Things to keep in mind when designing your cover art:
1. First Impression: When potential readers are scrolling through a list of books on their e-reader, they can only see a thumbnail. The cover has to catch their eye. Perhaps more importantly, it needs to look professional. Don't you just cringe when you see a cover that looks like the author made it on Microsoft Word? (If left to my own devices, I'm sure that's exactly how I would design my own cover.) Bottom line, readers do judge books by their covers.
2. Genre: Renegades is a science fiction novel. Although there is a big romance subplot in Renegades, the cover had to reflect the science fiction genre because that is my target audience. Imagine searching for a new science fiction novel to read and seeing a cover with a couple just about to kiss, like a typical Nicholas Sparks novel. You'd probably pass over it thinking it was miscategorized. The cover needs to represent what the reader is going to get.
3. Size and color: Remember that initially readers are only going to see a thumbnail. Small details will get lost. Clutter won't look good. I wanted my title to be clear. As an indie author just starting out, it wasn't as important that my name be prominent, although it did end up being so. I also chose an orange/red theme because I googled a lot of other science fiction ebook covers and they tended to be green, blue, and purple, and I wanted something a little different.
It took me quite a while to choose a cover artist. Price was a huge factor. After hours of googling and searching recommendations on blogs and Goodreads, I decided on http://www.tugboatdesign.net. Some other contenders were http://streetlightgraphics.com, http://ronnelldporter.wix.com/design, and http://99designs.com. I heard of Tugboat Design on Goodreads. What really sold me was that it was a one-stop shop for everything I wanted for marketing. Not only does Tugboat Design create ebook and paperback covers, it also designs websites (like this one), twitter backgrounds, facebook banners, and business cards. It also formats manuscripts for all the different publishing sites. Since I was going to hire someone for all of that, it was immensely appealing to deal with one person, and the prices are fantastic. It was a little bit of a risk because there weren't any sample science fiction covers on Tugboat's website, but I liked the other covers, and Deborah seemed excited about branching out. Deborah has been amazing to work with. Without having too much guidance from me, she created a great cover for Renegades. I must have been the most frustrating client because I didn't have a vision of what I wanted my cover to look like before I emailed her. (Designing is not my forte at all.) I think we went through seven different designs with multiple tweaks to a few of them. Deborah was patient and prompt through the entire process.
And without further ado. Here's the cover!