Here are a list of a few things to consider when designing a cover for your ebook. The secret is to produce something that attracts your particular audience and conveys the substance and quality of the writing – and ideally enhances it. Compared to a printed cover, Kindle books are viewed in the first instance at a very small size on the Amazon bookshelves so bear this in mind.
1. Book size. Make sure you produce the cover at the correct size. Although there is some dispute over this and the image size seems exceedingly big. This is KDP’s recommendations: A minimum of 625 pixels on the shortest side and 1000 pixels on the longest side. For best quality, your image would be 1563 pixels on the shortest side and 2500 pixels on the longest side.
Working at the larger size is a good idea as you might want to print your book in the future and this image resolution will be perfectly adequate.
2. Are you sure about your title? A long title will take up a lot of space on the cover. If too small a font size will look unreadable and messy. Similarly, unless you have an international bestseller or reviews from the Sunday Times, avoid any extra information on the cover. At small sizes text tends to look like fly excreta on the Amazon bookshelves. This can always be added on the Amazon page itself as part of the description. Your title might already exist in the booklists so worth checking. Just make sure it isn’t listed in your particular genre.
3. Ask yourself some questions. You’re a writer. Now you have to think visually. Are there any visual elements in the book which would set the scene/create the atmosphere without giving the story away? If non-fiction, is there a visual element to represent your concepts and content? One of the hardest things to do is avoid clichés but even they can be very effective if treated in the right way.
4. Colour. The cover has to be submitted in RGB, the web and screen native colour space. JPEG or TIFF format. Bear in mind that some Kindles have black and white screens and some colour combinations won’t show. If this is of concern to you it’s best to do a test to see what the cover looks like in black and white. Mind you, not many people are concerned about the cover once they’ve purchased the book. White covers can sometimes get lost on the Amazon bookshelves against a white background so adding a 3-5 pixel border of pale grey can often help. If you are having trouble choosing colours and you have no knowledge of colour theory, try looking at other design work and covers on the web to find something which may work for you.
5. Photographs and illustrations. Using photographs as a background is very common for setting the tone of the book. Be very careful where you get the photograph from. Do not just download something off the web without checking copyright. The best thing to do is to use a photo library. Prices can vary form about £3 to £1000s. If you use one make sure it is at adequate quality. Be warned that many photos in the libraries have been used countless times and may appear on other book covers! When selecting a photograph, try not to give the story’s game away. Abstract concepts can be much more effective. Remember also that an area of the image will have the title and author on, so a photo with too much going on just won’t work. Photomontage and manipulation are a very good way to get your cover just right…. but please don’t attempt this yourself unless you know how to use Photoshop. Bad cutouts and colour mismatches can make covers look dreadful. If you are using illustrations, again use a professional. These are also available on libraries for purchase.
6. Typography and fonts. Keep it simple. AVOID fancy fonts, 3D effects, drop shadows, compression, stretching etc… unless you know what you’re doing. They will make your cover look amateurish. Avoid very small text especially serif fonts, it looks messy on screen. In fact even large serif fonts ‘break up’ on screen. Try reducing your cover to see how it looks. Whatever you do, try to maintain quality. Larger font sizes can often be made to look more attractive by kerning. This is reducing the spaces between each letter.
7. Design Research. My advice is to look at LOTS of other covers, especially ones of the same genre. Your cover doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s. If yours is slightly different it might be more attractive to someone browsing although as a general rule people do look for similar covers. Collect the ones you like from Amazon. Decide what it is you like about them. Look at other areas of design too.
8. Layout. Unless you’re a designer you might struggle a bit with this. All you need is the title and the author (you don’t need ‘by’). The title doesn’t have to be huge. If you look at well-known authors you might notice that they have their names bigger than the book titles. Try LOTS of variations. this isn’t a two minute job. You’ve spent a long time writing your book – the cover IS important.
9. Branding. Something to consider if you plan to write more than one book. Think about how your book would appear as a series with a similar style.
10. The alternative. Hire a professional. Visit the ebook designer and see what he has to offer.