The short answer is ...  probably.   It is my experience that authors have no idea what covers will entice a reader to buy. I certainly don’t.

Should you pay for a professional  e-book cover?

Cover to Valhai, by the author

On the other hand, it is admittedly hard to find the money to buy a professional cover, and there are many pseudo-professional covers out there that could do more harm than good.   So my advice would be to splurge on a good cover by a recognized and respected cover artist in your field if you possibly can.  However, if you really can’t pay the going rate, then don't be afraid to do it yourself.

Cover to Termination Shock, by Tom Edwards

Which sell better, self-made covers or professional?   Out of my total of sixteen books, I have done the covers to thirteen of them.  The ones that attract  more sales are the professional covers.  Hands down.  Why?   Because they are what readers expect to see.  They fit into the current genre expectations.

Exceptional Point cover, by Viergacht

I like my covers too.  They are special.  They are not simply generic. They have scenes from the books in them.  They have the characters in them.  They have special typography that makes them unique.   BUT ... when you see them in a thumbnail from a bookstore dashboard they simply don’t convey their message quickly enough or with enough clarity.

Kelfor cover, by the Author

What can I expect to pay? I think, these days, that most good professional covers will cost you somewhere over the $600 mark.  The more popular artists will charge $1000.  The tippy top ones may even set you back thousands. However, you can probably pick up a good quality e-cover from a respected upcoming professional artist for $400 to $500 if you shop around and wait for sales or premade offers.  The trick is to find an artist who hasn’t quite made it big yet, but is on the cusp.  Of course, that is what every single impoverished author is searching the web looking for!

Interdicted Space cover, by Tom Edwards

Check that they are not using only stock photos.  If they are ... well, you can do that yourself, and remember that you run the risk of seeing the same spaceship/girl/man/background on a hundred other ebooks in your same genre.   This has happened to me, and I can tell you it is not ideal.  You end up having to change your images and that creates even more confusion amongst your readers.

Kwaide cover, by the author

The drawbacks of doing it yourself    There are many.  Not least is that it may take you many, many hours to come up with images you like.  Stock photo land is definitely a rabbit hole.  You disappear down it and may not come up for weeks.   Add to that the learning curve in photoshop or whatever you use, the cost of the software, the cost of the stock photos (and you will need four or five per cover) and it begins to look cheap to spend $500 on a professional cover.

Trimorphs cover, by the author

But many of us never make $100 dollars on a book, and we simply can’t afford NOT to do it ourselves. There is also, in my case, a different motivation.  My very first book was published professionally and my heart sank when I saw the cover they had given it.  I couldn’t even bear to open the book!  I vowed I would never ever put myself in that position again.   Doing my own covers takes back control for me.  It exorcises that bad experience and sets me free.  

Pictoria cover, by the author

In Conclusion ... If you are a waffler, like me, try a bit of both.  I don’t regret it. Cover time is when nothing is set in stone.  Images are an inspiration. It is a hazy, lazy space where everything is still possible.     I always start with the cover so my process goes 1) cover  2) title 3) hard work.  But beware!  Once, it took me two months to do the cover.   And it isn’t even as if that sells the book well!  I love it, but it is a personal thing and not good business sense, so maybe you shouldn't follow my lead!

Spectacular Error (WIP) cover, by  Erik Anderson