I’ve been designing book covers for over a decade. When I first started, I priced cheap at around $150. I got so many orders I couldn’t keep up (and made $7000 in a weekend!). But I try to price competitively, and make sure I understand the average costs of book cover design, as well as the time and effort it will take to finish a bestselling book cover design.
Book cover design costs (2023)
Down below is an older post I made, comparing book cover costs and some of the options. I make a few good points, but the pricing info might be outdated, so let me just tell you:
– a decent book cover costs $500.
You can find premade templates from around $150 to $350, but a full custom design, with print (spine and back) will probably cost and average for $500 – though the true range is about $250 ~ $750. It depends on the designer. You want a book cover design who is great at your genre.
Not all cover designers can handle all genres, so make sure you see samples of their work.
Also… don’t trust the samples (especially on fiverr.com or facebook; a lot of “designers” just steal covers for their portfolio, so go with someone trusted, hopefully with their own website and a big portfolio, and a bunch of reviews and testimonials.
- Here’s a list of my favorite designers. Check that to get a sense of what “good design” means and the level of quality you should expect to shoot for.
The problem is, most of the best designers are booked out, at least 3 months in advance, so it’s hard to get on their schedule. There are a TON of self-publishing/vanity press services that will make you a cover design, included in some kind of publishing package, but they are always a bad deal: you want a real cover designer, not middle management. And you need a great cover, not just a kind of decent one.
A great cover will literally double your sales (or make sales possible at all).
Affordable (cheap) book cover design
So here’s the secret: you can find much cheaper cover design options. They’re risky, but sometimes they work well. Or you can try designing your own covers. For years I’ve helped indie authors design their own covers, mostly by teaching them the basics of cover design (I’ve got about 3 million views on youtube for my design tutorials). I also made a package of DIY cover design templates in microsoft word – some people love them but they’ve always been a makeshift, imperfect solution.
But I’m really excited about two big new things.
#1: free online cover design maker
This is something I’ve been dreaming about, and working on, for 9 years. An online cover design tool, where you can just click open templates, add art and text, and save it to your computer. So that I can design amazing genre templates (with depth and layers, just like photoshop, and cool text effects and fonts…)
- The new cover creator tool is live!
I put the tool up online, and it mostly works, but I’m still building the templates. I don’t know how much things will cost later (I’ve been selling a bundle of 100+ templates for just $37. And that’s ridiculous. The price will definitely go up, I’m thinking $37 per template, and that’s still a good deal.)
These are templates, not premades however – you need to supply your own art and pictures. The tool (and tutorials) make it possible to blend things together, even without photoshop, but it will still take a lot of time and effort – the templates will speed things up a lot. However, there’s something else…
#2 Midjourney AI art for book cover design
AI art is hugely controversial, so right now most cover designs (and clients) are skeptical and trying to avoid it at all costs. However, it can produce pretty amazing stuff already, and it’s only going to get better. Most online design tools like Canva and even several big stock photo sites have text to image generators already.
You *could* buy all the stock photos and resources and blend it together – but that takes time and skill; otherwise you get a poorly photobashed cover that’s unrealistic. Midjourney is great at emotional scenes and lighting. The details may not be perfect (yet) but the results are pretty great. So it’s worth checking out, as long as you make sure you understand the legal risks and limitations:
You can learn more about using AI art for book cover design here.
I’ll also be building new templates and tutorials over at diybookcovers.com.
Book cover design costs and pricing
Typically, a book cover design might require 5 or 10 stock photos to blend together. And a designer will have to pay for a professional font, which could cost between $20~$50 bucks. Not to mention, Photoshop, and a really nice computer… and hundreds of hours of practice and training.
It might take an average of 10 hours to make a cover (3 days or so) – more if you include time spent interacting with clients and searching through thousands of stock photos. And while some designers may be willing to work for less, the book designers with the right skills are in high demand: they simply can’t charge less, because they’d be overwhelmed with work. That’s why book cover design costs have been creeping up for years.
When I started, I only used stock photos – but 5 years or so ago, 3D renders from Daz started showing up, allowing people to customize little 3D characters and pose them and dress them, then export them for book cover design. That works great and allowed some truly epic strides forward in book cover design… but it required a face swap and a lot of overpainting (digital illustration, to fix the hair and lighting and add details. Each Daz character (and costume!) can cost over $50.
So you can start to appreciate, why it costs around $500 to make a great cover: designers need to search for, and buy, all the right resources. But if you want to do it yourself, here are some resources to get you started:
- 300+ Fool-Proof Fonts to use for your Book Cover Design
- Where to find royalty-free stock images for your book cover
Confession: I’ve spent at least $20,000 buying premade cover designs from other designers. Even thought I can design my own covers. Because if I see something stunning and awesome, at a “cheap” price of around $150, I know it’s worth it… even if I never end up using it, it can inspire me to write a story, and that inspiration is valuable.
