“Never judge a book by its cover.” Pfft…that's one cliche that will never be followed.
To catch readers' attention so you can sell books, you need an awesome cover. Intimidated? Don't be. You don't have to be an artist to come up with great book cover ideas. Sometimes, all you need is a little inspiration.
When I was working with Orson Scott Card, he once told me the story of when his publisher designed the original cover of Ender's Game. He didn't like it at all because it didn't show a scene in the book (the original cover was just a massive spaceship and a smaller spaceship).
His publisher said the cover shouldn't be a scene from the book, but something that truly represented its genre. Today, years later, Orson agrees that's exactly what the book needed. Ender's Game went on to sell over 7 MILLION COPIES in 34 different languages! And I can guarantee the book's cover played a part in that.
Publishing companies and big time authors know what they're doing when they make book covers. In truth, book cover design really isn't art, but more of a calculated science that uses art. So let's look at some great book cover ideas and analyze some core aspects of book cover design. You can use this info to come up with cover ideas for your next book or for a book you've already published that you're wanting to update!
In this article, you will learn:
- 7 things to think about when designing your book cover
- What 32 examples of successful book covers can teach us about the craft
- How to test multiple cover designs against each other to find the best one
We've put together some of our favorite book covers ideas to help you find out which is best for you!In truth, book cover design really isn't art, but more of a calculated science that uses art.Click To Tweet
7 Key Ideas for Creating an Amazing Book Cover
As we just mentioned, book cover design is a science that's made up of several different criteria. And in order to have the best possible cover, you need to make sure your cover satisfies all aspects to maximize its appeal to potential buyers. Here are 7 questions to ask yourself when generating book cover ideas.
What is the Right Font for Your Book Cover?
Fonts are like apps. There's one for every occasion. Some are whimsical and breezy and would be great for fantasy or romance books. Others are downright terrifying — perfect for a psycho-thriller or horror tale.
Fonts are also among the first things your readers see when they look at your book. Eyes are naturally drawn to words written in big letters (AKA: Your Title), and you want to make sure potential readers get the right first impression.
Just take a look at the cover above for Don't Cry Murder. That font screams bloody murder. As for the font of Priest of Bones, it actually resembles bones.
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What is the Right Picture for Your Book and Genre?
This should go without saying, but your picture should match your genre. Could you imagine if Stephen King's It had a cute puppy on the cover? The reader would sure be in for a surprise. Now, that example may seem a bit extreme. But there are too many authors out there who don't get specific enough with their picture.
Another picture mistake could be just like Orson Scott Card's example above. Even though he wanted to put a scene directly out of his book on the cover, it was best for marketing towards his genre to use the more general idea of spaceships.
PRO TIP: If you ever get unsure about what images are good for your genre… Check out what your competition's book covers look like. You shouldn't copy them exactly (the goal is to stand out a bit), but at least you'll get a great idea of what to use.
And remember, your photo shouldn't just fit your genre. It should also support your specific book.
Take American Psycho for instance. The cover art depicts a man in a business suit with blood covering his eyes. And if you've read the book (or seen the movie), you know this image fits.
But what if you replaced the picture with a machete-wielding man in coveralls and hockey mask? It's horror/thriller right? But it's another image for another story.
Should You Include Deeper Messages within Your Cover?
Some authors take a neat approach to their book cover ideas through the use of subtle messaging. This can be a very powerful tool to persuade observant readers to buy your book. Some of these deeper messages have come in the form of plot foreshadowing, holographic book covers, and even cryptic ciphers leading to the Langley–the CIA's very own backyard!
One of my favorite examples shown above is Against Happiness. What do you think of when you picture a smiley face? I'll go to wager you thought of a simple yellow and black face. It's iconic. With this book cover, it takes the same elements from that original smiley — the black and yellow scheme. But instead of putting a happy smile, the book's title curves downward like a frown, supporting the words “Against Happiness.”
What Symbols Might You Include in Your Book Cover?
Building on the subtlety point, there are certain symbols our brains automatically associate to particular themes. For instance, if you see a crown on a book cover, there's a good chance some sort of royalty is going to be involved. And what about a gavel? That could definitely symbolize a legal thriller. Use these to your advantage. When a potential reader is scanning the shelves (or Amazon search results), you want to give them visual clues for what kind of book you're offering. Symbols can do that — by speaking to both your genre and your specific plot.
The lonely dinosaur in All My Friends are Dead is a lighthearted way to symbolize the serious topic of death.
With The Godfather, you see the marionette in the upper right hand corner…because we all know the Don pulls the strings.
Should You Make Your Cover Simpler and More Minimalistic?
I know I'm not the only one who's run across a book cover that has just got way too much going on. And in all reality, these kind of turn me away from the book. I'm not trying to play Where's Waldo when looking at a book cover (unless it's a Where's Waldo book).
And if you're selling online, think about the thumbnail picture your book cover is going to have. Overwhelming book covers are going to appear messy and convoluted.
Sometimes, simpler book cover ideas are the best options. And even for more complicated covers, you want to remove anything that might be an unwanted distraction or a source of unnecessary clutter.
Would Your Cover Look Better in Black and White?
If you're unsure about whether your color selections are going to be overly gaudy, perhaps black and white could be a great option. B&W covers are extremely popular nowadays and can really make your cover idea pop. And just because a cover is in black and white, it doesn't mean that it has to be minimalistic. When properly done, even complex book covers look great as B&W.
Do You Have Awards and Endorsements to Add to Your Cover?
Social proof is a powerful sales technique. If readers know that other people appreciated your book, they're more likely to give it a read themselves. If you have relevant, impressive awards to talk about, add them to your cover.
Just don't overdo it, or your cover at first glance will look cluttered and disorganized. Keep it neat and simple when deciding to include awards and honors.
Testing Your Book Cover Ideas
When designing a cover, chances are, you'll end up with a few different ideas. You'll want to go with the option that will help you sell the most books. But how can you predict which cover readers will be most impressed by?
Fortunately for us, there is a way. You can use PickFu.
PickFu is a platform that allows you to perform A/B testing between two cover designs. Simply upload your book covers, and the PickFu community will vote on which one they like best. This can give you a real idea of where your covers stand.
Another tip is to get an actual professional book cover designer to check it out. Sure, a pro might cost a little bit of money. But it's well worth getting your cover done right the first time.
And last but not least, print authors should build a 3D mock up of their book. This will allow you to see exactly what your book will look like from all angles–not just the top. For more info, check out my handy guide on how to create a book cover mock up.
The Last Word on Book Cover Ideas
You don't need to be an artist to have a great book cover idea. Most of time, following what works is the way to go. And because a great book cover idea can help bring success to your book, it's best to invest some time into it.
When I shop on Amazon or look for books, I examine the book covers closely. If any book cover ever jumps out at me, I save the cover image in a folder I keep on my desktop. That way, when I go to design future book covers, I can look at all the ones that caught my eye and develop mine through their success — examples help to cultivate ideas!
At the end of the day, the goal is to sell more books. And a great book cover idea can help you do just that. If you want to diver even deeper, check out my article on how to master the science of book cover design.