Everyone knows not to judge a book by its cover, yet that’s exactly what most people end up doing. On a digital shelf that’s occupied by thousands of other ebooks, the ebook cover design is the first thing that catches a potential customer’s eye and encourages them to explore the book further.

A professional, attractive cover also says something about the contents of the book itself and can relay just as much information to your customers as the book’s title and short description.

If you are in the process of publishing an ebook, designing a great cover should be one of your first priorities. To help, here are six ebook cover design tips to get you started.

1. Browse the Competition

The first step in ebook cover design is to see what other some of the covers in your genre look like so you can get a base idea for what works and what doesn’t.

Head over to Amazon or the iBooks store and start looking at other books that are similar to yours. Pick out the ones with covers that you really like and that catch your attention, then go back and start analyzing what it is that works about those covers.

ebook cover design
Photo via Jessica Sepel

What design elements do they employ? What fonts and colors do they use? Write these things down and you’ll have a pretty good blueprint to start designing your own cover.

2. Buy the Right Images

Good ebook cover design all starts with purchasing the right images. It is these images that will be the bulk of your cover’s design, and it’s important to find the right one. Thankfully, there are plenty of images to choose from on platforms such as iStock and Shutterstock.

While there are some free image sources available, in most instances you get what you pay for. Although in some cases you may be able to find an image on a free platform that works great, buying the rights to an image on one of the paid platforms will provide you with a much wider range of options, and, in most instances, these images are more professional looking. They’re also usually affordable, so the fee is easily justified.

With that said, avoid the temptation to go to Google Images and use an image you find there. Sure, these images often look great, but they are not royalty-free and, in most cases, you will not be authorized to use them for commercial purposes. Even if you don’t get caught, it’s just not good business.

3. Avoid Images that Look too Much Like a “Stock Photo”

Just like there are cliches in writing, there are images that are cliches as well. It’s a concept that’s a little difficult to describe, but chances are you would be able to pick out a cliched image if you saw one. These images scream “stock photo” and are overused to the point of becoming familiar in a bad way.

ebook cover design

If you see an image and it looks somehow recognizable, or if it doesn’t really look like a piece of original art, chances are it looks too much like a stock photo to make for a great ebook cover.

4. Get the Details Right

Your image may be the foundation of your ebook cover design, but the finer details are just as important to the overall presentation. Getting these details right starts with choosing a font. Fonts range from bold and confident to flowery and poetic, and these fonts can convey just as much meaning as the words they spell, so take your time until you’ve found a font that has the right look.

ebook cover design
Photo via Ampersand

Next, you’ll want to choose the right colors for your text. Like the font, colors can be used to convey a number of messages, but they will also need to match well with the colors in the image you are using. Take a look at a color wheel to see which colors pair well together, but also keep in mind the emotions and messages that colors convey.

ebook cover design
Photo via Adobe Color CC

For example, dark blue conveys thoughtfulness and calming while bright red conveys passion and energy. These are all things you will want to keep in mind when choosing a color scheme for your book cover.

Lastly, depending on your graphic design skills, you may want play around with other details and effects such as light bursts, shadowing, and more. These types of effects are really only limited by your own imagination and the software that you are using.

5. Use the Right Tools

Speaking of the software you are using, it’s important to make sure you are using tools that do not hamper your abilities. By far the most advanced and capable tool for ebook cover design is Photoshop.

ebook cover design

However, this program is massive with a learning curve steep enough to scare away entry-level designers. Even getting the base features down will take some time, however, if you do have access to Photoshop and are somewhat proficient with it, it is certainly a program that will provide you with all of the tools you need and more.

If Photoshop isn’t your thing GIMP and Pixler are a couple of other good options. Both of these tools are free of charge at the base level but do offer you the ability to pay for additional features should you decide that you need them.

6. Don’t be Afraid to Hire a Professional

If graphic design isn’t your strong point, don’t shy away from paying for professional help. You’ve worked far too hard on writing your ebook to outfit it with a shoddy looking cover and sink its sales right out of the gate.

Thankfully, getting a professional graphic designer to help you design a custom cover doesn’t have to be all that expensive. A simple search for “ebook cover designers” will turn up countless options at prices for every budget.

Just make sure to take a look at the designer’s previous work and fully understand what their design process looks like (i.e. how long it takes them, how many revisions you will be able to request, and so on) before you commit to hiring them.

Start Mastering Ebook Cover Design

One crucial step in publishing an ebook that will fly off the digital shelves is to master ebook cover design (or hire a pro; we won’t judge). Your ebook’s cover is the first thing potential customers will see when they are shopping for new reading material, and first impressions matter.

Be sure to follow the tips outlined above and give designing your ebook cover the time and attention that it deserves in order to produce an ebook that will catch customer’s eye the second that they see it.