Discover how Amazon changed book cover design and why authors need to pay attention

There’s a reason that the Midwest Book Review [est. 1976] rejects books from the covers before even opening the book to discover the story inside. To learn more, I suggest you read what Midwest has to say about The Importance of Book Covers.

Midwest says, “[Titles] are rejected for having cover art that looked like the product of a high-school drawing class assignment for beginners. Cover art that was so avant-garde that it left all mainstream sensibilities bewildered in its wake. Cover art that looked cheap, felt cheap, was cheap.”

The same logic applies for readers who are in search of a good read. The first thing readers see is the cover and there are too many books to choose from. The cover that wins the contest for the eyes usually means the book is picked up and opened.

Because of this, the first book I published that ended up with two covers was “My Splendid Concubine’s” 3rd edition when a fellow author said the paperback cover wasn’t working on Amazon as a thumbnail sized cover. I think it was because there was too much detail in the original art work.


The reason why authors need to rethink book covers has been explored by C.K. Abbott on her blog. She says, “Paperback book covers have to perform different jobs than Kindle covers.”

Here’s where I may have made my mistake—twice. For both “My Splendid Concubine’s” 3rd edition and “Running with the Enemy”, my first two novels, I commissioned an artist to create original art quilts and then took photos of the quilts to convert into book covers—those impressive art quilts now hang on our bedroom wall.

But here’s the twist. It’s all in the size. What looks great large doesn’t always work in a smaller size.

The original quilt for Concubine was 23 inches wide by 31 long, and the quilt for “Running with the Enemy” was 21 x 27. After I took the photographs, I shrunk them to 5.5 x 8.5 for the paperback covers.  On Amazon, those same covers were even smaller and the rich details in the original quilts were lost.

As an indie author in charge of every step of book production, it’s possible to get carried away—like I did—when it comes to experimenting with other art forms to create original book covers.

In another Blog post, Scarlett Rugers discusses how to choose the right font for your eBook cover. Rugers is an award winning book cover designer from Melbourne, and the work she displays on her site is stunning.

But cover art appears in more places than on a paperback or Amazon. Cover art needs to be effective in both a thumbnail and larger-than-life on a poster and Read discusses this topic in Seven Tips for Great Cover Design.

Low Res e-book and paperback covers joined December 13

And at Book View we learn: “It is a fact that most potential customers for any particular ebook will first encounter the cover image as a thumbnail. With that in mind, cover designers have trended toward simple art, toward large type size rendered in straightforward fonts. Cover illustrations have been demoted to lesser importance. Graphic considerations reign.

“Unfortunately, far too many ebook designers are still thinking like print book designers. The only difference is they have applied the rule of making covers that are legible at thumbnail size. They’re repeating that mantra until they throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

If you want to see more stunning book covers, check out the winners of the e-Book Cover Design Awards, September 2013, by clicking on this link for The Book


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves


Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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