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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guest Post: What Makes a Good Book Cover? The Secret of Great Design

Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post by Katie Woodbine, co-owner of ebook buddy, a successful ebook design and formatting company.

In her article Katie sets out some of the key qualities of a good e-book cover. Anyone who publishes their work on Amazon or other e-book publishing platforms should take careful note of this advice...

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With only one chance to make the right first impression, covers are critical to getting a book noticed. So what makes a good e-book cover?

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, the world's largest distributor of indie ebooks, explores the importance of cover design in his (free) ebook The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success. He looks at the example of R.L. Mathewson, a romance writer who went from selling five or six copies a day of her novel Playing For Keeps to over 1,000 by simply replacing her book's cover image. Such is the power of a book cover.

'Book covers sell ebooks. A great cover makes a promise to the reader on a visceral level. It's aspirational,' Coker explained in a recent interview. 'A great cover makes an instant emotional connection to the target reader.'

So how do you create such a connection with a potential reader? Let's explore some of the techniques used by professional designers to create powerful and effective book covers.

Communication is Key 

A good cover 'talks' to its readers, quickly, clearly and efficiently communicating what the book is about. A reader should be able to tell the genre and tone of the book from a single glance, through careful selection of typography, imagery and metaphor.

Size Matters 

This is especially true when it comes to ebooks, when a thumbnail image of your cover is often all you have to get your book noticed. Always test your design by reducing its size to a thumbnail. Look closely to see if the title and author's name are still clear and legible. Is the design still coherent and meaningful? If not, revisit the design and simplify it.


There's no point in having a killer title if people don't see or notice it. The same goes for the author's name. If you're a well-known author your name will sell books, but people will still need to see it on the cover. Pay close attention to the choice of font, styling, sizing and positioning. Ask yourself, are the title and author's name clearly visible, readable, striking and enticing?

Smart Use of Colours 

The psychology of colour is an old and well-used marketing trick. We all know, for instance, that red attracts the eye, and using colours wisely can greatly assist in getting your book's message over. Just remember that your cover will need to work in black and white as well, as not all e-readers display in colour.

Image is Everything 

The image used on the cover is often more important than the title and author's name. 'A picture paints a thousand words' is advice well heeded. Use a sharp, high-quality image and ask yourself whether it conveys the overall tone, feel and message of the book effectively. If it looks pretty but is completely off topic, it can be misleading (and off-putting) for potential readers.


If your book is a period piece, be sure to stay true to the era. Choice of image, font and colour palette are crucial in imparting a sense of authority. The same goes for all genres; if your story is set in the future but uses an old-fashioned scripted font, for example, the two will jar and deter potential readers. Attention to detail in this way can make all the difference between selling your book or having it collect dust on the (virtual) bookshelf.

Standing Out But Also Fitting In

A helpful exercise is to browse for covers in your local bookshop or the catalogue pages of Amazon. Look for books in the same genre and choose covers that attract your attention. Ask yourself what it is about them that makes them eye-catching. Then compare your cover to theirs. Does it fit in? Does it look as though it belongs on the shelf beside them? If so, chances are you have a winning cover on your hands.

There's no doubt about it, great covers sell books. As Mark Coker says, 'A poor cover creates unnecessary friction that prevents a reader from clicking to sample or purchase a book. Great covers eliminate friction.' To give your book the best chance of being discovered, purchased and then read, it's therefore essential to begin with a beautiful, eye-catching cover.

About the Author: Katie Woodbine is the co-owner of ebook buddy, the self-publishing and ebook specialists. If you're looking for a dynamic cover for your book, why not let ebook buddy's team of graphic designers turn your vision into a reality! Check out our cover design packages for more information and prices.

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Thank you to Katie for an interesting and useful article. If you have any comments or questions about it, as always, please feel free to post them below.

And equally, if you have any tips of your own for creating effective e-book covers, I'd love to hear them!

Photo by courtesy of Fotolia, used with permission.

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