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The 103 Best Book Covers of 2022
As chosen by our favorite book cover designers.
For what is now the seventh time in a row, I am pleased to present the best book covers of the year—as chosen by some of the industry’s best book cover designers.
This year, I asked 31 designers to share their favorite covers of the year, and they came back with a grand total of 103 covers, representing work by 62 different designers for 54 different imprints. Their choices, and their comments, are below.
But first . . . the stats.
The best of the best book covers:
First place (tie, six mentions each):
Elias Canetti, I Want to Keep Smashing Myself Until I Am Whole design by Alex Merto , illustration by Ian Woods (Picador, September 27)
Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch design by Linda Huang (Knopf, August 2)
Second place (three-way tie, five mentions each):
Fernando A. Flores, Valleyesque design and illustration by Na Kim (MCD x FSG Originals, May 3)
Charles Simic, No Land in Sight design by John Gall (Knopf, August 9)
Lidia Yuknavitch, Thrust design by Lauren Peters-Collaer (Riverhead, June 28)
Third place (nine-way tie (!), four mentions each):
Michael Cunningham/Virginia Woolf, The Hours/Mrs. Dalloway design by Pablo Delcan (Picador, May 3)
Katherine J. Chen, Joan design by Holly Ovenden (Hodder & Stoughton, July 5)
Missouri Williams, The Doloriad design by Luke Bird (Dead Ink, March 3)
Jem Calder, Reward System design by Alex Merto (FSG, July 19)
Yiyun Li, The Book of Goose design by Na Kim (FSG, September 20)
Maayan Eitan, Love design by Stephanie Ross (Penguin Press, March 8)
Gwen E. Kirby, Shit Cassandra Saw design and illustration by Lydia Ortiz (Penguin Books, January 11)
Sheila Heti, Pure Colour design by Na Kim (FSG, February 13)
Ling Ma, Bliss Montage design by Rodrigo Corral (FSG, September 13)
The presses with the most covers on the list:
First Place (13 mentions): FSG
Second Place (11 mentions): Knopf
Third Place (8 mentions): New Directions
The designers with the most different covers on the list:
First Place (7 covers): Janet Hansen
Second Place (6 covers): Na Kim
Third Place (5 covers): Alex Merto
The best month for book covers:
First Place (tie, 12 covers each): May, September
Second Place (11 covers): June
Third Place (10 covers): April
The full list:
I can’t stop looking at this eye-bending collage. Love how the hectic, unsettled type complements the art, channels the title really well, and manages to get quite a lot of copy onto the cover. Neon orange is a great touch.
– Jamie Stafford-Hill
This is such a fun cover. I love the brain-like cutout and the playful, head-smashing type treatment.
– June Park
This cover looks like its title; smashed yet whole.
– Stephanie Ross
How? What? It’s insane. I love it.
Alex has somehow woven together two images with a shape that isn’t exactly conventional and set the type playfully without making the whole thing look like a messy plate of spaghetti. He is in complete control of his craft.
– Linda Huang
Alex! I want to keep staring at your collage to see how you did this.
– Mark Abrams
When I first saw this I was blown away by Linda’s use of color, texture, negative space, and the delicately balanced typography and illustration. The jacket is printed on a lithofoil stock that gives it that extra special sheen. Not only did the author win the NBA for fiction, but she was also given one of the most beautiful covers of the year.
– Emily Mahon
These bright colors suck me in when viewed in RGB, and the design gets “even better” when experienced IRL, printed on that lovely metallic paper.
– Zoe Norvell
I am instantly pulled in by the bright colors and symbolic design. I want this as an art print on my wall.
– Sarah Brody
It’s always nice to see special effects being used thoughtfully. That gradient plus shimmer is beautiful.
– Joan Wong
“Shot through the heart and you’re to blame” taken literally.
– Erik Carter
This cover just stands out so much online and on the shelf. The bold composition + foil + soft touch, it’s a stunner.
Na is such a talent in both design and illustration. This cover really shows how skilled she is in both worlds.
Valleyesque received a well deserved gasp from me. With a palette and style that connects you to some of the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and in a similar fashion, begs you to look closer at the tiny details and intrigues you to want to learn more.
– Nicole Caputo
If I could dictate the visual language of my dreams, this is what I would choose every single time (complete with banner-wielding poodles).
– Alison Forner
I truly cannot get over this surreal, incredible art.
– Lauren Peters-Collaer
Every element in this dreamlike painting is treated with such balance and thought, creating deep intrigue.
Thrust is perfection. Each collaged detail feels like it belongs exactly where it is. The combination of textures, styles, the two contrasting typefaces sent me marching to the store.
This design is bonkers in the best way possible. Every moment here, from the image to the typography, is fresh and unexpected.
I have no idea what is happening and I love it.
– Grace Han
Such a fun and intriguing collage with a ton of upward momentum. Somehow the clashing typography adds to that sense of kinetic energy too.
– Vivian Lopez Rowe
I love how the upside down balloons look like raindrops or tears. Really fantastic cover design made to look really easy.
– Jamie Keenan
Such wonderful simplicity. Each time I look at it I can sense my brain processing it all—everything clicking into place with delight. As an aside, I highly recommend everyone watch a hot air balloon inflate at least once in their life. They are like dinosaurs roaming the sky.
