How to Make a Professional E-Book Cover for $1

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Any self-published author will tell you that to be successful, you must do TWO things:

1. Write obscenely well, then have it professionally edited, formatted, and a cover designed,


2. Write a lot. Novels, novellas, short stories, anthologies—the longer your backlist is, the more chances you have at making a sale (and a living).

As self-published authors, we are constantly toggling between these two extremes. How do you produce a lot of content while also ensuring it looks and reads like a traditionally published book, and do it all on a budget?

Create a professional looking #ebook cover for $1 using @Canva. #author Share on X

Thankfully, I discovered a wonderfully helpful resource for e-book covers about a year ago: Canva.

When Canva launched less than two years ago, they only had a few options for marketing materials (now there are Facebook covers, Twitter headlines and YouTube channel art, to name a few), but even back then their e-book cover templates were great. With professional design, gorgeous font and a wide array of stock photos, they are a self-published author’s dream.

Here are my tips for designing your professional-looking e-book cover for a dollar or less on Canva:

1. Utilize The Templates Canva Provides

They are beautifully done, and you can still customize by changing font size or style, selecting a different background, etc. But remember …

2. Less is MORE

Don’t add a bunch of extra content or text boxes—this looks amateur. Also, think about the fact that your e-book is thumbnail size. How will the title stand out of it’s in cursive? Think bold, think simple, think understated.

3. Utilize a Photo That Exemplifies The Mood of The Book, and Won’t Confuse Readers

I recently released a contemporary adult novella called “Misery and Marlene,” and utilized Canva for the cover. The first photo I used was one that I really liked; it was of a young woman wearing a hat that covered her face, in a field with an old-timey suitcase. I thought, “Perfect; the book is about a girl who wants to escape her life, it looks sort of dreary, and it fits the storyline!”

misery and marlene

It’s a good thing I consulted with my beta readers before selecting it, because I received two opinions I didn’t expect: the photo made the book seem like a historical drama because of her outfit, and the hat made it look like the girl had no head!This leads me to my next point:

4. Consult with Others

Don’t just make a cover without speaking to your early readers, friends, spouse, dog—maybe not that last one (unless they’re an avid reader).Basically, someone who knows the storyline, has read the book, and if possible, has a good eye for art and design. This is also why editors are so important (hire us!)—you may think something looks really great, but that doesn’t mean the majority of the population will agree.

5. Look at Examples of Other Book Covers in Your Genre

Going back to my “Misery and Marlene” book cover; after the first one was scratched, I began to look for more photos that would translate ascontemporary. I noticed a set of covers that showed girls’ bodies but never their faces, and was in a similar genre to my novella. They were books by author Sarah Dessen, and gave me the perfect “theme” to adhere to for my own cover.

6. Be Sure to SAVE Your Files

Canva’s policy is this: you pay for access to those elements for the next 24 hours without the Canva watermark. Be sure to make any adjustments to font or text before that time is up to keep from having to pay again to have the Canva watermark removed.

Be sure to check out today and start designing your book covers and a wide array of other marketing materials. As a self-published author, you are a brand; all of your social media outlets should be eye-catching, inviting, evocative of your personality as an author, and uniform. Good luck!