Indie Corner: E-Book Cover Elements and Design

Vision 67

Indie Corner:

E-Book Cover Elements and Design


J.A. Marlow

Copyright © 2012, J.A. Marlow, All Rights Reserved





A cover is one of the most important marketing tools for a book. This is a vital element that has carried over from print books into the e-book arena. Humans are visual creatures. We love color, movement, action, mood, shadows, and shape. Each of us is personally drawn to a different combination of the above.


For book covers certain aspects seem to work more consistently than others. This is an area where authors suddenly have tremendous control by going Indie. I've read a number of books where the cover had nothing to do with what was inside. As a reader I was very disappointed, as the cover initially helped make the sale.


Some have argued that covers don't make as much difference in the e-world as they do in a bookstore. After all, most ereaders are still black and white and when you start reading you typically don't see the cover anyway. Besides, a reader can't touch it.


Evidence proves otherwise, and for a very good reason. The same reason they are so important in a bookstore: visibility.


If the book isn't visible to the potential buyer then the book is unlikely to sell. It doesn't matter if they can't touch the cover, they can still SEE the cover. As I mentioned before, we are visual creatures, and that fact should not be underestimated.


There are two main ways to find a book on online stores: browse and search.


Both methods will typically result in a display of grids or list consisting of the thumbnail of the cover, the title, and the price. Those three items must push a potential buyer to the next step, which is to click through to the product page where the book description and sample might incite them to buy.


So, cover is still just as important in the e-book world as it is in the physical book world. In the initial steps of browsing or searching, the cover, title, and price will combine to create interest. The general buying public still very much 'judges a book by its cover'. Those who ignore this generally pay for it in loss of sales and lack of attention.


When I went Indie, I wanted to make sure each cover represented the interior of the book, so that the reader had some idea of what they were buying. At the same time, the cover needed to entice a potential buyer. These two things are not always easy to balance.


The cover design of a book on sale in a bookstore should include the following items:


  • Indicate genre.
  • Entice the browser to pick up the book and read the back blurb.

As if that weren't enough, the e-book have unique requirements not typically needed by a print book on sale in a bookstore. These elements include:


* Clear and striking main image with only a few main design elements. Know and play up the focus of the cover.

  • Shrinks down well to a thumbnail size with title, author name, and graphics still easily readable and identifiable.
  • Avoid white backgrounds (The cover won't show up well in the searches as a thumbnail). If white is necessary, design it with a frame about the edges.

Now we move on to figuring out the actual design of the e-book while keeping in mind the points listed above. With some books the cover is obvious. It might be an image of the character, a specific scene, or a vital element in the story.


Other e-books are more difficult. For the difficult books, I approached the cover issue methodically by first making a list of the major visual elements of each of the books. This can include scenes of importance or conflict, specific characters, a location, or a special item or element. Does anything in this list make sense for a cover?


The above step is important, even though to some it might seem silly. You wrote the book, you obviously know it. Right?


Well, yes, in a way. The problem is that some of the elements might be lurking only in your subconscious. It doesn't do much good back there. It needs to be brought into your conscious mind. Only then do you truly see it, can the rest of your mind play with it, can it become an active part of the design.


Some ideas will be too complex to be identifiable when shrunk down to thumbnail size. Others too simple. Some not striking enough. Some might fit the book but may indicate a different genre than intended.


More than the list might be needed. Don't be afraid to pull up the browser, point it to your favorite ebook retailer website, and start looking at the covers in the category you believe your book will fit in. Browse art sites such as Deviantart and put your keywords in one by one. See what comes up.


Any themes present? Subject matter? Colors used? Any colors not seen? Design elements that appeared used more than others, or that caught the eye and held your attention longer than a brief scan? Typeface? How did the title and author name stand out?


Whether doing your own cover art, or hiring a contractor to do it, all of the above is important. A graphic designer doesn't have time to read all the books he/she designs covers for. They need good information from the author in order to do a good job on the cover.


That means the author needs to have some idea going in on how they want to market the book. Know the cover focal image and answer all the questions mentioned above (and more) so you can articulate to the designer what you want from the end result. This will result in a good cover with a minimum of frustration and money.


The more information you can pass on, the better chance the designer has of hitting the mark the first time.


This applies even if you are producing the cover yourself. If you are using stock images it will narrow your focus in your search for the right images to use. If you are a graphic artist or painter, then it will help you solidify the design, allowing you to produce the cover with a minimum of trouble.


As with so many things in the Indie world, if it doesn't work, or you are unhappy with the attention the book is getting, you can change the cover. As an Indie, you have that power.


Don't take it personally if a first cover doesn't work. Learn from the experience and apply the knowledge to the next attempt and to future covers. The skills, work, and time invested will not be for nothing.


Remember the cover is one of your best marketing tools. Not only will the cover be used in the online e-book retailer websites, but it will also be used on your website, blog, as well as used in any miscellaneous marketing you partake in such as interviews and blog tours. It is worth spending a little extra time on.


Now, go. Create the e-book cover of your dreams.