– Lauren Harms
Effortlessly beautiful and dreamlike.
The simple move of turning an image upside down is so powerful here, especially paired with the title.
Great design, though I spotted a printer error; the photo is upside down. Awkward.
Such a beauty! The pressed flowers with the gold foil type is so sweet and lovely. A true object to treasure.
– Kelly Winton
These made me shriek. Exquisitely executed, ethereal, and clever, they exist in the realm of fine art. Pablo makes everyone jealous.
Printed on uncoated stock with deboss on the type, I want this book just for the beautiful jacket. Holly is an amazing designer and illustrator, and this is my favorite cover of the year from the UK.
This stunning cover reimagines the subject of Joan of Arc in such a powerful way. The type and colors are so unexpected and pack such a bold punch.
– Kimberly Glyder
Ah the colours…they are glorious. It’s very satisfying when type works as an image within a cover; it’s such a pleasing composition, a real beauty, as are all of Holly’s designs.
– Anna Morrison
The colors are stunning—feels energizing to just look at! It captures the spirit of Joan of Arc in such a fresh and dynamic way.
I couldn’t work out if it was a contemporary artwork or an old painting, whether the person is unhinged or if it is just the crop playing tricks on me. It’s so engrossing, and sets the tone for what sounds like a mad book without giving anything away.
– Tom Etherington
The reviews of this book all use words like “bizarre”, “unsettling”, “disturbing” or “challenging”—they could be reviewing the cover too. “Brilliant.”
The power of a great crop! It’s so effectively unsettling and compelling.
The cropping and lettering is perfection.
– Jaya Miceli
The simplicity in this is striking. Perfect example of less is more.
So simple, elegant, and perfect.
Stephanie takes what would otherwise be a clichéd icon and subverts it with that slight grimace. The placement in the mass of negative space and the choice of a rough-hewn serif elicit in me a feeling of mono no aware , something design rarely does.
Looking easy is very hard.
– Gregg Kulick
You can almost smell this cover. Amazing.
So vibrant! This cover hits all the senses! (Get your hands on a copy for the glowing color, glossy finish, and raised type!)
– Ann Kirchner
Just so brilliantly executed.
– Luke Bird
The distorted type is perfect. It feels like you’re suffocating in a bag of oranges and need to get out.
Simple. Clever. Ominous.
Just the sight of that spinning wheel makes me feel slightly anxious (it seems to move now and again, too). This is such a simple cover, but with such a lot going on.
I just stare at it waiting for the cover to load… Well played…
– David Litman
There is always a tension you have to interrogate as to how you want to communicate the title of a book. What Na Kim did with this cover was take one of the most direct routes possible while still leaving room for ambiguity with the shape and placement of Ellsworth Kelly’s art. No small feat for a title this simple.
The simplicity and minimalism of this design is so satisfying.
I love the way the green blob almost seems like a monster overtaking the title, and the way it just barely overlaps with the “L” in “NOVEL” is perfection.
– Colleen Reinhart
It’s so elegantly done. Ellsworth Kelly’s Green crowding out the text on the cover somehow feels exactly like the book does; a crowded petri dish of emotions.
Euurgh its just SO beautiful. Perfection. But what else would you expect from Na Kim? I don’t just want to read it… I want it on my wall too.
Love how all the elements interact with each other.
Na is great at creating simple yet emotive covers. The mix of the Audubon-esque art and the graphic sun gives this cover a nice contemporary yet elegant look.
Gorgeous. There’s something about a goose neck.
I can’t imagine what those burning eyes saw. The type on fire and mouth slightly open seals the deal for this one.
– Stephen Brayda
Crazy! Love it.
Frantic to the max and I just love looking at this. Its also worth nothing that getting this to print so vibrantly was no small challenge.
I was so relieved to realize this beautiful book was published in early January, and that I could include it on this list! It was an instant favorite of mine—the balance of pattern, color, and texture is just perfect. The elements work well on their own and come together in a wonderful whole.
LPC does it again! Everything about this cover is incredible: the colors, the collage of imagery, the typography! It’s nuanced and packs a punch at the same time.
– Laywan Kwan
I think this one took everyone’s breath away when it came out—the colors, the type, it all works beautifully together.
The solo tear drop is a perfect device to hold the requisite “memoir” type, elevating this simple biography cover to something double-take worthy.
Mean Baby just keeps creeping into my mind. A fantastic crop of the image and combination of photo, title and that subtitle placement! Simple, eye catching and jumped off screens and shelves and is memorable.
Designing celebrity books can be hard, and making something that stands out is even harder. There are so many parts that are involved and getting to a place that is so elegant and interesting is a feat.
Beautiful arrangement of type and imagery. The design has an ethereal quality and love how the structured grid interacts with the gradient watercolors.
Immediately draws you in! I love everything about this, the way the type seemingly moves through the squares, the holographic quality, the various water textures.
So much energy and movement captured within a grid—I could puzzle over these tiles for hours.
Such a simple design, yet so incredibly unnerving—it’s a design you can almost hear. Perfectly captures a break with reality.
So elegantly illustrates a book about those who occupy the “psychic hinterlands, the outer edges of human experience, where language tends to fail.”
