All Your Cover Art Questions Answered – Part II

Last week we talked about things to consider for cover art in terms of sizes, dimensions, and focus. This week, we’re talking about where to find cover artwork or a cover art designer. 

Designing a cover for a digital publication, especially something that needs to work at different sizes, is an art and not something everyone feels comfortable with. 

If you want to design it yourself:

You’ll need a tool like Photoshop, Acorn, Gimp, or some other image editor.
Think a lot about what’s obvious and what isn’t obvious about your publication. It’s easy to make a cover which reflects the content in a way that readers are familiar with: murder mysteries have blood or knives, westerns have a cowboy on a horse, romance has a damsel in distress, etc. But a great cover captures something about the book that makes the reader think. 

There are many online tutorial videos and courses such as this one on designing a book cover in photoshop: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITe3AfVCGYk

For inspiration, check out sites like http://bookcoverarchive.com/ and http://www.goodreads.com/.

If you find you’re enjoying the cover design work, a good resource is Peter Mendelsund’s Cover, (http://www.amazon.com/Cover-Peter-Mendelsund/dp/1576876675) which came out last year. Mendelsund is one of the most sought-after book cover designers in the world, and Cover, which he released last year, includes completed book jackets, rejected works, and reflections on the art and process of cover design.

If you need some art work:

If you’re drawing a blank, you can also try Amazon’s KDP Cover Creator. Alternately, perhaps it’s time to think about hiring a professional.

If you want to hire a pro:

Depending on your budget, you may want to hire someone who does this full-time and is an expert at it. Expect to pay anywhere from $99 up to $1000, depending on the designer’s experience and clientele.

Some professional ebook designers we’ve noticed online:

http://ebooklaunch.com/ebook-cover-design/

http://www.creativindiecovers.com/

http://www.bookcovercafe.com/book-cover-design/

Another great resource for this is the forum section of Goodreads, you’ll find many discussions like this one:

https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/837698-book-cover-artists-illustrators

For more great suggestions, check out the list here:

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/bookcoverdesign/

Some lovely editorial and ebook cover designers we found on dribbble (search for things like “ebook, book, covers”):

And some from Bēhance (search for things like “editorial design, ebook”):

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/

Distributing books for free while building marketing lists

How would you distribute a book if you needed to build a marketing list?

image of a free book-sharing neighborhood library

For many eBook publishers and authors, knowing who is reading your work is as important as making it available in the first place. But there are a few things to think about in terms of restricting content, even if it’s being given away for free. Digital Rights Management, or DRM, and other forms of locking down a book often make it more painful for readers and does more to dissuade the audience you’re looking for.  

Limiting Access

There isn’t one best way in terms of distribution because it always depends on the publisher’s situation and requirements. So here are a few that we have found work great and are the least painful for the people who really want to read your stuff:

* Unique URLs per reader – If you want to send a book out to your mailing list, you can use a tool which creates a unique URL for each person on your mailing list. Obfuscated URLs, perhaps through a hash on the person’s email address or signup date, are a good way to make it difficult for external folks to guess it. However, people can share it publicly of course which brings us to:   

* Time-delimited URLs – You can set a download link that is available for a specific amount of time, only 24 hours or only one week for example. Again they are shareable, but putting a start and end on it means that you can monitor to minimize public sharing. If that’s not restrictive enough:   

* One-time-click links – You can also set a link so that once someone hits it multiple times it expires. This means that essentially everyone gets one shot to download the content. Which is fine if they’re logged in on the device where they want to download it, but that may not always be the case. So as a backup: 

* Make the book available inside your walled garden – If your readers are people who log in to your app on a regular basis, make the book downloadable from there. If people don’t log in to your app, you can use a service:   

screenshot of scribd, which lets readers log in to read unlimited content

* Use accounts to monitor downloads – This is a pretty well-understood paradigm as it’s used by popular publishers like Lonely Planet & Safari. Users click a link, and enter their email address or create an account. That gives them access to a specific number of downloads of different versions of the book. For example, people might be able to download up to 3 each of the ePub, mobi, and PDF versions.   

screenshot of Lonely Planet download page where user can download different quantities of ebook versions.

* Email the book itself – If your book is small (generally under 20MB), you could simply include it in an email blast to your mailing list. That doesn’t stop people from forwarding it to others, but it makes access a little less complex for readers. 

Tracking Readers

All of the above solutions cover ways to ensure your current list of approved readers can access the book. But if the point of making the book available is to get people to share and grow your marketing lists, here are some good approaches for that:   

* Share with a friend – All of the above could be used with a “share with a friend” email input box. Have your current readers give you an email address of a friend who would also appreciate the book, and send it to the new person with one of the methods above.   

screenshot of Intercom's ebook page where readers can download the book by sharing emails of friends who would also like to read it.

* Use a cookie to identify new folks – Cookies aren’t always a failsafe method, but having one static link that people click would allow you to check if a cookie was set on the person clicking the link, and if they aren’t already in your list, ask them for their email to read or download the book.

* Default to asking for emails – If you’re putting up a landing page for the book anyway, you could certainly just ask for emails by default for people hitting the page. This could get a little annoying to some readers, but it may be slightly less painful than being asked to create an account. 

screenshot of Marketo's ebook page which defaults to asking for email addresses unless you are logged in.

* Share a sample – People reading the web version of the book could click a link to share the current page or chapter via twitter or facebook. We’ve seen this done with a smart URL that strips out the navigation and chrome so that people don’t click sharing links and get door slams.

screenshot of Valuable Content's page where readers can input their email address to get a free chapter.

There are unlimited ways to share and distribute your publication, so it is important to think carefully about the way that makes the most sense for your business goals. 

Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/notionscapital/

If you’d like to talk about your company’s goals for publishing and reaching more readers, get in touch. We’re happy to discuss a variety of publishing and distribution options that will work for your content.