This year I’ve been participating in the mentor program over at the Romance Divas forum as a self-publishing mentor. The program is great, by the way, matching more experienced writers in several areas – craft, business, marketing – with apprentices. I’ve participated in the past and had some really fab results! My apprentice this year is paranormal romance writer Deanna Chase, who write the Jade Calhoun series. This is the first time I’ve mentored specifically on self-publishing, so it’s also the first time I’ve really sat down and wrote out a how-to about certain aspects of self-publishing. And, I have to say, I feel like I’m leaning (or at least re-learning) almost as much as my apprentice. So many things that I’ve kind of taken for granted since starting, I’m re-looking at, re-designing, and seeing with fresh eyes again for the first time. It’s very enlightening! So, since I already got a lot of this stuff written down, I thought I’d share some tips here, too.
As most of you know, there are a lot of different aspects to self-publishing, so I’m going to break it down a bit and spread out my tips over several posts. But I wanted to start with maybe one of the most important parts of your self-published ebook – the cover!
The number one thing I tell people who are new to self-publishing is that ebooks are not books. For the most part, you’re not selling ebooks to a book reading audience – they’re ebook readers. (And, usually even more specifically Kindle or Nook or Kobo readers.) So, your ebook cover can’t follow the same guidelines as a book cover. With a paper book, readers are going to be browsing your book largely in bookstores where they’ll be seeing a large, 4X6 (or bigger) cover. That’s a very large canvas to work with! With ebooks, most readers will purchase them while browsing either on their ereaders or online. You only have a thumbnail sized canvas with which to grab their attention here. The way you design for 1.5 X1.5 browsing size thumbnail vs. 4X6 has to be different.
As writers, most of us have an artistic bent to our personalities. We want out covers to look pretty or cool or interesting. But as our own publishers, we need to check the artist at the door and let our inner marketing execs take over when it comes to covers. Forget pretty – let’s think about what will sell our books. How do we grab readers with this tiny canvas?
Take a look at my page on Amazon.com. This is about the size that most browsing readers will see your book covers. This is the ultimate test when creating your covers. Shrink them down to this size and see how they look.
Ebook covers should be:
1. Eye-catching enough to stand out among the other books in your genre. If your cover is too dark or too light, it will blend into the background. (Especially when someone is browsing on their black & white ereader!) Bright, bold colors work well.
2. Simple. Whatever graphic you use should be distinguishable even at thumbnail size, so don’t use anything too intricate. If you have lots of graphic design in the background of your image, it’s going to look like a jumbled mess at thumbnail size.
3. Easy to read. Scrolling or fancy fonts don’t translate well. I’d stick to large, bold, block letters. Adding to this… you name should be big. With traditional publishers, the bigger the “star” an author is, the bigger the name will be on the cover. So readers are trained to equate size of name with importance of author. Since we’re self-pubbing, we can make our names as big as we want! Clearly you don’t want to go overboard into gawdy territory with this, but I’d make sure it’s at least as big as your cover art allows while still looking nice and balanced.
4. Depict your genre at first glance. Very important! If you’re writing mystery, there needs to be some element of danger on the cover. If it’s romance, show two lovers. If it’s erotic, show them with less clothing on. This goes for traditional publishing as well, but may be even more important with ebooks, since someone browsing is looking at page full of dozens of covers at a time and can browse through them so much faster.
5. Fluid. Once you have a traditional cover, you can’t change it. Love it or hate it, it is what it is. Ebooks are not so. If your books are not selling well, you can, and should, change the covers. If you win an award or hit a bestseller list, that should go on your cover as well. This is a fast changing industry, so you have to be ready to change with it. Along those lines… make sure that however you get your cover art, it comes with the ability to make minor tweaks. This is one reason that I make my own covers, though I know that isn’t feasible for everyone. But I would make sure that you either a) get a layered file from your cover artist so that you can easily change things like font size or color yourself or b) make an agreement with your cover artist for her to execute small changes quickly and at a low cost.
I hope this helps! Cover art was the very first thing I worked with my apprentice on, and I have to say that with a few very minor tweaks, Deanna’s covers are gorgeous and selling well! In fact, since she started the program her sales have doubled and she is now making more from writing and she is from her day job. I’m thrilled for her, and I hope you all go check out her books, as they’re a really fun series. She’s got two out now and is working hard to release a third later this year.
It’s Your Turn, WG2E-Land: Let’s hear your “Cover Stories” and/or any questions or concerns you have about Ebook Covers…
The Best of Ebook Cover Wishes — Gemma Halliday