8 Tips for a Good Ebook Cover
Writing is an art, one that takes years of dedication and practice to hone. If you’re a writer, you know how difficult it can be to write something you’re truly satisfied with.
Design is the same. When self-published writers go in search of book cover designers or designs, they often lack the background to tell the difference between good and bad design.
With the explosion of the ebook market and tablet readers, the ebook cover is now highly in demand. It is a similar animal to a print book cover, but ebook covers face unique challenges due to the nature of online marketplaces.
Here are some design tips for writers who plan to create their own ebook covers or are considering portfolios from different ebook cover designers:
Generally speaking, your cover must pull off the balancing act of looking good in both a tiny thumbnail and at full size on a computer screen.
1. Avoid overly fancy fonts and tiny images that completely disappear at thumbnail level.
2. Find a balance. Of the title name, author name, and main image, at least two of these should be large enough to read or see at thumbnail level.
3. Make sure your designer owns all rights to any illustrations or photos being used. A picture or photo on the Internet is not in the public domain. Reputable designers will understand how to secure commercial usage rights for images used in the creation of your cover.
4. Fonts make a huge difference in the impact of a book cover. To see what I mean, open Word or the writing application of your choice and type the word “Romance”. Highlight the word and then click on the “Format” drop-down menu, and then “Font”. Use the down arrow key to scroll through the basic fonts available, and “Romance” will change in the preview window to reflect each font.
You’ll start to see how font affects the impression the word has. Even with the standard fonts of Arial compared to Monotype Corsiva, you can see how each gives the word a different feeling.
5. Images are important. Too many writers get caught up in presenting the literal facts in their story when it comes to choosing cover imagery. Covers are not police lineups where all of your main characters must appear. Go with one or two strong images that represent the feeling of your book, rather than a completely literal interpretation of a character or scene. This is especially crucial for ebook design, where a highly detailed depiction of a busy scene can become visual mush at thumbnail size.
6. You get what you pay for. $5 covers almost always look like $5 covers. Considering the amount of effort you put into your book, why would you send it out into the world with an amateur cover? In an online marketplace, readers often see a group of thumbnails at once. Your cover is the first impression and often only chance your ebook will have to get readers to click on it and learn more about it. Bad design can sink your chances no matter how well you write.
7. You don’t get what you pay for. A high price tag is not a guarantee of quality, either. Just because someone says they’re a designer doesn’t mean they’re a good one. Look at their portfolio and apply the ideas found on this list, as well as your own gut instincts, taking care to view their samples at both full and thumbnail size.
8. Brainstorm three to five adjectives that summarize your book itself: for example, “dark”, “fantasy”, and “strong women”. Your cover should clearly convey most of these adjectives through its imagery, font, and design.
That doesn’t mean the cover in the above example must have a woman on it. You might choose a crown or a sword or the main character’s wolf companion.
Creating a cover that accurately reflects what your book is about will help draw in your target audience and avoid confusion created by poor design choices.
There will always be exceptions to these rules, but it often takes a trained designer to pull them off. Consider this list your springboard.
If you'd like to develop a stronger eye for good cover design without taking design classes, a simple way is to train your eye while browsing through books online.
Pay careful attention to the covers you see. Choose covers you think work really well and think about why they do. Is it the font? The imagery? The color schemes? Do the same with covers that fall flat.
Do this for long enough, and you'll no longer have to rely on a designer's ad copy to decide if they are worth your money. You'll be able to see for yourself.
Christina Banta of Bluejay Books Design