Designing an ebook cover is a daunting prospect. But underneath the font choices, stock photos, and editing tricks, there are four fundamental and interconnected rules for ebook cover design.

We’ll examine the four fundamental guidelines through ebook covers which break the rules. Our intent is not to embarrass the creators of these ebooks. Rather, we acknowledge their shared status as ebook pioneers and use these examples to assist other first-time or self-published authors.

Rule 1: Fit the allotted space.

Case 001a

Cases 001a & 001b: Too Big (or Small) For Their Britches

These two covers make the same basic mistake: they do not fit the required image dimensions of the selling website.

In Case 001a, the cover is nearly a perfect square. This would be fine for a printed book. Hard-copy books come in varying shapes and sizes.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule in the tangible world. However, in the online sphere, major ebook retailers do not make allowances for nonstandard image sizes. The automatic resizing from the Kindle site resulted in odd cropping with additional white space around the cover in our first example.

Case 001b

In Case 001b, the cover is far too tiny. It seems like the author wanted to use multiple pictures for the cover. But as a result of incorrect image size, none of the pictures are visible.

You have limited space. Make sure your cover uses every pixel possible. You’re going to need those extra dots!




Rule 2: Design for the thumbnail.

Case 002: It’s a Grower, Not a Show-er!

Case 002

This ebook cover looks great– when the image is viewed at the full size. However, the text is barely readable on the smaller version used for the ebook listing page. When viewed on the search results page, the image is even smaller and the text all but disappears.

Check your cover image at multiple sizes. If the title disappears, use a bigger text size or a simpler font. This goes back to Rule 1: use every pixel possible.

It will be difficult or impossible to make each cover element visible at all thumbnail sizes. Here’s a helpful check: It’s okay if the reader can’t make out the distinct features of a person on the cover. It’s not okay if the reader can’t tell there is a person on the cover.


Rule 3: Include your name (and other important information).

Case 003: Well, That’s a Pretty Picture

Here’s a lovely photo. Unfortunately, it’s not a lovely cover. This ebook cover is missing the most basic information: the book title and author name.

Case 003

Every ebook cover should have a clearly visible title and an equally-visible author’s name. If you only want to put one piece of text on the cover, we’d argue that your name is more important (and usually more distinct) than the title. But let’s not have that argument. Make sure to include both your name and book title on the ebook cover.



Rule 4: Check your text.

Case 004: Mistake Identity

Case 004

It’s one thing to put the cover on the title. It’s another thing to put the correct title on your ebook cover. In Case 004, the ebook has one title on its Amazon listing and another title on the book itself.

Writers aren’t editors, but there’s no excuse for putting the wrong information on your ebook cover. Putting the wrong title is an enormous, but fixable mistake. Spelling your own name wrong is worse than any other possible error. Before you spend time playing with color filters, make sure the text on your cover is perfect.


For more information on ebook cover design, check out our Pinterest board, The Importance of Ebook Covers.


If you are a self-pub author with ebook cover art questions, let us know! We’ll tap our connections and resources to find an answer.


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