If you’re trying to design an ebook cover which meets the size requirements of every retailer (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Sony, and Diesel), this is the post for you.
I’m starting with a long winded story about why I changed the cover of my debut novel, The Triumphs and Travails of Talisman Turner. This part has good tips and links in it, but if you’d rather just get the magic ebook cover dimension, skip ahead to Part Two!
Part One: The transformation of Talisman Turner’s ebook cover
The Triumphs and Travails of Talisman Turner has a brand new cover! I’m very excited about it, and even though there are only minor changes from the its last incarnation, I think it looks so much better. It always amazes me how minute changes can make a such a huge difference.
So you can judge for yourself, here’s the before…
…and the after:
Pretty much all I did was change the font for the title (it’s a lovely girly font called JennaSue which I downloaded from FontSpace thanks to the Jenna Sue Design Co.), and included a) my author name and b) a reference to the fact that this novel is first in a series.
So why all the changes?
For one thing, in ebook cover design tip #4 from 6 Tips to Make Your Ebook Cover Stand Out, Even When It’s Small (aka, Honey I Shrunk the Ebook Cover!) I realized that it’d be much better for my title to be in black lettering against a gold background. The contrast would improve the title’s legibility when the cover would be reduced to a thumbnail.
Secondly, I wanted to make it very clear this book was part of a series. I’m hoping that readers will get hooked by the first book and continue to buy the rest in the series (once they’re published). Making readers aware that there was more romantic comedy goodness to follow seemed like it would improve the discoverability of my future releases.
As an indie writer, discoverability is your biggest obstacle, so if you’re writing a series, I strongly urge you to make this clear on the cover. I took my inspiration from Lucy Kevin’s Four Weddings and a Fiasco series. Even if your book isn’t a lighthearted contemporary romance, you can still learn from her cover design, which clearly brands all the books in her series.
For an excellent description on branding, read Shot #4 from Dean Wesley Smith’s The New World: Killing Your Sales One Shot at a Time. (Actually, you should read the whole thing, and then check out his examples of a branded series.
Finally, the first ebook cover edition didn’t include my author name. This wasn’t an oversight; it was deliberate. See, when I first published Talisman Turner, I was enrolled in KDP Select and could only sell my ebook on Amazon.
Amazon was pretty loose with their cover image requirements. Your ebook cover could even be a square. Because so few cover images are square-shaped and because square-shaped covers have more pixels at least with respect to width, the reasoning goes, a square cover can stand out more on the site.
Amazon also doesn’t demand that you include title or author information on your cover. ALL of that info (metadata if you want to sound pompous) is already on the site, right next to the cover image. Seth Godin’s Poke the Box is a posterboy for a cover whose metadata is conveyed through context rather than through the cover.
Less words on your cover means you can create a larger, bolder image…which means that even when your ebook cover is shrunk to a tiny thumbnail, your image will still look good enough to compel someone to click on it.
But the ebook market is a global one, and if you want to sell the most number of books, you should try to distribute your books wherever you can which means selling them at Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Apple, among others.
Kobo recently launched its own publishing portal called Writing Life, and I’m pleased to report that it not only has a gorgeous interface, it’s also wonderfully easy to use. The customer service is superb as well. Go Kobo!
While they don’t explicitly say to include your title and author name on your cover, I had the sneaking suspicion that unlike Amazon, Kobo would want me to include both.
Potentially, if I were too lazy to fiddle with my ebook cover, I could try to distribute on Kobo via Smashwords instead of using Kobo’s Writing Life. But Smashwords also requires a title and author name. From Smashwords’s FAQ on covers:
Book covers must be uploaded as image files (files that end with .jpeg, .jpg or .png), not as PDFs for Word documents, and must include the book title and the author name. The cover should show the front of your book only, not the back cover you use for print.
