Ebook Covers ≠ Print Covers
Ebook covers have different challenges than their print counterparts. Most readers will first see an ebook cover when it's a small thumbnail amidst a grid of ebooks on the digital storefronts. This is the critical moment where a reader will either notice the title immediately, or miss it. The small size of these thumbnails brings new challenges for your cover design.
Let's assume your #1 goal is to at least have your book's title legible in all situations. Suddenly, real estate on your cover becomes much more precious than on a print book cover. You will need to make your title as BIG as possible while still legible within the dimensions of your cover image (usually 600 by 800-900 pixels). This is contradictory to print, where designers carefully adhere to margins and give generous breathing room where possible.
Here's an example Vook made for a digital-only release, Austin's Adventures. The title is as big as possible within the 600-pixel width, to where the "A" and "S" in "Adventures" almost touch the edge, a print no-no.
This title can still be read at many sizes, even within the tiny thumbnails shown on smartphones. Notice that this is not the case for many, even best selling print books, where the print cover was simply used again for digital version.
Speaking of print covers, many use outlines to help separate title from background. This can backfire in ebook covers. Notice this alternate version of the same cover with outline. All is well up close, but in shelf view, the outline isn't always scaled evenly, and actually hurts legibility.
In print books, most subtitles are so small on the cover that they would never be legible in any shelf view at any size. Notice in the previous example how only the buzz-worthy elements of the subtitle are enlarged, to maximize their legibility within the space provided. In this case “Austin Meyer” and “X-Plane” are the words we want everyone to notice on the shelf view.
It's also surprising how many author names are not visible in shelf view. If the goal of the ebook is to get the author's name some exposure, or if the name attached to the book is a selling point, then this should be a priority.
Making a cover that is legible in any situation is your competitive advantage. If you already have a cover for your print release, we recommend making simple adjustments to the cover so that it clearly shows your book's title and/or author at any size. It will help your readers find your ebook, and it will help attract new readers.