Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Getting the right eBook cover for your eBook

Getting the right eBook cover is incredibly difficult.

The number of elements in a design is much more complex than one might expect.

For a start you need to decide the basic style of the cover:

·         Hand drawn art scanned to digitise

·         Digital painting (done directly on the computer)

·         Photo manipulation (using photographs to create the design)

Then there's the issue of stock photography. Most covers incorporate commercially available images, but those images are not unique. They are available for anyone to buy right to use them, so some elements of your cover are likely to appear elsewhere. The unique part of the cover is how you use those stock images.

Fonts are another issue. Fonts aren't all free; and licensing some of the more unusual fonts can get expensive (as the owners don't always want to sell to individuals).

One of the biggest challenges in cover design is making sure it still looks good at thumbnail size. That means large easy to read fonts and an easily recognisable primary design element.

Often simplicity is the order of the day. Look at the top selling list on Amazon. A tie, a venetian mask, a pair of handcuffs, and a pile of bagels. Clean, simple but most importantly recognisable.

At the same time it has to look good when enlarged. Intricate design elements can show real depth here. If you're thinking about using the same design in print then you've got to be mindful of how it will look printed as well. Colours can be changed when printing, especially with PoD. Some images will become a little darker, and that can obscure some design elements.

The purpose of a cover is simple: to draw the eye of a reader. It's your first, and often only, chance to get them to click the link and read the blurb (or the sample). If at this point your work looks unprofessional, it won't be looked at, and if no-one is even glancing at the blurb you won't sell any copies.

Art can be expensive. Exclusive licences or copyright purchases are the best bet for authors as you have no idea how many times you'll need to reproduce the design, or if you might want to use it in a different market later on. Promotional materials need to be covered as well as using the work as a cover.

Rather than carry on talking about what works, and what doesn't, let's look at some actual art, and see what we all think. Click the thumbnails to enlarge.

Cover 1: Dead on Demand (Nadica Boskovska)

The obvious starting point; my own cover. This was done by the amazing Nadica Boskovska. She undertook the work as a 'work for hire' piece so on completion the copyright was mine. That means I can print bookmarks, trade paperbacks, fine art prints,  and anything else I can think of. The basic cover cost $150 (£94.45 at the time). Turning that into a wrap around for print cost me another £58.30 for a total spend of £152.75. I asked for an iconic London image, and this doesn't disappoint. The Battersea Park Gazebo is beautifully done in the centre of the image, and is recognisable as a minor landmark for those that have been to Battersea park. At the same time, it looks fairly scary. The shadow on the bench is obscured, but the 'stalkerish' vibe is there, and the vibrant blood reds show that something is about to happen (if you want to know what, read the book!).

I loved working with Nadica. She's incredibly enthusiastic, quick and the consummate professional. I got exactly the design I asked for, and that design is now on books from America to India. This work is a digital painting so it's completely unique; you won't find parts of the image elsewhere as is the risk with stock photos. The design works well as thumbnail with distinct colouration, but still has the minutiae of details you'd expect from a professional artist. I hope to go back to her when book #2 in the Inspector Morton series is done; this consistency should help me brand the series. This cover is distinctly autumnal in nature, and it would be great to work through the seasons.

Cover 2: Can't Sell, Won't Sell (Laura LaRoche)

This one is a photo manipulation. The elements are from image stock and the overall design is by Laura (who owns LLPix photography, Laura is the author of Black Woods which is spine tingling thriller only revised as of August 14th.

Laura charged me $65 (~£43) which was $45 (~£30) for this eBook cover, and further $20 to turn it into a print cover once I've formatted CSWS for Createspace.

The brief here is to make it obvious I'm selling nonfiction, and that this is a marketing text. As CSWS is mostly a loss leader for me (as I have done extensive free days for it, and will have one more this month before price matching to free for good) getting an affordable cover was key. I'm hoping I'll cover this cost long term through the tiny revenue I'll make from print copies. Writing CSWS was about giving back a little to the wonderful indie community that spurred us on during the challenge.

We're quite happy with this. It's clean, easily visible at thumbnail and it's dead obvious what the book is about. This cover was licensed under a Royalty Free Licence so we can use this pretty much where we want. We can modify the design as well so if we decide to change the title we can do that which gives some flexibility. This is one of the cheapest services around for getting wrap around custom covers done as many artists charge a much bigger premium to supply print ready covers. Laura also offers the flexibility of ordering an eBook cover now, and upgrading to a print cover at a later date.

Cover 3: Cornered by Patty Jansen.

"Cornered" is a pre-made cover. Instead of doing custom designs which take a great deal of time liaising with clients, pre-mades are a selection of covers that are, as you'd expect, already finished. Artists often specialise in a genre or style, and produce covers they like. Authors can then buy the cover with only minor modifications allowed (Typically colour swaps plus changing the title/ author name).

This is a very cost effective way to get a cover, and works well for short stories/ novellas that don't justify spending that bit extra to have a cover hand done.

This cover, with the name changed, cost a bargain $25 (£16.37).

Patty has a large selection done. She's particularly good with Dragon/ fantasy covers. As a prolific author herself (26 publications on Amazon) Patty understands what works, and what doesn't. For those looking for a low risk way of beefing up their eBook, this is a good one. You won't find a better quality cover this cheap. It's a simple process; pick from her selection on DeviantArt, contact her to confirm it's available, pay and then get the cover sent over with your name added to it.

Cover 4: The cover that isn't a cover: "Premonition" by Ana Fagarazzi

Ana Fagarazzi owns A F Studios (  Ana uses photo manipulation to create original works. She has a huge following on DeviantArt, and creates stunning high resolution art. She just recently advertised on the Kindleboards offering a sale on existing work. She charges (at present) $50-150 for an exclusive licence in the sale (half off her usual rates).

This includes exclusive use of the image; you buy it and it's yours to use as you wish for any purpose (but obviously you can't claim you made it, and Ana gets to use it for her portfolio).

The price includes minor adjustments to colour, trim size and adding fonts of your choice (royalty free fonts only).


This cost $100 (~£65) and can be used for print, and eBook. I think you'll agree this is pretty stunning work. The work on sale particularly suits fantasy/ YA/ romance genres.  Obviously this is 'pre-made' and she charges more for custom covers (contact her for a quote), but it's a quality option for longer novels/ those you expect to recoup the investment on.

What do you think?
We think this gives a fair snapshot at the market. There are plenty of offerings about. If you design covers please get in touch, and we'll hapilly feature you here on the blog. If you've just had a cover done and want to show off, likewise drop us an email on
We hope this gives you all an idea of what to look for; any comments on the Art/ our analysis is much appreciated, and any comments on the art will be forwarded on to the artists.

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