The Five Secrets to a Killer eBook Cover

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Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 6.21.05 PMWhen it comes to your eBook cover, I cannot stress enough how important it is to look professional.

If your cover looks like it was created in Microsoft Word, your book sales will be directly affected and even your credibility may be at stake.

Most people, especially those who spend hours online, are visual creatures. When we’re searching the web, an interesting thing happens. Pay attention to your own browsing habits.

When you browse through eBooks on Amazon, how many times do you click on the picture of the book cover image versus just the title that usually appears next to it?

We almost always gravitate towards clicking the picture because that’s what we’re looking at. Our eyes are drawn to the image. If they can’t see the image clearly in that tiny little thumbnail in an Amazon search, then potential buyers are going to pass right over it.

So if your cover, especially as a thumbnail image, is so important, what are the secrets to making it stand out from your competition?

The secrets to a killer eBook cover can be boiled down to five key elements:

Secret #1: Title Design

More important than color or pictures is that your title is clear and easy to read. If you reduce your book cover to a one-inch-sized thumbnail on your computer and you can’t read the title, you need to change it. Here are some title tips to help you craft the right look for your catchy eBook title:

  1. Make your title a different color than your background. If your title is light blue on a slightly darker blue background, it won’t be easy to read in thumbnail size. Using a light color behind a darker colored font, or an extremely contrasting dark color behind a white or almost white font is a good way to make sure your title is readable.
  2. Add effects like a drop shadow. If your title is having trouble standing out from its background, sometimes adding a drop shadow or other effect will help. Keep in mind the use of effects can look cheesy if done improperly. If you’re inexperienced in graphic or book design, you may want to leave the use of effects to the pros.
  3. Make the title large and use a nice bold font. You can get creative with titles, but try not to use a font that looks handwritten for your primary title unless that style lends itself well to your subject matter. The most annoying thing for a browsing customer is to see a complicated script font that’s hard on the eyes or difficult to read.

Binkholder

Your goal should be to make sure your title is readable, crisp, clear and will show up as a thumbnail in search results.

Secret #2: Art and Photos

Sometimes a plain boring solid-colored background is exactly what you want. But most of the time eBook covers require a little more pizazz—something to draw the attention of a potential buyer. Using a professional photo or illustration on your book cover is just the thing to stand out from your competition.

Here are some tips to choose and use images on your eBook cover:

  1. Make sure all images or artwork you use are 300 dpi (dots per inch) in size quality. Even though they’re primarily viewed online, eBook cover requirements are this minimum level of quality.
  2. Beware of copyright. Don’t rip photos off the web. All photos are protected by copyright, and if you pull them off someone else’s website, especially if that person paid to use them, what you’re doing is illegal. Make sure any stock photos you use are royalty-free and allow use for book covers.
  3. Think about going custom. If you have an artist create a custom illustration or take your own custom photograph, your eBook cover will be unique and never look like anyone else’s. The danger of using only stock photos without much manipulation or change is your photo may appear on someone else’s book cover, and if that book is in the same genre as yours it can cause customer confusion.

Burgess

Secret #3: Branding

When you’re choosing the images, titles, fonts and background for your eBook cover, you may want to consider what you currently have in place in your business. If you own a business and want your book to be an expression of what you do, you may consider matching the brand of your book to your business. Using this strategy will draw more attention to you as an expert and you’ll find your reach broadening overall. When branding your book to your business, think about this:

  • What fonts do you use in your email newsletter or website?
  • What graphics do you already have created for your other products and services?
  • Do you have a logo you can adapt as part of the graphical imagery of the eBook cover?
  • What imagery can you repeat in everything you do, from eBook covers to your website to social media graphics and even PowerPoints? (Hint: mine is blue stars)

Dean

Think about how you can use existing branding like your logo or company colors to enhance your eBook cover and link your readers to the reality that you are the go-to expert in your field.

Secret #4: Study what Works

Start looking at what’s currently available in your genre. What images draw you in? What designs turn you off? Start taking notes. Every time you’re near a bookstore ask yourself these questions and jot down titles of books that have covers you like and why.

You’ll begin to see a pattern of your tastes start to emerge. Once you know what you love and why, you’ll be able to articulate that to a professional eBook cover designer or, if you’re capable, design it yourself.

Secret #5: Beware the Template

Many internet marketers have started selling Photoshop and Gimp templates they claim will make it super easy for you to create a professional eBook cover and skip “high fees” associated with a professional designer. These templates do produce nice looking covers.

In fact, I own several of them myself. However, they’re still templates and a lot of people use them. Your book won’t stand out against the crowd unless it is customized to you, your tastes and your niche. If you use a template, even if you put your own photo on it, it will probably have the same general layout or even fonts as someone else’s book.

If you’re trying to brand yourself as an expert and credibility is important to you, avoid looking like someone else. If you’re using it as a simple lead-generating tool, templates can be fine to use, but you still need to change them enough that they don’t look like the original template.

Your goal is to stand out from the crowd of millions of other authors, sell books, make a difference and become the go-to expert in your niche. And unfortunately customers do judge a book—and expert—by their “cover.”

If you’re going to be judged, be judged for being the amazing professional you are, not a copy-cat or do-it-yourselfer trying to save a few bucks. It will make a difference!

Kristen Eckstein
Kristen Eckstein is a highly sought-after publishing authority, multi best-selling author and award winning international speaker who has started over 50 publishing companies and published over 170 books and e-books. In Fall 2013 she challenged herself to write and published a new Kindle book every week for 18 weeks straight.
Kristen Eckstein
Kristen Eckstein
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  1. Hi Kristen,
    Thanks for the information. I’ve got a short ghost story that I’m going to launch on Wednesday, and this is just what I needed to get started.