Deceptively simple, really effective.
Love how Linda utilizes the type here, the way the bold flat title sits against the textural photographic background. I find myself wanting to “look around” to see what’s hiding behind it. The bits of aliasing on the title is a lovely cherry on the top touch.
The title stretched into the black shapes is brilliant.
– Jenny Carrow
I’m a sucker for letters as shapes and in this case it really works with the title.
UK publishers seem to have had a crisis of confidence recently, a lot of books seem to have three endorsements on the front cover now and all type at 72pts. Sometimes it feels like on this side of the Atlantic we have forgotten that books are physical objects that people covet, rather than a jpeg that needs to shout louder than everything else around it. When I first saw Brother Alive in a bookshop it stood out against the other books because of its bold, understated cover design.
So bloody simple and ambiguous—I have no idea what it is about, but that cover is just drawing me in. I love how Jo has pulled everything back to an abstract image, and the type is perfectly balanced. Jo is one of my favourite cover designers, she just nails it every time.
Love the allusion to sheet music and the consistency of the line weight throughout. The art really works here; haunting and unexpected.
Ethereal mushrooms floating through the air against a scale that seamlessly integrate with the type: 😘
Another Janet cover, Sedating Elaine must be mentioned. You can tell the inside will be darkly comedic and a wild ride and I even love the combination of the quote typeface combined with the roughly hand-lettering across the banana.
Every year, Janet’s work stands out for its beautiful simplicity. She takes something familiar, like lettering on a piece of fruit, and somehow makes it look better than ever.
This ominous and frankly sad painting paired with the electric blue text feels both classic and edgy.
Unsettling and striking image with brilliant type.
A gorgeous and thoughtful design. The collage so elegantly captures the power of language and communication.
There’s a satisfying simplicity to this cover; all the elements are arranged so elegantly.
The illustration with this title packs so much emotion.
I love the gestural quality and simplicity of the illustration. The thin, italicized type is such an excellent choice in mimicking the slender, linear feel of the art.
Love the drama happening here. Beautiful type and illustration. As off-beat as the classic Geek Love jacket while doing its own thing entirely.
It’s no easy feat to make a long title like this work so elegantly, but this cover pulls it off. The silhouetted hand is simple at first glance, but the nail illustrations and hand position (hitting the author’s name ever so slightly), bring a beautiful complexity.
A hand cover, but a fantastic hand cover. Adore the little scenes painted on fingernails.
Such a bright and fresh look! The colors are stunning—super saturated and bold, both on screen and in print. And the line quality of the illustration has a beautiful personality. I especially love the bits of color bleed and overprinting.
Nostalgic but with a really modern, vibrant palette. Balanced beautifully. Looks even better in the flesh that it does on screen.
This cover doesn’t even need the title to convey disorientation. The waffle-wrapped-hot dog is such a weird and especially disorienting touch.
Brilliant design—so much movement and energy that come across using just type as image.
Mind-bending in the best possible way.
Beautiful and rich, and very clever in its layers of illusion.
– Allison Saltzman
Beautiful execution of this concept. And upside down type! and it works! Give Derek a big hand (sorry).
I love the creative usage of all the different fonts on this cover. It really taps into my inner child of the ’80s!
So playful and well done.
The type on this is mesmerizing. The stacked, repeating type with the rainbow gradient fits perfectly with the title.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think when I saw this for the first time, but it stayed with me. Now that I caught up with it, I love it!
Outer space salami statue.
I don’t know what this book is about, other than being darkly comic and featuring a diabolical nun, but the cover makes me want to read it.
There’s something so unsettling about the reduced palette and diseased looking dots combined with the loaded religious imagery. It really pulls you in, without resorting to anything heavy-handed or “easy.”
I love the saturated color palette and the dimensionality of the type. This design gives such a sense of place. And the title font choice is amazing!
I honestly can not stop looking at this because every element works so perfectly together to create such a specific atmosphere and setting, it’s a really well-crafted cover!
Exquisite typography and execution. Having the candy beautifully photographed really takes this to the next level.
While the image does clearly depict the title (which could work against a designer), the inverted photo and silhouetted head, the limited palette, and the gorgeous hand lettering make this cover so appealing.
The tactile, handmade quality of the cover and the domestic scene contrasts beautifully with the “cold people” evoked in the title.
I love the unique perspective here—it feels as if you’re flying with the figure, diving head-first into that neighborhood. I had an almost visceral response to this illustration; I felt connected to the character without even opening the book.
I’ve long admired the work of both Gabriele and Cecilia so to see a collaboration on the always thoughtfully designed poetry society chapbooks was a treat. This one is my favorite.
This type creates within me a sort of effervescent joy.
Smart and succinct pairing of subject and graphics.
Surreal, simple and smart, and the stones are the perfect subtle addition.
I’m getting nuanced, Lisa Frank vibes and that is high praise.
Op-art! Very satisfying.
Perfect match of art and lettering, inventive layout, great use of color.
There are a lot of things that I love about this cover, but I’ll just say this: We rarely see book covers that embrace the color purple and this one does it oh, so well!
Less is more with Teenager . My eye travels down the highway right to the sun, the perfectly placed eye of the teenage face.
