Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 1

Welcome back to Joan's Golden Rules for Ebook Success.

No, I'm not an expert. I'm just a working writer who has had some success with my ebooks. Because I know how hard it is to make a living as a writer, I'm passing on what I have learned as well as how I have put that knowledge to work for me.

I hope this will help shortcut the process for you. Maybe you can achieve your own brand of success in a shorter period of time.

So far, I've discussed my first rule, Ebook Success: Get Educated and Ebook Success: Write Business Plan.

As a reminder, here's my list of golden rules--called golden because I hope they will help you earn heaps of gold from your ebook sales.

Joan's Golden Rules

1. Get educated.

2. Write a business plan.

3. Choose cover art wisely.

4. Write professional ad copy.

5. Choose price wisely.

6. Give a smart sample.

7. Write a good book.

8. Customize Marketing and Promotion.

Ebook Success: Cover Art, Part 1

Your ebook must have a great cover. In fact, I believe the cover art that appears in the online book catalog or listing is even more important for an ebook than for a print book. Maybe that's because if you walk into your local bookstore, you can pick up the book, smell that new book smell, study the cover art intently, see its vivid colors, flip through the pages, and all the other little things one does when selecting a book.

With an ebook, you don't get any of those other sensory impressions. The only one you get is a visual sensation so that visual clue must absolutely knock your socks off. It has to be so good that it immediately makes you want to read the Product Description or blurb.

What Constitutes A Kick Ass Cover

In my opinion, a KAC is one that makes someone want to buy the book without reading the blurb or anything. See KAC; click Buy. Of course, when this happens, you get people buying your book who ordinarily would never buy a romantic comedy or science fiction or whatever, but that's a minor point.

Let me make the disclaimer here that my daughter Adina Reeves, who is a graphic artist, creates my covers. I know what I want, and I make a mock-up to show her. We discuss the cover design, and she tells me how it can be better. *g* Then she creates the cover art.

She produces art files in a size specific for Amazon Kindle (screenshot and "catalog") and Smashwords. Those two actually require 2 different pixel size images. Nook, XinXii, and others can use one of these two sizes. Then she creates a grayscale of the image for the Kindle screenshot that appears on the Kindle itself. So when I say I do such and such, I mean I design the design and my artist makes it happen.

Yes, she does freelance work for other authors. She'll be listed on the Resource Directory I'll publish when I conclude the various parts of the Cover Art presentation.

Hallmarks of a KAC

1. Cover conveys not just the genre but the tone, style, reader experience, and story itself.

I'm going to use my books as examples because those are the ones I'm most familiar with. My first ebook Just One Look alone has sold more than 20,000 copies in less than 3 months. I think it's because the cover says:

Genre: romance
Tone: sexy
Style: informal
Reader experience: fun
Story itself: sexy, romantic comedy that maybe has a scene involving black, thigh-high stockings

All those things are true. Now, this next sentence is very important. The cover denotes that not just with the graphic image, but also with the title font used and the pale, pink-skin tone color selection.

I wanted a graphic image that was sexy, and even pretty, but not sleazy. Of course, you have to realize that sexy and sleazy are in the eye of the beholder. However, I've had tons of comments about the covers, and only a couple of people thought they were over-sexed or represented erotica, which they do not.

As a side note, only one person thought the cover was trashy. Oddly enough, that person was another author who writes extremely explicit erotica and BGL fiction. I thought her negative comment was rather odd.

2. Sex sells. There's no denying that a sexy cover attracts more attention than a non-sexy, but a KAC shouldn't be sexy unless the story is sexy because readers who buy based on the sexy cover will castigate you roundly should the cover not deliver on their expectations.

3. Among print publishers, the general opinion is that a sexy man on a romance novel sells better than a woman on the cover. With ebooks, in my experience, this isn't true. Most of my backlist that I'm publishing as ebooks will have covers as part of my Lingerie Series because I think women, the bulk of romance readers, respond well to pretty lingerie. Most women I know love beautiful lingerie so I thought that was an easy way to attract reader attention. So give a lot of thought into the image you select.

