All Your Cover Art Questions Answered

A well-designed and considered cover is not only critical for your publication’s sales and marketing, it sets the tone for your reader. At Woopie, we get a lot of questions from publishers about how to go about designing their cover or getting one done for them, so this week and next week we have articles with answers to those most frequently asked questions. Because there are a lot of things to cover, this week we will focus on things to consider like content and image size, while next week we’ll talk more about how and where to get great covers.

Things to consider for cover art: 

1) First impressions matter
Book covers, like wine labels, often cause people to make snap judgements. Colors and typography affect our moods and impressions of what something will be. Background images can be dreamy or serious or puzzling, and those, too, affect how people judge a book cover. 

Take a look at the page below from Barnes & Noble’s Nook Fiction homepage. Could you have guessed from the covers alone which category each of the four books belongs in? 

screenshot of the Nook Fiction page on Barnes and Noble's website

Many people could because they make sense to us. The swirling mystery background. The strong serif fonts of the fantasy book with mystical imagery. 

Another thing you might notice is what is actually readable on the cover. Does the author’s name matter more or the book title? Maybe it’s a famous critic’s comments that you actually want to stand out. Remember that at small sizes, only a couple of words will be readable, so make sure they’re the ones that will make the bigger impact.

2) Different Focus
Your cover will be seen at different sizes on different devices. Something that looks fantastic when you’re standing in a bookstore looking at a shelf might be completely ineffective in a digital version. 

Look at the difference between what we see of the cover on an iPad versus an iPhone: 

screenshot of covers of iBooks on an iPad
screenshot of covers of books on an iPhone 6

Paying attention to this means that we can be very thoughtful when we crop & resize covers. The right image for one marketplace is not necessarily the right image for another. 

This is the view from Amazon’s Kindle store on an iPad browser: 

screenshot of Amazon's Kindle store in an iPad browser

If you’re lucky enough to be a featured book, readers see a pretty decent sized cover. However if you’re one of the sales books on the right side, they’re pretty tiny covers.

3) One size [cover] doesn’t fit all
iBooks: 

If you’re publishing in iBooks, ideally your cover would be either 768×1024 pixels for portrait mode or 2048×1496 pixels for landscape or full-page image mode.

Apple recommends you use JPG for opaque raster images and PNG for transparent raster images if possible. 

For Newsstand, Apple made a change a while back that allows both portrait and landscape versions for subscription content covers: (more on that here

image of Apple's recommendations for layout options for both landscape and portrait subscription apps

Kindle: 

For Kindle books, Amazon last year upped the maximum pixel limits for ebook covers. Minimum size is 625×1000 but ideally 2820×4500, with a 5MB file size limit. 

Kindle does not accept PNG images, only JPG and TIFF files.

Nook:

Nook recommends your image’s height and width to be at least 1400 pixels, and requires a minimum of 750 pixels for both height and width. 

Nook accepts either JPG or PNG files. 

Do I have to make loads of different sized covers?

In terms of size, you can generally make a call on this if you don’t want to be designing 16 different covers. For portrait covers, which are the most common, a ratio of 1:5 (6×9) works well for most publishers. Start with the largest, highest quality size you can and scale down as needed, so something like 3200×4800 pixels. 

Spend some time thinking about what matters for your cover. It will pay off in sales and marketing efforts, but it will also help keep you off of this list: http://kindlecoverdisasters.tumblr.com/

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