A refreshingly light approach to historical fiction.
This is a standout for me. I would notice it from across the room. A very original layout with a unique color palette, and those thick, black lines holding it all together.
Powerful, elegant, and haunting.
Am drawn immediately into this cover, an eerie porthole into fraying world.
Kudos to Amanda for taking something that is so reviled (yuck, pimples!) and for displaying them in such a cute way. This design is so inviting.
Books about music have to look authentic and this does such a good job.
The best “torn paper cover” ever. Clever concept. I know the designer worked with physical pieces of paper and scanned them in, and it really shows.
A complicated and abstract subject—care—visualized in an equally abstract but simple form.
Something about the strange, soft, almost tactile illustration draws and holds the eye. Just lovely to look at, perfectly balanced with interesting but understated type, and I love how the arm wraps around onto the spine.
It takes a mind like Pablo’s and an open-minded publisher/art director to marry Jon Han’s incredible style with a nonfiction book and it works so so well.
The pairing of this typography with the artwork by Hollie Chastain is perfect and elegant.
Succinct and clever, which is hard to do. I love the simplicity of the design and how it interacts perfectly with the title.
This cover achieves a monumental, iconic feel with such economy—it’s magic.
Love how all of the elements are tied together with the blue circles. It has a big book look, but is also very artistic and elegant.
Maybe it’s the amount of time I’ve spent with the words “bestselling author” talking, but this is hilarious and inspired.
This retro cover is as eye-catching as the title, it will stand out on any bookshelf.
Bold colours, small type, unusual composition and Vivian Maier photographs. What’s not to love about these covers?
I love the color and the texture and that it sets a mood.
The illustration on this cover is so interesting. From a distance, it looks like an abstract cover of lines and color, but upon closer inspection you can see all the different scenes and couples!
This cover contains so much elegance, power and dignity, for a subject matter that could be difficult to illustrate. Michael Salu has created such a moving cover with the simplest of designs.
The type frame is so effective here. Everything just comes together perfectly.
When I first saw this cover it stopped me in my tracks—so intriguing. I love the textures, composition, colours; the eye just draws you in. The author line going up the side is genius, so unexpected. To create such an atmosphere within such a small space is a real gift.
One of the blurbers calls this book “ an ingenious pocket universe ,” which could describe the cover itself: a small package that locks you in its orbit—you can’t help but trace that fascinating lettering round and round!
I love the noise and fuzziness of the image, especially on the print edition where it’s amplified by lithofoil. The texture gives a sense of static and uncertainty before you even begin to read. A beautiful example of a darker image, and smaller type, standing out on shelves.
You would think seeing raw meat on a book cover would be offputting… but it really works here: meat as type! I love it.
Such a perfect—and totally intriguing—marriage of art, type, and title.
Oliver Munday summons up the spirit of Henryk Tomaszewski in this cover. Love it.
I adore Simone Noronha’s playful illustration and the way title treatment really lets the artwork shine.
This is such a powerful and direct image. The modern type beautifully frames the scene but doesn’t distract. I love that it’s all in black and white—the starkness and her gaze say so much.
With its pitch-perfect palette and bold, confident shapes, this cover just about leapt from the display table!
There’s just something magical about this beautiful blend of type, image, and idea.
This is my cover of the year—it literally sings in the bookshop, so striking! The illustration grabs your attention. The rest of the book is beautifully designed too, the end papers are gorgeous. I love it, just wonderful.
Love the simple line quality of this illustration and all its crooked crumbling pieces on the perfectly selected uncoated stock.
Amazing optical illusion created by beautifully set type, on rainbow holographic foil. Really nice.
Beautiful and restrained use of collaging to deliver a power image.
Such an ingenious way of integrating a woman’s profile into the scene.
Nobody Gets Out Alive looks straightforward, but again the small thoughtful details within the illustration, that are hidden so well by the gradient, are a smart, provocative but subtle easter egg for the viewer.
The usage of panels, color, and collage is so playful on this cover! Who knew you could make history look so fun and interesting?
Such a funny, crude doodle that looks like something Willem de Kooning would have sketched. I love that this illustration was printed on a commercial book cover.
Somehow the title and illustration don’t feel like they are competing, instead they work together seamlessly in this instantly iconic package.
A cross-stitch that’s unlike any other cross-stitch I’ve seen.
So punchy and eye-catching! The pink dripping dot gives the cover an intriguing sinister edge.
This design and golf vibes!
The plane and clouds float effortlessly against a wall of type that’s barely standing. So much energy packed into a small space—it feels like it’s vibrating and barely contained.
I want to run around inside this cover—the movement and dynamism are masterful.
I love the use of color, and yes! more cleverly incorporated profiles!
What a lovely way to work in the fifty-five panels. The diver makes you feel like you could dip in and out of these stories at any time.
Always envious when a designer can get away with so little, especially when the cover relies on so few bells and whistles: a strong yet refined typeface and unconventional spacing. This would be strong even without the empty circle. Pure graphic design.
Would like to come up with something wise here but I fear it might in truth boil down to “lolz I like ostriches.” In any case, one of best ostrich covers I have ever seen.
Love the balance and symmetry.
