When setting out to write a book, I expected my publisher to provide me with a shiny paperback format cover, complete with illustration. Instead, I got a template with bold red lettering and a pixellated ’80s alien figure. It was ok – we had made the deal that if I did it myself, I could go wild with it, and it ended up quite nicely, I thought.
But every time I set up to update it, I felt like a ransom demand. I had a vague idea of a Victorian-era English gentleman, seated in a shabby armchair. Still, I was the only one who could see it – the publisher seemed to have lost his copy of Edwardian wallpaper. So I started experimenting. The resulting covers were more confusing than the cover of my book. So I kept going and finally hit upon something with a kind of poetic simplicity that I liked. I felt less like a ransom demand and more like a decent fellow struggling to provide his publisher with an aesthetically pleasing cover.
Here are my tips for designing a ebook cover for Kindle and ePub formats (including some advanced tricks you can use to get creative).
First off, here are some of my favorite book cover design techniques.
Step-by-Step Guide: eBook Cover for Kindle and ePub
1. Go back to basics.
Before you start working out complicated things, it’s good to create a kind of ‘eBook fabric’ and a basic structure – the colours and textures of the cover should be correct, the typography should be appropriate, and the general arrangement of the image, text, and image is all correct. You might want to add something in the background and the background colour, perhaps some text in the middle, a silhouette or some other kind of artwork in the foreground, some outlines in the text, and so on.
Here’s the basic template I usually start with:
2. ‘Polish the basics.’
Make sure everything is lined up and in the right place. Then work on the design using Photoshop – here’s how I do it. First of all, I get a basic color scheme. I’ll usually start with Red and Blue and work my way through the colour palette until I find something that clicks. I’ll then get a base image and work on the design in Photoshop. I won’t use background images to make things messy, and I find it easier to work from a template and edit it later. The templates are usually free online.
I set up a simple workflow to keep track of the elements in the design. Here’s a copy of the way I usually work. I have a ‘file’ for each of the elements, or levels, in the cover:
The ‘paper type’ is the way the text appears on the cover – this can be typewritten, handwritten, or any other type of print. Each one is in its own ‘folder’, and you can drag and drop these folders anywhere in the design to adjust the flow of the design. These are the ‘text’ folder items:
Each folder is on its own level, like a shelf, so I can change the composition of the cover by dragging and dropping items from one level to another. The ‘background’ folder is just a folder I drag and drop with whatever image I want to place where I want it. In my case, I usually just drag and drop the image straight into the position I want. This is the ‘text/icons’ folder:
I place these folders wherever I want to place them in the design – I’ll have the most important elements on one level, but I’ll also place the reader’s eye-catching areas on other levels. This makes it easier to work out what the eye-catching areas are and the design topper:
After I have the basic design, I adjust the transparency of the image a little bit and work with the highlights and shadows a little. It’s amazing how powerful this can be, especially with a digitally-printed design. I usually work on the picture for about half an hour.
Now comes the fun part – the last few steps of the process. As I mentioned before, I usually drag and drop these folders wherever I want them so that there’s enough information available in the design so that the designer of the ebook can work out what’s going on and where. I usually start the last phase by adding details – shadows and highlights of the text boxes, outlining to create a shadow of the words in the center of the page, and a blur for the text on the outside of the text box. I also add some misty-white ‘ink’ lines around the edges of the text boxes. I usually move these misty-white lines to the outer edges so that it’s easier to read.
This last stage is very creative – I’ll probably do a much more intricate version of this in the future. Once I’m happy with the design, I print it on my printer and upload it to Amazon, and it’s ready to go. It’s as simple as that.
Designing a cover for Kindle and ePub formats is an art. When you’re able to successfully harness the power of typography, color theory, psychology, and symbolism in your design process it becomes simple magic.
The following blog post will provide tips on how to create a beautiful ebook cover that meets Amazon’s guidelines while still incorporating some advanced tricks so you can get creative with your designs. So if you have any questions about what makes good book covers or need help getting started designing one please comment below!