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« Day Six: Creating a Writing Business Plan | Main | Day Four: Creating a Business Plan for Indie Writing »

Day Five: Creating a Business Plan for Indie Writing

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From Tara, the Despicable Muse of Indie U

Today is the day you can admit a truth that most readers know: you do judge a book by its cover. Sure, you may read the blurb. You might even flip through a few of the pages. But, if the cover is as dull as beige, you most likely won’t do either.

If you’re just joining us, take a minute to visit Suzan’s previous posts:

Making Your Book Pretty

By Suzan Harden

Blood Magick book coverThere’s an old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. For an indie writer, a cover can be worth a thousand or more sales. This is the one area where you really don’t want to skimp on costs.

Cover art is an expense you’ll need to add to your business plan for writers, so grab your sheet and let’s take a look at what this can cost you.


If you choose to do your own covers, have the skills and already have a copy of Photoshop or another photo-editing program, more power to you!

Otherwise, you’re looking at shelling out some bucks. A basic copy of Photoshop Elements starts at $100. The commercial edition, Photoshop CS5 runs between $600 and $1200, depending on extension packs and rebates at the time you’re shopping.

Also, if you’ve had no training, you’ll need to factor in the time it will take you to learn and how much training will cost you. Fortunately, you can find some freeware alternatives, such as or GIMP, but you’re looking at a steep learning curve if you have no experience.

Once you have a software program, you need to find images to create the covers. If you’re a decent photographer (or know someone who is), you can create your own base photograph.

Legal warning! If you or your photographer use a live model, you’ll need a release from your model to use her image. If someone else takes the photo, you’ll need a release from the photographer since she owns the copyright as the creator of the image.

If you don’t have your own photos, another option is to use stock images. There are tons of sites online that sell images. Prices range from a couple of dollars to a couple of hundred dollars. Just read the licensing agreement very carefully so you know what licenses you are purchasing.

Zombie Love book coverFor example, I purchased two images from for my cover artist to create the cover of Zombie Love. The cost for the two images was $40.00. The basic license allows me to use the images on up to 499,999 book covers before purchasing an extended license. (And if I sell a half million books, I’m going to be effing ecstatic!)

Which brings us to the subject of having someone else create the cover. Again, there’s lots of folks hawking their services these days. Some are fabulous; some are just looking to take your money. Always check references! Ask other independent writers who they used and what their experience was like. A decent cover artist can cost between $50 and $500, so make sure you add that to your indie publishing business plan.

Tips for Dealing with a Cover Artist

1) Have a cover concept in mind when you first talk to your artist. If you need help, some artists will read your book to get a better feel for the imagery that will best promote your story.

2) Communicate, communicate, communicate! You may have a difference of opinion on the elements in the cover, but generally the artist will bring up good points relating to design. (Like when my cover artist said one cherub was plenty!)

3) Watch for red flags. If the cover artist isn’t answering your e-mails, phone calls or texts, that’s a HUGE problem.

4) Pay your cover artist promptly!

Tips on Creating your Cover (Learn from the Experts)

Back in February 2011, Jenni Holbrook-Talty talked about some of the mistakes she and Bob Mayer made when they first released the e-book version of Bob’s Atlantis series. Talty bluntly said of the first version, “This cover sucks.” With that in mind, here’s some advice from the pair.

  1. Don’t make the cover “too dark.” You can use a black cover, as long as you have contrast.
  2. “…you want letters to pop.” The reader needs to be able to read the title when the cover is as small as the thumbnail size. This is especially important when the cover is in grayscale on the Kindle.
  3. Make objects on the cover obvious and consistent with the story. Otherwise, the cover says, “pass me by.”

Jennifer goes on to say, “If you were in traditional publishing, it would be too bad, suck it up, go promote. It’s the cover you’re going to get.” The joy of indie publishing is you can fix cover problems!

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about marketing and promoting your products.

If you have questions, I’ll be happy to answer them. If you’re too shy to leave your question in the comments, feel free to e-mail me at

From Tara, the Despicable Muse of Indie U

Didn’t Suzan do a great job with the cover art for her books? You can click on the photos to visit Suzan’s site, where you can find more information on Zombie Love and Blood Magick. 

If you’re like me, then working through a business plan for writing is similar to cleaning out the garage: I find more things to evaluate the deeper I dig into boxes. Cover art may be the main category, but you need to add several expenses under it. To help you organize your plan, make sure you list out each item you need. 

That wraps us up for today, but we’ll be back tomorrow with more from the talented Suzan. 

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