Don’t judge a book by its cover. We’ve all heard it a million times, but we do it anyway, don’t we?
Coming up with a good cover design may be the most important thing you can do to market your ebooks. Your cover, after all, is your first–and often last–chance to make a good impression on book buyers, so it needs to attract readers while also giving insights into the ebook’s contents. It needs to have an invisible line that reels in buyers browsing virtual bookshelves.
I made the covers for my first ebooks myself using graphics software and photos I’d taken. You may have done the same thing with ebooks of your own.
Now, a few years down the road, I’ve discovered I have more options that are not only cost effective, but also artistic and professional. All kinds of cover services are available for indie, or independent publishers, from graphics on colored backgrounds to elaborate works of art.
So, I decided to try out an ebooks cover designer from FiveRR, the online service that’s only $5 for whatever the provider is offering. After all, I’d spent about five hours creating each of my first covers, so that amount of money seemed like an amazing deal.
I soon discovered the process these cover designers use paralleled my own. Select an image. Add text. Done. However, they have a lot more images, fonts, and design options than I have at my disposal!
The first step was to choose a designer, so I headed to FiveRR and went through gallery after gallery of cover designs looking for similar genres to my books. I didn’t find any, so started over just looking at layouts that I liked. Finally, I dived in, selected an artist and shot off my $5 through PayPal.
I was committed.
Then came the hard part, selecting the cover image.
When choosing from my own photos I had at best a hundred or so images to go through. My cover designer, Jimmy Gibbs, however, told me to select any image I wanted from the stock photo site he used, depositphotos. That meant millions of photos.
I had a lot more thinking to do.
First of all, the artist I chose only worked with one image, rather than combining a couple. While that may seem overly restrictive it did make sense.
One of the first rules for ebook covers is to remember that the buyers only view them in small sizes–much smaller than you see in a bookstore when you have a book in your hand. The cover you love at the bookstore may look too cluttered and busy when viewed on virtual bookshelves. So, if your idea is complicated you’re best to save it for your print-on-demand version and simplify for your ebook.
The challenge then, is to choose a single image.
I thought it would be easy–and with the first cover in my series it was. I checked through the photo service, searched for longhorn cattle since the main plot in the book was a cattle drive, and picked my favorite for the cover of Badlands and Outlaws.
The cover designer selected a font that enhanced the image and the genre I’d given (Western) and I was done. It sure beat those hours of work I’ d put in on my own covers.
Then, I decided to work on books two and three in the series I’d decided to call The Old West. Of course, I wanted the whole series to link together so readers would be drawn into the other books.
If I’d put more thought into the first cover, the second one would have been a lot less work! So, I spent a whole Saturday looking through stock photos not making much headway. Idea after idea flew through my head, skidded to a near-stop and then slid right on by–nothing was “right” and I couldn’t figure out why.
But why had the single longhorn jumped right into my unconscious as the right image for the book? Unfortunately the reasons were still floating around somewhere out of reach.
I looked through thousands of images filed under keywords like outlaws, cowboys, old west, horses, and more. Eventually I realized that each single image needed to represent the common theme of outlaws that I’d already decided to use in all of the titles.
So the first cover had a cow–not an outlaw, or rather, an outlaw of a different sort. The longhorn I’d picked was very much the image of an outlaw range cow staring me in the face, ready to charge.
I knew about outlaw cattle because I’d discovered that “look” firsthand shortly after my wedding some 40 plus years ago. Coming from a horse ranch to a cattle ranch I’d been overly confident that I’d be of great assistance to my hubby and his family with the ranch work.
I was wrong.
The very first time I went out to chase cows, I’d stood my ground, staring down that charging cow and waving my arms the same as I would at all but the stallions on my family’s horse ranch. Range cattle though, apparently don’t care who’s in the road and my father-in-law’s shout to get on the *** hayrack, and not to get off, made it clear cattle weren’t like horses that spent winters in barn stalls.
Okay, so the longhorn image had that defiant look of an outlaw.
I had it!
All I had to do was find two more images of outlaws of some sort that would represent the plots and themes in books two and three.
Back to the image bank. Luckily, I had found a photo of mustangs that had really appealed to me as being out-of-the-ordinary and striking. The two horses, feet braced, skidding to a stop to avoid…well…to avoid the reader, since that’s who would be looking at the cover.
It was the perfect photo for Lawmen and Outlaws.
And it was obvious I needed an image of a human outlaw staring the reader down for the remaining book, Kidnapped by Outlaws.
Back to the stock photo site to find an photo that would be dark and foreboding and representative of the old west. While it took some new keyword searches, when I found the photo I knew it was the right one. This time it was a gun and an evil face partly hidden by a western hat that represented a more typical image of an outlaw.
So, I submitted my cover image choices, advised the artist that they were the next books in the series, and waited. I was very satisfied with both the service and the products. Now to see how they impact sales!
Secrets to selecting cover images for ebooks
- Follow the KISS rule to keep it simple, silly! E-book covers display in very small sizes on virtual book shelves, so they shouldn’t be too busy.
- Identify a single theme or plot point or idea that can represent the book visually.
- Select an image that’s striking or distinctive in some way, so it stands out.
- When working with a series, remember that your first cover creates a pattern of some sort that should be carried ahead to other books, so titles and cover art will have to share some aspects.