I judge books by their covers.
I do this, and you do this, and so does everybody else who has ever stood in a bookstore, staring at a field of rectangles, each and every last one of them demanding to be picked up.
We all do it.
I write books, and I think about covers all the time. I’ve been designing book covers for only a short while. I began with my own covers, and before long, other authors — and some publishers — were asking if I’d design their covers. I estimate I’ve designed about 250 covers in the last 16 months
Since Kindle Worlds opened last year, I’ve been active in its walls both as a writer and a cover designer. I’ve written in both Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga world and Rob Thomas’s Veronica Mars world — but I’ve designed covers for other authors who are publishing John Rain stories and The Abnorm Chronicles stories, to name a few. Every day, there are more and more stories published in Kindle Worlds — which means every day there are more books competing for your readers. (Well, your potential readers. You still have to write a good story.)
Let’s look at two recent book covers that I designed for Kindle Worlds titles.
Glimmer, by J.R. Rain & Eve Paludan (The Abnorm Chronicles)
J.R. and Eve’s short story follows Dana, a woman who can shift her identity and adapt to any situation. She’s beautiful, dangerous, and unpredictable. The cover needed to capture that smoky, trans-formative quality – so rather than work with a typical portrait of an attractive model, I chose a piece of art that not only communicates the heroine’s classic beauty, but frames her in a box that she can immediately break out of. The watercolor style of the illustration underscores the unpredictability of the character, and has the added bonus of standing out from other books in both the Abnorm Chronicles world and the genre.
Escape from the Academy, by Neal Pollack (The Abnorm Chronicles)
Let’s stay in the Abnorm Chronicles world for a moment, and take a look at a very different cover. Neal Pollack has written a few immersive, breakneck Kindle Worlds stories. Escape from the Academy examines the dark side of the ‘Abnorm’ world — a sinister academy for gifted children, a prison in all but name. The cover of Escape suggests exactly what you might expect — a child running for her life — but uses a muted palette and looming trees to capture the ever-present threat of capture. For this cover, I encircled Neal’s title and byline in a floating orb, a throwback to some of the great cover designs of the 1960s, and a subtle nod to the watchful eye of the Academy.
Amazon has tried to make it a little easier for authors to take the bull by the horns and design their own covers. Kindle Worlds has a built-in book cover creator tool. If you’ve published a book in Kindle Worlds, you’ve seen it. Here are a few simple tips that may help you design an effective book cover on your own.
Select a well-balanced image.
When creating your own cover, you’ll find that Amazon has a deep library of stock photography available for use. You can select images based on their content or on a certain mood or graphic concept. You can also upload an image of your own (though you should always make sure you own the rights to the image, or have acquired the proper rights for use).
A book cover is only as strong as its parts, so look for an image that will support the text you’ll be putting on top of it. If the subject of your image is dead-center in the frame, you may run into problems placing your title or name later. Look for images that use negative space intelligently. They’re more interesting, and will help focus the reader’s attention when you begin working with type.
Use type clearly and intentionally.
Setting type in the cover creator is easy, though you’ll find that it doesn’t allow for a lot of nuance. One of the most important things you can do when designing a cover is try to achieve balanced typography. When every word on the cover is the same size, it becomes difficult for the reader to focus their attention where you’d most like it.
Fortunately, the cover creator allows you to not only align type where you want it, it allows you to choose from a variety of well-designed typefaces — some of which I’ve used on my own cover projects before — and assign different weights to the type (currently regular, bold and italic).
Compare your work with your fellow Kindle Worlds authors.
The last thing you want to do is create a cover that’s identical to another author’s book, particularly one in the same world you’ve written in. While the cover creator provides so many design and type options that this might be unlikely, it’s still worth verifying that you aren’t creating confusion for readers. This exercise also makes it easy to see what books are performing well in Kindle Worlds, and just might inspire you to try something different. Authors are doing all kinds of interesting things with their self-created covers.
With a little ingenuity, patience, and some balance, every book published in Kindle Worlds can have a cover that says to a reader, “Trust me. I’m good. I won’t let you down.”