My third ebook Still The One continued The Lingerie Covers with a black corset. Again, same title font, but I used black for the font color since it was being placed on top of skin which I filtered to make it a bit more pink. This is a relatively tame cover that's pretty but not as sexy as the first book nor the fourth book. Though it's also on the Kindle Contemporary Romance Bestseller List, it has not taken off like a speeding bullet.

The second speeding bullet I have is my fourth ebook JANE (I'm-Still-Single) JONES in The Lingerie Covers has a black lacy cami--same pale-pink color and title font and same pink-filter wash over the image. Much sexier image, and it's selling like ice after a hurricane.

Jane, as I familiarly call my book, has been out less than a month and has already sold more than 3,000 copies. That's out-performing my first ebook JOL which is back on the Top 100 Paid list.

So is it the sexier cover contributing to the fast sales? Perhaps so.

4. The cover image you select should display well on the online book page and also should translate well to grayscale (what you probably call black and white--the cover image displayed on the Kindle if the author has formatted the book correctly) and to thumbnail size.

This is crucial. Don't use a lot of fine detail because it will get lost when it's reduced to a thumbnail. Don't use "muddy" colors or dark images. My second ebook The Trouble With Love (Book 1: Texas One Night Stands) needs to be re-designed.

It shows everything it needs to show:

Genre: contemporary romance
Tone: sexy (low-slung genes on a bad-boy and wrist restraints)
Style: informal (the font is derivative of the one used on my Lingerie Covers)
Reader experience: fun (kind of wacky font, again, the wrist restraints)
Story itself: very sexy--maybe has a scene involving the hero in wrist restraints (true because the heroine is a deputy sheriff).

The cover image even hints at setting: Texas Longhorn on the silver jeans button.

But, the cover image is too dark. The grunge filter used to wash over the image to make it edgier makes the image not show well in the online catalog.

This book started very slow due to my own denseness. I went against my written Business Plan. More on that when I discuss Pricing. Still, I think the cover image has something to do with slow sales. When I repriced it, it started selling. It's been live for 2 months and has sold over 7,000 copies. It's a wonderful story, very sexy with some home truths, and I think it would sell more if the cover was changed, but I simply haven't had time to do that.


I've looked at countless numbers of covers. With romance, sexy is good. John Locke who has sold a million Kindle books uses sexy females on his covers, and he doesn't write romance! Far from it.

Humor is good also. For a period book, something that looks like a painting of a beautiful woman in a low-cut gown--evocative, beautiful and sexy--seems to do well. However, if you write historical romance and you use classic paintings, your books may seem more pure historical than historical romance.

Always make sure the image denotes the kind of story.

If you write a series, find a way to visually connect the books. Even if your books are stand-alones, I think it makes sense to have some kind of continuity in book after book, i.e. the same fonts for title and/or author name--perhaps some design element that is repeated with each book cover.

I use the same font and name style (just look at the cover of any of my books and you'll see what I mean by style) for my name on each of my books regardless of the book.


The biggest don't I can think of is using cover art that looks "homemade." I know you've had the experience of looking at ebooks and laughing at some covers. What made you laugh? Probably the fact that it looked as if someone cut and pasted it together using the simplest graphic image program available. It looked homemade. What makes a cover look homemade?

1. Using the standard Windows fonts that come with all computers.

2. Using too many fonts.

3. Using too many colors in the fonts.

4. Using graphic images that look like cheap clip art.

5. Designing covers that have no sense of design. If you're not an artist, hire one. Many are very reasonable.

Believe it or not, I have even more to say about this subject. Drop by next week for Cover Art, Part 2.

Takeaway Truth

A rising tide floats all boats. I wish you magnificent ebook sales. If my advice helps, please let me know.


  1. Ironic, isn't it how the visual aspect is still so important in the digital age. And I loved the JOL cover!

  2. Kind of makes you think there's nothing new under the sun when it comes to selling books, huh?

    Thanks, Suzan, for the nice comment about the cover.

    Best wishes,