From The Book Designer:
While the truism “You can’t tell a book by its cover” holds true in most of our lives, one place where it doesn’t, ironically, is in publishing.
Oh, it’s still true — the cover doesn’t necessarily communicate what’s inside (though it should). But potential readers ignore it almost universally — especially when it comes to ebooks.
The cover is the first and (in many cases) most important piece of information those readers get about a title. This time out, I’m going to look at what should go into designing a cover that works for, rather than against, your ebook.
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Whatever format a book is in (print, audio, or ebook), the cover has a very important job — apart from and in addition to being visually attractive. As readers of TheBookDesigner.com probably already know, that job falls into several very important parts. It must communicate:
- The genre/subgenre of the book
- The tone of the book
- The subject matter of the book
A cover makes a promise. It tells the reader very clearly — through words, but also through design — exactly what they’re going to read.
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There’s no mistaking a Harlequin Romance book. The covers regularly feature virile, bare-chested men and beautiful women, themselves often less than fully clothed. Harlequin’s Historical imprint features similar characters, but with clothing from the English Regency, the Middle Ages, or Hollywood’s Golden Era. The colors will be bright and running toward the warm side of the color wheel.
It’s easy for non-fans (and non-authors) to make fun of such covers, but they’re an important part of Harlequin’s huge success. They communicate to the potential reader with great efficiency exactly what kind of book it is they’re going to be getting if they purchase it. The promise they’re making is extremely clear.
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There is one major distinction between ebook and print covers, however, that you really should bear in mind as you are creating your own cover (whether you are the designer yourself, or you’ve hired someone else to do the work for you). It’s kind of an obvious distinction, but it’s an important one, nonetheless.
Print covers are designed to be seen person on a book shelf or table — whether at a book store, a library, or a friend’s living room.
They are designed to be seen at full size, up close. Whether it’s a 6″x9″ trade paperback or a 8″x10″ picture book, it’s meant to be picked up and examined in detail.
Ebook covers, on the other hand, are largely seen at thumbnail size in a list of other ebooks, or at best at fairly small scale.
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So, an ebook cover should be clean, attractive and easy to read at thumbnail size. Even at that small scale, it should promise the correct genre, tone, and subject matter, so your reader won’t be disappointed.
You may decide to use higher contrast (though I think that might help sell your print book as well). To fit the online bookstores’ thumbnail image slot, its dimensions should be 1.6:1, with a long side of at least 2400 pixels — which means that an ideal size would be 1500 pixels by 2400 pixels (or larger).
Link to the rest at The Book Designer
The OP includes good illustrations of the difference between the design of the ebook cover and the pbook cover of the same title.