Two jackets required
04.11.11 | Scott Pack
We need to sort our covers out. E-book ones, I mean.
I reckon that 99% of e-book covers out there are just squashed down versions of the print edition. Sometimes a cover makes that transition without too much pain. More often than not we end up with an illegible postage stamp that does nothing to sell the book.
They are, I grant you, not as important as print covers, but they are still important. They need to be clear, clean and they need to work when viewed as a thumbnail.
Random House has cracked it with the recent Haruki Murakami backlist, and I take my hat off to them for creating such a bold digital brand. But these are the exception rather than the rule. What e-book covers don’t need:
1 Quotes (too small to read; if you want them, stick them in the blurb)
2 Fancy script (too small to read it)
3 Anything that says "winner of the [insert prize here]" (too small to read it)
4 Flashes, pretend stickers or emblems (too small to . . . oh you get the bloody idea)
Many of us have spent time in cover meetings. So. Much. Time. They are some of the most frustrating, soul-destroying hours of our lives. Everyone has an opinion and they rarely agree—and even when they do, an author who "doesn’t like green" or thinks "the woman on the front is a bit old" could veto the end result. Well, the bad news is that we are soon going to need two covers per book.
Seriously, when 20%–50% of sales are going to come from a digital format, the only sensible way to ensure we have the best cover design is to have two of the buggers. One beautiful work of art replete with quotes, design features and fancy finishes. The other simple, bold and with bloody big writing on it.
You wouldn’t put a print book out there with a cover you can’t read. You wouldn’t stick a quote on the front so small you needed a microscope to work out who said what. And yet we are all, myself included, allowing e-books to be published with covers that are actually doing them more harm than good.
I accept that, at the moment, it probably isn’t doing that much harm, but things will change. Tablets are a visual medium and we need to create e-book covers that play to their strengths. Readers do make impulse purchases on their e-readers—possibly more so than in bookshops. At the moment I suspect that is largely based on price, but if we can get our covers right, then they will also play a vital role.
I don’t think this is optional. With freelance designers starting to offer special e-book rates to self-published authors, it won’t be long till they are catching us up. We can’t let them overtake.