Perhaps the first thing to know about kindle book covers is their standard dimension. I know it was a nagging consideration for me. I'm obsessed with perfection and I knew that the wrong dimension will have Amazon reformatting the cover to fit which could stretch or compact it. And Amazon didn't provide a specific dimension to use. After some web trawling, I found the consensus answer.
It's 600x800. Pixels. 600 pixels wide, 800 pixels high.
With that information, I began to hunt for a graphic designer for my cover. I know to use CorelDraw enough not to be clueless but Photoshop I knew less. And I had only Photoshop on my computer.
My only choice of graphic designer was Sam Spratt, whose works I first saw on the tech blog, Gizmodo and adore. Sometimes in December, I did ask him on his Formspring page if he does eBook covers. He said he hasn't done any but could do. The only problem was he won't be free until February. There was no hurry; I was still writing my first novel anyway.
When I was done by March, I sent him a mail but didn't get a reply. Maybe it slipped into his spam folder or he was too swamped with work to type a reply, I won't know. So, I set out to design the cover myself after waiting for his reply for a week.
My brother was more into Photoshop, so I got him to sit down with a concept I had. Then I tweaked his final result myself, taking care to use only those tools I was familiar with. It was beautiful on Photoshop but when I linked it to the book and uploaded to Amazon's KDP, the result was far from striking.
And here is one common problem with ebook covers: distinction. If you cover is not distinct and striking enough in the smaller image by which it is presented on the Kindle store, it doesn't matter if it's a Van Gogh when blown up to full size.
We love to say books shouldn't be judged by their covers but books are indeed judged firstly by their covers. Sure, a great blurb is just as important and great writing and formatting are equally desirable but the first thing buyers will see is the book cover. Is it captivating? Does it tell at glance which genre it belongs? Do I want it to grace my kindle?
So, I'd advice that you make your ebook cover as impressive as possible. Make it simple or make it cryptic but don't forget to make it grab attention at first glance.
So, with that in mind, I ditched the old design and went back to Photoshop. This time, alone. I needed an image that says spy fiction or at least, action!; something related to the content and the genre. So, I went online hunting for such. I skipped the royalty and paid photo sites and went for those offering free images. I had my reasons. I wasn't sure if the right image would make the right cover, so why buy one yet. Luckily, I knew where to go and after swimming through a river of less-than average photos, I found the one which now serves as the background on my kindle book cover.
Ironically, it took only 30 minutes to get from there to the cover I now have. It turned out Photoshop wasn't as scary as I thought. In fact, I spent more time trying out colors than actually deciding on the design to go with. The final result shocked even me. It was too good to come that easy. I mean, I would have gladly paid a pro graphic designer $300-500 to design that.
I grabbed the new cover and uploaded to KDP. When it went live on the book's Amazon page, it was perfect. And everyone I know who bought the book have remarked about the cover. In fact, it's the first thing they talk about on opening it. I only get to know that it is an equally great book after a couple of days when the first readers finished it.
But the cover? It snagged readers for the content. And that, is what your kindle book cover should do. A great cover almost always means a great book and we, as humans, will keep judging books by their covers notwithstanding saying otherwise.