3 Tips for Professional E-Book Covers


Phil Gibbs

Today’s guest post is from Biba Pearce at Your Novel Online.

An e-book cover has an important job to do. Not only does it present your book to the world, but it also says a lot about you, the author. It can be a powerful selling and marketing tool, or it can damage your image as an author and lead to dismal sales. Here are 3 tips for creating a cover that helps you look your best.

1. Make sure it fits your genre and delivers the right emotional impact.

Your cover image should entice readers who are shopping for a certain genre. Research bestselling cover images for your genre (e.g., mystery), as well as subgenres if needed (e.g., cozy mystery). The person buying your book wants to believe that the story or content will deliver exactly what they expect from the genre. So your cover image needs to enhance this in a positive way. A book on web optimization, for example, should have a professional cover with a clear message that says, “You can trust me, I know what I’m talking about.” A thriller cover should probably offer a sense of intrigue, mystery, suspense, or danger.

The cover image below is for a sweet African folk story. The designer has created a cover to appeal to readers of that type of story.

Zwai and the Little Fairy


For nonfiction covers, I recommend a design that is simple, yet eye-catching. A busy, colorful patchwork of a cover does more damage than good—especially if the text is obscured or hard to read among all the design elements. Aim for stylish and professional with one eye-catching image or feature.

Web Optimization

2. Choose fonts that are appropriate, clear and easy to read.

This is where a lot of amateurs go wrong. The fonts on your e-book cover should be clear and easy to read no matter how the cover might be displayed or manipulated. Consider how your cover will look in (1) large and small sizes and (2) in color or black-and-white. That goes for the title, the author’s name, and any additional information on the cover, including introductory text and bullet points.

3. List your name and qualifications.

This is especially important for nonfiction authors. If you’ve written a book on weight loss then you need to support that by giving your credentials. What qualifies you to write this book? Are you a nutritionist or a doctor? Unless you are a celebrity, you have to prove why you are qualified to write on your topic. Also, a few well-placed bullet points on a nonfiction book cover will help point out what someone will find in the book.

30 Days to Health

The real secret

The trick to creating an effective e-book cover is to know your target market. That way you can gear the cover toward them and reassure them it contains exactly the type of information or story they are looking for. Bad cover design does your work a disservice and won’t convince readers to take a chance on you. While it’s true one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, we all do. If you don’t have the skills to create a cover that passes muster in the market, then hire someone who can help you.


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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_I54F6LC5RFY6EZ4DS6TVD7M2KA Donita T

    So true, so true. I’ve just done a book cover for Taming the Wild Wind. Many tips for painting a pictures carry over to design. A focal point. Mine is a tree. Space not clutter. Words are clutter. (I think five words is max for a title. Just opinion, no statistics to back that statement up.) And your name is more clutter. So limit words beyond what is absolutely needed. Pay special attention to color. When we chose the color for the lettering we picked out a color from the clouds. I’m pleased with how it looks. You think an e-book doesn’t sit on a shelf and attract attention with the cover. But it does sit on a virtual shelf, and blah is just as bad there as at the bookstore. The book is actually taller than this image.

  • Janet Oakley

    Totally agree. I hired someone to do mine. Another important factor is to make sure that cover doesn’t fall apart into pixels when displayed across all types of devices. They can really make it look amateurish. There is also where a professional designer is worth their weight in that glittery stuff.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com Ed_Cyzewski

    I agree that contrast and audience are critical with e-book covers. I suppose I tend to opt for e-books with simple, clean covers rather than covers that have lists or a lot going on. I usually read the book info on Amazon or on the author’s blog before making a purchase anyway, so I don’t quite see the value of adding a long list to an e-book cover. Most of the time it won’t be readable and the surrounding font usually takes care of providing the details there. 

    Then again, I don’t quite know what to do with the new Seth Godin books that just have a picture on that. I’ve actually clicked away from them because I thought I’d clicked on the wrong thing. So there is such a thing as too minimalist!

  • Jacqueline George

    One thing you did not mention: your cover will be displayed on Amazonet al. as a tiny thumbnail. If you have a fussy or low contrast cover, no-one will be able to see it. I always reduce my covers to thumbnail size to check that they still work.

    Another point : same-ness. There are so many dark, scary, vampire covers out there – why add another? You need to be imaginative and come up with something a little different. Ditto for cowboys without their shirts. (We have plenty of cowboys around here and – believe me – they are no maiden’s dream. They definitely look better with their shirts on.)

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Great tip! Totally agree.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Totally hear you. Really depends on how that cover is being used and where.

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Definitely agree with your first point (tiny thumbnail). As far as the second point, I guess it depends on how imaginative you get. Too much imagination could confuse readers in your genre as to what they’ll be getting. If the design is a definite departure, then it ought to be deliberate and be attractive to the reader you want (e.g., the kind of reader who prefers their cowboys clothed).

  • http://www.sofftwareengineeringhandbook.wordpress.com BillGutches

    What tools would you recommend other than a word processor for creating a new eBook?

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    There really isn’t any other better tool. Creating an e-book is typically a process of UNformatting, rather than formatting. If you’re looking for special software to help ease the formatting & conversion process, then try Scrivener: http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

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  • Robin T.

    I disagree that bullet points should ever go on a book cover. It looks highly unprofessional and very tacky. I would never pick up a book with bullet points on the cover. EVER! 

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Regardless of your personal feelings, traditional publishers as well as independent publishers would not consider it unprofessional for nonfiction.

  • http://ebookfriendly.com Piotr Kowalczyk

    Oh, it’s so great you’re dealing with this topic, Jane! There is a lot of things to explore – and find out how many possibilities could appear if we only think of designing a cover specifically for ebooks.

    Some thoughts:
    – the cover doesn’t have to be rectangular
    – the cover can be animated
    – the cover can play with the context of a web page
    More info in this series of articles: http://www.passwordincorrect.com/tag/ebook-specific-cover-design/

    When it comes to improving quality of ebook covers, Joel Friedlander is doing a great work by organizing Ebook Cover Design Awards. Please, take some time and see how it works: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2011/08/monthly-e-book-cover-design-awards/

    Last thing: an example of what I mean by “books don’t have to be rectangular”. The edges of a paper book make it rectangular. There are no edges in an image if you don’t apply a border:

  • http://janefriedman.com Jane Friedman

    Appreciate the comment! Maybe we can have you do a guest post sometime on the topic—you have some innovative ideas.  :)

  • http://ebookfriendly.com Piotr Kowalczyk

    Would be honored to contribute! I’m planning to design some example ebook covers which could illustrate all possibilities. Maybe this would be a good idea to share?

  • http://ebookfriendly.com Piotr Kowalczyk
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  • Vitali

    I can create stylish and professional 3D and flat ebook covers, starting from $5. You will sell more books with a great-looking cover. Over 20 different styles available. You can check out my website and design portfolio at http://www.e-bookcoverdesign.com

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