Q&A: Premade Book Cover Ratio

#bookcovers, #audiobooks, #authors, #selfpublishing, #ebooks

Logo_400_thumb1[REVISED 2014-10-27]

Q: If I need an ebook cover at a different ratio than that of print, how much would that cost? What about an audiobook cover?

A: The short answer is $0, but it depends on the specifications. And that is where the long answer gets into some details many need to know.

We realize that fewer and fewer e-self-publishing authors opt for producing an additional print edition. We have been discussing this at NDAS. Still, cover standards for print may be the best choice for ebooks as well. Since this is a two part question, we will address each part separately.

Alternative Ebook Covers

Our master template is 3:2 ratio, 600ppi, with standard 1/4” (150pixel) bleed zones for print. Part or all of some bleed zones could be selectively left visible and, with slight cover element repositioning, produce alternative cover ratios.

This may not be a good choice. Note the following example using two recently released pre-made covers. The ratios presented (in order) are 3:2, 16:11, and 4:3 as some of those more common among portable devices.

NJO0913_1024 NJO0913_1024_16_11 NJO0913_4_3


NJY7715_1024 NJY7715_1024_16_11 NJY7715_1024_3x4


FACT: There is no standard screen ratio across all ereaders, tablets, phones, etc. used for reading an ebook.

There are now at least several hundred makes/models when all that can display an ebook are counted. Trying to accommodate all with differing ratios of covers is not possible.

The Fallacy of eBook Industry Standards for Covers

The producers of such devices do not talk to each other; they are not part of any ebook industry with agreed standards for cover / display ratio. They never will be, because they are not “publishers.” Each might be consider an “(e)press,” but even this is a stretch of the truth. And no, a press and a publisher are not the same thing.

If we look at a few common ereaders still in wide use, we see the problem is not just between vendors but across their individual lines of brand devices.

  • Kindle Paperwhite, 758 x 1024 pixels = ~1.35 or 4:3 ratio
  • Kindle DX, 824 x 1200 pixels =  ~1.47 or 16:11 ratio
  • Kindle Fire / Nook Color / Nook Tablet, 600 x 1024 pixels or 128:75 ratio
  • iPhone 4, 640 x 960 pixels, or 3:2 ratio (equal to standard print ratio)
  • iPad, iPad 2, 768 x 1024 pixels, or 4:3 ratio
  • iPad (3rd gen.), 1536 x 2048 pixels, or 4:3 ratio

Do not think that because iPads listed above all match that all Apple devices use the same screen ratio; they do not. Variance increases in comparing even more devices. The best way to present a uniformed cover in all readers (and print) is not through multiple (or alternative) cover ratio versions.

FACT: There is no such thing as a standard ebook cover ratio… because there is no standard ratio of display.

And so, what are you to do in choosing a ratio for your ebook cover? The solution has two parts.

  1. NDAS already uses the best ratio compromise in its master template. It was not chosen arbitrarily or because it is the common ratio for soft cover editions. From the cover samples above, you saw (1) what looks best, (2) looks most like a book, and (3) looks like the most common visual proportion across the greatest number of devices.
  2. When it comes time to insert a cover image into an ebook master file, use an SVG HTML container around it in the file’s compiled code… if you know how to do so validly. This assures that your cover resizes proportionally in ever modern device and is not warped during display.

If you do not know how to setup an SVG wrapper in an EPUB, we do. More on this when we open up for our custom EPUB layout and compiling service.

Ebook Covers and Self-Publishing Portals

Most automated self-publishing portals do not (correctly or at all) wrap a cover in an SVG container when compiling an ebook automatically from an uploaded manuscript file. However, the major self-publishing portals (which does not include ebook “aggregators”) all recognize such when validly coded. We have verified this for clients working with portals such as Amazon, B&N, KoboBooks, Apple iTunes, Google Books, etc.

The Failings of Using an Ebook Aggregator

These sites are where you upload a manuscript file for auto-compiling to a variety of ereader formats. They use the lowest (out-dated) standards in order to accommodate every small outlet on the planet to which they distribute. Most do not use a valid SVG container for a cover image.

If they allow upload of a precompiled EPUB, most choke and spit out false errors when encountering advanced code like a valid SVG wrapper and other up-to-date (X)HTML / CSS.

Honestly, aggregators are not worth the paltry sales they deliver from little known ebook sites across the internet. They then take 10-20% from your cut of all vendor royalties collectively. This is not the way to build a vocation as an author.

This is not the first query we have received about alternative ebook cover ratios. We intend to offer one or two such at no additional cost, though we still advise against this. Be mindful that, because of wild variance in screen ratios, you should still use a valid SVG wrapper for proper proportional scaling of any cover. More on ebook cover options to come soon.

Alternative Audio Covers

First, we would need to know if this is (1) sleeve-only packaging for a CD/DVD or (2) a full (jewel) case with front and rear panels, or (3) for an online store display only. For the previous option 2, we then need to know if the front panel is a (1) single sheet insert, (2) a one-fold insert, or (3) other, if this is for a physical product.

As you can see, it is not as simple as just offering an audio cover option. The entire layout of the cover will have to be changed considerably in all cases. But you should consider another factor.

Like music, the growing trend is audio books purchased and delivered online directly to a device. They are less and less a physical product. You may only need an audio edition front cover image, if that, for display in an online store.

The layout for an audio cover image is still radically different from an (e)book in its proportions / ratio / composition, and so it is custom cover work at most designers, including NDAS. And yes, in most cases, we can adapt a premade cover found in our gallery. Please discuss the details with us before you order.

We hope these answers informed you somewhat of further details about this industry. And we hope more of you feel inclined to submit your own questions via our “Contact” section.

N.D. Author Services [NDAS]

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