It must be two-dimensional, not 3D or pseudo-3D. Cover images must not contain web addresses on the front cover (some retailers will reject them for this reason) or promises of products not included in the book (such as, “Comes with a free CD!”). They should be vertical rectangle-shaped (the height is greater than the width), not squares…
Since Smashwords enables indie authors to distribute their books across multiple platforms, if I didn’t change my cover and include my author name, then I wouldn’t be able to sell my novel on Apple, Barnes and Noble, Sony and Diesel.
When I realized that, I overcame my reluctance to change my cover pretty quickly. (It appears I neglected to follow my own ebook cover design tips, since one of them urges indie writers “to be flexible.”)
Changing my attitude only got me so far though because the ebook cover size requirements for almost all retailers had changed on me since I first designed my cover months ago–even Amazon’s.
I had started with a 600px by 800px cover, a size according to general consensus, would work out well wherever I decided to publish Talisman Turner. But, major retailers have joined the “bigger is better” bandwagon, increasing the size of their eReader screens…which means that my old ebook cover was too small.
Part Two: Ebook Cover Size Requirements for: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords
According to the KDP publishing guidelines, Amazon will no longer accept the once ideal size of 600px by 800px for an ebook cover. Cover images must be:
- at least 1000px on the longest side
- no more than 2500 pixels on the longest side
- ideally have a height-width ratio of 1.6
- must be in JPEG or TIFF format
- and for best results minimally compressed
Barnes and Noble
If you want to sell your ebook at Barnes and Noble, you can publish directly through them with their PubIt portal…or upload to Smashwords who will distribute your book for you. The latter option is infinitely much easier, but the choice is yours. Here are Barnes and Noble’s ebook cover requirements:
- between 750px and 2000px in length
- a file size between 5KB and 2MB
- must be in JPEG format
Note: In early July, Barnes & Noble notified Mark Coker of Smashwords that they too were increasing their recommended height requirement to between 1200 and 2000 pixels. Again, this is a recommendation, not a requirement.
Again, like with Barnes and Noble, you can publish directly through Kobo with their Writing Life portal. It’s easy to use and has a gorgeous user interface. However, if you want to keep things streamlined, you can also distribute your book through Kobo via Smashwords.
While I’m really pleased with my Kobo experience, their ebook cover requirements are rather vague. From the Kobo User Guide:
Please ensure that the image you upload is saved as a JPG or PNG file. For best results, your image should be 900 DPI and no larger than 1 MB. [Editor's note: I think 900 dpi is a typo.]
I’ve heard both positive and negative stories about publishing directly through Apple’s “iTunes Producer program.” Maybe the negative stories were exaggerated or were written by people unfamiliar with using a Mac. Rather than expending energy determining the real story, I decided to distribute by book with them via Smashwords.
If you have a Mac computer, and want to distribute with Apple directly, it might be tricky to find out what their requirements are without signing up with the Producer program first. Fortunately, a quick search brought up these comments on an Apple forum. Thanks to MichiHenning for sharing Apple’s ebook cover requirements:
From the iTunes Producer Guide 2.7.1:
Cover art (also known as a marketing image or jacket) should be at least 1400 pixels along the smaller axis and must be a JPEG or PNG file in RGB Color mode. For an average trade paperback, this could be 400 x 1400 minimum size, as the books are generally taller than they are wide. For best results, deliver the largest pixel dimensions possible. When possible, match cover art to the cover contained in the book file. The 2 million pixel maximum does not apply to the cover image.
Perfect Cover Image Dimensions
So…what have I concluded from all of the ebook cover requirements of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords?
For one thing, you should definitely save your ebook cover image as a JPEG. For another, one magical dimension emerges:
1600px by 2400px
This cover size works for ALL the major publishing platforms. I can’t take credit for figuring out this magical dimension. The credit goes to Smashwords who recommends it as the cover size you should aim for if you’re using them as your distributing platform.
As Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, points out on the Smashwords blog, other ratios work as well. (He gives examples using 1800px by 2400px and 1600px by 2560px.) You have to choose the proportions which work best for you.
But if you only have money to have your cover designer make one image, ask him to make it 1600px by 2400px. It really is magical.
