Your cover is one of the main areas where you SHOULD absolutely spend money. However, remember to do your due diligence first:
Find a real graphic designer, not a pseudo designer. These days a lot of people call themselves “designers” who know nothing about graphic design. Computer programmers have started to call themselves designers, however, they are not visual designers. You need to find someone who has been trained in typography, visual composition, and graphic design. These people usually went to art school and specialized in communication design. Ask the person you are considering to hire if they are trained in graphic design. If they aren’t you are asking for trouble.
Find a designer who is experienced in the area you want. Designers have specialties; the two main ones you have to know: web designers (who may not have visual training–see above), and print designers.
If you are doing just an e-book, and just need a front cover for it, then a visual designer who has only worked online could be a good bet.
However, if you think you will probably want a print version of your book, you should find a designer who is experienced in both print design and multimedia. Your designer should be able to give you copies of your book cover that are appropriate for print, e-book, and advertising purposes.
Another plus to consider if you are doing a print book, is that a good print designer can design the interior of your book as well. Believe me, this is an area that is ignored by self-published authors at their peril. A badly-designed book won’t win you any prizes. It will brand your book as amateurish at best, or illegible at worst.
See my article: The Story of a Good Book Gone Bad for more information on how to resolve communication and marketing problems with good design.
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