You’ve written an ebook, and now you want to publish. Well first things first, you’re going to need a cover. Sure you could hire one of the many talented and capable designers out there to create a cover for you. But if you’re like me, then you’ll want to try and do it yourself.
There are a few ways to go about creating a captivating and engaging cover. In the following blog posts, I will attempt to demystify the process and give you the tools to create just what your book needs: a simple, eye-catching and genre-appropriate cover.
The tips and lesson within can apply to all genres of books, but Romance and Erotica are just what we do around these parts.
Part 1: General Ebook Cover Concepts
Things You’ll Need
- Stock Photo(s)
- (Optional) Graphics Tablet
Planning and Preparation
Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of design, there are a couple of things you need. This tutorial series focuses on Adobe Photoshop CS6 or higher. A lot of what we talk about you can do in any version, and you can get an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for just $10 a month. If you’re interested in creating covers and other visual works, Photoshop is worth its weight in gold.
If you don’t have access to Photoshop, then the next best thing is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) which is a free application that has a lot of the same features as Photoshop. However, I find it a bit less user-friendly than Photoshop, but that just might be my bias showing.
This tutorial assumed you have a basic grasp of Photoshop tools and techniques. But even if you’re not experienced, follow along. I’ll be linking to tutorials that provide more information.
If you are a very basic beginner, then I suggest checking out some of these to help you get to grips with using the software:
The first, and arguably most important, step in creating your ebook cover is research. You wouldn’t just jump in the deep-end without looking, so why should designing your cover be any different? If you want to create a compelling, informative and eye-catching cover, then you have to see what is selling.
The best way to figure out what works on a cover is to find ones that you like and then try to figure out why. Each genre has its tropes, clichés and expectations. By no means do you have to stick to the classic clichés, but they become that way for a reason.
Above you can see the thumbnail size that most users will see when browsing the store. So make sure that your cover looks good even at very small sizes!
Your first step is to try and find some inspiration for your own cover. But we’re not going to copy exactly what we see, just be inspired by the general ideas and designs. You’ll use this inspiration to help what stock photos you wish to purchase and even inform your choice of fonts and colors (which we’ll get to later).
Above is a quick outline on what you might look at when researching covers. Try pick out elements you like, and what works. Always keep your audience in mind, and if it’s sex you’re selling then a half naked model goes a long way.
Once you’ve done your research, you’re going to need some photos. The easiest thing to do is to buy stock photos, not only so you have the correct licence but paid sites make it easy to find what you need.
There are free options that I recommend for when you’re staring out or testing out an idea. The Creative Commons licence is a great place to start for images that you can use.
Since we’re trying to create a professional product, short of setting up your own photo shoot, stock photos are the way to go. There are a lot of different websites out there, and make sure to reach the licenses thoroughly.
Free Stock Photos
With a photo ready, and your inspiration firmly in mind it’s time to delve into the world of ebook covers!
Don’t be overwhelmed, you’re going to need time, patience and a little creativity to create the cover of your dreams. You also shouldn’t worry about failing because you will make mistakes. However, the beauty of ebooks is that you can always update them after the fact!
Fonts and Styling
Fonts are an important part of creating any cover. You want to use something eye-catching sure, but the main thing it should be is legible. Most of the time your cover is going to be displayed as a small thumbnail image, and if your font is too decorative, lacks contrast, or is otherwise too small it will be hard to read.
When you were doing your research, I’m sure your eyes are drawn to covers with big, bold fonts that give an idea what the book contains. You want your reader to look at your cover and get a sense of the genre and immediately be able to read the title.
Picking fonts is a bit of an art in itself and like stock photos there are various licences involved. Make sure you only use fonts that are available for commercial use if you’re selling your book. Thankfully there are a wide variety of these to choose from.
- FontSquirrel.com – Free fonts for commercial use, a great resource.
- Dafont.com – Another free resourse, but make sure to check the licence.
- Fonts.com – If you want to buy some fonts.
Guidelines and Creating your Cover file
This tutorial is focused on creating an ebook cover for sale, and the largest retailer is Amazon and their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. But they’re not the only sore in the game, and we want to try and create a cover that is workable across all storefronts.
Thankfully, these guidelines are pretty similar.
The KDP guidelines suggest:
- a TIFF or JPEG file.
- A minimum of 625 pixels on the shortest size and 1000 pixels on the longest.
- Best quality guidelines give a image size of 1536 x 2500 pixels.
Draft2Digital, an ebook distributor suggests a JPEG of 1600 x 2400 pixels.
These suggested sizes are similar. All Smoldering Books covers are created at 1800 x 2700 pixels and 300 DPI. Choose whatever works for you, and as long as it’s big enough you will be able to adapt to any store or retailer.
Once we have our basic file ready, we’re ready to start creating.
Your cover is the most visual well you will sell your book. An important step in the creative process is figuring out the branding of your pen name or series. This is important two-fold to create: a recognisable identity within your genre and a consistent, easy style to replicate.
Now if you’re working on your very first book I don’t expect you to get things right off the bat. The beauty with ebooks is that you can change the cover at the drop of a hat. But branding and visual consistency is something to consider before you get started.
Think about the fonts you want to use, the style of images, and how to best represent to your reader that the product you’re creating is something they need to buy. We’re aiming for clean, punchy and professional.
Below are some examples of the branding we use at Smoldering Books. It’s not perfect, but things rarely are in life. But you can see the different layers of visual consistency which creates brand recognition. Readers might not remember your author name, but they will remember a striking cover style.
It is important to create a visual link between books. A lot of authors of series even use the same image for the cover, sometimes with a color overlay or tweaked in some way to give consistency.
Above an example of simple branding across author Oliver Thrust. Note the use of same fonts for author name and titling, similar text effect placement and images. These are all simple ways to create a cohesive look for your author brand.
I hope that’s given you some ideas of where to go from here, make sure to check out Part 2: A Simple Erotica Ebook Cover to find out how to put these steps in to action and start designing!