Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Kindle Cover Conundrum

I met a writer at the recent ConQuesT science fiction convention in Kansas City who had sold about 180,000 self-published books in the past year. I mentioned that I planned to self-publish a novel this summer, and she encouraged me to produce both e-books and trade paperbacks.

I took a look through her CreateSpace-printed books and was surprised at the quality. (CreateSpace is Amazon's hardcopy self-publishing arm.) The coverstock, inside stock, and ink looked as good as those of books produced by New York. I decided I would self-publish my novel both electronically and as a trade paperback.

But what would I do about the cover? I had designed the cover for the Kindle, and so it:
  • is very simple
  • is brightly colored
  • is bold
  • uses large typefaces for the title and author name
  • is designed to look good in Kindle's preferred 5x8 proportions
It won't work as is on a 6x9 trade paperback. Sure, I can stretch the image here and squash it there so it looks nearly identical to the Kindle cover. That would allow me use the same promotional materials for both.

But do I really want to make only minor formatting changes? What is pleasing and catches the eye in an image half the size of my thumb and on the cover of a 6x9 paperback are quite different. A book cover pleasingly complex enough to get me to spend a minute or two looking at it in person is often a blurred mess when viewed in the carousel of my Kindle. (Which I know because covers look different enough in person vs. on my Kindle that I have bought several expensive books on Kindle and then later bought them in paperback or hardback, not recognizing them. Ouch!)

I worry that the Kindle cover may be too loud and insufficiently complex for a paper book. I worry that my name would look much too large on the paper cover for a writer early in her career.

Another worry: I created the cover using Microsoft Word and some free programs. (I don't own Adobe Illustrator or any other fancy art program.) I had to do some work-arounds to create the cover I wanted within Word's limitations. The resulting minuscule flaws won't show up on the Amazon ad or in the Kindle book, but they will be glaringly obvious if I use the image on the trade paperback's cover.

I am still mulling what to do. The advantages of the same cover on every edition of a book are obvious. But so are the advantages of tailoring the cover image to the size at which people will view it and the disadvantages of having clear mistakes in the art.

I think some of my answers may lie in digging deeply into Word's more obscure features; somewhere buried under many layers of menu options may lie the solutions to the flaws created by my work-arounds. I will also try making subtle but significant alterations to the design and printing them out at different sizes to see whether I can make the image more suitable for a paperback without altering it significantly.

As more of us try out self-publication, solutions to these and other problems of designing our own books will become common knowledge. In the meantime, we each struggle with producing a high-quality book within the limited financial means we have as writers.

Thank goodness we writers are creative and can think out of the box!

I'll be blogging again at Novel Spaces on June 21.

—Shauna Roberts


Charles Gramlich said...

Sometimes I think I'm not good at thinking outside the box, especially with promotion.

Liane Spicer said...

Shauna, I'm not a graphic artist but I created covers for the first shorts I published on Kindle. I'd always planned to go pro for novels, but ended up hiring an artist for the fifth short. I found the image, did a mock up of what I wanted and the artist did the rest. After the time and stress of doing the first four myself, it was a relief; I was happy to pay out the $65 she charged.

I would not dream of creating my own covers for a print book. I'd have to wait until I bought a copy to see how it turned out, by which time readers might have bought it as well. That's way too risky, imo.

My suggestion is that you save yourself the time, stress and probable regrets down the road and hire a pro.

Lynn Emery said...

I paid someone to do my covers, though like Liane I bought stock art and described how I wanted the covers to look. You have to account for the spine width. I don't know how use Photoshop or more advanced graphic design applications. And with the hard work of writing, editing, etc. I really didn't want to learn. So I hired someone with skills with very reasaonable prices. Very.

Carol Mitchell said...

The cover is so important. I always hire someone. is a good website to find reasonably priced artists.

Kindle How To Promote said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. I truly believe that ebook covers create the impression in the mind of the potential customer that they are actually purchasing a real product. The reason why this is so incredibly important revolves around the fact that multiple studies have suggested that people are more prone to want to buy something if they can visualize what it might look like if they had it in their hands. Pretty interesting. :)