This feels very LA. I love the clever mix of typography and how the clear division on the strip mall sign implies the themes of the book in a really graceful and attention grabbing way.
What’s not to love?!
This cover is perhaps not as sophisticated as some of its more highbrow colleagues from the world of letters, but it communicates its startling content with admirable zest.
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75 Stunning Designs for Fiction Book Cover Design Inspiration
Are you looking for book cover design inspiration for your upcoming self-published book? Here is a collection of some of the best book covers I have seen online as I’m always on a lookout for some gorgeous book covers that are very original, or well made, have an incredible concept or manage to get your attention while being surrounded by other covers.
This article also includes short comments on why they work. Here are 75 awesome covers selected from GoodReads.com, Pinterest, Behance or Jacket Museum, and other online sources.
1. Penguin Classic Book Covers
Love the original and detailed illustrations. Simplistic with few colors used, but it attracts attention with great illustrations and ‘hand-made’ feel.
2. Wonderful World by Javier Calvo
Great colors, great background and simple text that uses 2 fonts and colors (some contrast that matches well between fonts).
3. The Catastrophist by Lawrence Douglas
Absolutely brilliant. Funny, conveys the message and uses a minimal amount of stuff. One of my favorites of the bunch!
4. Seduced by Randy Wayne White
Amazing colors (evocative), author’s name is big so it’s easy to read in the small thumbnail (if the author sells books ‘on the name’ alone that matters). The plane is small but still is placed so well too that it’s easy to see and tell what the book is featuring.
5. Der Kreide Mann by C.J. Tudor
Awesome cover. Typography is main effect and visual supports it well. Love the color scheme. The image is a bit blurry here but that’s because it’s a picture from online and not an original cover (so it’s not a blurry one originally).
6. Sherlock Holmes by A.C. Doyle
Great illustration and interesting use of sans serif font to go with it (adds modern feel to this). Dig it!
7. Rooms by James L. Rubart
Great feel here. Well manipulated photos and fitting font choice.
8. The Cavaliers by Georgiana Derwent
Great typography. Another example of how contrasting fonts work even without many effects created on them. Love the red badge here too.
9. The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami
Great use of different text placement and lines. Bold.
10. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
Great colors and great illustration. Ornaments incorporated so well.
11. The 100 Watt War by Ron Wilder
Awesome background and typography. Again, quite minimalistic, not too much colors but it works really well.
12. Manhattan by Woody Allen
Not sure if it’s a book cover, probably not, but I just had to include this brilliant use of Woody’s face and skyline of Manhattan. Creative!
13. One Perfect Day by Rebecca Mead
So original, love how they used the receipt here. Adds that ‘commercialized’ feel that book is talking about.
14. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Gorgeous, vibrant colors and simple text integrated into the artwork. Great effect.
15. Meltdown by Chuck Holton
Great effect of movement and action here. Great manipulation.
16. The Toy Collector
Great simple typography. Lots of text but it’s all balanced well, still readable with all the toy parts too. Great colors!
17. The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
Love the contrast of it, great colors and font choices. Definitely conveys the idea for the book – the duplicity and prey/predator dynamic.
18. Oil on Water by Helon Nabila
Love the colors, simple image and how they used typography here.
19. Little Red Riding Hood
Awesome typography. Possible handrawn and then scanned to bring it to computer and trace it there.
20. The Flame Alphabet
Geometric shapes well done, even creates a 3D look.
21. Dust to Dust by Benjamin Busch
Great stock photography use. Another simple font used. It almost shouldn’t work with such simple design but even this overly simplistic approach doesn’t kill the cover.
22. Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf
A really great atmosphere for cover and well-done text.
23. Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan
I love the color scheme and even tho text is simple, it still works well. The cover is quite ambiguous but still gives the Thriller vibe well.
24. The Wind-Up Bird by Haruki Murakami
Unreadable text in a small thumbnail but the picture is so original that it’s no problem. Concept wins over the readability, it just looks so ‘weird’ that it can become its advantage.
25. The Tragedy Paper
Love typography here. The effect is good and not often used in fear of illegibility. Great use of two colors only.
26. The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch
A risky design for Sci-Fi cover. It can be hard to pull off inverted colors on covers but this one is done well.
27. The Sisters and Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
Love how the circle and those two characters are used to create skull effect when watching from further away or as a small thumbnail.
28. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Gorgeous illustration, cleverly hidden child gives it that childish feeling and colors are stunning.
29. Silhouette by Dave Swavely
Managed to manipulate multiple pictures well and not have any rough edges to it.
30. Other People’s Baggage
It looked more like a non-fiction cover when I saw it and that’s why it attracted attention. Good colors and nice concept.
31. The Lazarus Machine by Paul Crilley
Well manipulated pictures and Photoshop effects. It has a ton of elements which can cram up the design too much but even with lots of words on cover it still works. Very well done in that regard.
32. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Totally loving it. Great colors, great, dramatic sky and good use of one main element in design (boat). The text is really good too.
33. The Inexplicables by Cherie Pries
Great illustration, use of textures and nice text. Red hair stands out too and attracts attention among other covers.
34. Indigo Awakening by Jordan Dane
Not sure about the font choice but effects and illustration are great.
