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E-book Cover Design Tips

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E-Book Cover Design Tips

November 2013

by Bethany Brown

You may be focusing your sales and marketing efforts on print books, with e-book versions also available. Or you may be focusing on your e-books while making a printed edition available through CreateSpace and/or Lightning Source. Either way, your e-book cover is important. Here are seven tips for making it effective, with covers of some clients’ books as illustrations.

Make the cover pop against the competition. Potential readers encounter e-book covers in online stores, most often at Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com, and the iTunes bookstore, and usually as the miniature images known as thumbnails.

The thumbnail image of the cover must grab a reader’s attention. This can be done with bright colors, a unique and supercool image, or a contrasting title and subtitle, among other graphics. Whatever you choose, remember that your e-book cover is likely to be viewed first as part of a list of 20-plus books in your category. Make sure its cover design will stand out when compared with the others.

Published by Thomas House LTD; cover design by LoCascio Design.

Make everything on the cover readable. Remember, you’re relying on a thumbnail to grab readers’ attention. People can pull printed books off shelves to read blurbs and back-cover copy, but publishers must grab attention with only the front cover online. That means that its image, title, subtitle, and author name, along with any quote or endorsements, must be clear, concise, and readable.

All too often publishers fall into the trap of shoving way too much information onto an e-book cover just because they can. This is a mistake. You have plenty of room in your e-book listing online for editorial reviews and book description and on author pages to sell the author and the e-book. But if you don’t keep the e-book cover design clean and readable, people will probably never go to those sections.

Make the cover sell the book. Don’t go too far with being “creative” about e-book cover design and lose sight of the fact that the reader has to “get” the book immediately from the front cover. This is particularly important if you are publishing only in e-book format and therefore don’t have a back cover where you can continue your message.

You must convey your book’s message and value through fonts, design, imagery, title, and subtitle on the front cover

Published by GreenBeanLeadership Publications; cover design by GKS Creative.

Design with different formats in mind. When an e-book-only title has had some success, its publisher may decide to create a print book using the POD programs offered by LSI and/or CreateSpace. This can be either an expensive and difficult process or a relatively quick, easy, and cheap option. This depends on whether the e-book cover was designed with an eye to ensuring that images, colors, and fonts would also work in print.

Own your final e-book files. In conjunction with “Design with the full book in mind,” make sure your agreement with your designer says that you own the design files for your e-book. These files are likely to be in InDesign, although a designer may be able to work with a hi-res, print-ready PDF. Regardless, owning the final files for your e-book is vital to ensuring that you can smoothly transition from e-book to print book.

Make the cover look professional. Even if you are publishing only in e-book formats, you must have a cover with a professional look and feel. Whether or not you hire a professional designer, you should print out covers of the top five bestselling books in your book’s category. Then print out the options you’re considering for your own book’s front cover and see how they measure up. You want to make sure that your design is just as professional in terms of its imagery, style, fonts, stacking, and so on as comparable e-books with stellar sales.

Published by RFS Publishing; cover design by GKS Creative.

Be mindful of your reader. Remember, consumers are “trained” by companies, including publishers, to respond to a certain look, feel, style, or even sound. If, for example, you are publishing a legal thriller and you look at the bestselling books in that category, you will be able to identify some of the “rules” of the category.

Don’t break them. If the category demands simplicity, be simple. If it demands photo rather than illustration, go photo. Yes, you want your cover to stand out, but you also want to let readers easily identify your book’s category. Don’t get too far “out of the box.”

Bethany Brown is president of The Cadence Group, a design, editorial, sales and marketing, and project management provider for the book and publishing industry. To learn more: thecadencegrp.comservices@thecadencegrp.com.


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