Your Book Cover -- The Rules Are Changing
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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Your Book Cover -- The Rules Are Changing

The Rules: They Are Changing! I'm forwarding in this post a message from Mark Coker of Smashwords about the changes:

On June 14, we announced over at the Smashwords Blog -
- and at Site Updates -
- that starting around July 15, we'll require larger cover images for new Premium Catalog titles. Also that week, I updated the Smashwords Style Guide and Smashwords FAQs to reflect the new requirements.

Your current Premium Catalog titles, even if they have smaller cover images, are NOT affected by the new guidelines unless you update the cover image.

This change is prompted by new requirements at Apple that go into effect in August. The new requirements are also consistent with updated recommendations by Amazon (some day, Amazon-willing, we'll distribute to Amazon!), which also now recommends larger cover images. We think the new recommendations make good common sense because they create a more satisfying customer experience for readers who use the newer high resolution screens such as Apple's amazing Retina display.

Starting July 15, cover images for new titles, and cover image updates for existing titles, should be at least 1,400 pixels wide. Please see the Smashwords blog for full details and suggest width/height ratios and options -

If your book is among the tens of thousands at Smashwords that have the smaller covers, and you're already Premium Catalog-distributed, you can leave your cover as-is for now. Better yet, consider this a good time to update your cover. As I mention in my new best practices book, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, the cover image is the first impression your book makes on a prospective reader. If your cover image doesn't look as good or better than the covers put out by big New York publishers, you're at a disadvantage. Make the effort to upgrade to a professional cover image. Professional cover design is very affordable. Most of the cover designers on my "Mark's List" (send a blank email to
and you'll receive it via instant autoresponder) charge between $40 and $100 for a cover. They all have online portfolios, so you can decide if their work matches your vision. We don't get a commission if you hire them, though all the folks there are on the list because they've done good work for your fellow Smashwords authors and publishers. If their portfolios don't match what you're looking for, ask your favorite indie authors for references. There are many great cover designers out there for under $300. *Always* review an artist's online portfolio before signing on with them, and try to work directly with the artist rather than through an intermediary."

Here are my next two cover images, both of which were designed by Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics to fit the new requirements:



























And here are the rules for Apple and Amazon:

Starting in August, Apple will require that all new ebook cover images be at least 1,400 pixels wide.  Their previous minimum was 600 pixels. Why is Apple requiring higher pixel counts?  Most likely, it's because they want to provide ebook customers a more pleasing visual experience for their current and future higher-resolution iPads, iPhones and MacBooks.  Since we think the Apple's guidelines are reasonable (they help readers with next-generation screens enjoy your covers in all their glory), we'll adopt Apple's requirements as our new minimum standards for cover images.

Amazon recommends images that are 2,500 pixels tall, with the height 1.6 times greater than the width.  This means that the new Apple/Smashwords requirements will help you create an image that's also more pleasing to Amazon's current and future customers.  Two birds with one stone.

Let's dig into the math
  Smashwords has always required vertical-rectangle-shaped images, where the height is greater (taller) than the width.  Most good-looking covers have heights that are around 1.3 to 1.65 times greater than the width.
Provided your cover is at least 1,400 pixels wide, you have flexibility here whether you prefer slightly wider covers or slightly taller covers.

Start with your width.  Although the new requirement is a minimum width of 1,400 pixels, I'd recommend a width of 1,500 to 1,800 pixels to be safe.  This will help you get closer to Amazon's recommended height, and will also provide you some measure of future-proofing for a couple years out when we might see pixel requirements increase even further.

Let's say you choose a width of 1,600 pixels.  If you want a 1.33 ratio, multiply 1,600 by 1.33 and you get a height of 2,128 pixels.  If you think that looks too short and squat, try 1.5.  Multiply 1,600 by 1.5 and you get a height of 2,400 pixels.  If you want 1.6, or 1.65, multiply by that.  Don't obsess too much over the ratio, though.  Focus on creating a cover that works best for your book.