Think about one of your favorite books. For me, it might be The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I wouldn't care if that one had the worst cover imaginable. I'd still enjoy reading it.
But if I'd never heard of the book before, would I give it a shot if it had a crappy cover? Probably not. And I'm even less likely to try a book by an unknown author if the cover design is subpar. In my experience, a lousy book cover usually accompanies a rushed-to-the-presses, poorly edited, self-published disaster.
Not all self-published covers are bad, of course. Many "indie" writers pay talented artists for their work. Competing with traditionally published authors requires cover art to be up to par, and it can be an expense. But as a staunch supporter of the idea that money should always flow to the writer, I refuse to pay a cent.
After the rights to my stories revert and I re-publish them on Amazon, I design the covers myself using free commercial-use fonts and graphics. I lay them out in PowerPoint, then size them up in MS Paint. Very low-tech, I know, but I think I'm getting better at it. When I work with Musa Publishing, their cover designers basically do the same thing: take graphics available to them and add text. There's an art to it, of course, but the art has already been created by someone else—the photographer or painter.
Last week, Every Day Publishing assigned a cover artist to my novel Captain Bartholomew Quasar and the Space-Time Displacement Conundrum. He won't be modifying graphics created by someone else; he'll be designing the artwork from scratch. This is a first for me, and it's been a blast brainstorming ideas with him for the overall design. He's already sketched the characters based on my descriptions, and they're looking good. His style is perfect for my comic space adventure.
What about you? Design your own? What apps or software do you use? Or does your publisher take care of it? Ever had an artist sketch one of your characters? It's been crazy seeing Captain Quasar and Hank come to life, and I'm looking forward to the final product. I'll be sure to share it as soon as I can.
In other news, this month's Subscriber Exclusive will be a weekly raffle of my short thriller "Doppelgänger Mine" (now available from Amazon). Enter to win here.