Covers. They are the bane of my existence, but without a good one you truly can't do much with a book. It sounds trivial to say, but it's that two seconds of recognition that initially pull in a possible reader. Especially, since the invention of the ebook. There is no more of browsing the local bookstore to read back copy or check out the latest release rack. We lost our only big chain bookstore within a 20 or so mile radius. We still have small bookstores that are great, but more and more I see people carrying around their Kindles, Nooks, Sony, etc. We've become the instant society, and as such, that means those 2 seconds are crucial to grabbing a reader.
This was the original book cover for OBSIDIAN when it was released from Five Star.
Enter Gimp. Gimp is a free online graphics program that you can use to manipulate pictures. You can Google it. Once I figured out the size I wanted (Amazon suggests a cover that is 1275x1650). Size is important with cover because your image will come across as a thumbnail and you want to have something that will stand out, be readable and convey the right image.
I was lucky that I had an image that would work for the story. In this case, the picture was taken at Land's End, Bailey's Island, Maine. It was close to what I wanted, but I still had change it some to give it a title and a new look. I layer a filter over it that darkened the edges, making the sharpness of the rocks stand out. I also lightened the filter in the center until it drew the eye inward to the picture. I made the title as big as I could without making it look clumpy and the same with my name. I picked fonts that were classic and easy to read when they are shrunk down. I think one of the biggest problems that people have is that they get carried away with fonts and then it just becomes unrealistic.
Before you post it to Amazon it is important that the image is compressed into a single image (basically, this is sandwiching the layers together to make 1 image) and then I save it as a .jpg file.
If this sounds like a lot, then I'd suggest that you have someone do it for you. I've used programs like FrontPage and others when I worked for a publisher. But if this intimidates you I'd see if maybe you can swap jobs with someone. Editing for a cover or such. Or find a good cover designer like Sabrina Foreman. She did my cover for Three Truths and I was very happy with it.