Creating eBook Covers: Introduction


I have never, in my entire life, purchased a book based on the colour, image or text font size displayed on the cover, and I do not intend to start now. So I wondered how I could continue to create covers for my ebooks when most authors don’t think like me.

I do pick books up if the colours on the cover are different to all the rest of the books displayed on the shelves. Note the word “different”. My old, falling apart, dictionary states that different means “unlike; distinct; various; diverse; not the same”.

Once the book is in my hands I read the title, author, blurb, and date first published. If I am looking for science fiction (mostly) or fantasy (sometimes) or mystery (rarely) I also check who the publisher is. Why? Because I know the style of story chosen by individual publishers and feel “safe” spending over A$20.00 on the product.

I do not care if the character displayed on the cover is fully shown, or from the waist up, or just a floating head in a background of stars and planets. I do not care if the only image is a sword, or spaceship, also floating in a background of stars and planets.

I do not like from the neck down photos, but I understand why it is very common in ebook covers these days. The cover creator is not breaking any copyright laws by showing a model’s face without a signed permission form.

If I know the author, publisher, and like the blurb, I will purchase the printed book. If I am not familiar with the author, I try to find that author in the local library to get a feel for the author’s style, storytelling abilities, and plot layout. If I enjoyed the story, I add the author to a list I carry in my purse, and refer to whenever I enter a book store because I will purchase books by that author.

Ebooks are different. I get to download a sample first. I read the sample. If the words flow, there is action from the start and reasons to care for the characters, I will return to purchase the ebook.

Personally, I can not see the cover at the small postage size on the web site, so there is no way I can pick a book from the cover. When looking, I read the title and author name, and then the blurb. If the blurb is good enough, I will take the next step and download a sample.

However, I am lead to believe that is not what most readers do. Most readers are attracted to the cover, but I am not aware of their next step in the process of selecting an ebook to purchase. Whether they read the other details relating to the ebook such as the  blurb and length, or if they go straight to the reader reviews to make their decision, I do not know.

There are many different web sites and blogs that tell us how to create ebook covers, both non-fiction and fiction. It is easy enough to Google them. I bookmarked a few and read each new blog, in hopes of gathering some secret information required to make my covers stand out from the crowd.

I noticed over the past four years how ePublishing has matured so I need to update my Cover Creation information, hence this article.

When I started I was told to place an icon in the centre of the cover, add the title and author name and that was that. Now, I need to add the length, so as not to confuse the readers. I then included a text field for length.

Then I monitored other blogs where they discussed the font required to make the cover outstanding. I have not changed the font.

Yet other sites are telling me the cover must portray the genre, the cover must show mood, etc.

Just a note here: Mood is a word that was overused when I was studying oil painting techniques, water colour techniques, and cartooning and illustration. Mood is still an overused word. As far as I am concerned the image sets the mood. Enough said.

So I have been learning how to create covers readers are attracted to and decided to write it all in an article. This is the article.

I hope I get better at creating covers, and once the cover attracts the reader’s attention, they will read the blurb, then download the sample. If the sample of the novel is good enough, they will return and purchase the book. If the storytelling is good enough, hopefully, they will return and write a review.

Part B will cover the Basics of eBook Covers

Part C will cover the Software Required

Part D will cover researching Genre

Part E will cover my examples

How far along are you in understanding all the different areas of eBook creation?

Any questions or suggestions appreciated.


10 comments so far

  1. Linda Adams on

    Here’s some things that may be helpful:

    The cover has to show some hint of the genre and what’s to come in the book. A lot of people seem to just slap clip art on a cover and call it done, without thinking what it means to a reader who doesn’t know anything about a book. I look for action thrillers. What on earth does a closeup of an apple have to do with a thriller? That was a cover for a book I passed on. On the other hand, I ran across one that had a submarine on the surface, and I looked at that one because it suggested thriller elements. I have a contemporary fantasy thriller, so I’m having to think about what’s going to show the fantasy side, but what is also going to show the thriller side.

    I think writers also have to think about what they are marketing about themselves and how that will play into the cover design.