Even when your cover is shrunk to a tiny thumbnail to view on retailer websites, it should still look good if you use these dimensions. Admittedly, I’m not sure how an image of this size would look on an actual eReader. However, seeing as it’s currently larger than all current eReader screen sizes, even if your cover image is decreased in size, it should still fill the entire screen without looking overly distorted.
Distortion on a greater scale usually occurs when a small cover image is expanded to fill an eReading screen — thanks to Natasha Fondren for bringing that to my attention.
Image File Size
The last thing you have to worry about besides cover image size is file size. A 1600px by 2400px cover image is automatically going to take up more disk space than an image that’s only 600px by 800px. To minimize the size of your JPEG file, use the “save for web and devices” feature of Photoshop and reduce the quality level to 85. You can probably reduce the quality level even further and still end up with a clear image…but I didn’t want to take the risk!
If you’re using a cover image designer, ask him to save your file at various compression levels, because then you can experiment to see which one best balances file size with image clarity. It’s a simple request, so I imagine this wouldn’t incur a huge additional expense.
A note about embedded covers versus product/catalog covers
If you’re new to the self-publishing game, you missed out on a very vexing issue concerning product image covers and embedded covers. For example, if you published on Amazon with KDP, you had to upload a separate cover image to their portal which would be used for display on Amazon’s website…but you had to include a separate cover image in your mobi file. Otherwise readers wouldn’t find a cover inside of the ebook they bought. It got confusing because there were different cover image requirements for each.
Fortunately, every major retailer seems to have adopted a much simpler approach: authors should upload their cover separately when they publish their ebooks, and the retailer will automagically include the image along with the ebook content when a reader downloads it.
If you’ve already uploaded your book to Amazon and included a cover image in your mobi file, or if you’re about to upload your content file and included a cover.xhtml or cover.jpg, it will likely appear twice. I don’t think a reader’s going to give you a bad review because of this tiny oversight. Double the cover, double the fun, right? Anyone else really love those old Wrigley gum commercials?
BUT–and yes this really deserves all capital letters–if you believe that every penny counts, then you should definitely remove that embedded cover stat! Here’s why:
If you’ve chosen the 70% royalty option from Amazon, they will deduct a “delivery fee” from your royalties. If the book was downloaded from the US Amazon store, that fee is 15 cents per every megabyte of your book’s total size. Images take up way more memory than text, and so, by eliminating an extra, unneeded image from your ebook, theoretically you’re reducing the delivery fee Amazon can extract from your check.
This may only save you a penny per book, but if you’re awesome and selling 60,00 copies of your self-published ebooks in one month like Ruthie Cardello, then you could be unnecessarily losing out on a nice chunk of change, simply because you automatically added a cover image to your content file.
If your book is image heavy, you may want to consider switching to Amazon’s 30% royalty option or selling your ebook directly to consumers–that’s what Andrew Hyde did, when he discovered Amazon was charging him a delivery fee of $2.58/download.
So that’s pretty much everything you need to know on cover image size specifications for Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple and Smashwords…at least until online retailers change them all over again!
Book Stack by Horia Varlan
eReaders by edvvc
Did This Article Help You?
Did you find this article helpful? Consider showing your thanks by downloading one of my books for you or a friend.
Both are romantic comedy novels where romance and psychology collide! More details below:
The Triumphs and Travails of Talisman Turner
Talisman Turner has just been dumped. It's not her. It's not the guy. It's the Red Sox.
Tali's ex-boyfriend believes sacrificing their relationship will reverse the curse plaguing his beloved baseball team. Tali's determined to reverse a curse too--the one haunting her sorry love life. She's betting on the psychology theories she studied in college to do it.
But falling in love is not a science...
Talisman Turner Minds the Gap
Perennially single Bostonian Talisman Turner has finally found the perfect boyfriend. Graham Salisbury has broad shoulders, blue-gray eyes, a sexy British accent, and an affinity for Bollywood films.
But...he lives in England. So, dreams in tow, Tali relocates to London...where, she discovers, you don't need an ocean to create distance. Secrets work just as well.
Can she bridge their gap?