Heads up. Effective on or about July 15, Smashwords will begin requiring higher pixel counts on ebook cover images.
Why the change? Starting in August, Apple will require that all new ebook cover images be at least 1,400 pixels wide. Their previous minimum was 600 pixels.
Since Smashwords requires vertical rectangle (height greater than width) images, a new recommended ebook cover might be around 1,600 pixels wide by 2,400 pixels tall. Why 2,400? 2,400 is 1.5 times 1,600. Pull out a ruler and measure just about any print book and youll get a ratio close to that. Most good-looking covers have heights that range from approximately 1.3 to 1.6 times your width. Amazon recommends a 1.6 width/height ratio, and their recommended height is 2,500 pixels. As you can see, theres flexibility here for personal preference whether you prefer wide or long. The image above left shows what a 1.5 ratio looks like. The height is 50% greater than the width.
Why is Apple requiring higher pixel counts? Most likely, its because they want to provide ebook customers better covers for their current and future higher resolution iPads, iPhones and MacBooks. Since we think the Apple and Amazon guidelines are reasonable (they help readers with next-generation screens enjoy your covers in all their glory), well adopt Apples requirements as our new minimum standards for cover images.
What happens next?
Apples new requirement applies to new ebooks, and new cover updates. If your book is already in the Apple iBookstore with a smaller cover image, youre grandfathered in, UNLESS you try to update your cover image in the future, in which case theyll reject it. To help you get ahead of this change, Smashwords will make the 1,400 pixel minimum a Premium Catalog requirement starting on or around July 15. Like Apple, well apply the standard to new titles and cover image updates. If we previously shipped your smaller cover to retailers, we wont require the new cover image size unless you update your cover image or republish a previously unpublished book. The minimum dimensions do not apply to the images or cover image inside your .epub file.
The Smashwords FAQ is now updated to reflect the new recommendations and requirements. Ill update the Smashwords Style Guide in the next day or two so one month from now this won’t come as a surprise to people.
How NOT to create a new cover image
Dont use a photo or image editing program to enlarge your current image. That will cause pixelation (blur).
How to create your cover image
You’ll find some tips in the Smashwords FAQ, though my best recommendation is to hire a professional. Unless youre a professional graphic artist, its best to hire a cover image designer. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain my list of low cost cover designers and ebook formatters (theyre all freelancers, we dont receive a commission or referral fee). Their rates range from about $40 to $100, a range I consider very reasonable. Most have online portfolios so you can see if their style matches what youre looking for. If they dont match what you want, post a note at the Smashwords Facebook page to ask your fellow authors for references. There are many great cover designers out there, and most are very affordable. See my free ebook, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, for comments on why a professional ebook cover image is so critical to a book’s success.
Please share this post with your fellow authors and publishers so everyone has ample advance notice.