There is simply no excuse for publishing an eBook without a decent cover. You might have gotten away with it early on but now that the market is being flooded with eBooks you will look cheap and “self-published” if you don't make the effort. If you care anything at all about your writing, invest in a cover.
So what do you do if you don't already know a designer, or you want to get some education before you hire one? Here is an eclectic collection of resources to get you started.
Begin with some inspiration. I think it is helpful to begin by looking at lots of covers to get ideas of what you like or don't like. The Book Cover Archive is a blog dedicated to book cover design and resources and it will do just that.
Like the cover, images are critical and often expensive. Here are 3 sources for public domain images (you must still review copyright restrictions).
2. Wikipedia has a great resource page
3. Compfight is relatively new site also worth exploring.
Two Tools for DIY
This collection of templates and training materials is less than $8. Using Photoshop or the free Gimp image tool you can create pretty nice, albeit cookie cutter covers.
Cover Design As a Web-based Service
If you do not know someone and you are prepared to pay a (what I consider) fair rate of $200 to $400 these three services are worth looking into. These sites specialize in cover design. You may want to engage them with a few ideas in mind before you begin but be sure to let them do their job too.
99 Designs offers a contest-like solution. Multiple designers complete by showing you a design and you buy the one you like.
BookBaby offers publishers two packages.
Amazon's CreateSpace has several different options.
And don't forget AuthorImprints! We also offer cover design services. (Contact us here.)
Got your own favorite resources? Know a great cover designer you want to plug. Let me know in the comments section below.