply them with copies of the books for them to convert. Then my part would be over, and soon my works would magically appear at all these outlets, available to the millions who would immediately start buying them.


Then I saw the brochure, and–well, long story short, they have a very, very limited selection of covers, the mock “dust jackets” that accompany ebooks on the product pages of the online bookstores. And when I say limited, I mean Cover A (Red) and Cover B (Black). Author name and title are white, in your choice of (A) Helvetica or (B) Century Schoolbook. Anything more than that requires a graphic designer, for which you pay extra. A lot extra. And let me tell you plainly: Cover A and Cover B are the pits. I’ve seen more interesting covers on DMV training manuals.

If you can convert your work to electronic form for all the various platforms by yourself, good on you. But if you’re like the rest of us, using a professional book prep company, you’re already paying anywhere from $300-$800 per title just for the conversion, right? If you want them to handle distribution, print-on-demand, or publicity, you pay more. If your book has illustrations, graphs, charts, etc., it’s even more. And if you want to avoid Cover A and Cover B…you see how it all adds up?

On that rainy night in June, I desperately sought a solution to the Cover Art Problem. Could I possibly–gulp!–DO IT MYSELF?!! I had a lot of training in graphic and commercial design in college many, many years ago, but I hadn’t done any art stuff since then, certainly not on a computer. For me, making a book cover would involve a sheet of heavy vellum, a T-square, rubber cement, India ink, Zipatone lettering, and a burnisher. PhotoShop and Adobe Illustrator are just names to me, something expensive you need to buy and learn–more money and many months of classes at Parson’s, or wherever. So in my dark despair, I did the only sensible thing I could think of: I Googled. I opened my browser, typed “how to make your own ebook cover,” and hit “Search.”

And my prayers were answered. On the result page, hidden in a virtual torrent of ads for expensive graphic design services, I found my new best friend, Mr. William King. He’d had the same problem, and he’d found a solution, and he wrote about it in his blog. The secret, he said, was RIGHT THERE ON MY DESKTOP ALL ALONG!! It’s called…drumroll…PowerPoint! If you have Microsoft Office (and who doesn’t?), you have a rudimentary design program already built in to your computer!

 Here’s King’s blog entry:

My art training came in handy, I must admit. I followed King’s simple, illustrated, step-by-step instructions, and the results are on the menu bar at the top of this page. Just click on “Tom’s novels” and “Writing as TJ Phillips” to see my homemade covers. But King’s covers look great, too, and he admits he’s not an artist.

Before you hire a pricey design company, give this a try. Whatever your level of artistic ability, you’ll certainly come up with something better than Cover A and Cover B. You can always ask a talented relative or friend to help you. I hope this helps. Good luck!