Hi there! Duolit is on hiatus, but please feel free to explore our extensive archive of posts and our free Weekend Book Marketing Makeover. Thanks for visiting!

If Professional Book Design Were Free, Would You Still DIY? [Discussion]

One of the most common complaints we hear from self-publishing authors is that professional services to aid in their publishing effort (editing, design, etc) are an added expense that’s out of their reach. Other authors, however, embrace the DIY nature of self-publishing and find a source of pride in designing their own cover, interior layout and marketing materials.

What’s your perspective on DIY design? Tell us:

  • Did you/do you plan to create your own book design? Why or why not?
  • If so, do you have a background in design or do you plan to teach yourself?
  • If not, have you already chosen a book designer? What were your criteria?
  • For those who have published with DIY design, do you stand by your decision? Is there anything you would change?
  • If professional design were free, would you sign up in a heartbeat or still learn to DIY?
  • Do you notice the book design of other authors? Have you ever dismissed OR picked up a book based on its design?

To join the discussion, please leave a comment below addressing any (or all) of the above questions. Also, mention the discussion to your indie author friends — we’d love to get varied input!

What do you think?

We LOVE hearing your thoughts via our discussion posts! To keep up with future installments (in addition to the great content from the rest of the week), subscribe to our RSS feed

  • I’m a professional graphic artist starting up a biz doing cover designs for indie authors. I have seen way too many designs that look homemade and frankly it affects whether I want to get the book or not. I think that’s unfair to the author and the product.

    • Thanks for your comment, John! I totally agree — after all the hard work it takes to write and prepare a manuscript for production I can’t imagine not taking the time to make sure the cover is up to snuff. We certainly need more designers willing to work with indie authors — best of luck with your business! 

    • thanks! 

  • @Muskrat3D

    1) I build my own (3D) covers.
    2) I have 6 years exp. in 3D object modeling & 3D scene art.
    3) n/a
    4) I do stand by my art.
    5) I would still do it myself, because only I know exactly what I want: look & feel.
    6) I can tell whether it is a photoshopped image, PowerPoint Doc., or a 3D scene.  I ALWAYS appreciate well developed cover art.  I look for reviews and word of mouth about a book, but most of the time I buy books to support indies regardless of the art.

    • Having that design background definitely helps make the DIY decision, doesn’t it? Cover art can draw your eye, but it’s awesome that you try to support indies regardless of the cover. Thanks for the comment!

  • Shannon Stewart

    Did you/do you plan to create your own book design? No. Why or why not? I know what I like when I see it, but I don’t know how to create what I like. If so, do you have a background in design or do you plan to teach yourself? I have some technical skill in this area, but the art of it is out of my reach.If not, have you already chosen a book designer? Don’t have one yet. Afraid to know the cost. For those who have published with DIY design, do you stand by your decision? Is there anything you would change?  If professional design were free, would you sign up in a heartbeat or still learn to DIY? In a heartbeat.Do you notice the book design of other authors? Have you ever dismissed OR picked up a book based on its design? I think book design weighs heavily in my choices but I haven’t analyzed that well enough to know what works and doesn’t work for me.

    • Thanks for the comment, Shannon! You might be surprised when you start to look around at cover designers — some offer their services at a more affordable rate than you’d think, especially when considering how much time and effort you’d have to put in to DIY. Please let us know if we can be of any help! 

  • I did try my own cover for a non-fiction book, just because I had a great photo to fill the page. Not exactly pro-designed but it does sell the book and it didn’t cost much. Don’t think it would work for fiction though! You can see my cover at http://bit.ly/yw99PV 

    • Thanks for sharing, Frances (sidenote: Pinterest is *so* totally addicting)! What an adorable photo! The main thing for authors to keep in mind is that a design has to work with their goals and unique situation in mind, so if you can design your own cover and it works out for you, all the better! Glad you got to save a bit of money and make some sales :-)

  • ScottTheWriter

    I don’t think that professionals should give away their work. For my book’s cover, I bartered with a professional designer with an impressive portfolio – Lisa Damerst.

    As for the design of the interior, I feel confident in my own skills, learned through courses and my years in book and magazine publishing.

    When it comes to the e-pub format, most of the design of pages is predetermined, anyway.

    • Thanks for your input, Scott! Bartering is sadly becoming a lost art, but it’s a great way for authors to afford services that might otherwise be out of their reach. I think I smell a good future post topic coming on! 

  • +++”Did you/do you plan to create your own book design? Why or why not?”
    About half of my covers are done by an artist friend I have, the rest are done by me. I made my own/asked my friend to make them because it’s cheaper than hiring someone to do them – my friend does them for free.
    +++”If so, do you have a background in design or do you plan to teach yourself?”
    I don’t have a background in design and, in fact, my covers suck. I don’t plan to teach myself in the near future, I just don’t have the time.
    +++”For those who have published with DIY design, do you stand by your decision? Is there anything you would change?”
    I don’t really stand by my decision – I don’t have any artistic skill whatsoever. I can’t even use Photoshop. I wish I had someone who could do professional covers for me, but I can’t afford them right now.
    +++”If professional design were free, would you sign up in a heartbeat or still learn to DIY?”HELL FUCKING YES. Pardon the language. I would DEFINITELY sign up for free professional design. I cannot imagine that someone who doesn’t already have the skill would not do the same.
    +++”Do you notice the book design of other authors? Have you ever dismissed OR picked up a book based on its design?”Yes, I notice the designs of others. Some have amazing covers, others don’t. I definitely judge books by their covers if they’re not free Kindle books. Like I said, I really don’t have money to spend on anything other than essentials, so if it’s free, I’ll download it based solely on the description, but if it costs anything, I’ll look at the description, the cover and the reviews.

    • Mira, you rock. Thanks for your awesomely honest responses (and for taking the time to comment)! One of the best things an indie author can do is go out and make themselves an artist friend…actually, that sounds like a good blog post: “15 Ways to Make Friends with a Graphic Artist.” Seriously, though, connections like that are worth their weight in gold (and I’m sure the actual friendship itself is beneficial, too)…I say this speaking AS the token “artist friend.” 

  • Michael Holland

    I would love to get professional covers for my books, but it just isn’t financially viable right now. I know I would sell more with better covers, but with most custom covers costing $100 and up, it doesn’t look like the added sales would cover the cost. If it were free, I would definitely get a good professional cover. I have a background in design, but I don’t have the right skills for covers, or access to the kind of photographic library I’d like to use for covers. I use mostly my own photographs for covers. They’re good pictures, but they don’t really capture what the book is about the way a professional cover would.

    • The cost can definitely be a deterrent, Michael. Do you have any artist friends with whom you could barter? Or perhaps there’s a local university/vocational school that might have student graphic designers looking for portfolio work? 
      I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for, photo-wise, but be sure to check out the common stock photo sites (istock.com, fotolia.com, shutterstock.com) to see if they might have what you need. Good luck! 

  • Buchgestaltung

    For my book’s cover, I would definitely hire the professionals As they are aware of the trends and also understand what the readers are actually looking for.