November 9th, 2020

Book Covers 101: Covering Your Bases

by Melinda VanLone

We've talked a lot here on WITS about your book cover, and how important it is to your overall marketing strategy. Generally speaking, the cover we're talking about is your e-book cover. For most indies, it's the first and sometimes the only cover ever created. But once you write a story there are other formats that can and should be produced from that content, and all of them need cover artwork. All of them should use that original e-book cover as the starting point and branch out from there.

eBook

The original, the main star of your product platform, and the go-to jumping off point for all other marketing efforts associated with that book. Whether you design your own or hire a professional, you should end up with a (usually) 6x9 inch (1800 x 2700 pixels) JPG file.

Considerations I keep in mind:

  • I build my original file at 300 dpi, because this hi resolution file has the most flexibility for repurposing to other formats. 
  • I build the file in Photoshop, so that I can maintain layers, because again it will give you the most flexibility going forward.
eBook cover

From there, branch out into the other formats:

Soft Print Cover

This artwork is used for the print on demand version of the book, whether you're going with KDP or Ingram Spark, or your publisher is having the book printed at their own press. The print wrap uses the eBook cover as the basis for the front, and expands on the theme to wrap around the book spine and back. The back graphic should be more of a background than a stand out piece of art, so that type can be easily read against it. The back usually includes a blurb, and a barcode for sales purposes, and sometimes may also include information like author bios or websites or sales price. The spine usually includes the title and author name (if there's room). 

Both KDP and Ingram Spark provide templates you can use to ensure that your print wrap is the correct size, because that size will depend on what trim size you select and how many pages the interior of the book contains. It's vital that your final file matches what the system believes the size should be, or it will be rejected. 

Soft Print Cover

Audiobook Cover

Audiobook covers are for the most part only a digital file, and almost always square rather than vertical, which means the original eBook cover must be adjusted to fit.

Considerations:

  • Rather than simply shrinking the eBook file, this cover should be designed specifically for the square format.
  • I use all the elements from the eBook cover, but work with them to make sure it doesn't look stretched or squished in the new dimensions.
  • There's no template to download for this format, simply create a new file that is 2400 x 2400 pixels or larger, at 300 dpi, and then bring your eBook artwork into that new file.
Audiobook Cover

Hardcover

Hardcover books are not something that most Indie authors tackle, simply because they cost a lot more to produce which means you have to charge more, and are less likely to get good sales. That said, at some point, it's nice to have the option (they make great gifts for your parents, for example), and Ingram Spark does allow for this type of format. Through them you can create a hardbound book either with a book jacket or without. The book jacket wraps around the hardbound book, with inner flaps that can support even more information and graphics. If you choose to go without, the cover image can be printed directly onto the hardcover or the cover can be wrapped in fabric...the possibilities are as unlimited as your pocketbook. 

Ingram Spark provides templates for these files, or if you're working with a local vendor they will probably be happy to help make sure the file you deliver to them will work for your book specs. There is currently no option to produce a hardbound book through KDP.

Hardcover

Other Editions

Genre expectations differ country by country, so it can sometimes be a good idea to craft a cover suited to the country the book will be sold in. You'll often see that the same book in the UK has a completely different look from the one in the US. If you choose to have your book translated into another language, its cover will be at least a little different by default because the title will have to be changed, at the minimum. If you are changing the title, you might as well change the graphics to match the expectations of that country while you're at it. That way you'll maximize your chances of making a sale. 

Merchandise

Part of building a platform often involves promotional materials such as bookmarks, postcards, key chains, pens, posters, banners (for conferences)...the list is endless. All of those materials might feature your cover art in some way, whether it's just borrowing the background or whether the entire book cover is pictured. All of those materials will use that original eBook file as the foundation graphic. 

Merchandise

Every Version Created Costs Time and Money

As you can see, that one piece of artwork, the eBook cover, does a lot more heavy lifting than simply being an icon for one type of book, which is why getting a professional cover is so important. If you're working with a designer, expect them to charge an additional fee for every format you request. Each one takes time and effort to make sure you get the exact right file to ensure your uploading process is successful, and that the product you produce looks as beautiful as it should. Often a designer will negotiate a package price up front for multiple formats created from the original digital file, so be sure to ask about all the formats you anticipate needing.

Do take advantage of all the many ways you can utilize your cover art and content, because the more formats you can offer potential customers, the more sales potential you create for yourself. 

What questions do you have for Melinda? Do you do different covers for each of your book formats? Share your thoughts with us down in the comments!

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About Melinda

Melinda VanLone writes urban fantasy, freelances as a graphic designer, and dabbles in photography. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and furbabies.

When she's not playing with her imaginary friends, you can find Melinda playing World of Warcraft, wandering aimlessly through the streets taking photos, or hovered over coffee in Starbucks.

Her elementary fantasy series, House of Xannon, begins with Stronger Than Magic. For more information on covers, visit BookCoverCorner.com.

14 responses to “Book Covers 101: Covering Your Bases”

  1. Kris Maze says:

    Hi Melinda,
    I love this cover art! The water is so vivd and lifelike. Thank you for sharing the differences between these files.

  2. Julie Glover says:

    Bookmarking this post. Fantastic info! Thanks.

  3. Eldred Bird says:

    Great information, Melinda. One thing I like to keep in mind when I put a cover together is how it will look in a thumbnail image. Most people will be browsing on a phone, tablet, or e-reader, so how that ebook version looks on the different devices is paramount. The main cover details should be clear in a small, grayscale image as well as your full resolution graphics. Font choices and contrast are your friends when it comes to down-scaling those ebook covers thumbnail size.

  4. Jenny Hansen says:

    Wow! Melinda, this post knocked me out. I know that cover design will likely be in my future and I'd never considered how many formats that cover design could take. It was so helpful to see how the design changed. Thanks bunches...this is a keeper. πŸ™‚

  5. Ellen says:

    Melinda, your cover is stunning.
    My children's series is illustrated, do I asked my illustrator to do the cover. She did the cover art and I had help to figure out how to do the rest. It was an education to say the least.

  6. dholcomb1 says:

    Beautiful cover art!

    I've only had a say for one of my covers, but it's nice to know for if/when I have the opportunity.

    denise

  7. I had not considered the various formats of cover art. I appreciated the succinct presentation and information. Thank you!

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