Publishing Tools I Use: Studio FX

Publishing an e-book is pretty easy, especially if you’re doing it on a platform such as Amazon’s KDP. Making sales is another matter. Luck plays a part, but those who’ve done it successfully will tell you you need these three other things, too:

  • A well-written book (preferably in a popular genre)
  • A well-written promotional blurb for your sales page
  • A cover image that grabs attention and looks as professional as possible

This post is about the last item, getting a cover image made. (Scroll down if you’re looking specifically for my discussion of Studio FX, or learn more about it here.)

If you’re completely new to e-book publishing, you may wonder why you need a cover image when an e-book doesn’t have a cover. “Cover image” is simply the term for the thumbnail image that appears with your book on Amazon (or elsewhere). It’s the proverbial picture that’s worth a thousand words, and helps your potential reader visualize your e-book as if it were a printed book one might spy on a bookstore shelf.

Your two basic choices for a cover image are the DIY route of making one yourself or paying someone else to do it. But those two choices can be parsed into several different options, too.

Paying someone to create your cover image: Professional design services

Some best selling e-book publishers and authors are willing and able to pay a professional designer a thousand dollars or more to design a single cover image. For authors at a high enough level to justify the outlay, the results are considered well worth it. Usually, paying a top-notch designer’s fee will guarantee a cover image that looks as good as or better than any book cover from a traditional publishing house.

Michelle Willingham is a bestselling independent author. I’m guessing she paid someone well to design this cover — unless she had the artistic skill to do it herself, in which case I’m doubly envious.

The growing popularity and ease of self-publishing has given rise to a number of author services companies that offer cover design with professional results guaranteed. Though priced well under a thousand dollars, you’re still looking at  a $300 to $650 range for a custom job.

Some of these services also offer pre-made covers for $99 to $199; they’ll take one of their pre-made images and plug in your title and author info. Assuming the graphic elements are appropriate to your particular book, this can be a way to shave off some of the cost of a professional looking cover.

If you’re just starting out and haven’t sold a ton of books yet, these services may be out of your range for now. But if you want to get an idea of their work and pricing, as well as see what a professionally designed cover looks like, you can check out Damonza, JD&JAuthor Packages, and ebook launch, all of whom have good reputations with authors who’ve used them. Reedsy is another, offering a complete suite of author services, of which cover design is one.

If I were going this route (and who knows, I might at some point in the future). I’ve heard good things about Cover Art Factory, which offers inexpensive pre-made covers as well as professional design service.

Noted author and indie publisher Joanna Penn has a whole page of cover designer listings if you want to explore this option further.

Paying someone to create your cover image: Fiverr

As you might expect, hiring someone who is willing to create a cover for you for just $5 or $10 is unlikely to yield an image that is anywhere close to the quality of what you’ll get from a truly professional designer. Some authors disdain using fiverr.com for that reason.

Don’t dismiss Fiverr out of hand, though. Depending on your book’s subject, it can be a source for quick and inexpensive cover images that may suit. Do a search on “book cover design” or “e-cover design,” then review the different sellers’ work samples to find one whose style you like. Also, you’ll want to read the seller reviews left by previous customers.

I used this Fiverr seller to create the cover images for my two books of dog stories, as well as some others. Granted, they’re not in the same league as the “Viking Maiden” cover, but I’m happy with them and with the other work she’s done for me. (Yes, I know, she advertises her specialty as designing “erotica and romance” covers, but actually she’ll do any kind of cover you need.)

When all’s said and done, using Fiverr for your covers can be a crap shoot. I’ve heard complaints of some sellers putting up fantastic-looking cover art as examples of their work, but then delivering poor-quality images. Naturally it’s suspected they swiped their “samples” from someone else. Just be careful.

Making your own cover image: Kindle Cover Creator

If you’re publishing a Kindle book through the KDP platform, you may want to try Amazon’s own Kindle Cover Creator. It offers a variety of abstract designs and some stock photography (mainly of the clouds-mountains-trees variety). It has some customization features, too: you can change your background colors, for instance, or your title’s font style and size. The range of options is somewhat limited, though.

Nevertheless, most indie e-book publishers pass up Kindle Cover Creator, whose finished images tend to look incredibly bland or excruciatingly amateurish.

If you’re publishing a reference book, where the information is all your buyers presumably care about and you don’t need to entice them with eye candy, the Kindle Cover Creator may be fine. That’s my excuse, anyway, for using it to create the covers for my series of genealogical reference books.

I’ve used this same design on more than 400 e-books in the series. To my thinking, using the same simple design “codes” the books for my readers; if they’ve bought from me before they know pretty much what they’re getting with each new title.

I like Kindle Cover Creator in this one narrow instance. I definitely would not use it for any of my other books, where the eye candy does matter.

Making your own cover image: Photoshop

If you have decent graphic skills, you can certainly make your own cover images using Photoshop or a similar program. You need to make sure you adhere to the dimensions and pixel depth required by Amazon or other platforms you’re publishing to.

I’ve made a few of my cover images using Photoshop. The trivia book shown here is one of them. I used a template that I had purchased as part of a package for the basic layout, adding one of my own photos and changing out the placeholder text for my title, subtitle, etc.

For my Halley’s Comet book I completely winged it. It took me hours to do. Although I personally am quite pleased with it, this isn’t always the case. My ability to turn out an acceptable cover image with Photoshop is a bit hit or miss, and I’ve abandoned more of them than I’ve ended up actually using.

I’ll probably always rely on Photoshop for tweaking images or doing initial prepping of cover photos, but I’ve about decided it’s too much of a time sink for most of my cover work.

Making your own cover image: Pixel Studio FX

More and more, I’m coming to rely on a bit of cloud-based wizardry for creating my cover images. It’s called Studio FX. The cost is low, and for a one-time payment you get lifetime access to it, with no limit on the number of covers you can create with it.

Studio FX provides a ton of templates you can start with for your design, and makes it easy to change text attributes, colors, graphics and so on until you have a cover image that looks good and is uniquely yours. It also contains a large library of professional-quality stock photos that you are free to use as you wish.

The templates range from complex to simple, but all are easy to work with. For many of my books I prefer a very clean and minimalist look. That was the case with this book of genealogical “gleanings” from vintage newspapers, pertaining to the county I happen to live in currently. This type of book takes a while to compile, but it does sell to people who are researching their family trees. I’ve gone on to do a similar book for one of our neighboring counties, and I’m thinking of doing one for each of North Carolina’s 100 counties (and then — the whole country?).

Anyway, this cover image, which I started by using one of FX Studio’s templates, took me all of five minutes to create. I then created a jpeg of it to upload to Amazon, but the layered file itself is stored for me by FX Studio in case I want to re-use it (for all those other county books, say).

Where FX Studio really shines, though, is how it makes it easy to create 3D cover images. This is important if you’re selling e-book bundles on Amazon.

Bundles are an easy way to earn additional commissions from work you’ve already done. Just package the content of two, three or more related books in a single volume but call it a bundle, with a cover image that conveys the idea of it being a set. Typically, you would price the bundle higher than a single book, but lower than what it would cost to buy all of the books in the set individually.

Authors most often do this with a sequential series of books, such as novels or novellas featuring the same main character. I’ve seen some bundles that contain two-dozen individual titles! I did it with my two dog books, as you can see here. I simply uploaded the flat images created by my Fiverr person to FX Studio, clicked a few buttons, and voila! Out came these nifty 3D images.

There’s a lot more FX Studio can do, and I’m still exploring it. If you want an easy way to create cover images for your e-books, I highly recommend it.

Go to FX Studio

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