In the past, before digital, the way writers generally got a book printed was to be taken to the cleaners by some subsidy or vanity press. It happened to a friend of mine. She wanted the book published and she had the money and wasn't thinking clearly. So $5000 later she had a garage full of books.
Okay. That doesn't happen anymore. We can be thankful.
It doesn't exactly happen like that anymore but that doesn't mean there aren't people willing to take writers to the cleaners in the ebook realm. There are people who know little to nothing about editing who are setting up shop as editors. If you hire an editor, make sure they have real experience. Anyone you hire should be able to prove they know what they're doing. Check these people out. Get references. Have a conversation with them. See if you are on the same page.
We've talked here many times over the years about creating covers and I think I've lost a couple readers to the blog because I insisted and will continue to insist that creating a decent cover is just not that difficult. You don't need special powers!
Let's go through it again.
1) Get yourself a graphics program and learn the basics. GIMP is freeware. I'm told it's quite powerful with lots of bells and whistles. Photoshop Elements is a basic program that scrapbookers use a great deal. It's not that expensive and it's much simpler than Photoshop. Corel Draw is an excellent program, also not as expensive or difficult as Photoshop. Get one of these programs and spend the hours it takes to familiarize yourself with it. This effort will save you money over the length of your career.
2) Study other ebook covers. See how they're laid out. Where is the text? Where is the image? Keep it simple! Divide the 1000 pixel X 1500 pixel space in thirds. Title, image and author are your 3 elements. Put them anywhere you like in those 3rds.
3) How to get an image. The simplest way is to go to one of the less expensive stock photo sites and pay $3-$5 for the image, vector art or photo. You will never have copyright issues. If you go to Getty or Shutterstock, you'll pay more. You don't have to pay more.
Here is a list of stock image sites. Go look around until you find something that fits your book. Make your search terms as precise as possible if you know what you want. Then you will weed out photos you will never want. Say teen if you mean teen. Say sexy couple or sexy woman, brunette, beautiful, brown eyes, city if that's what you're looking for.
Where do I start? Bigstockphotos. Then I'll try Fotolia, istockphotos, Dreamstime. It's very rare that I don't find something after visiting two sites. Sometimes you can't find what you want but something else will do just fine. Okay. Maybe you'll find something else later and can change the image. If you do it yourself you can change it endlessly for next to no $. You won't be financially punished by changing your mind.
As you are writing the book, start thinking about the cover. Begin looking for an appropriate image. You can do this 10 min. at a time when you have nothing else to do. When you find something, you can buy it. Most people spend more on coffee than $3-$5 for a cover image. If you don't use it now, maybe you'll use it later. It's not a big deal if you never use it.
You will pay someone 100 times what the cost of one image is if you hire someone to do this for you. How long is it going to take for that book to earn it back? Good for you if it's the first month. Most writers aren't that fortunate to be found and become popular within weeks or even months.
Take the long view of your career and spend your money wisely. It's hard to earn that money.