Covers

In a discussion about romance novel covers last week, someone asked why they couldn’t have beautiful covers like some of the ones on this page. I pointed out the need for the covers to carry the right genre signals and to be affordable. But then I thought, why not?

So here are some possible new covers for a couple of my books:

FWTC-LIT

rrr-lit

And here’s one that I actually think I might use:
happy-endings

It’s for the anthology of short stories I’m planning to publish later this month. I thought I might try putting it out in two different editions – the romance box set style and the slightly less genre specific style. And then see what happens.

Which do you like best? And which would you be more likely to buy?

few-pages-cover

New covers, new title, new everything!

NEWCOVERS

I really love the bright, fresh colours and hopefully they also have easier text for reading in thumbnail size. I’m happy to have everything with a consistent look and I think it will help to have the word ‘romance’ on the cover for attracting potential new readers.

What do you think of the new look covers? They’ll be rolling out in the next couple of weeks in preparation for the launch of Tom and Hattie.

New look for an old book

Entangled have re-styled all their Indulgence titles, including mine.

TOTaHSS-500

Isn’t it gorgeous? I think the new look fits the new tagline perfectly: Classic romance with a fresh new twist. And did you notice, the tagline is almost exactly lifted from my cover quote, “classic romance with a fresh spin”? LOVE IT!

You can see all the new covers on the Indulgence FB page here (mine is the best, obviously).

I think I promised some news when I got back from holiday and this is part of it, but there is still a little bit more to come which I can’t tell you yet. You’ll like it, I promise!

More on covers

This was first published in September 2011.

Most self-published books these days are primarily sold in digital form because this allows authors to keep the price down and at the same time reach a potentially vast audience. There are specific restrictions – and opportunities – that apply to digital covers, which are worth thinking about to produce something that will really stand out (in the right way) amongst the vast millions of Amazon products.

1. The thumbnail
Unlike print books where the cover is the cover is the cover, most digital books are sold with a range of cover images. There is the image that will appear on an ereader screen after the book is downloaded, the image that will appear on the book sales page, and then there is the thumbnail that will appear in search results and lists. This thumbnail is tiny but vital. If you are uploading your book to Amazon, the thumbnail does not have to be the same image that appears as the cover of your book when it is downloaded. This means you can really have fun with it.

The biggest issue with thumbnails is readability. Images and text that look great at full size may be completely obscured at thumbnail size. Stick with clean lines and clear text for maximum impact. Have a look at the current top bestsellers on Kindle (click through for full size image):

Which ones work? I’d say that ‘One Day’ and ‘Six Seconds’ both work brilliantly. The images are simple but striking and the text is completely readable (with the exception of David Nicholls’ name). In ‘That Summer in Ischia’ the colour scheme is too subtle and so both the image and the text are indistinct, as well as the text being very small. For Victoria Fox’s ‘Hollywood Sinners’ there is insufficient contrast to read the author’s name properly and the whole cover looks messy and cluttered. ‘Three Weeks To Say Goodbye’ is pretty good and ‘Chosen’ is another one that has faded and become indecipherable at this size.

You don’t have to be able to see every detail of the cover but you do have to make sure that the thumbnail works. It’s simple to resize your cover image before uploading it to see what it will look like. The most important thing is that the title is legible. Ideally you also want at least one strong part of the image to be visible too, as in One Day and Six Seconds.

2. The rectangle
On Amazon, your thumbnail and your cover image will appear on a white background. This means that your book cover does not have to be rectangular. I’ll say that again, because as far as I can see, no one else seems to have realised this. (PLEASE link me to counter-examples in the comments if you have any.)

Your book cover does not have to be rectangular.

My first book cover was rectangular with a white background. I liked the fresh, bright look this gives, but I hadn’t realised what an effect it would have against the white background of the Amazon site:

It doesn’t have an edge. Fortunately, I think there’s enough stuff on the cover (including the image which does have an edge) that it doesn’t totally disappear into the background. But if I did it again, I would put a border around it, to define the image as a book. But then I thought, what if I play with that edge? So this is the cover I have uploaded for Tycoon:

It almost looks as though the rings have been laid on top of the book, rather than being part of the cover image. Note that this technique only works when you know what background the image will be on. For Smashwords, I stuck with a rectangular cover because they export the book to so many different retailers that I needed it to conform to the standard. And as I said, the actual cover image that comes with the book download is rectangular too, to fit on your screen. But I love the way that the thumbnail image can stand out a little bit, just by playing with its shape.

