eBook Covers (Yeah, More Advice)

eBook covers. They sell books, so don't sell your books short with a bad one. For Indie Publishing you must think long term, and promoting as soon as you can is sound advice. For this you will need a cover.

Ask yourself this, do you understand the photography rule of three thirds? Can you see past makeup to see if your model's features are close to the Divine Proportion? If your answers are along the lines of "P, what the hell are you talking about," skip this lesson and hire someone to do the cover for you. Seriously. Book covers contribute enormously to sales and you need a good one. If your answer to the questions are yes, continue.

Promotion. Marketing. Brand. Identity. As an Indie you will live and breathe these things. Your first book cover is a like ... a tramp stamp *giggles* It’s usually not as great as it could have been and an ugly reminder of how stupid, young, and easily lead you were. Hopefully, this post will save you some shame later down the road (I said some not all).

You will need a picture editor (of some kind) and an online stock photography resource. Searching for the right images can take days, so you need to make sure you like the interface.


Go to your book shelf at home and pick the book which has your favorite cover. What do you like about it? Now pick up your eReader and do the same for your favourite eBook cover (or go online).

Struggling to vocalize? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you like about the cover?
  • Do you like the title font?
  • Liking the main image? 
  • What is the size of the author name, and what does this tell you?
  • If there is no image, why do you think there isn't? Is the one-of-a-kind color theme powerful enough?
  • What about the tone and contrast? 
  • How are all the elements pulled together?
  • What caught your eye about this cover?
  • Describe it in a word?
  • Does the cover make you want to own the book?
  • Do you feel a closer connection to the story even though you haven't read it yet?
  • Does it make you excited to read the story?
Your eBook cover needs to invoke the answers to these questions in your potential reader in a glance, m'kay? They should look at your cover and feel excitement and a need to buy.

Before you do anything, summarize the specifications your cover must fulfill. Here was the specification for Die, My Love:

Themes: Vampires. Felines. Confusion. Flowers. Darkness. 
Colours: Red. Gray. Dark Green
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance
Readership: Females, 18 – 28
Tone: Dark, Brooding, Sinister, Mysterious 

When I started, all I knew was I wanted a face on the cover, because the story is focused on one woman. Naturally, I searched stock images for 'vampire.' Then ‘beautiful woman’. The searches were (of course) big fat failures. I amended the searches to phrases like ‘strange face’ and 'odd woman' etc. I got much more interesting results. I came across a rather bland image I mentally reworked in a blink. It was perfect. *purring*

Original Image

Now what? The book cover must be transformed into something unique, become an identity. The Goal: To use this image to create a unique, distinctive and relevant cover. If you simply whack a title and name on a stock image, fine, but there is a high chance someone else can do exactly the same, and there will be diddly squat you can do about it. Here is an example of when one good cover makes the rest look like imitations:

McAffe's cover owns it, hands down. The rest look like they've ripped him off. Rice's cover is good in the sense it hits the readership nail on the head, perfect to attract a YA audience. I can't begin to wrap my head around the train wreck that is Vampires: The Recent Undead. Why a wreck? Look at the high flying names mentioned then digest the cover that was produced to represent them ... my point being nothing was produced, names were put on an image.

Anyway, sometimes you should go for distinction rather than pretty. Pretty doesn't always equal good. Die, My love is about vampires, so let us say (for the sake of this example) I have no option but to use the stock image from above. What would I do to make my cover unique? Well, I'd have to go to a different place, look at the image from a different angle and make something else the focus point. The clouds in the background are wonderful. You don't really focus on them, because the girl is so prominent, but that's why I like them. The beauty is there even though no one is looking. I'd want to highlight those. Vampires tend to be cold, no heat, but my vampires do have a body temperature. So ... the idea of picking up on a heat signature is appealing to me.

Here is what I knocked together using the stock image; 

You need to make sure you review your covers objectionably. Try it out on a few people to see reactions.

Positives: My focus point is no longer the blood in her mouth nor her fangs. The angle of her jaw has changed. I removed the recognizable eyebrow. The cover would stick out like a sore thumb in ALL the eStores, even though it's a well known image. It's not pretty, but it isn't exactly ugly either. This is where Divine Proportions comes in. This effect worked well, but the girl has a face that appeals to a wide range of people. She can take the ugly. If I did this to a face not proportioned to DP (do not go there with that abbreviation), the end result would appeal to less people. I've mixed an insane number of colors, but they work in a psychedelic way. The cover is still very ME. It's a commercial idea (attractive vampire with fangs and blood) twisted into something else. And, it still ties in with my story. 

Negatives: This would probably attract a younger audience than I wanted. Even though I have a good cover, it's a miss on my readership specification, nor does it embody the tone and themes I had defined. I'd probably start again and come up with another concept that was as unique but fit for purpose. 

(It just so happens I'm working on a Young Adult Edition of Die, My Love, so this cover is perfect for that).

Do you see what I mean when I say be distinctive? You don't have to have grotesque or shocking images to be different, get an idea across, or create an impact.

Final Cover
  • Positives outweigh negatives
  • Cover looks good thumbnail size
  • You have three cover sizes (S,M,L)
  • Cover looks professional
  • Author name is prominent
  • Book title is readable
  • Image is not blurry (unless it is meant to be)
  • Theme is unique 
If the end result after the above is still sub standard (it happens) hire somebody who you will be able to work with long term. You just don’t have the magic eye. Good on you for trying though. I say find somebody to work with long term because book covers by certain artists (though different) all will have a 'look'. For example, I love negative space. Where I live, the clothes I wear, how I serve my food, there is always lots of negative space. It appeals to me. It is natural my book covers would reflect this. Find a 'look' you are comfortable with, that embodies you and your writing. Believe it or not, it helps readers find yo, because they recognize your covers even if there are major differences in colour, style, etc.

Your WIP cover does not have to be perfect, nor does it have to be what you use for the final (as long as the themes you have been promoting are strong enough to translate into new images). It's merely what you need to get started with your book marketing. You can of course go and buy software to pull together something to rival a Banksy piece, but most don't have hundreds of pounds to waste on such things. Even if you do, why bother when you can spend that on marketing?

In future some eBook covers will be so distinctive they'll probably just be bold images, no name or title, which will be crap for me (being a lover of negative space).

Note: Never steal someone else's book cover idea or 'look'. Not cool. NOT COOL. It’s rude, unprofessional, and simply disgusting behavior. Find your own creativity and don’t piggyback of someone else. I'm not talking about using the same image, you know what I mean....


  1. Pretty cool and scary covers, Penelope.

  2. Just read you latest Rae Wilder Novel. My favorite yet. (So unusual in a series!) Totally loved it. Can't wait for the final installment!