Guidelines for creating an ebook cover

Despite the old adage, people will judge your book by its cover. As humans are visually-oriented, the first thing a potential buyer of your book will spot on a web page is your cover; almost always the words come later. In addition, that cover typically will just be a thumbnail.

Given this, there are several principles of ebook cover design you should follow:
 Use a sharp, quality picture of a single, recognizable object – That means ensuring the photo is at least 300 dpi and slightly larger than the size that must be uploaded when you self-publish. If you go with a lower dpi or a smaller size, the photo will appear pixelated or blurry. In addition, since the cover potential buyers will see is literally the size of your thumb, the illustration or photograph on the cover should not be complex or detailed. All of that simply will get lost in the small size and look like colors splattered on the screen.
• Properly crop and touch-up the picture – The picture needs to be shaped so that it is proportionately the same as the thumbnail. If the thumbnail is two inches tall by an inch wide, then the photo itself needs to be twice as tall as it is wide; a photo that is three times as tall as it is wide won’t work and will need to be cropped. Further, don’t distort (or change the aspect ratio) of the picture to force it to fit the thumbnails dimensions. Finally, if you’ve taken the photo yourself, ensure its coloration is good and that red-eye is removed.
• Leave space on the photograph for the text – Decide in advance where the title, subtitle and byline (the author’s name) will go on the cover. The object in the picture should not be covered (or at least mostly not be covered) by the text. For example, if the cover photo is of a sunflower, leave a sufficient amount of blue sky above the blossom where the title can go and some mostly mono-colored grass below the blossom where the byline can be placed.
• Use readable and large fonts – Avoid fancy fonts, especially those that are italicized, in Old English or gimmicky (like Comic Sans) for your cover’s text. There may be instances when those fonts would work, but rarely can they be read on a thumbnail. Instead, opt for an easy-to-read font and place them in boldface to stand out.
• Limit wording on the cover – The book’s title, subtitle, and a byline is all that’s needed for an ebook. Any more just clutters the cover and forces you to make the text smaller, thereby ensuring it is more difficult to read.
• Make the title the largest lettering – If the picture and overall cover design is attractive, then a potential buyer will notice the title. Help them find the title by ensuring it is larger than the subtitle and the byline. The only time to make a byline larger than a title is if you are a famous author whose name is a household word.
• Arrange text so it reads right to left – Avoid having lettering reading north to south or scrambled about on a page. Remember that potential buyers will view and read the thumbnail very quickly, so the more difficult the text is to read, the more quickly they’ll move on to another author’s book.
• Avoid color clash – Use contrasting colors. The text lettering should stand out against the picture. If the spot on the picture where the lettering will go is light or bright, use dark text and vice versa. If placing your text on a black background, use a light hue that is an accent color in your picture. Also avoid changing the color of each word or sets of words within the title, subtitle and byline. Keep to one color.
• Leave “by” off the byline – The only name that ought to appear on the cover is the author’s, so why place “by” before it? Besides adding clutter to the page, it looks amateurish.

These guidelines also apply to paper book covers – particularly those sold exclusively online – but generally you do have a little more leeway with the picture’s complexity on the larger cover.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.