Book covers. Some people say you must spend a certain amount of money on your book cover. Others make lists of what they think are bad book covers, some of which are quite good for the story involved. But forget what ‘they’ say. A book cover must only do one thing— pass as a professional cover from a major publisher (as the illustrated ‘bad book cover’ above cannot.)
A lot of trad-published authors kvetch about their book covers. A fantasy novel with a non-blonde, non-combat oriented heroine has a blondie in a chain-mail bikini on the cover fighting a bad guy. One with a scrawny male Lead who unexpectedly outsmarts the warrior-types has a clone of Conan on the cover. A romance heroine with small boobs is shown with stripper-level boobs on the book cover. But all of these things are OK, if annoying, because the book cover, however wrong, passes as a professional book cover.
Traditional publishers sometimes put very plain covers on books. Particularly books in obscure languages where the books will sell whether or not there is a cover illustration. But a plain cover is not the same thing as an amateur cover. A self-published author is better off with a home-made cover as plain as this, than with an illustrated cover that can’t possibly pass as a ‘real’ book cover.
You may be thinking: isn’t it better to have an illustrated cover in any case, even if it isn’t great? But remember that your readers are judging your writing skills by the cover. Plain cover— could equal good book. Amateur cover— probably very bad amateur author.
How do you get a good book cover? Well, that’s one reason to network with other authors and aspiring authors. You may be able to get recommendations. And remember— the cover doesn’t have to be pretty. You don’t have to like it. It’s probably better, if your book cover has a dragon on the cover, that your book has a dragon in it, or at least is set in a fantasy world that might have dragons. But the only important thing is that it has to look like a big traditional publisher could have made that ugly or inaccurate book cover. Nothing else matters.
Can you do your own covers? It depends. Do you have graphics skills? Have you made graphics that look professional? I’ve read some articles on how to do your own book covers. If you have the right skills, you can try that. But if you are hopeless at illustration, pay someone to do it right.