35. God’s Grammar by Mick Mooney
Awesome sky just grabbed me. Sands match it well, and it has the feel it needs to convey. Might be the only cover here designed by the author himself (who is a graphic designer himself so he had an unfair advantage here). Great contrast, colors, and concept.
36. Finding Camlann by Sean Pidgeon
Great manipulation, great colors and bird. Love the feel of it.
37. Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
Stunning cover. Superb… love the colors, love the running woman which adds drama.. and the rose is blended in so well. Really cool, original idea. Fantastic cover.
38. The Desert Spear by Peter V. Brett
Great Photoshop work and good typography.
39. Elemental by Anthony John
Great manipulation of elements and pictures.
40. The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell
Love the colors, love the illustration. That shovel adds something to it, some edge and danger, maybe to match the ”Death” in the title?
Simple. There is a fine line between simple/genius and simple/not-done-yet. This one looks great.
42. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Not liking the font choice as it is missing something, maybe the effect doesn’t match it too but the stock photo of girl and effect with the book is awesome.
43. Empire Rising by Thomas Kelly
Love the perspective of the text. Great picture too (that’s where my love for skyscrapers show haha)
44. The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
Another Holmes cover and another beauty. Love how simple it is yet it still conveys main thing about the character.
Just wow… the illustration and colors are great. You wouldn’t expect skulls on a cover really.. except a Horror one.. but this is superb.
46. The Lost Prince
Great photomanipulation and colors.
47. Resistance by Barry Lopez
Love the idea and concept of it. It’s not the most beautiful cover in the world but it is original!
48. Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
One of the best covers of last year. Great colors, great use of the lighthouse. Typography isn’t original but works nonetheless.
49. Through the Eyes of Joanna by Edith Ivie
Great colors, simple text and use of texture.
50. Back on Murder by J. Mark Bertrand
Great text, colors really suit the title. Not your typical placement of elements too.
51. Magicians Impossible by Brad Abraham
A cliche dark silhouette cover that is done well. Cliches do become for a reason, they work. And this cover is a good example why. The cool smoke effect adds nice differentiation and untraditional title adds a nice flavor too (the wave effect of it).
52. Priest of Bones by Peter McLean
Awesome example of how rightly picked fonts tell the genre and look cool. No need for more effects on them. Great cover.
53. The Past is Rising by Kathryn Bywaters
Really good cover. At first, she captures the eyes, then text, then the guy. A good example of how design can ‘drive’ the eye on a well-structured cover.
54. The Long Drop by Denise Mina
Wowser… great effect and design work for visual.
55. Swan Lake by Anna-Marie McLemore
Beautiful cover. Very elegant, great colors (blue goes to white then red).
56. Don’t Cry Murder by Jake Patterson
Awesome colors. Very current with design trends of 2018 and bold choice.
57. The Thought Cathedral by Nathan Williams
Love the movie poster feel. This cover has a great way of integrating multiple different visuals without cramming it.
58. The Old You by Lousie Voss
Fantastic. One of the best visuals on a book cover I’ve ever seen and it’s so simple yet so so powerful. That hand reaching out. What a way to create mood!!! Can’t rave enough about this cover…
So simple, yet so good. A perfect example of how an image can be paired with simple text.
60. Curtain Call by Denise Grover Swank
Awesome way to create depth with the broken glass and title behind it. Top job with Photoshop manipulation.
61. Serial Killer Z: Infection by Philip Harris
This whole series has amazing designs. Awesome Photoshop skills manipulated visuals together so well. The people ‘in’ the ‘Z’ letter (and water) look so cool.
62. The Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell
A great example of how texture use spices up the cover without overloading it and making it too gritty.
63. Double or Nothing by Craig Shaefer
Fantastic Photoshop skills. Love the title treatment and slanted placement. The whole series, again, is worth looking at as it’s brilliantly designed.
64. Point of Control by Drake Green
Another example of how typography can be a focal point.
65. Rise Again Below Zero by Ben Tripp
Nice example of how un-standard text placing and perspective can work.
66. Monstrous Lies by Shina James
Another great Photoshop composition and typography.
67. Juniper Unraveling by Keri Lake
Amazing Photoshop and the atmosphere it creates. Superb!
68. Secret Hunger by Satin Russell
An absolute trend in 2017/2018 with person/silhouette and a visual blended into it. Great cover, great colors.
69. If Angels Fall by Rick Mofina
Awesome, awesome, awesome typography and colors. Evocative cover.
70. Insanity by Andre Gonzalez
Very simple, but very well done. Interesting. Intriguing.
71. Cause of Death by Patrick Logan
Simple visual but says all it needs. Great colors too.
72. 37 Hours by J.F. Kirwan
Big bold typography with small visuals (plant and diver) supporting it well to create a great cover.
73. End Game by L.T. Ryan
Another cover that is a perfect example of current trends in thriller covers. A modern update on the silhouette cliche.
74. Twisted by Sarah Reeves
Monochromatic covers (one color) can be too boring but this one works well, with great typography too. It’s not just red color overlayed over images combined so it’s more interesting and contrasting.
75. York by Laura Ruby
Fantastic work with 3D elements for the title and other parts of it. Looks very realistic and cool.