    Best regards,
    Stephanie

  2. This is definitely a useful article. I’m about to release an ebook and already know I need to rework the cover. This is awesome advice. Thank you so much.

  3. Interesting article. Designing and formatting of a book cover is really important as it is the first thing which catches the reader’s attention. The points you have mentioned here are very useful for the graphic designers while creating an eye-catchy cover for the books.

  4. This is a good article with solid advice backed up by examples. There are some excellent books out there with poor covers and vice versa. But there is no doubt a compelling cover will attract readers!

  5. This a great article but don’t forget the back of the book! Providing you’ve done well at attracing the readers with the front cover, they’ll quickly flip the book over and skim the synopsis. The synopsis should give a quick flavor of the type of story, who the main characters are, the setting, how the story starts, and the problems that the characters will be facing.

  6. Great post Kristen. I’ve done dozens of book covers for best-selling authors and the one thing they all ask is how does it look in thumbnail size. Maybe I should start designing postage stamps on the side.

  7. We’re about to publish our first e-book and this article has been super helpful!!!

  8. This is exactly right, Kristen. I’ve found that above all else, the typography (the type and size of font used) is the most important aspect of making a design look professional. Many times authors try their hands at designing and the results look much less than professional. Sometimes it’s not because they’ve simply chosen not to go to a professional, but that the professional fees far exceed their budget! Fortunately, nowadays there are several affordably priced ebook cover designers on the web, and authors can find a compatible designer for their work in a few clicks! Neat right?

  9. Hi there Kristen,
    I was going to launch my first ever book and I’m totally a newbie on that. I knew that the Cover is something that plays a vital role in conversion rates. So I decided to research a bit on creating good eBook covers and I got into this post. Let me say an Awesome one.
    You talk like a real pro and those advices are really gonna help me.
    Thanks a lot.

    Cheers!

  10. Really helpful post with some fantastic ideas and tips. We are just about to start design ebook covers as an additional service and found this post very helpful. Thank you,Lizzy :) xx

  11. What I always find frustrating about finding a good stock photo for an ebook cover is that virtually all of them demand a charge, something that can’t always be met when you are struggling writer on a low income, and don’t know any consummate book illustrators!

  12. Very interesting topic on how best to design good ebook covers, a task which is always quite tricky to do well.

  13. Great post Kristen. I just had a professional eBook cover created after using one of my own creations (I’m embarrassed to say) and the difference is amazing. Maybe if I had read this post before I would have done a little better, but not like a professional. Thanks for sharing.
    Johnny Bravo recently posted..Top Prospecting Research ToolsMy Profile

  14. Some good tips, Kristen. I particularly like the one about covers using the same stock art. I read a funny post the other day — can\\\’t remember where — that showed a series of different books using a variation of the exact same stock photo. It was an image of a woman\\\’s back and was funny to see how many times it was used and for all kinds of books. Authors should beware. Altering stock art to make it unique can help. Or commission some original artwork (like you suggested). An excellent way to go.

  15. Hi – great article. Thanks.
    One question… are the Binkholder and Burgess covers examples of good, or poor cover design. Both have lots of small type on the cover that will be virtually unreadable in any thumbnail… for example on Amazon, Kindle and/or Barnes and Noble.
    Jimbo Paleo recently posted..The Paleo Mom.com: Sarah Ballantyne Video InterviewMy Profile

    • Hi Jimbo,
      Those two covers are good cover design. Almost all covers have small type on them, especially if the subtitles are long or there are testimonials present. However, both those covers have a clearly-readable title and graphics that pull potential readers in from a thumbnail on their computer screen or from across the room. Good question!

  16. I don\’t think it\’s a problem. I don\’t publish for stupid people. Besides, lots of movie, music and game packages are shaped like vertical books. Food, too.

    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Dmovies-tv&field-keywords=john+wayne&rh=n%3A2625373011%2Ck%3Ajohn+wayne
    MichaelN Marcus recently posted..Supreme Court, please read thisMy Profile

  17. Thank you, Kirsten – great points you covered here. Sound, practical advice on what should be considered when deciding on a cover!
    Aileen Wilsen recently posted..Easter wreathMy Profile

  18. Most ebook covers mimic the common vertical design of pbooks. You can use a square, half moon or another shape to take advantage of the space available to use larger text and better attract attention from shoppers. “Float” a weird shape on a square white background. More in “The Look of a Book,” http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BAPV724
    MichaelN Marcus recently posted..Today’s post has three titles:(1) A book about book covers shouldn’t be ugly.(2) Even a flawed book is worth more than zero.(3) Keep evangelism out of books for a general audience.My Profile

    • Thanks for commenting Michael! Yes, Kindle covers can have different shapes as long as they meet Amazon’s specs. This tactic could be both good and bad.

      The Good: It will draw the attention of people browsing the Kindle Store from their Kindle or those who are browsing strictly inside the “Books” or “Kindle Books” categories on Amazon. The Bad: For people like who type in “Amazon.com” and then do a quick search rather than first choosing a category to search within, a creatively-shaped book cover may look like a product rather than a book. For people looking for books in this manner, they may skip over the book thinking it’s a product result instead (yes, not everyone is smart enough to click “Books” under the category menu). The only other “bad” I’d forsee is someone who isn’t adept at book cover design trying their hand at a funky-shaped design for a book cover. Good covers are hard enough to create with standard specs. Throw in funky shapes and even the best designer will be challenged (which is fine as long as the author is hiring a pro!).

      Interesting idea, for sure!
      -K
      Kristen Eckstein recently posted..How to Format Your Book for Kindle Using Microsoft Word in 6 Easy StepsMy Profile