Sometimes it’s the niggly things that slow you down, like trying to figure out the best size for your book cover. Here’s a quick rundown of my process, and why I choose the cover sizes I do.
The first thing to decide upon is your book cover’s aspect ratio (the ratio of height to width). For a printed book, you can pretty much define exactly what you want your reader to see. For epub, it’s a little different. Because we can’t (yet) serve up the perfect cover to match a reader’s screen, we have to accept that a good chunk of your readers are going to see either a resized or cropped version of your cover, no matter what aspect ratio you choose. There’s nothing we can do about that. (Between various ereader brands and models, tablets, and even phones, most screen aspect ratios range between 1.33:1 and 1.6:1).
Our BEST bet is to focus on how the cover looks as a thumbnail in the distributor’s online store. That’s the first time the reader will see your cover, and where it can make or break a sale.
There are basically three aspect ratios to choose from:
The first (1.33) yields a fairly broad cover that is not (in my opinion) all that aesthetically pleasing. It’s also not very common. The last (1.6) yields a taller, narrower cover. It’s currently popular, and is being encouraged by Amazon. My favorite (Goldilocks!) aspect ratio is 1.5. This ratio is common in the traditional print world and is still very common across the board, even in epub-only book formats.A great aspect ratio for #bookcovers is 1.5 - great for print AND epub! #indiepub #indieauthor #bookdesign Click To Tweet
The example below shows one of my premade covers (1.5) cropped to yield a cover with an aspect ratio of 1.6. Note how the second appears narrower.
The basic ‘safe’ size to ensure your book cover is large enough for all book distributors is 2700px x 1800px. This will cover you for Amazon, Smashwords, D2D, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, LULU, Kobo, and BookBaby. Note that this yields an aspect ratio of 1.5. Note also that a lot of these vendors actually recommend the smaller size of 2400px x 1600, so you’re more than covered. All of them accept a high-resolution JPEG in RGB color mode, but do be aware that some have file size restrictions. Kobo, for example, won’t accept anything over 2MB, so keep an eye on that.
If you’re printing your book through a service like CreateSpace, they offer several basic dimensions. However, if you’re sticking with the 1.5 aspect ratio, the 6” x 9” option is a perfect fit. Why? Because once you set these dimensions and choose 300dpi (ie. high-resolution for print), the canvas size is again 2700px x 1800px. It’s like it was meant to be!
Playing it safe
So do I just set my canvas to 2700px to 1800px for every cover? Actually, I err on the side of caution and set every canvas to 4800px x 3200px. You may notice that this just happens to be double the smallest recommended size (which makes exporting small cover sizes a cinch – just export at 50% to yield a cover of 2400 x 1600px). However, that’s not why I do it. I like having an extra-large canvas in case a client wants to create an unusually large print cover, or the aspect ratio needs to be modified in such a way that extra work must be done. In both of these cases, a bit of extra breathing room can make all the difference.
Why not double my basic recommended size of 2700 to 1800px? This would yield a big double-sized canvas of 5400 x 3600px – PLENTY of breathing space!! While I have done this on occasion, I generally find that it’s overkill. More importantly, a lot of stock images simply aren’t big enough to cover a canvas that size. In contrast, it’s rare to find a stock image that’s less than 4800px on its longest side. Basically, it comes down to practical constraints – but if you have a big enough image, and a decent enough computer to handle the workload, by all means create your cover on a nice big canvas and play it safe!
Hopefully that cleared up a few things for those of you who were wondering about book cover sizing. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to hit me up on Facebook or Twitter – I’m always happy to clarify.