More Useful Resources
For some more inspiration you should visit Kindlepreneur’s article – Book Cover Ideas Every Author Can Learn From
Hope you enjoyed this collection of book covers and short thoughts on why they work. Hope this gave you some insights into book cover design too and helped you learn more. If you’d like me to add more covers and update this post in the future, let me know in the comments below!
17 thoughts on “75 Stunning Designs for Fiction Book Cover Design Inspiration”
50 Beautiful Fiction Book Cover Designs | Rocking Book Covers This is awesome!
Thanks Steve! 😉
This is a fantastic, instructive article. Your comments pointed out some items I would never have noticed, for instance, the guy with red hair. I love that you showed what you didn’t think worked as well as showing what did. A lot if informational articles forget to tell us what is wrong as well as what is right.
I know you posted this a long time ago, but just saw that you included my design for Aghorst Aoman. Thanks so much!
You’re welcome Scarlett! You deserve it! I’m a fan! 🙂
Silhouette looks like one of your covers!
Haha a little bit but mine would have a bit more texture probably! But it is a good cover for sure!
I have taken note of a few designs that I found might be useful for my manuscript.
Book has taken a while in the writing of, so will bookmark this page and check back again.
Sounds good Judith! Glad you found the article useful and definitely keep coming back to it as you need!
Enjoy writing! 😉
Do you know who published the Romeo and Juliet? I cannot find it.
Nope, sadly. There are many of those too so it’s hard to find…
This is a SUPERB article, Adrijus. Thank you. Now, I’m hunting you down for my next cover!
Hi! Great to hear! Glad you love it and I hope we get to collaborate on a cover in future for sure. 😉
Thanks for including 3 Ebook Launch cover designs in your post 🙂 (The Thought Cathedral, Insanity and Twisted)
No problems! Well deserved. Keep up the good work!
Adrijus, you’ve written an excellent article. Thank you so much. Now I’m looking for your next cover!
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21 Mesmerizing Book Cover Ideas That Fit the Story Perfectly
We’ve judged these books by their covers and sorted these book cover design ideas into 5 categories: Minimalist, Collage, Typography, Illustration and Photo.
Table of Contents
You should never judge a book by its cover, but these 21 amazing examples will make that impossible. Check them out to find inspiration for your own cover design .
A book cover design might just be one page of an immersive and in-depth story, but it’s the first thing we see on a bookshelf. It’s the thing that is most appealing to the reader’s eye before they can read the book itself, and it’s important nonetheless. If you don’t believe that, these 23 of the best book covers will make you think otherwise.
Minimalism for a modern approach
Minimalism is very much in fashion, and applying it well can bring really creative book covers. Here are some bravely minimal book cover ideas.
1. Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes
This hilarious satire that imagines Hitler stuck into contemporary liberalism and democracy, stumbling on every step through this comedy of errors, has a great book cover that sees the most authentic features of the main character - the hairdo and the mustache that’s also the title of the book.
2. Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John T. Cacioppo & William Patrick
This great cover uses typography as its greatest ally to make a poignant point . By separating the dot from the “i” in “loneliness”, the cover designer portrayed isolation and alienation from the rest, which is exactly what loneliness is.
3. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect”. The first line from Metamorphosis is one of the most famous literary openings in history. And this version of the book’s cover reflects that story completely: one eye is of a human and the other of an insect . The visual is impactful and connected to the subject matter, making this contemporary rendition of a bestseller with a thousand editions look fresh and new .
4. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
This cover image looks almost childish, but anyone who has read the book knows that it’s a great cover. The dog Karenin is one of the core metaphors for the relationship between the main characters and symbolizes more than a pet. And the fact that it looks unfinished is also suitable for this novel , which is known for its abrupt skips in time and space and blank spaces left for the readers to fill themselves. The handwritten book title and author name tie the purposely sloppy and authentic look perfectly .
5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
In order to create a good book cover design that’s connected to this story, a graphic designer has to be very resourceful and wise. Lolita is one of the most controversial books in history , telling the story of a pedophile obsessed with Dolores, his step-daughter. The fact that this designer successfully added a touch of playfulness and a notion of female beauty without eroticizing a child is an almost impossible feat.
Collages for a striking and unique cover look
A collage is created by combining different pieces of art: photos, paper cutouts or fabric, to create a compact and unique image. It surely is a unique method for a book cover, but it’s a great source of design inspiration .
6. The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire (Spanish edition)
This book is often described as the tipping point of modern poetry and the best work of the famous French poet. It’s poetry that fights against civil society and the petit-bourgeois; hiding the abstract, romantic, and free-spirited from the eyes of everyday life. The little bird on a branch made from eyes that stare at it was a great call by the book cover designer.
7. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
This design is the winning book cover art for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Re-Covered Books contest. It may not be applied as a real book cover design, but the idea of combining the four most important characters with a photo collage is a cool and effective one.
8. Life Support: 100 Poems to Reach for on Dark Nights edited by Julia Copus
I remember stumbling upon this poetry book on Amazon and thinking at first that it’s a Henri Matisse biography. This digital collage is oddly resemblant of the French artist’s works, and the striking and pleasing color scheme definitely catches the attention.
