“Can you help teach a graphic design high school class about good book cover design?” asked Rob Durham, a teacher at Marquette High School. “The students are making their own e-books from short stories they have written. I’m showing them how to self-publish on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).”
Know your genre and book category. Is it romance? Fantasy? Horror? Study titles in your genre, and notice which covers are striking. Why? When you browse Amazon, your eyes are drawn to images. Your readers WILL judge a book by its cover.
Know your audience. Your book won’t appeal to everyone. One way to help find readers is by picking out five key words (meta tags) that your audience searches for. Example: chick lit, sports, vampires, etc. CreateSpace recommends: “Search keywords can help your title show up on both Amazon.com and search engines. Pick phrases that you think customers are likely to use when either searching for your title specifically, or when shopping for products that may be similar in subject matter.”
When you search for books online, what size book covers does Amazon display first?
• A thumbnail image: This is the smallest and most important visual size book cover. This is where you need to “capture” your audience with title and image. Can you read the title on the thumbnail image? Or do you have an alluring image that peaks a reader’s interest and makes you want to click?
• Click on the book selection, and you’ll see a medium-size cover image on the product page.
• If your ebook is purchased, readers will see a full-size cover on their e-readers (iPad, Kindle, Nook, and smartphone)
Book cover elements
• Title: The top half of the book cover is prime real estate. Most titles are on the top. Leave space for a subtitle and the author’s name.
• Images: photos, illustrations, or just typography. Make sure you have good contrast. Don’t rip off images you find on the Internet. They may be copyrighted or low resolution. It is possible to get sued or fined. Search for free images on sites such as Morguefile.com, Photopin.com, http://pixabay.com, Freeimages.com. Better yet, use your own custom artwork. Scan at a high resolution and large size.(300 dpi).
• Fonts: must be readable at a small size (thumbnail image). Match the font to your genre and category. Have a tight budget? Use a free font site, such as dafont.com (The students were already aware of it).
Show and tell / inspiration
Part of my presentation included showing a few websites that focus on ebook covers:
• TheBookDesigner.com posts a monthly e-book cover design award: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/10/e-book-cover-design-awards-september-2014/
After a quick presentation, I had the opportunity to walk around the room and see the students’ work in progress. “Tell me about your book,” I said, looked at their covers, and offered design suggestions. There were a wide variety of genres and styles. Some layouts were in the sketch stage, while others were close to completion. It seemed that all of the students in this class had Photoshop experience.
Then, I asked the class, “Can you describe your book in one sentence?” (My favorite Bobbi Linkemer line.) “You will need this for online searches.” Some of the teens gasped in surprise! They were not prepared for this instruction.
The clean-up bell sounded. The teacher thanked me, and I was escorted out before swarms of students filled the hallway. I really enjoyed this brief opportunity to work with young people who may well be the graphic designers of the future. The lessons I taught in this class were not even on the horizon when I was a student. The field of book design is evolving. To stay current, these fledgling designers will have to keep learning all through their careers.