Affordable Book Cover Design & Formatting Services for Indie Authors – Meet Benita Thompson

Affordable Book Cover Design & Formatting Services for Indie Authors – Meet Benita Thompson

Aug 21, 2023 | Articles, Latest

Looking for professional book design and formatting services on a budget? Benita Thompson is a talented and affordable book designer specializing in fantasy and speculative fiction with kairosbookdesign.com. Discover the science behind book cover design and why it’s crucial for indie authors to invest in professional help.

LegendFiction is excited to partner with creatives who offer services to our community, and Benita is one of them! Learn more about Kairos Book Design right here. If you like the Kairos covers, perhaps one of them will make your book look incredible and stand out on a shelf!

Meet Benita Thompson

Benita Thompson has been writing since she was a five-year-old inspired by the Bobbsey Twins and Little House on the Prairie. During high school she self-published three books, discovering a love for book design in the process. She has been offering cover design and formatting services since 2016, with a commitment to providing professional-tier design on an indie author budget. Her specialty focus is in fantasy and speculative fiction.

These days, Benita works as a legal assistant by day and a designer and writer by night. She is a book design instructor for Fiat Self-Publishing Academy and lead formatter, co-cover designer for Story-weaver Publishing. She lives in southern Ontario with her husband and infant son, but dreams of trading its hills and lakes for Alberta’s mountains in the near future.

What was the first book cover you designed?

At the advanced age of not-quite-sixteen, I had just finished my first (extremely Lord of the Rings-inspired) fantasy novella when I discovered self-publishing was a thing. So I went for it, not so much because I wanted to sell my book but because I wanted to hold a printed copy.

For the cover, I had an image of the climax in my head and a talented artist friend, who created a beautiful painting for me. There wasn’t really a great place to add my title and name, but I slapped some text wherever it fit and called it a day. Although I’ve grown far beyond this cover, seeing it still reminds me of how my first book felt in my hands, and I’m very fond of it.

How did you get into design, and why did you pick ‘Kairos’ as a name?

When I joined the online self-publishing community, I started understanding how crucial an excellent book cover is to look legitimate as an indie author. Over the last eight years, the indie community has come lightyears in that regard, but back in 2015, most indie books looked pretty rough. I developed my design skills with the subsequent two books I published and eventually realised it was so much fun that I wanted to help out other authors with what I’d learned. Eventually I started selling cover design and formatting services at the end of 2016.

Kairos is a Greek word meaning “the right time” or “an opportune moment”. This felt perfect to me, because a book cover is the opportune moment to hook readers. You’ve got the briefest of seconds to catch the eye of someone glancing across a bookshelf or scrolling online, which means your cover needs to punch above its weight!

What’s your story?

As a freelance book designer, my primary mission is to provide high-quality yet affordable book cover design and formatting for indie authors. There are incredible designers out there who charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a custom cover, and while their time, skill, and experience (not to mention their equipment costs) are worth it, that’s not who I aspire to be. I’m thinking of myself as a broke high schooler with dreams and stories to tell, who’d wanted to be a published author since she was seven. That’s the kind of writer I want to support, whether they haven’t yet graduated high school or that’s sixty years behind them. Nothing is so rewarding as creating a magical design for a book into which an author has poured so much effort and love. It’s truly a joy for me!

What is one key thing you wish authors knew about book covers?

This is going to sound salesy but I’m super serious: many authors don’t realise that book cover design is a science, and if you’re serious about your author career, you should hire someone who knows what they’re doing. Making your own cover might not be as life-or-death as rewiring your house yourself instead of hiring a qualified electrician, but to be honest, it is almost always life-or-death to your success as an indie author. Once you publish, your book is a business, and you probably know from experience that people judge a business by how professional it looks.

A million considerations go into each cover I design. What’s the genre and target audience? What’s the mood, tone, and theme? What are the current book market trends? What do comparative titles look like? How am I going to convince random shoppers on Amazon to give this book a closer look? Then there’s finding the right typefaces and stock images, creating custom imagery, and pulling it all together in a polished, professional product. It’s fun (for me, at least!), and you can definitely learn it (I’m almost entirely self-taught), but it’s not as simple as imagining what you as the author would like to see and popping it together in Photoshop—or in my case for my first book, in Paint…

What’s something most covers get wrong—especially indie ones?

A book cover’s purpose is to reel in readers, not depict the story or a scene down to the finest detail. Many authors want their cover to be meaningful, symbolic, or thought-provoking. Don’t get me wrong, that all has its place, but it’s not how you snag someone’s attention within a tiny window to look twice at your book. You have to detach from your story as the author and think like a reader instead. What makes you pick up a book?

This is the exact mistake I made with my first cover. I wasn’t aware that a cover is a marketing tool, not just wrapping paper. As an author, I wanted to portray a scene that was pivotal to the plot and happened to be one of my favourites. But readers don’t know what’s going on in that art, they don’t care about the characters yet; they just want the cover to tell them what they can expect from this book and whether they’ll enjoy it. The cover pictured here, The Stars Gleam Brighter, is my first book refreshed with a new title and cover I gave it a couple years ago. This time it follows market trends, is clearly epic fantasy, and the colours imply the contrast between good and evil, ending with hope, that the story contains. Depicting a specific scene via custom artwork rarely achieves the same effect.

