Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Book By Its Cover

Yes, people judge books by their covers.

And titles.

And blurbs.

And the first 300 words.

Words mean things. In most cases words mean many things (silly old bear). And how they're displayed, interact with their environment, as well as the sentences they make all work together to create a first impression upon a potential buyer that is hard to shake.

Because of the e-revolution in publishing, thumb sized covers are becoming critical for gaining readers' interest as they browse online bookstores.

A few points I've picked up to create a better ebook cover include:
  • simple image or composite that is clear
  • readable typography, large enough font
  • title and byline, and very little other text
  • branding images/fonts for books in series
Updates (suggested in comments):
  • genre appropriate (image and font match style of book)
  • continuity with the print edition, but necessarily different
Anything I'm forgetting? What works for you?

Also, check out this month's submissions to Joel Friedlander's e-Book Cover Design Competition. Some pretty good ones there and some, when judged in light of the above points, are, um, not so good.

The one to the left didn't win, but in my opinion, was the best of the bunch. It was designed by Damonza, who has this to say about what makes a quality fiction cover. (BTW, there's a cover two above Arson at Friedlander's that had me saying wow. I'll leave it at that.)

Next time I'll talk about titles, blubs, and the first 300 words. In the mean time, talk to me about your take on all this. I'm interested.


  1. I followed your tweet to the cover design competition last night - very interesting. And I have to admit, that when I'm scrolling through the free books for Kindle, more often than not if the cover doesn't grab me, the title gets a tiny chance and then I'm moving by. And that's for something *free*. If I'm paying, the cover definitely needs to grab me.

    The branding for series is something I hadn't given much thought to - but it's something to keep in mind.

    I also think you need to pay attention to your genre and make covers that fit. For example, if you're writing romance, you probably don't want a black cover background. Even if it looks really cool.

  2. Good call on the genre appropriateness of the cover. I'll add that to my list. :)

  3. I did a series on book covers not too long ago. I analyzed covers of books I both loved and hated--some were covers I loved and books I hated, and some the reverse. The third in the series focused on those that I loved both cover and book. I don't talk about the components in the same way you do here, but you might find it interesting.

    I also wanted to say that I think cover standards for print and ebook are different. YES, even print book covers need to look good on-screen, since so many people shop online. But what looks good on-screen doesn't always translate the same in print. And some ebook covers I've seen would look, imho, amateurish in print.

    Anyway, if you're interested, the links to my blog posts on cover art are:

  4. Thanks, Kat, will read those posts. And yes, ebook and print editions should have continuity but can't be the same. Good point.

  5. Hey, that is a nice cover. I agree: clarity and large enough fonts are key -- I've had to revise a few of mine on KDP after they've gone up.

  6. What, the Cooking with Pooh cover? ;) It's nice, but the concept of cooking with that substance is what I object to. lol Anyway, I think it's so cool that we can change covers as needed in this age of e-publishing. Say our unrelated books suddenly find a theme or become part of a series - we can do the covers over and rebrand them as a package. Never know, possibilities are plenty. Thanks for your input.


Keep it clean and positive. (And sorry about the word verification, but the spmb*ts are out in full force!)