by Marcia Yudkin
I'm a "word person," not skilled with images. That's great for writing, but it's a bit of a handicap when it comes to creating covers for my Kindle ebooks. Nevertheless, through trial and error, as well as observations of people I've watched go through the process, I have quite a bit of advice to offer when it comes to commissioning a cover that sells your ebook.
Work with someone who has already designed covers for other Kindle authors, whose style you like and who has excellent customer reviews. Don't hire someone who has top-notch artistic skills but hasn't done ebook covers before, as they would be learning on your dime and might very well make a blunder you don't catch.
For example, did you know that including the word "by" before the author's name on a cover screams "amateur"? If you don't know things like that, and your designer doesn't know, either, then you end up with a cover that looks somehow off to book buyers, although they might not be able to say why.
Research covers of successful books in your niche so you can give examples to your designer of what you want to look like or different from. For instance, for my latest business title, I noticed a trend from the big publishers of a lot of empty space on the cover and a central image. I gave four examples of that general trend to my designer, saying I wanted to look like I belonged in their company. Yet I also saw that on my exact topic, most of the covers were black and gloomy, and I said I wanted something sunnier and upbeat.
If you can come up with a concept or an image for the cover, that gives extremely useful direction to the designer, enabling him or her to concentrate their efforts on making it look artful and appealing. For example, for an ebook on marketing to introverts I told my designer I envisioned a New England-style stone wall with a section of the stones fallen out and sunlight pouring through the gap. She made that image look even better than my mental image of it. For an ebook on top ten tips on a certain topic, I asked for a cover with no image but an emphasis on the numeral "10." That also worked out great.
Warn your designer about any clichés you would like the cover to stay away from. For instance, on the topic of creativity I instructed the designer, "No light bulbs, please!"
Finalize the title and subtitle for your book before giving the assignment to your designer and don't allow the designer to change their wording. The designer's job is getting the look right, not the text. Make sure the designer understands that the cover must include the title, the subtitle and the author's name, either along with an image or just making the most graphically of the other elements.
For ebooks, which don't get picked up and flipped through in a bookshop before purchase, it's crucial that the main title and author's name be readable at the small size of the thumbnails on online bookstores. It's also essential that the design make sense on the thumbnail, so the viewer isn't thinking, now is that a beehive or a car transmission? If the subtitle doesn't show up clearly at that reduced size, that's okay.
When you are creating an ebook series, plan how you are going to signify the resemblances for the series, which could be through the same general layout and color scheme or through a pattern of certain visual elements that stay the same with different colors and images. When a book shopper sees several of your series covers and other authors' covers together on their monitor, they should be able to recognize instantly which books belong to the series and which don't.
Ask for written evidence from your designer that any images used in the cover were properly licensed. Some of the biggest photo banks in the world now have Internet search programs where they find their unauthorized images and sue the users. Even if it was the designer who stole intellectual property without your knowledge or direction, you could be financially responsible in such a situation.
When you see what the designer has come up with, evaluate it with these questions:
1. Does it convey the emotional feeling this type of book should have?
2. Will the intended readers understand at a glance that this is the type of book they will want to buy and enjoy?
3. Can you read the title and author's name clearly at thumbnail size as well as in the larger view?
4. Are there any aspects or details on the cover that create the wrong impression, such as an outdated hairstyle or signage in an unfamiliar language?
Remember that the ultimate test for the cover is not whether you like it, but whether the readers you created the book for are intrigued and get motivated to buy it!
The author of 16 books and nine multimedia home study courses, Marcia Yudkin has also been selling ebooks on Kindle since the summer of 2011. Her Kindle ebooks include Kindle originals like Marketing for Introverts, Bullets With Bite and No-Hype Copywriting as well as digital versions of her paperback books. Check out her three-week teleseminar course for first-time Kindle authors at Kindle Jumpstart Class | Learn to Publish on Kindle .