Ever wondered about Fiverr? A few weeks ago I needed a strong, professionally-designed cover for a forthcoming book, and like many indie authors, I didn’t have a lot of money to spend on it. How could I get a good cover from a graphic designer on a crimped budget?
I decided to try what many self-publishers before me have done, I went to Fiverr.
Fiverr is an online store—think of it almost like a bazaar—where people can buy or provide digital services; Fiverr itself says it is the world’s largest such marketplace. A lot of authors, and many other buyers as well, go there not only for book covers but for all kinds of services. If it can be provided in a digital file, someone there will probably be willing to create it, for a price. The five-dollar cost—the initial, opening advertised fee for a basic service—is a strong hook.
The Fiverr Idea
Fiverr was founded in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2010 by Michael Kaufman and Shai Wininger with the idea that digital service providers could profitably offer basic services for a very low price if that meant building a customer base. A wide range of services, from database analysis to logo design, to text translation, was soon offered by thousands of providers in the form of “gigs”.
Here’s how it went when I visited Fiverr for a book cover:
I signed in, in the normal manner of logging into a website, so that I could participate and ultimately pay the provider. (I used Paypal as my financial go-between, but credit cards are also accepted.)
Fiverr has a wide range of freelance providers, but you can move through the lists of services easily. The main groupings are Graphics & Design, Digital Marketing, Writing & Translation, Video & Animation, Music & Audio, Programming & Tech, and Advertising, (among others) with subcategories in each. I selected Graphics & Design, and found “Book Covers & Packaging” among the options listed. Others included Cartoons & Caricatures, Logo Design, Presentation Design, Flyers & Posters, 3D & 2D Models and even T-Shirts.
(Note: Something not to get on on Fiverr: Book Reviews. In October 2015 Amazon.com filed a lawsuit against 1,114 defendants who sold fake book reviews through Fiverr.)
Making the Choice
I found graphic artists by the hundreds. Fiverr is distinctly international with designers from Bulgaria, Spain, Thailand, Peru and other unexpected places, as well as the United States, but English appeared to be the near-universal mode of communicating.
Each vendor was listed with a small illustration and short description, such as, “I will design a book cover or eBook cover—$5,” or “I will design an awesome book cover—$5,” or “I will make your flat cover into a 3D book.” Most of the time I spent on Fiverr was in sifting through the long list of prospects, clicking on vendor links and reading what they offered, and reviewing the samples of other book covers they had created. Those samples helped me figure out whose work came closest to what I was looking for.
I chose a designer who promised to deliver a Kindle-ready book cover (front cover only) for $5, within two days. I received two sample designs within one day, both professional in approach but neither quite what I wanted. For another $5, I decided to try another designer and got the same response: A two-day deadline met in half the time, again with a clearly professional design, but not one that fully satisfied.
So I tried again, and the third $5 designer came close to what I had in mind. Revisions were allowed within the terms of the $5 purchase, and I asked for a couple of small changes. Once those were delivered, I responded with a request for the rest of what I needed: A cover suitable for a print book (with spine and back cover), and also a 3-D mockup of the book for web use. Those extras cost me $35.
Grand total cost for a range of options and full-scale cover package: $50.
Fiverr is a Wild West marketplace: It feels raw and untamed, and since the bar to entry is low, you will encounter everything from the expert to the rank amateur. As one review suggested, “don’t expect brilliance.” It’s your responsibility to sift among these options and choose carefully. Some people have reported bad experiences with Fiverr vendors, and you'd do well to keep your scam radar on.
Good experiences are also often reported, and the amount of money at risk need not be especially large. If you tread carefully, Fiverr can provide an easy and efficient way to get done what you couldn’t so easily do yourself.
UPDATE A reader suggests taking special care to check whether Fiverr services (and other designers) have met all their legal requirements. Here's what he wrote:
An important question to ask cover designers who incorporate stock image elements is is where they source them from. This is especially important with Fiverr designers since, in order to provide such inexpensive covers, they need to rely on free or cheap sources. I've found some pulling up pics from Flickr without regard for the particular photo's license and without disclosing it to the purchaser. Even the very generous CC-BY license, which allows commercial usage, has an attribution requirement, so an author needs to be aware of that in order to comply and use the image(s) legally.
Some designers have subscriptions to good stock photo sites, but even then you need to make sure the site's license allows images to be used on book covers. A few, surprisingly, do not. Others allow book covers but may have other restrictions, such as maximum number of units that can be sold before needing a more expensive license, or that images can't be used with certain types of books (most commonly, erotica). Some images are for editorial use only, but designers don't always pay attention to that.
Not being careful with licensing can potentially lead to costly legal difficulties down the road. I have a friend who purchased a cover on Fiverr which turned out to be from Flickr and had a CC-BY-NC license she didn't know about, so by selling her book she was violating the non-commercial restriction on it. The photographer found her cover and threatened a lawsuit. They settled for a four figure sum which was more money than she'd yet earned on the book.
Readers & Writers: Have you used Fiverr? If so, we'd love to hear your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books.
Want to see a big jump in your book sales? BookWorks has resources to help you sell more so you can focus on the important things like writing your next book. When you sign up for any one of our memberships you gain access to exclusive resources and marketing strategies tailored to meet your needs. Sign up HERE.