I don’t think I’d want to take this technique too far. It needs to be clear that what you are selling is a book. But still, there’s fun to be had.

3. Colour
Lots of ereaders are black and white, not colour, so the cover image that your readers download needs to work in black and white as well as colour. Check what your cover looks like in black and white before you publish it and, if necessary, make changes to the contrast, add in extra shadows/highlights etc, to make it work.

I am not an expert on these matters, but I hope that’s helpful to some of you. Please do share any thoughts, tips or advice in the comments. Or examples of great ebook covers. The Book Designer is launching a new ebook cover design award and I’m really looking forward to seeing what kinds of thing do well in that.

Judging books by their covers

This is another rescued post, this one from August 28th, 2011:

Or at least, judging book covers.

When I first started wondering about self-publishing my stories, one of the things I did was look at a lot of book covers to try and work out what factors made the difference between something ‘professional’ and something ‘homemade’. I put those in quotes because actually I have no way of knowing which self-published authors paid a professional to produce their cover and which didn’t. I can only tell which ones scream ‘self-published’ and which don’t. What struck me most was the importance of the font, colour and placement of the text.

Look at this cover, for instance:

 

What struck me most was the importance of the font, colour and placement of the text.

I love Laura Kinsale’s books and I know from what I’ve read online that she has hired a professional cover artist for these digital releases of her backlist. But this cover instantly reads as self-published to me. The idea for the cover is adorable, with the little hedgehog in the guy’s breast pocket. I think there are some issues with the photoshop work on the hedgehog and the outline of the jacket, but for me the biggest issue by far is the text:
i) The same font is used for author name and book title, in the same colour and at the same size.
ii) It’s a dreadful font.
iii) The inconsistent shadowing on the font – compare the shadow on ‘Laura’ with that on ‘Midsummer’.
iv) The kerning is really weird – Moon is right up next to Midsummer, while Kinsale is miles away from Laura.
v) The alignment is also weird, neither centred nor justified. Look at the right hand edge of the text – none of the four words line up.

Sorry, Laura. If it’s any consolation, I’ve bought the book anyway. And the thing is, your brand is so well-established that your covers probably don’t make much difference at all to your sales, which is why I’ve used yours as an example rather than a struggling self-pub newbie.

Let’s compare that with a traditionally published cover:

The Hidden Heart

The cover image isn’t nearly as interesting or fun as that for Midsummer Moon, but it’s fine. I like how the sky becomes the background for the whole cover. The point I’m trying to make, though, is that it is immediately obvious that this is a traditionally published book cover. The focus is all on the writing, so let’s look at what makes this work so much better:
i) The same font is used for name and title, in the same colour, but the name is quite a lot smaller so the two are easily distinguished. Also, because there is other text on the cover, it makes sense to keep the total number of fonts to a minimum.
ii) It’s not my favourite font, but it looks professional and is suitable for the genre.
iii) There’s some nice simple shadowing on the font – not enough to draw attention to itself but just enough to make the letters stand out.
iv) The title is nicely spaced with ‘The’ tucked in below the top risers of Hidden.
v) It’s all properly centred.

None of those are things that are difficult to get right but they make a huge difference to the overall appearance of the cover. So here are my ten top tips for book cover text:
1. No more than two fonts in total;
2. Fonts must be readable – this is an issue of colour and size as well as font choice. Have a look at dafont.com for lots of free downloadable fonts;
3. Author name and book title should be distinguished from each other by at least one of size/colour/font;
4. Don’t have big vertical spaces between lines of text;
5. Don’t have ‘flat’ text – it’s almost always better to add some shadow, bevel, gradient or glow;
6. Don’t have too much shadow, bevel, gradient or glow – keep it subtle;
7. Align your text – centre, left or right are all okay;
8. Think about how your text relates to the background – try not to have it spanning very light and dark areas. Text will stand out better on plainer backgrounds;
9. Consider ‘branding’ your books by font. You can use different colours and layouts with different background images for each book, but if you use the same fonts, readers will be able to identify your books as yours;
10. Do not, under ANY circumstances, use Comic Sans.

This has got longer than I expected so I’ll do a separate post on specific things to think about for ebook covers.