Saturday 30 August 2014

Read this guide before making or choosing your book cover.

They say 'Don't judge a book by it's cover,' so it doesn't really matter

What complete rubbish! Getting a book cover right is vital because unless it catches the eye of someone looking for a book, they will never read the description, never read a sample and never make a purchase. If you are an indie author your cover will make a huge difference to your sales.

Do you even know how to recognise a good cover?

  • What do you know about how color affects emotions?
  • Have you ever heard about the rule of thirds?
  • Do you know about the golden ratio?
  • How well do you understand typography when choosing fonts?
  • How long should a title be?
  • Is it worthwhile using a subheading?
  • Are you allowed to use that image?

The Cover Image

Few books are successful without some sort of cover image. A good cover image should give the reader an idea of the book content. Look at the image used without any title or author text. Does it give you an idea of what to expect? Take a look at the five covers shown above. Do any of them match this book description?
With her mom in prison, and her father AWOL, ..... is sent to live with a squeaky-clean family who could have their own sitcom. She launches a full-scale plan to get sent back to the girls’ home when she finds herself in over her head...and heart. 

Is there any sort of formula for judging a cover image? I would suggest looking at it without the text. Does the image give any idea of the book content? I'm judging them on Amazon's thumbnail size - what a reader will see first.
  • Silent as the grave - A large, old house, possibly an institution of some kind? Certainly NOT a castle as the book description indicates - Expectation: Ghost? Horror? 
  • Fresh doubt - Looks like a derelict factory. No clues here other than a man is standing in it - Expectation: Business venture?
  • In between - A young girl, obviously not well off. She's going somewhere - Expectation: New situation for a teenage girl
  • To kill for - This image is too dark to make out at this scale. If you examine the book preview you can make out the object in it is a blood splattered tyre ('tire' for US readers) wrench. It can't be made out clearly at the thumbnail size though. Pretty useless as an image. It's the author name and title text which will sell here - Expectation: Something 'dark'
  • Where there's smoke - Someone with a lamp overlooking a desert or sea; it could be either at this scale. The clothing doesn't look western style - Expectation: Story about Africa or Asia

Author Name

Of all the text on a book cover, the most important bit is not the book title but the author name! Take a look at the top five free e-books at Amazon UK (4:00pm Saturday 30th August 2014)

Notice how clear the author’s name is in each case? Many new authors make the mistake of selling a book title when they should be selling their brand. Once you’ve bought and read a particular title you wouldn’t buy it again but you might search for other books by that author. An author’s name is their brand. Make the author name clearly visible even at Amazon's smallest thumbnail size of 58 x 87 pixels. Here's an example at that size:

The Title (and sub-title)

A good title is one which will catch interest without a cover image helping it. Consider these titles:
Do any of them grab your attention? My analysis is as follows - I'll explain EMV in a moment.
  • 'Silent as the grave' suggests to me a paranormal death experience - EMV without the subtitle 0% but with it 41.67%
  • 'Fresh Doubt' suggests something to do with a criminal conviction - EMV score with or without subtitle 0%
  • 'In Between' suggests a change of lifestyle and the use of 'production' in the subtitle possibly indicates a theatre or film. - EMV score without subtitle 0%, with 50%
  • 'To Kill For' suggests a murder. The use of 'family' and 'trust' makes it much more interesting - EMV score with subtitle 60%
  • 'Where There's Smoke' suggests the reader add 'there's fire' at the end and implies one event suggests another - EMV score 0% even if you include the 'there's fire'
Two things you need to know - 
  1. According to Mark Coker of Smashwords, fiction books with shorter titles tend to do better. The top 100 best selling books average 4-5 words
  2. EMV stands for Emotional Marketing Value. Words in various languages have been analysed for their emotional impact. Normal English has about 20% words which carry emotional marketing value. A really good title would have 40%. 60% is excellent
Of course you want to know how to measure the EMV of your title. It's easy to do on-line at Enter your headline in the box and select 'Media & Communications' as the category. Your title must be at least four words (and less than 20). If your title is shorter than that, add some neutral words such as 'as', 'the', 'and' or 'if' until you have four words. Remember - as the 'Fresh Doubt' and 'Where there's smoke' books show, it's possible to have a successful book with a low EMV score but you'll need an exceptional cover image or a recognised author name for that.

Getting a cover made for a low price

If you’re really stuck for cash and you can’t produce your own cover then consider getting a cover from This site will put you in touch with a number of people who will produce a cover for just $5.00. Use caution here though – make sure any images they use are not copyright.

What are your views?

I used the five top free ebooks at Amazon as my examples. I have not read any of them (yet) so I can't honestly suggest you read/don't read any of them. If you are interested, I've added a link to each which takes you to your local Amazon. There is no guarantee they will always be free though - check before you download.
I would be interested to find if you agree with my analysis of the images and titles though. Feel free to add your own interpretation in the comments


It’s more than two years since I recorded the position of those books at Amazon UK. Where are they now? (September 2017)
Silent as the Grave is no longer free (£1.99). It ranks #210,656 in paid books. It’s no longer given a ‘bestseller rank.’
Fresh Doubt is no longer free (£1.99). It’s doing quite well at #20,762 in paid. It’s now #274 in International Mystery & Crime.
In Between is still free and performing strongly at #267 in free books. It’s #2 and #3 bestsellers in three romance genres
To Kill For is still free and #1,192 in free books. It has a new cover It’s #5 bestseller in Crime Fiction > Noir

Where There’s Smoke is no longer free (£0.99). It ranks #3,214 in paid books. It’s now #62 bestseller in Women's Literary Fiction

If this post has helped or entertained, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' from
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
And here's the cover - see what you think:
Look - a FREE e-book


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