Self-Publishing

Why does the color on my ebook cover look different than the color on my printed book cover?

Recently a client sent me a screenshot of his print book cover and his ebook cover side by side, and asked me why he saw such a visible color shift between the two.

I explained to him that the ebook cover is in the RGB color space, but the printed book cover is in the CMYK color space. RGB is the color space used for on-screen images, while CMYK is the color space that printing devices can capture. As a basic explanation, the RGB images look brighter because they are being shown on a lit screen. It's hard to achieve the same brightness with ink on paper. As you can see in the chart below, CMYK captures a smaller range of color than RGB captures (and both capture fewer colors than our incredibly-designed eyes can really see!) 

 Image by The Graphic Mac

Image by The Graphic Mac

My client's cover designer had always sent his bright teal cover to him in RGB, and suddenly before printing, he saw the teal for the first time in CMYK and was surprised at the significant color shift.

If you don't convert your images to CMYK before sending them to the printer, the printer must convert them to CMYK before printing. It's no big deal for them to make the conversion, but depending on the colors you are printing, you may notice that the printed piece comes back looking duller than you expected if you only saw proofs on your screen. 

The following two color spectrums help you to see which colors are hardest for CMYK to achieve. The duller quality of CMYK is instantly noticeable. 

 Color spectrum shown in RGB

Color spectrum shown in RGB

 Color spectrum shown in CMYK

Color spectrum shown in CMYK

Whether you're picking a color for a book cover or a logo, it's good to consider whether that color will be achievable both in RGB and CMYK. If not, you might want to consider adjusting the ebook color a bit to make it easier to match in print. Or, you'll just have to get used to the slight difference in color between your ebook cover and your printed book cover.

Should my photo be on the front cover of my book?

This week a client of mine who is self-publishing a cookbook wrote to me with this question: "Should my photo be on the front cover of my book? Everybody says yes....[but I am not sure.]"

When I replied to her, in essence I told her two things:

  1. Having your face on your book's front cover is atypical in your genre. Looking at other cookbooks in the clean eating or vegan genre, I knew that it is not standard practice to have the creator's photo on the front. 
  2. Sometimes having an atypical cover can make your cover win, but often it can make it lose. The decision to make an atypical cover needs to be a decision made for a deliberate marketing reason.

I went on to explain that the choice depends a lot on her businesses' branding. For example, if her business is very much about her face, her personality, her look, etc. then it might work well to put her face on the cover to further cement that idea that she is the one creating the recipes. However, if she doesn't show photos of herself a lot in her marketing, and focuses more on photos of her culinary creations, it would probably be better to do the same in her cookbook cover design...unless she's gearing up for a big change in her marketing methods.

 Photo by Dan Gould

Photo by Dan Gould

After having written to her with my thoughts, I found two other answers to similar questions online, which I thought were worth sharing here. 

This insight is from Hobie Hobart:

Is it ever a good idea to put your picture on a book cover? 
This is contingent on many factors so the initial answer is, it depends. It IS a good idea, and nearly mandatory, to use your picture on the front cover if you are a Barack Obama, an Oprah, or a renowned superstar. Many authors think that putting their picture on the front cover will make them famous. This is not necessarily so. Unless you are well known in the media, bookstore buyers will not accept your book which pictures you on the front cover. However, if you are selling exclusively to a tight niche where you are well known, or your intention is to start branding yourself to a specific market, your photo on the front cover or the spine can be an advantage.

This is how Michele DeFilippo answered this question:

Should I put my own photo on my book cover? 
It depends. If YOU are the product, then your picture can absolutely be used on the front cover (think Dr. Phil or Suze Orman). If your book is non-fiction, you are a well-known expert in your field, and buyers would recognize your face, then your picture can be used on the back cover, along with a bio. Otherwise, your picture and bio belong in the back matter of the book.

Ultimately the answer is, "It depends!" But often the answer is, "No." Think carefully about your market and your branding before deciding to put your photo on your book cover.