The cover to your e-book is your first message to a potential reader. Speak clearly. This article won’t teach you how to use Photoshop, but it will allow you to understand some of the goals you should keep in mind when you hire a designer/artist or create your own e-book cover.
1. A Strong Silhouette:
This is number one on the list for a reason. The silhouette created by your focal point is what will grab the viewer’s attention. Does your image communicate its subject matter clearly from a distance? If the image is viewed as a thumbnail can the viewer quickly determine the subject matter without zooming-in?
Debora Geary‘s cover for A Modern Witch is a wonderful example of a simple image that manages to speak clearly. It is easily understood– even when viewed as a thumbnail. It’s also an attractive gateway into an entertaining book with a unique approach to blending technology and magic.
2. Good Values:
This is a bit more subtle, but equally important. When I say values, I’m not talking about morality. I’m referring to how light or dark parts of your image are. A well structured and contrasting value pattern is what makes an image interesting. Values, when used correctly, will create a focal point for your image. The highest contrast between light and dark will always attract a viewer’s attention. With that in mind, you should give a lot of thought to how you present your values. Where are they leading the viewer’s attention? Create that focal point deliberately.
The focal point of this picture is the light shining on his nose. Notice how the area around the nose is lighter than most other parts of the image. The other place where you see this sharp drop off from light to dark is around the eyes (the secondary focal point for the image).
If values are used incorrectly the image will not read well. People will struggle to figure out the intended message. The most common mistake people make with values is by using (or creating) images that don’t have enough contrast. The values are too similar and do not present an ordered hierarchy to guide the viewer through the image.
3. A Promise
The last quality that every cover needs is a promise. Your cover image needs to clearly inform the viewer about the content contained in your book. It needs to make a promise. Does your book have romance? Adventure? Is it a thriller? Science Fiction? Fantasy? Mystery? Is that information presented on the cover?
Above, you will see the cover to Lindsay Buroker‘s novella, Flash Gold. This cover makes an implicit promise to the viewer. It promises a story set in the Steam Punk genre. You know that it belongs to this genre because of the mechanical gears present in the rifle and repeated in the title. Every element, within that picture, is chosen and placed there for a specific reason and that reason is to inform any would-be reader about the type of story contained inside.
Now, I’d like to hear from you. What are some other qualities that define a successful e-book cover?