What makes a great ebook cover design?
It would be nice if I could just give you a simple, straight-forward answer to that. But I don’t think anyone can. What I can do is list some of the factors that work together to create a successful design. You’ll see some or all of these factors in great covers:
The book is interesting
I know that’s an incredibly obvious statement. But it’s important to understand that you can’t expect your cover to overcome a weak book concept. You could have the most stunning cover in the world, but if your book is of interest only to technicians who do repairs on a particular brand of vintage typewriters, or has a similarly limited audience, even the most stunning cover won’t get people to buy the book.
Appropriateness for the genre
Whether in a book store or online, there is a sea of book covers, and each one of those covers is vying for attention. So at a minimum, you want people to understand what genre your book is in before they even read the title. If a book is for children, the cover should scream that right away. If it’s a murder mystery, then the graphics should convey that at a glance. Books in those two genres would seldom be confused if the covers are designed correctly. The same goes for period fiction, romance novels, true crime, non-fiction titles and any other type of book you can think of. Each should have images (or in some cases, just text) that give a potential buyer a clear idea of what the book is about without their even having to think. This doesn’t mean you have to be literal with the imagery. You just want to convey the appropriate vibe for your genre, and, of course, for your specific book.
This is an extension of the appropriateness issue mentioned above. It’s so important, though, that it needs to be mentioned separately. The presence of color, as well as the appropriateness of it for the genre and the images used on the cover, is critical. The appeal of a certain color or color scheme is subjective. But having colors that both complement your genre and catch the eye will go a long way toward helping your book cover stand out. In some cases (if the designer knows what they’re doing), jarring color combinations can be used. Be careful with this though. There is sometimes be a very a short hop between innovative and downright ugly.
With the advent of the e-book, it’s more important than ever to have your book cover, and especially your title (and in some cases the author’s name), be eye-catching. Just take one look at the Kindle book overview page on Amazon and you’ll see what I mean. Those book covers are pretty tiny, yet I’ll bet you can read every one of them at a glance. The books change all the time on that page, so I don’t know which ones you’ll see. But if a book makes it to the Kindle page — at least at the top of the page — I can pretty much guarantee that the cover designer knew what they were doing.
Here are some books that were popular on Kindle on August 21, 2013:
Being eye-catching isn’t an exact science by any means, but that phenomenon usually happens when there is a combination of readable, and usually large, title text; an appealing color and; in some cases, an interesting image. Color and text size are easy for a designer to control, but finding the right image can sometimes be a harder. Having said that, it’s important to note that many successful book covers use text alone to create their magic.
Author identity is clear
You’ll want to make sure your name is visible and given importance on the cover. This is particularly important if your book is part of a series. Why? Because as an author, you’re your own brand; just like Coca Cola, Target or any other business entity. You’ll often see the title size get bigger on an author’s books, the more successful they become. Sometimes a popular author’s name will be twice the size of the title, because they know people will buy the next book by them, no matter what it’s titled.
[two_third]You don’t have to make your name appear huge on your covers early in your writing career; just make sure it’s highly visible. Along the same lines, you’ll want to use the same type of cover design for each book in a series, because this also builds brand awareness. You can (and usually should) change the colors and, to a certain extent the layout, but having all the covers in a series look similar will help with creating instant recognition. There is one caveat though: don’t make the books look so similar that it creates confusion for readers.
Conveys a sense of urgency, time sensitivity or the ability to solve a problem
This usually applies to how-to or other non-fiction books. A great idea will usually sell if you can convey through text and/or images that there’s a reason the reader needs to buy it NOW.
The X Factor
The X Factor – that certain something that sets a cover apart – is a little harder to plan for and can sometimes be purely the result of serendipity. It can come from looking similar (but definitely not the same) as a very popular product, toy, movie poster or even another book. Sometimes it can come from using the hot colors of the moment. This is why knowing what’s hot and what’s not can really help you. It will allow you to key into what people are buying, and also give you inspiration for creating your own successful covers.
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I recommend that you study the covers of books that are selling well in your genre — and maybe even in others — to draw inspiration and see what’s currently working. You never want to copy someone else’s cover, but sometimes you can pull ideas from several covers and mesh them to create your own unique look.
By Carla Chadwick