Amazon Will Help Kindle Authors Make Mediocre Covers

Whatever its faults, I’m sure it’ll be fun to play with.

Amazon is developing a cover creation tool for its Kindle Direct Publishing self-publishing platform, dubbed KDP Cover Creator. The tool is currently being tested by a limited number of KDP authors but the company expects to roll it out to all its KDP authors soon, an Amazon spokesperson told Digital Book World.

“The KDP Cover Creator [is] a free tool for fast and easy custom ebook cover designs,” said the spokesperson. “It’s currently in limited beta and we expect to roll it out to all KDP authors soon.”

Word about the tool was leaked by one of the beta testers to The Digital Reader blog, which published several screen shots of the interface and cover options.

According to the Amazon spokesperson, when the Cover Creator goes live, users will be able to quickly and easily create a cover design for their book and make updates at any time. The tool will come with access to thousands of royalty free images in an image gallery and will also allow for users to upload their own art. A variety of pre-programmed layouts, color schemes and fonts will also be included.

I have two expectations of this: 1. It’ll be a very handy, helpful tool for ebook authors, and 2. We will see a lot of crappy-looking covers from this.

CreateSpace, the print-format arm of Amazon’s self-publishing empire, has had a cover creator for years now. When I first released Charlinder’s Walk, I was seriously limited in my cover-design abilities (not to mention good sense) and I used the in-house cover creators at both Lulu and CreateSpace. The result was that I had two different print covers, both of which were different from the ebook cover, and neither of them looked especially elegant or artistic. They weren’t bad; they were appropriate for the book, and they were not an assault to the eyes. But they weren’t all that good, either. The orange cover with the world map is a more recent development; I designed it myself in Pixelmator.

Therefore, I expect that most users of KDP Cover Creator will be newbies like I was not too long ago: lacking the software and artistic ability to design their own covers and lacking the budget to hire a professional. The output on most of their books will be not-terrible. The templates will not be eyesores, the royalty-free images will be decent. Even with the best tools, there’s no accounting for taste. Some of those KDP-generated covers will be godawful because the authors don’t have the sense to make anything better.

With that in mind, I encourage new self-publishers to learn from my earlier mistakes. If you have some competence in composition and color, get a decent photo-editing program, make some mock-ups and run them by your friends until they approve. Learn all the e-tailers’ dimension requirements before you upload your book. Make JPEGs in the right sizes for your ebook versions and save a PDF for print. If you commission artwork, make sure to get it at a high resolution. If you lack the visual sense to self-design, hire a professional. If you cannot afford a professional…wait to publish until you’ve saved up enough.

Granted, some authors might say I’ve made a terrible mistake in designing my own cover and that I’m giving you bad advice in presenting that as an option. They’re entitled to their opinion. I made the orange cover of Charlinder’s Walk in Pixelmator with a $10 stock image and a few layer tricks. I’ve been told it’s a nice-looking cover.

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