If you are so lucky to be able to draw as well as write, then your battle is half won, and your set-up costs will be greatly reduced. If however, you can't tell the tip from the eraser of your pencil and only use the Apple Pen to sing along with DJ Piko-Taro, you need to get creative.
Last week we looked at the importance of a book cover. Ideally you want a professional, but when the budget is tight, there are other acceptable ways around this.
1. Phone a friend.
Ask yourself: Do I know someone who wants to start their own business as a designer and needs help creating a portfolio for potential clients? Ask around: you're in the same boat.
2. Offer what you can to your friends.
Tell it straight: I am about to release my self-pub book, and I am looking for a cover artist/designer. All I can afford to pay is £... and offer full accreditation and references.
Desktop publishing software, can be pricey. They run on monthly subscriptions, and if all you need are a couple of covers a year, then they aren't worth the cost. However, there is free software out there, like Gimp, a free and open-source raster graphics and image editor, which has been around for donkey's years and it's perfectly capable of assembling a cover image for you. YouTube has loads of tutorials for Gimp - let them inspire you. https://www.gimp.org/
4. Invest in fonts.
You can purchase fonts online and instal them on your computer. Some of the fonts that come with basic software can be a little bland. Especially if you don't have Photoshop or the likes. (https://www.fontsquirrel.com/) http://www.myfonts.com/
An incredible amount of book covers are not drawings, but photographs, and it is a very acceptable alternative these days. I would resist the temptation of fishing in Google images, as the risk of infringing copyright or using the same images someone else has already used several times, it's a real possibility. There are many websites which allow you to purchase stock images, like Adobe Stock. However, they cannot stop anyone from utilising the same picture for their projects, so if you do go down this route, alter the picture by using software. My advice is to get out of your bat writing cave, camera at hand (or phone at hand) and get clicking. No matter where you live, I'm sure you'll find plenty useful shots. And maybe even inspiration for a book you have not yet written! I always look around me when I walk through Edinburgh, and when I see something interesting, I take a picture.
There are many apps on the market for image manipulation. They come free, but it's worth investing in the Pro version which only costs a few pounds. Again, if you are versed in Photoshop or Gimp, you have the world at your feet.
These are simply some ideas to get around cutting set-up costs. Have you tried something different? Any advice for other self-pub authors? Feel free to share them here!