    The cover image and text should be visible in thumbnail, because that’s how most people will probably come across it. An incredibly detailed beautiful cover that would get interest in full-size will get a passover in thumbnail. Even Tess Gerritsen, who had a wonderful cover for her hardback book suggested to the publisher something different because the cover would lose something in paperback. Most indies do not seem to take this into account, so the covers are very hard to see in thumbnail, as you’ve noted. Unfortunately, it often seems like they just slap something on the cover and don’t really think much about it.

    I think the heads up photo is more of a trend for publishers in general in an effort to draw readers. With indie, it’s probably easier using a closeup than trying to find clip art that does the job (I do graphics; it’s often very hard finding just the right image). If you have a royalty free site you get the clip art from, there shouldn’t be any issues with models and agreements — though always read the agreement.

    • D J Mills on

      All wonderful points! Thank you so much.

      Yes, I agree about Branding and I cover a lot of what you suggest in Part B: Basics (ready to publish Friday 13) and Part D: Research Genre (ready to publish 27th). I also have Part C: Software ready to publish on 20th, and love manipulating photos to get the result I am searching for.

      I am still working on my examples but hopefully will have them ready for the blog by end of January.

  2. Shayne on

    I think the image, and the style of the image, is very important. IMO, the image should be of the highest quality the author can manage, because the cover is how the author makes their first impression on a reader. And the style of the image is important, too – whether it be a photo manip, or a vector illustration, or a comic style picture – because that will hint at the genre and type of story.

    • D J Mills on

      Hi, Shane. I think style means different things to everyone. I understand about 5 different styles of drawing cartoons, but they are all cartoons. I know of a few different styles of using oil paints, but the end result can be the same image. I believe genre is hinted at by objects, eg. scifi includes aliens, spaceships, stars, multiple moons, etc added to the image, or romance includes a male and female touching, or fantasy includes mythical creatures and bolts of lightning shooting out from a character’s hand, etc. Lighting, and shadows add “mood” to any image. Some art teachers believe adding a lot of grey adds “mood”. I also disagree with that after 40 odd years of painting portraits and illustrations and pen & ink drawings. 🙂

  3. Angela/Curiocat on

    This is a great start to your series. Can’t wait to read the rest.

    • D J Mills on

      Thanks. 🙂

  4. Shayne on

    Hey DJ,

    When I said ‘style’ I meant in the way that it connotes genre. Like, for example, you could have two covers of the same character crouched on the top of a tall building, but if the picture is drawn in the style of a Marvel comic the reader will make far different assumptions about the story than they would if it was done by an artist like Christ McGrath, who does dark, gritty urban fantasy covers for books like The Dresden Files.

    • D J Mills on

      Yes, I see what you mean. Also, I think TOR Books have good artists for all their covers.

  5. ekcarmel on

    All of this info is interesting and good to know! Thanks for doing this series, Diane.

    I got a Kindle for Christmas and noticed when browsing that the cover size is definitely small. Some beautiful covers are just impossible to see.

    Here’s how I looked for a book: Once I narrowed it down to genre and subgenre, I looked at covers and titles and author names. Author names will always get my attention first and cover art doesn’t matter then.

    If I don’t recognize an author, I’ll look at cover art and the title. I don’t care about typeface and size. The title itself, rather than how it’s placed on the cover, is what grabs me. I think the cover image is very subjective. I’m attracted to photography or lush images and will often pass over a cover with just bright colors and graphic designs or one where, as Linda Adams above said, “slap clip art on and call it done”.

    If the title or cover art catch my eye, then I’ll read the blurb and go from there.

    However, what to do on a budget? My personal opinion is to go simple and bold. A single color (or shades of one color) with a simple image and make the title bigger than the name. Of course, I could probably spend days looking for just that right image, myself.

    Again, everyone is different.

    • D J Mills on

      Thank you so much for sharing your ebook selecting process. I agree with your process. Search in a genre and subgenre you want to read removes the need for genre implications in the graphic. I agree with recognising author names in the text field next to the cover image. The Title is also in a text field next to the cover image. Logically, neither text is required on the cover, because they are next to the cover. So that leaves a few elements relating to the story, or one element relating to the title displayed in the postage stamp sized cover. I now have the summary of what ebook covers need sceheduled for 3rd Feb. 🙂

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