There are many pros with self-publishing (more freedom, no deadlines) but one of the cons is you don’t get as much marketing as you would with traditional publishers. It’s all up to you to sell your book and yourself and one of the ways to do that is by having an eye-catching cover. While you can hire a designer to make one for you, it’s easier (and cheaper) to just design one by yourself.
Many writers make the common mistake of wanting to convey all that they can on their front cover. For a cover, all you need to do is rope potential readers into picking it up or looking at it. It’s not necessary – or even good – to display your book’s plot or main theme through the cover. To use a cliche, less is more.
But, you don’t want to be too simple. The Twilight Saga Books all have very simple covers, but they don’t tell you ANYTHING about the book. For example, in Twilight, all they have is hands holding a red apple. While this scene does happen in the book, it doesn’t tell me anything about the novel.
So, in a sense, the key to a great book cover is to not overwhelm potential readers but don’t put something on because it fits your aesthetic.
The example below perfectly displays how to make a great book cover. You can tell by the colors and overall image that it’s a horror novel. This particular book is about a killer car, which you can tell it’s about cars by the cover. It makes you want to grab it and read the blurb, which could result in you reading it (which you should, Christine is a great book).
All in all, don’t let the cover intimidate you. It’s not a malicious monster that can’t be wrangled; it’s just something ALL writers have to deal with. And once you design a cover, you’re one step closer to being published.