Also, it’s much more likely that you can snag a brilliant $150 premade cover, that just works, than that you’ll be able to find quality custom design for $150 (or even $350!) – because when you tell a designer exactly what you want, you probably aren’t getting their best, most creative work. Working with authors is often a struggle, because they focus on the wrong details and don’t understand genre design trends. They want it to be about their story, not just communicating their genre.
Opportunity costs of book cover design
Here’s the thing that’s most depressing: a lot of authors will budget around $2000 for publishing. If they go with a vanity press they might be sold into a marketing or press release promo package… that absolutely will not work. These self-publishing companies will cut costs, and you’re mostly paying for attention, not skill. The book cover – the most important part – will be outsourced to some junior designer. I’ve had people say they “finally can afford a professional book cover” but they got something cheap on fivver.com that’s not good at all.
Think of all the time and effort, and frustration and angst, and months of depression and apathy, that you’ll suffer through, when your book doesn’t sell. You’ll chase cheap promos and twitter blasts, and all the wrong marketing tactics, and nothing will work because your cover isn’t attracting the right readers. I’m not saying you should definitely hire the best or most expensive cover designer (as I pointed out earlier, we’re all busy anyway!) but you should definitely think more about it.
It’s not enough to agree that a cover is important. It’s not enough to get a cover YOU love (for reasons you can discuss at length). You will never get the opportunity to explain to readers what your cover means or why you chose certain elements. You should not try to recreate specific scenes or characters (other than basics like hair color).
Some genres, like self-help or nonfiction, are pretty easy, but can still look like crap if the fonts aren’t kerned or spaced well; if the typography isn’t clean and compelling. But for scifi and fantasy, it’s really hard to get really good covers.
I’m hoping, I can use AI art (and photoshop) to recreate all my series, and do it soon, so I have the absolute best covers on the market. It’s free for me, because I have the skills, and I’ve been doing this for a long time. But it’ll still be a ton of opportunity costs, playing around with stuff when just paying someone else might have been faster and better anyway.
And I’m excited, because I can make a bunch of templates and tutorials for every genre, so that YOU can use my online design tools to make very cheap, affordable covers. They won’t be the absolute best. But they’ll be a whole damn lot better than anything else you’re able to come up with on your own.
Cover design costs are going down
The rest of this article, is about when I noticed a significant decrease in cover design pricing. Previously it was a service all the big self-publishing companies listed, for around $1000. But then there were a bunch of better, newer, cheaper options – so they lowered their prices (I only know one cover designer in the $1000 range who is worth it; amazing illustrations). But there are a several cover design sites that charge over $1000 and have terrible covers, so price doesn’t mean everything.
AI art is scary for designers, and they are freaking out. It’s a big, complex issue. But I think it will mean, even if you use the AI image generators on “safe” stock photo sites, that you’ll be able to get something unique and good looking, for much less. For most designers, I think it will save us a lot of time and allow us to make even better covers than previously.
The catch is, most clients aren’t ready for AI design yet and don’t want anything to do with it; so most designers are putting out notices that all their art is 100% human made. I think this will shift, because AI art really does look better, and will sell more books, and that’s what matters.
The challenge will be, how much will client pay if designers are using AI image generators? It depends on the process, on the amount of work and touch-ups. Adding typography alone as a service could be $150, but that’s a lot cheaper than a $650 custom cover. And I personally wouldn’t charge less, if I was delivering better quality work. It’ll be a messy issue for sure.
But there’s an opportunity for authors, to get better covers at lower costs… even if they have to do it themselves with one of the templates that I’m making. Down below you’ll find some resources on cover design: if you’re serious about your writing, EVEN IF you hire a professional cover designer, you absolutely need to understand the critical mistakes most authors make when it comes to book cover design; you can’t afford to get it wrong, but it’s easy to get right if you spend just a little bit of time understanding how covers sell books.
7 Must have qualities for a book cover that sells
Your book cover is a huge part of your publishing and marketing plan. No matter what you need a 3D mockup for, make sure it actually looks professional and well-designed. There are rules to book cover design, and a tacky premade or salesy cover template that looks like crap will not help you achieve your goals. I’ve designed a number of bestsellers and my work has hit the WSJ, USA today and even Oprah’s magazine. I’m not the best book cover designer, but I can help you understand the basics of WHY one cover will perform better than another.
Your cover is the #1 thing that will make a difference in book sales, so take the time to get it right: here’s a free masterclass to publishing and book cover design, based on publishing conferences I’ve been invited to speak at.
Follow up with this post:
Insider cover design secrets that sell books
If you need help, make sure to download my free guide!
I’ve helped design over 1000 book covers, including hundreds of bestsellers – download my free book to learn all the insider secrets I use to sell more books. Click here to get it now. I’ll also share some of the advanced book marketing tactics I’ve used to make a full-time income with my writing.
This is the older stuff, the pricing and costs details might not be up to date:
The “going rate” for book cover design
But then one day I checked and that cover design option had disappeared. They used to have an even more expensive illustrated cover option.
