These aren’t like other book cover templates or “premade covers” you might find online, where you get exclusive use of the art after you pay. Think of these as training wheels. They give you the right structure and arrangement, and will save you a ton of time and effort, but they shouldn’t be used as-is.
I’ve picked out pictures I like from royalty free stock collections, but you need to search for an find your own images. And although I’ve added hundreds of fonts into my online cover tool, there’s no way I can pass my font licenses over to you for your cover – so if you choose to use one, you should check to see what the restrictions are (you may need to buy a print license, which are usually under $100).
Where to find art
You can find art on 123rf.com, depositphotos.com, Bigstockphoto.com, Photodune.com or other stock sites. You can also find some on Flickr Creative Commons www.flickr.com/creativecommons, which you can use as long as you credit the photographer. Flickr is also a good place for professional photography: although professionals will want to charge more, you can usually offer them one or two hundred bucks and a contract that says they will get their full fee (often $800~$2000) if you sell over 10,000 copies.
But I wouldn’t get too hung up over using just the perfect photo; you can usually find something similar elsewhere. What you’re in love with may only be the effects, which you can probably get with a photo editing program.
If you don’t see what you want, check out DeviantArt.com.
That’s also the place to go if you want high quality, custom illustration (illustration doesn’t usually sell books, but it works in some cases). You can also find very rough photos that need to be edited.
Pro tip: download pixlr-o-matic for a simple way to add high quality effects to your images; that way you can buy the stock photo you want but make them kick-ass before adding text.
The hardest (but most common) thing to do is blend two images together, for example a cityscape and a closeup of an embracing couple. For that you’ll need to strip out the background of the couple, or blend the edges of both photos. Hire someone cheap on Fiverr.com for that kind of work, then use one of my templates to get the text right. (You can also follow my DIY guide to designing in Word, which has features that let you blend images).