An ebook cover needs to have a simple image that will catch the eye of the browser. Anything that is too detailed is going to get lost. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows doesn’t work as an ebook cover because it isn’t possible to decipher what is happening in the picture. However, I can understand why Bloomsbury decided to stay consistent with their artwork. The final part of the Harry Potter saga probably would’ve sold well without any cover at all. The cover of A Very Zombie Holiday has too much happening in it. There’s a narrative in the picture of a little girl looking on while a zombie steals cookies meant for Santa, but when the picture is in thumbnail the viewer has to work to understand what is happening.
The cover of James Patterson’s Kill Alex Cross has a perfect simplicity. The Alex Cross books are already extremely popular and many readers will by any book that is by James Patterson or about Alex Cross. The bright colours will grab the eye and the text will do the rest. The Story Trap by Masha du Toit takes an almost opposite strategy to Kill Alex Cross. Here the intriguing artwork of the woman’s face and hand draw the eye of the viewer, while the title is comparatively lost.
The typography needs to stay simple as well. Tom Clancy’s iconic cover design that remained constant throughout out the 80s, 90s and 2000s is nearly perfect. It is large and clear, but when reduced to thumbnail size the extreme modulation in the stroke and the resulting invisibility of ascenders, descenders and spines make the words more difficult to work out. The elaborate cursive script of A Vision of Sugar Plums is illegible in thumbnail, as is the jagged text of Fractured Facade.
77 Days in September and Deadly Straits both use orange text and blue backgrounds; the colour contrast ensures that the warmer colours ‘pop’ out to the viewer. The solid, sans serif fonts are clearly legible in thumbnail. Flat Out Love has a more complicated font, as the text is also an illustration. it remains legible as it is so large.
In conclusion, thumbnail covers work when the text and the image are both as simple as possible.