This is an excerpt of the book “Better Books with LaTeX.” The book comes with a LaTeX template you can use to easily create your own books.
Cover graphics are separate from the LaTeX project. You can neither create a cover graphic in LaTeX nor include it in your project. Instead, you need to use an external program to design it.
While Amazon (and other platforms) offer automatically generated covers, I strongly recommend not using them for your final publication. They are fine if you just need any cover to get your book printed and have a physical copy, but may well turn people away because they think the (lack of) effort you put into the cover reflects on the content of the book.
Unfortunately, I can give you only a technical guideline and some ideas. I recommend hiring a designer to produce the final version. Still, if you are somewhat proficient with a graphics editor, the following sections can give you at least a start. If you do not plan to publish a print edition, simply skip to Chapter 11.2.
A cover consists of the front cover, the back cover, and the side, called the “spine.” Paperback cover are usually printed in one piece, meaning you need to provide an image with your back cover on the left, the spine in the middle, and the front cover on the right. Later, this print-out is folded and glued to the printed pages of your book. First, you need a template that fits the size specifications exactly. You do not want half of your front cover to bleed over into the spine or to have your text cut off at the edges. KDP provides a service for this, simply go to https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/cover-templates and enter the trim size, page count, and paper color (which affects the thickness of each page and hence the width of the spine). For the trim size, use the same size as specified in lib/bookformat.tex. For the page count, use the actual page count of your PDF (which has nothing to do with the numbering you put into the book). Amazon will check your template, but not automatically, meaning you might lose a few days waiting for approval if your cover template does not match your PDF with the book’s content (for example if it shows a different title, or if the spine size does not fit the number of pages). Likewise, for the paper color, use the same setting you have selected previously in Chapter 10.2 in order to have the correct spine size. Once all is entered correctly, click on “Download cover template.” Note that the resulting template rounds your number of pages up to a multiple of 10. If possible, the best approach is to also align your content’s pages to a multiple to 10, but this is not required. There is a margin of error and KDP might decide to add empty pages. If your book has 251 pages (thus you need the 260 page template), you might want to check, though, if you can save a page somewhere. The template file contains both a PNG file and a PDF file. Depending on your graphics editor, choose the one with which you are most familiar. The template itself is self-explanatory: use the whole back cover space, spine space, and front cover space (including the areas marked red) for your back cover, spine, and front cover picture. Then enter your text while being careful not to touch any of the areas marked with red. The ISBN number on the back is added automatically, so be careful not to have any content in or near that area.
Did you know?
The front cover of your book is like the front of a shop: it is the one single thing with which you connect with possible readers. -→ Read more in Writing Better Books, the Agile Way
Concerning the front cover, note these two technical aspects:
- If your front cover is white, you need to add small gray lines (maybe 3-4 pixels) around your template. This is because while the borders are clearly visible when the book is printed, the book cover preview on Amazon is displayed in front of a white background. Adding a gray border will make it stand out.
- As a designer, you might be inclined to make it look as good as possible when you hold it in your hands. While this is a fine approach, the front cover also needs to look good (and readable!) when shown on the Amazon website. Try to scale down your cover and see if you can still recognize the writing and the image.
For the second point, let us look at the details currently at Amazon:
- 346 pixel height in the product page (where the customer decides to buy it or not).
- 218 pixel height in the search result page.
- 160 pixel height in the “Sponsored products related to this item” view.
- 115 pixel height in the “Shop by Category” view.
My proposal is that the following elements should be easily readable for the corresponding sizes:
- (346 pixel height): Main title, subtitle, author name, ribbon, …
- (218 pixel height): Main title, subtitle, ribbon.
- (160 pixel height): Main title, subtitle.
- (115 pixel height): Main title.
You might also have to use fonts that are easily readable at those sizes. This might reduce the quality of the high-resolution image and the printed cover but the only thing a potential buyer initially sees is the “minified” version of the cover. With printed books primarily sold in a (physical) book shop, the situation is different because customers can actually hold the final product in their hands: here, the details matter.
For the e-book cover, the process is the same as described above. The only major difference is that you are not bound by your selected trim size of the book. Instead, it is recommended by Amazon to use 2,560 x 1,600 pixels (1.6:1) aspect ratio). If your aspect ratio of the cover for your printed book is larger (meaning it has a smaller width), it might be worthwhile to create a new cover that makes use of this additional space.
I recommend saving the e-book cover as lossless PNG file. If you upload it to an online platform like KDP or Google Play, the platform will convert it automatically to the best format and resolution suited to each website.
The back cover is the text a potential buyer turns to after seeing the front cover. The reader now knows what the book is about and is deciding whether or not to buy it. Thus, the back cover is the place where you make the sale. You should list a more detailed description of the contents at the top, and a short author biography, ideally with a picture of you, in the middle. Unlike the front cover, there are no special requirements for the font sizes for the back cover. An interested reader will look at it in full resolution.
The spine provides space for the book’s title and your name (rotated by 90 degrees). If your title is part of a series, you could put the series name here, too. Also, you might wonder how your book will book on the shelves in stores or libraries. There, your spine is the point of sale. If it is part of a series, you might want to go fancy and provide a nicely composed picture for when the books are arranged side by side.
As mentioned above, it is recommended to have a professional designer work on your cover. Contact us at [email protected] if you need help in that regard. If you want to select a freelancer on your own, I recommend hiring someone with whom you can communicate very clearly, as cover design goes beyond simple “Draw this,” “Here, I am done,” and “Thank you.” The designer needs to know what sets book covers apart from other graphics (like the different sizes of the cover graphic for advertisement discussed above). Ideally, the designer should have completed a number of past cover design projects. Examine his or her portfolio closely and do not expect that he or she will create a significantly better (or worse) design for your project.