My guess is, due to a whole community of awesome book cover designers like me that were charging way less money, Createspace wasn’t getting many book cover clients. So instead they dropped their prices by half. Now they only have these two options – both of these are for print covers. The fronts of both are extremely boring; and the font layout of the premier is awful.
It’s not just that they don’t show more than one sample for each package, the ONE sample they chose is ugly! What does that say about all their ‘normal’ covers? Here are the full print layouts. They’re OK… just kind of boring. Definitely around average.
Update: this is an older post, createspace became KDP and no longer offers book cover design at all. Some of these prices might be outdated, but keep reading for a ballpark estimate of book cover design costs…
Lulu has an “Elite” cover for $599 as well.
Selfpublishing.com has a $275 budget cover and $735 cover that’s about what I offer for $759. But those cheeky bastards don’t even put up ONE SINGLE sample of their cover design quality, which means you’re going in totally blind. And even worse, they add the “premium” cover design which doesn’t come with anything extra except a $640 price increase and a description that is copied verbatim from business books that say you need to have an expensive option just because some people will always buy the best:
PREMIUM Cover Design — $1375
This is designed for authors who know that they require the maximum amount of choices as well as maximum amount of personal contact with designer. This service is not meant for everyone and won’t result in any noticeably different product than any of our other covers but if it’s for you … you know who you are.
I’m not sure why Createspace dropped its rates, but probably because cover design is really hard, and they couldn’t justify charging the high rates if they couldn’t pull off the right quality. Selfpublishing.com is just going to keep screwing people as long as they keep paying, while Lulu and Createspace seem to be doing what they can by fulfilling the midrange budget authors.
If they get 100 covers a month at a $499 average, that’s $49,000 a month or $598800 a year. They can easily pocket half a million dollars and use the rest ($98800) to hire 10 full time designers in the Philippines to do the work. And I’ll bet they’re getting much more than 100 orders a month.
This is great business – unless they were doing the high end covers where authors actually demand quality, which can be a pain in the ass and take a long time, which is probably why they quit offering it.
Interestingly, for me and my designer buddies, our prices have just kept going up.
I’m working with a team now, so I’ve dropped my rates to $549.
- Rocking Book Covers charge $649.
- Damonza is charging $549 but has a notice that it’s going up (probably around $700).
- BookFly Design charges $599 – but I’ll bet they raise their prices soon too.
And this is why:
Cheap book covers don’t sell books.
Which means if you pay $300~$500 for a book cover, you can get something pretty great – if you find a very young designer who’s building up his portfolio. But if you go with one of the big companies, you’re going to get something really boring, and possibly ugly. Here’s the other thing: about 90% of your book’s success, at least in the first few crucial weeks of marketing, is going to depend on your book cover.
True, the big companies aren’t going to give you something too terrible. It’ll probably get you over that necessary hurdle of “does this look like crap or does it pass as at least a mediocre book” (as opposed to, a completely DIY effort that went tragically wrong, and will scare everybody away and kill your dream of being an author).
And it’s also true that not everybody can afford expensive cover design; nor that every book needs it.
But authors who have the money know the book cover is where most of the money should go.
A big full-service package is never a good deal if it doesn’t come with a stunning cover (and how can you tell whether a designer is awesome? By looking at their portfolios, which is why you should never buy a cover from someone who has no portfolio! Don’t just trust that they can do it! Don’t just go along because it’s part of a big package, and you want that 1 hour of phone consultation and the business cards and the social media setup. All that crap is worthless without a great cover on the book.)
Great covers don’t scale.
The thing is that amazing design takes time and talent. It’s not something you can just teach quickly and hire out cheap; it takes years of experience and an artistic eye. Which means that the best designers usually work for themselves, and as they get better and more well-known, they get more traffic and more demand.
That’s the other nice thing about great cover designers: every cover they do is an advertisement – which means their business naturally grows quickly. As long as they’re really good and they’re getting some traffic, they are going to face this issue:
1. They have too many orders and can’t keep up.
2. They can’t scale or hire out the work.
3. They have to raise their prices.
And this process happens again and again, until our prices are unreasonably inflated and few people can afford us.
“Unreasonably inflated” means we are paid a very high per-hour rate, and this is why: the better we are, the faster we can do our jobs. When we are starting out we’ll play with a lot of things and let clients boss us around and waste a lot of time. When we’re experts we’ll just make an awesome cover and we’ll be done; and our clients will bow to our expertise instead of trying to weaken it with lots of changes.
We’re kind of like lawyers in that sense: people pay us a lot of money because we’re dealing with something really important, that they don’t understand and they can’t do by themselves. They pay us to make covers that will sell their book.
What this means for you.
I’m not writing this to scare you into getting an expensive cover, truly I’m not – I just want you to get the best cover you afford; even if it’s one on 99designs, or Fiverr.com or canva.com. There are many ways to get a “good enough” cover very cheaply. But there are many ways to pay too much without getting anything in return. I’ve actually spent years building tools, templates and resources to help authors DIY their own book design (you can sign up over there for my free guide, “Cover Design Secrets that sell.”)
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I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.