I see thousands of ebook covers every week (while picking books for fkb.me) and have noticed some interesting trends. I thought I’d share this one with you because I’m not quite sure how I feel about it and wanted to see what others think.

The trend is simply having a photo as the cover. No text or title or anything. Just a photo.

Here’s an example from a PDF ebook (which you can find here) that I downloaded a couple weeks ago:

How to Do What You Love ebook cover

So we see here that the cover is just of someone rock climbing. The next page has the title, author, and other information.

I think I first noticed this trend with the books in Seth Godin’s The Domino Project imprint on Amazon. Here are some of the covers:

The Domino Project covers

So is this trend in ebook cover design good or bad? I think it could be good because

  1. These ebook covers are easy to make.
  2. Since most covers don’t look like this, these covers actually tend to stand out more.

But this trend could be bad because

  1. It’s too easy to make one of these covers. People will just throw one of their own photos up as the cover. The problem is that most people’s photos aren’t very good. Or people will just pay for boring stock photos without putting too much thought into it.
  2. These covers tell you nothing about the book.

I like the We Are All Weird and Self-Reliance covers most because they seem directly related to the title and subject matter. I don’t know, though, how contagiousness equals two bunnies on the cover (is it because they reproduce so fast??) or how a little kid equals getting what you want. Sure, I can guess how those particular covers could relate to the subject matter, but why make people guess in the first place? I’m simply left thinking, “Huh. Weird cover.”

And then you have to ask the question, “Would a title and other text make these covers better or worse?” You can still have a great photo on a cover that also has text on it.

So I think a couple of the above covers are alright and a couple are not so good. These covers are worse, though:

Worse ebook covers

I don’t like these covers for a few reasons. The one on the left exemplifies the stock photo problem. Nothing about it says “surrogacy in India.” It looks like a generic mother-daughter stock photo. The one on the right is an example of the it’s-too-easy-to-make-one-of-these-covers problem. It looks like a photograph from someone’s vacation. It’s just a photo of a cloudy beach. And finally, I don’t like that the photos are oriented horizontally instead of vertically. For PDF ebooks this can be ok, but for Kindle ebooks I think it just says, “Hey guys look at this cover that I made!”

So what do you think? 

  • Is this trend of simply having a photo as an ebook cover good or bad? 
  • Do you like any or all of the examples above? Which ones?
  • Do you know of any other examples?
  • Do you know of any books (the paper versions) that have just a photo for their covers?

And of course, if you want to see more examples of good and bad ebook covers, go check out my new eBook Coverage site.