Adventures in Fiverr – Book Cover Designers

There are lots of things I’m not particularly good at that I do anyway. Making my own book covers has been one of those things. They’re not particularly good, but my ‘books’ are really only short stories and I was giving them away for free.

While I’m fine with giving away some of my work to connect with an audience that likes my writing, I’m not so sure about spending money to put a cover on a free piece of writing.

Perhaps I was wrong about that, but it’s hard to know.

I’ve got a series of shorts coming together, with a jeans-and-leather wearing female exorcist with a bit of an attitude problem as the main character. I wanted a cover and after a few hours playing around, I decided I wasn’t good enough at cover design to do it myself.

I turned to Fiverr.

About a week later, my opinion of my own cover design skills has gone up considerably.

I understand why people do cover design as a gig on Fiverr.

It’s not really that hard to pick from a list of appropriate fonts, find a decent and relevant image and shove that together on a page with the right proportions.

If all the author is looking for is someone to put the pieces together, then it takes entry-level skills with an image editor and a stock photography subscription.

There’s a reason I would never sell my cover design skills today on Fiverr. I don’t think covers I would be able to design contain the necessary creative knowledge and art to be worth paying for.

I actually have higher than entry-level image editing skills myself because I dabble in photography. I also know a good cover when I see one. That said, the more I look at the covers of books that sell, and the more I examine my reaction to those covers, the clearer it becomes that there’s something going on in the design of book covers that I do not understand.

It turns out that the two people I worked with on Fiverr don’t have that magic gestalt I was looking for either. The covers they gave me were technically fine, and satisfied the brief I gave them, but I knew from the first glance that they weren’t very good.

I say they satisfied the brief – they did so once I had them change a few things. One took my suggestion to take inspiration from the physique and style of the Jessica Jones franchise completely literally, and sent me a cover with Jessica Jones on it (?!). The other sent me a cover with an image that screamed ‘melancholy’ instead of ‘badass’. Both redid them on request and the final result was acceptable, so I accepted it. But it doesn’t really work for my book, so I won’t use it.

Since I wasn’t able to express why they weren’t very good, I couldn’t give my designers any instructions as to how to make it better. In fact, that was what I was hoping they would bring to the party.

I wanted a book cover designer. Instead I got a graphics editor.

Am I upset?

No. What do you expect for $5 on Fiverr?

Also, a mismatch between my expectations and their abilities doesn’t mean they didn’t fulfil their contract.

That said, there are people on Fiverr who have a lot of excellent covers in their history and they may have the creative genius I am looking for. As a consequence, the next step will be to go back there and ask a third person to try again. At a higher price point this time.

The difficulties with going through Fiverr for this kind of thing are:

  • Some of the sellers don’t know anything about cover design. You need to know exactly what you want and use them as a graphic artist. There’s no point leveraging their inspiration of cover design knowledge.
  • None of them will read your book or get into character of the book because for $5 to $10, they simply don’t have the time. As a consequence, you need someone who’s grasp of English is excellent, and who can understand what they need to project in the cover from a short, well-written paragraph that you’re going to provide.

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