#4 Get great cover art.
While it is said that we should never judge a book by its cover, the fact is we all do. Every last one of us. The cover should relay the genre, theme, and overall concept of the story itself in two seconds or less, and look great in the process. Why? Because that’s all the time that the average person takes in evaluating whether they want to even turn the book over and read the book description. You have a whopping two seconds to capture your reader. Make it count.
There are several sites online dedicated to selling high-quality artwork. Yes, it can be expensive, and you need to know the copyright licenses that you are actually purchasing (they differ from site to site). On some sites, you can’t use their artwork on electronic media (such as e-books). Other sites charge differently for the different uses of their art. To avoid legal trouble, you need to understand what you are purchasing and always follow the rules. If a site has rules that you don’t like, simply don’t use their photos.
Also, keep in mind that indie photographers and artists, like indie authors, will post the same photo to multiple sites to get a wider exposure. Search for similar terms on multiple site and do your homework. You can save tons by finding the right images online.
I use http://www.istockphoto.com and http://www.dreamstime.com and many times I will see the same photo on both sites. On istockphoto.com, photos can be much more expensive, but I find that the quality of the work is generally better. On the flip side, if I can find the same photo on dreamstime, it is generally cheaper. Do your shopping homework before settling on any one image.
And finally, if you aren’t adept at Photoshop or GIMP, or don’t have access to such programs, find someone who can do it for you. Your cover art is just as important as your editor. Pay for it, if you have to. That cash will definitely come back to you in terms of sales later.