Getting the most from your eBook cover

Covers really do sell books, no doubt about it. And if you’re going to self-publish, your cover is something you really will need to consider carefully. Okay, it’s understood that if the content isn’t any good, sales will dry up. But how do you get people to take a look at all? That’s the job of the visual attractiveness of your cover.

Lesson 1: Try to match your cover to the content

If your book is a romance then a well-muscled young fellow with his shirt off is all the go. Despite the fact that he’s wearing a kilt – the rugged type. This seems to be fine in spite of the level of eroticism which seems to be conveyed by the pose taken up by our protagonists on said cover. I’m sure you get my drift. If they’re all over each other and/or a lot of her flesh is threatening to spill, it’s likely to be spicy. Science fiction is often signalled by space ships, crime by noir settings under lamp posts and such. My hist fic, ‘Die a Dry Death’, is a dark story of a shipwreck and its aftermath. What better cover than a wave-tossed ship?

Do you have to send those signals? Not if you’re really well known. These days, Terry Pratchett re-releases have minimal covers. Everybody knows his name. But back then when we were first discovering him, his covers were cartoons filled with the characters who people the Discworld. You knew it would be different and you knew it would be funny. So to answer the question, yes, I think you do.

Lesson 2: Get the colours right

What will stand out among the hundreds of other books? ‘Die a Dry Death’ has a red title, designed to attract the eye against that stark sky. Contrast is the key. Make sure you can read the words from across a crowded bookstore. Or at least invoke ‘hmmm, that’s interesting.’ Test some variations on your friends.

Lesson 3: The title is part of the cover

This one is especially true of eBooks. You have a very small canvas. I suspect that if Philip K. Dick were to publish his book ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ for Kindle, he may well consider changing the title to ‘Bladerunner’.

In my case, when I decided to publish what was then known as ‘The Iron Admiral’ I gave deep thought to changing the title. Not only because readers told me it wasn’t just about him. I tossed around options and finally agreed to ‘Standoff’. That one word signals what the book is about in more ways than one, but at its core, the plot revolves around a political standoff.

Here are a few versions of ‘The Iron Admiral’ evolving into ‘Standoff’.


This was my first try for the book’s debut on Authonomy. It was called ‘The Iron Admiral’ and I wanted to convey the idea that this is SF.  But it doesn’t tell you much apart from the genre.

Iron Admiral


Then I took up an offer to create a more professional cover for me. This is the result. A weird spaceship flying over a planet – clearly SF, space opera. But this time we also have the series name and the font used is a bit more interesting and eye-catching.

My Standoff cover


This is my most recent effort. I’d learnt a lot more about Photoshop and bought an image of a ship that I added as a layer to the planet background. Again, this says SF, space opera. Now this book is for sale as an eBook. What the cover looks like on the web is vital. So I changed the title to a single word for impact. I’ve also changed the series name, so now you know it’s military SF. The colour choice for the wording is important, too. I’d been told red attracts the eye, which is what I want. 

Rod's Standoff Cover


And this is Rod’s cover. Notice the lovers in the background? So – space opera, military and romance. All in a sparkling, colourful form that’s bound to attract the eye. It’s fantastic. 

Notice the title has been done in black on a deep pink. It’s much easier to read than red on black, as I did on my version.

Next time, I’ll talk more about the process of getting hold of appropriate images.

About Greta van der Rol

I'm an author of fast-paced, action-adventure novels, mainly space opera - although I've been known to write in other genres. I live not far from the coast in Queensland, Australia and enjoy photography and cooking when I'm not bent over the computer. I have a degree in history and a background in building information systems, both of which go a long way toward helping me in my writing endeavours.

Posted on 25 May 2010, in On writing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Very interesting. The final one is very good (especially the lovers subtly present) but I like the clarity of number 2 as well.

  2. Forgot to say – you don’t mention fonts. There are some lovely ones freely available on the internet, and it’s important to use an appropriate one. Rod’s choice is much better themed to a SF novel than the serif font you began with.

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