picture formatting

Creating your eBook cover images

File size, dimensions (ratio) and resolution

File size, dimensions (ratio) and resolution are all very important when making your cover. To keep things simple, at the time of this writing, a good all around size for your eBook cover that will conform to almost all eBook distributors (Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple iStore, and Bookbaby,  Lulu being the exception) is 1600 x 2400 (6:9 ratio) at 72dpi. If you plan on using the same cover image for print, 300dpi is required. One thing to keep in mind are the delivery fees an author will pay when Amazon delivers your book. Authors are charged a fee for each book delivered according to the size of the eBook file, so the smaller the overall file size the more money in your pocket!

Creating your eBook cover images

When creating your own cover images, be sure to save your work in the native format of your program. I use GIMP and the native format is .xcf. Saving it as such retains all the layers and it will allow you to go back and edit the cover any time. I create my cover and add as many layers as I need. When I create a new cover I just add new layers to the file. Doing so results in a template with many layers but I can hide layers and unhide them at a later date if I decide to use them. I never delete layers in my master .xcf file unless they are ABSOLUTELY not needed. This way I can go back and create a whole new cover by hiding or un-hiding different layers. This also results in me having just a few master templates with many layers that can be used to create hundreds of different covers easily.

With that said, yes, you can have too many layers which will make the master file size very large. I recently created some premium Kindle Cover templates and had 20+ layers of just pictures. Not any pictures, full sized (2500 px high) pictures that took up a ton of memory. So much memory was used that I had to shut down a ton of processes and programs to get GIMP to continue to work. It took almost two full minutes just to save the file I was working on. That is a bit scary when you spend a ton of time creating a template like that and the program almost crashes because you have overloaded it.

I ended up dividing the template into 3 separate ones and they all work perfectly. Be conscious of how large the file is as you are adding layers to your master cover template.

Naming your eBook cover image files

I am not talking about the master files, I am talking about the completed cover files. I save mine as JPGs and give them a name that describes them. For instance, the file for the Kindle version of my book What I have learned writing and publishing eBooks is called writing-publishing-ebooks-kindle.jpg.  Naming them like that helps me keep everything straight and easy to find.

If you want to create your own Kindle cover (they can be used for others as well as mentioned above) check out my GIMP templates. There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of possibilities.

I can also make a cover for you if you need. Hey, some folks just want things done and I get it.

Do you have any tips about making eBook covers?

Adding pictures to eBooks

How hard can it be adding pictures to eBooks, right?

Not as easy as it could or should be. To begin with, NEVER copy and paste an image into your Word file. Always use the Insert/Picture option. Pictures are usually best centered, so click the newly inserted picture and use the center option you typically use for centering text.

Images must not be floating. If you click and hold the left mouse button down on an image, you should not be able to move it. If it moves it is floating and not fixed to the page. Floating images display terribly on eReaders. Right click, choose Size and Position. Under the Text Wrapping tab, choose the “Inline with text” option. This will lock the picture to the page but you can still position it using the Align Text buttons (Align left, Align center, Align right, Justify). If that does not work, delete the image entirely and insert it again. All images should be Aligned center for best results.

If you resize an image by clicking the corner and dragging it inward, some eBook file outputs will adhere to the new size, but Kindle may not. Resizing your images before you import them into the Word document using GIMP, Photoshop, Irfanview, Paint.net, or Picassa may help.

The size to save the image in is still a mystery to me. I have not figured out the relationship between saving the image with a specific width and the size of the picture that results after inserting it into Word. (Hence the “Not as easy as it should be…)

I have tried various sizes and simply inserted them into my file to see which worked best. I saved the same image in 300px, 400px, and 500px wide versions and each displayed fine. Yet when inserted a different image at 500px wide I had to resize it slightly smaller to fit the page.

Ok now, I have to say I HAD to change the size of the last one to fit correctly. Even though it was saved as an image 500px wide as the one before it was, it required me to resize it from 5.56 to 4.5 to fit the page. The image just before it that was also saved at 500px wide was inserted as 1.66, VERY confusing!

So I would suggest saving your images to 500px wide and after inserting them in the document adjust the size as needed. I have found that most pictures saved at 500px and inserted required me to reduce the size slightly, but as seen above with the one that was inserted at 1.66px wide, that is not always the case.After insertion, right click the picture and choose Format/Size and change the width to no more than 4.5. Also be sure the aspect ratio is being preserved. Mark Coker in his eBook Style Guide suggests sizing them correctly before inserting them but that is obviously harder than it seems.

I have also added shapes in Word like arrows, lines, text boxes, etc., to go with my pictures. Big mistake. These shapes will end up floating and cannot be fixed to your picture. Try as I might I was not able to permanently link my picture and drawn arrows within Word. This resulted in the arrows, lines or boxes being in the wrong place after the file was converted. I ended up removing the drawings and picture, editing the picture by adding the element where I needed it, then re-inserting the new picture.

This pictures shows how those arrows and text boxes looked when viewing the EPUB file:

problems with eBook formatting
Amazon’s previewer did not reveal these errors with my formatting. This is how my book actually displayed on actual eBook readers.

As I said, I edited the picture with GIMP and added all those elements to the picture itself, then inserted the picture again.

Have you discovered any secrets when using pictures and images in your eBooks?