What is your opinion about the evolution of books in the next decade?

I have a feeling book publishing is trending more and more indie! In my writer network, I’ve seen many new authors decide to self-publish without even trying to query first. I absolutely love this. There’s nothing wrong with traditional publishing, and if that’s your goal I wish you all the success in the world! However, I think many writers are growing disillusioned with the traditional model because it can be quite exclusive, politically driven, and difficult to break into as a new author. (It is a business, after all, and it’s not always a good business decision to take a chance on an unknown, considering all the costs that go into publishing.)

Conversely, self-publishing is incredibly accessible these days. Print-on-demand services like Kindle Direct Publishing, IngramSpark, and Draft2Digital mean you don’t have to order a minimum number of copies or keep inventory on hand, and the internet has all the resources and support you could possibly want. Even as a traditionally-published author you’re still going to have to do a ton of marketing to get your name out there, so self-publishing really doesn’t make much difference on that front.

Also, as a reader, I find I’m enjoying indie and small press books far more these days than ones from big publishers. They feel fresher and more genuine.

What are some of your own favourite books and movies?

Light fantasy has become my thing, so I’ve been loving recent releases from Enclave Publishing. Two of my favourites are Vivid by Ashley Bustamante and Dust by Kara Swanson. I also can’t wait to read Sky of Seven Colors by Rachelle Nelson, which just came out! (Also, Enclave produces the most stunning covers. Totally my dream to someday design for them!) Nadine Brandes writes delightful historical fantasy, and The Stolen Kingdom by Bethany Atazadeh is my favourite indie series of fairy tale retellings.

As far as movies go, my taste is random… Cinderella (2015) is one of my all-time favourites, Ben Hur (1959) is up there, and I have a quote from The Lord of the Rings or the BBC Pride and Prejudice miniseries for any occasion.

Why are you committed to this audience of Christian/faith-inspired authors?

When I was in university, one of the chaplains preached on how everyone is most particularly drawn to God through one of the transcendentals (truth, goodness, beauty). For me, that is beauty first and foremost, though the other two play a huge part too. As far as reading goes, I find all three most in Christian fiction. Not the wishy-washy romance kind, but specifically in Christian fantasy and speculative fiction. Most secular fiction abandons at least one of them, which lessens my reading experience. Many of them are still incredible books, but they don’t satisfy me as fully as Christian and especially Catholic fiction does. I have little enough time for reading these days with a five-month-old, so I have to use it wisely! And while I love supporting authors in general, I want to give special attention to supporting authors who write what I love to read and think is important for our society.

What’s your process for crafting a book cover?

First, the author sends me the answers to a detailed questionnaire, i.e. the design brief. For me to read their book would add hugely to the cost of the cover, so instead they describe for me aspects like their characters, settings, plot, themes, mood, and tone. They also tell me what their vision is for the cover, similar published books (“comparative titles”), and covers they love. I pull all of that together and brainstorm a few concepts. The overarching principle is to portray each book effectively and accurately—you don’t want to draw in the wrong readers, which can lead to bad reviews—while creating something unique that clearly denotes genre and fits current cover design trends.

(Yes, I see you chafing at the suggestion that covers should follow trends! Never fear. This doesn’t mean your book looks exactly like everything else in its genre; it just means it doesn’t look like it was published in the 90s. Trends happen for a reason: something is effective, and readers like it. It’s smart marketing to draw inspiration from something that works, while putting your own unique and hopefully timeless spin on it. And yes, your book cover is your #1 marketing tool!)

Despite my trash sketching skills, I sketch out my concepts to get a general idea of layout. Then I create rough drafts in my software and send them out to the author, who picks one to move forward with!

What’s your dream for Kairos?

In five years, I want Kairos to be a rich destination for indie authors. Not only will I still be offering affordable custom design and premade covers, but I’m also beginning to curate a newsletter and blog full of tips and tricks for learning to design books on your own (because sometimes paying for a professional designer is just off the cards, however affordable). I hope to publish books on cover design and typesetting, to give you all that information in one place. And my big dream is to create video courses too, somewhere down the line!

How can people get in touch with you?

You can see everything I’m up to, including my services and resources, or email me on my website at kairosbookdesign.com. (My lifelong friend Rachel also offers editing through the site!) I’m on Instagram, YouTube, Threads, and Facebook @kairosbookdesign.

You can also subscribe to my brand spanking new newsletter! It’s currently at kairosbookdesign.substack.com.

I might move it to a direct email host at some point if I decide Substack isn’t right for it, but Substack has fun possibilities so I’m there for now, at least! Subscribers get a discount on all of my services. 🙂

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Dominic Vera

Founder of LegendFiction, and a total Wandery. Geeks over epics, mystics, science, the angelic, & Netflix. A young, Catholic dad and novelist passionate about worldbuilding and faith-inspired fiction. A graduate from the Writer’s Institute for Children’s Literature, self-published a children’s novel, and works as a full time marketer and graphic designer. Married, with a small girl and a smaller corgi. Website | See more of Dominic's posts

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