I am spectacularly bad at this.

First off, I think too literally. Like, my story has a feisty young woman, so we should see her on the cover! Or the novel is set in a dusty, rural area seventy years ago, so maybe a sepia tone might help set the mood. My husband is a Photoshop whiz and under my horrible direction, we produced some ghastly covers.

They just looked off. If you’ve browsed titles on Amazon or Wattpad, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Luckily, there are some designers with experience who can help with affordable, pre-made covers!

If you Google pre-made book covers, you’ll see lots of options, but I’m going to talk about my favorite because he just saved me from my worst tendencies.

But let’s back up to the part about being too literal.

I needed a cover for my young adult supernatural mystery, The Box in The Cuts (more on choosing a title in a future post). It includes the following elements: a) dead, incinerated girls, spontaneous combustion style; b) a female main character equal parts plucky and chickenshit; c) witchcraft; d) a creepy haunted mansion; f) friends in danger of drifting apart as college looms.

So, of course, I thought I had to have flames on the cover. None of the pre-made covers, anywhere, seemed to work. Then my husband spotted this one on the Go On Write website.


Bingo! Creepy? Yes. It also captured “The Cuts” in the title, which refers to a wooded area behind a high school frequented by teenagers doing teenage things.

We could interpret the figures in several ways. Are they ghosts? For my story, it was an artful, interesting way to portray their fading relationships. More literally, there is a scene in the book where the group treks through the Cuts to bury something. Cost? $40

My next book is an urban fantasy set in 1952. I decided this one needed a custom cover.

I emailed James, the graphic designer with twenty years’ experience, and shared my ideas which—in retrospect—were boring and cliché. He had the unenviable task of setting me straight and did so in a polite, respectful way with a bit of his characteristic humor thrown in.

After working in the news business for so long, I am not the sensitive type.

If I’m working with a professional, I value their honesty and expert opinion. Someone else could have just done what I’d asked, taken my money, and moved on. But he took the time and trouble to explain why my ideas would not translate into a compelling cover.

Since I want readers to stop and check out my book, I need every advantage I can get in the massively crowded marketplace of Amazon. So, I’m taking his advice and looking forward to working with him when he gets back from his holiday.

As I continue my quest to up my self-publishing game…

I got to thinking about the homemade covers for two short stories on my website. Time for an upgrade, but I didn’t want to spend much money on them. And then I remembered Go On Write has a Bargain Bin section with pre-made covers priced at $15. There are some real gems in there, and I found two (one featured at the top), which James returned shortly after placing my order.

bride of bishop


Go On Write offers 16 categories including Western, Apocalypse, Romance, and Non-Fiction. As I mentioned, James also offers custom covers and design extras, like a box set for series and web & blog headers. Highly recommend! Five stars! *****