Creative use of typography
Another way to ensure your own cover is effective and appealing is to include creative typography . Here are some interesting covers that turned a basic design element into the centerpiece.
9. Constellations by Nick Payne
This cover for a play has a creative and witty solution: the letters are formed as constellations, which is also the name of the book . It’s an authentic approach and it works very well.
10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is another redesign of a classic, by the artist Sebastian Andreas. The book tells a story of systemic racism and injustice in 1930s Alabama, seen through the children’s perspective. This Pulitzer Prize winner is unfortunately still relevant, and the design of a black person’s fist in the air, shackled and fighting for justice makes a suitable book cover .
11. How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas
This funny young adult novel has a cover that’s a play on the title, that’s written out by connecting the dots. All of them together (or the crowd) pains a complete picture. It is a fun and quirky book design that definitely resonates with the target audience.
12. Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
This contemporary masterpiece delving deep into analyzing black misogyny and the lives of modern black women also has a simple but great book cover. The huge width of the letter H portrays the meaning of the word “thick” in a simple and effective way.
Illustrated book covers
Illustrations on a cover are the go-to approach for the fantasy genre and children’s books. But a good illustration can fit anywhere.
13. Dune by Frank Herbert
This Penguin edition of the sci-fi staple by Frank Herbert is so beautifully designed, that I wasn’t immune either: it’s adorning my bookshelves too.
The font, the color scheme, the three-dimensionality, and the consistent design throughout all the books in the series make it the definition of illustrated book cover design.
14. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
A character as imaginative and comically unfortunate as Don Quixote deserves a vivid illustration for a cover. This version sees the noble Knight of La Mancha storming a windmill and ignoring a deep hole in front of him . If that’s not quixotic, what is?
15. Moby Dick, or The Whale by Herman Melville
This beautiful and intricate illustration of Moby Dick sinking Captain Ahab’s boat uses a beautiful palette. The book title is placed into a white space shaped like a boat’s wheel.
16. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
There aren’t many books as harrowing and profoundly sad as this one. The journey of a father and son through a post-apocalyptic America absolutely needs a cold color palette and an illustration that evokes a feeling of emptiness and unforeseen danger , such as this one.
Photography makes great cover art too
Photography is another medium that can be suited well for a memorable book cover. Still, you’ll probably need to photoshop and tweak some details if you’re applying this strategy to your own design.
17. Motherhood by Sheila Heti
This anxiety-inducing image perfectly portrays the meaning of motherhood: impossible balancing, pivoting, and taking care of someone that sees you as the main source of care and sustenance. This unlikely combination of elements somehow relays that message perfectly .
18. Middle C by William H. Gass
Another literal portrayal of the book title: this photo sees a Middle C key from a piano keyboard as the centerpiece of the cover. Plain, smart and visually stunning.
19. The Uninhabitable Earth by David Wallace-Wells
Albert Einstein once famously said that when the bees die, humanity will only have four more years to live. This book cover shows the devastating effect of humanity and industrialization through the death of a single bee. It is a suitable design that is perfectly disturbing for a book about global warming.
20. The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
This striking and sorrowful photo shows an empty coat , that presumably belonged to someone who’s now dead. Personal belongings really remain as proof for the history of the dead.
21. The End of Food by Paul Roberts
Finally, a cover of a book that sees a scary future in which the current industry model of food production fails. A photo of an empty packaging where there should probably be a piece of meat serves as the cover for this non-fiction critique on modern society.
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Book Cover Design Basics
by Chris Payne ( @99designs )
The purpose of book cover design is to draw the attention of your potential readers away from all those other tomes and novellas and sell them on the idea that your page-turner is the next book they need on their nightstand. But what makes a book cover jump off the shelves? Let’s take a look at the anatomy of a book cover and how you can create a cohesive look that appeals to your readers.
It’s nice to think that the most well-written books are the most popular, but we all know that has never been true. And self-publishing has changed the game further. With over one million books being published every year, readers are never going to find your masterpiece unless you find a way to break through the clutter, get people’s attention, and convince them to crack open your book and start reading. Following these book design basics is a good place to start!
Think of your front cover as the preview into your book. Just like a movie preview is there to help viewers decide if they want to shell out $20 to see a film, your front cover is what your reader is going to use to judge whether they want to invest their time and money into reading your story. This is your chance to hook them and get them intrigued enough to read your book.
There are two main parts of your front cover: imagery and typography.
Book Cover Imagery
Your imagery could encompass a number of things: you could use a photograph, an illustration, geometric shapes, or just an interesting play on color. Whatever imagery you decide to use, you should showcase it in a way that feels true to the spirit of your book. So, for example, if you wrote a memoir about your summer camping in Yosemite, you might have an image of a tent with Half Dome looming in the background.
You also want to make sure you use your imagery in a design-friendly way. Make sure that your image doesn’t overwhelm your typography, and make sure it’s laid out in a way that feels balanced; you don’t want to have a ton of imagery in the top right corner of the cover and then nothing on the other three corners to balance it out.
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Book Cover Typography
The typography on your cover should include three things: your book’s title, the subtitle (if you have one), and the author name. Make sure to use text hierarchy to bring attention to the more important text (for example, you’ll want your title text to be larger than your subtitle text). In terms of where your text should go, you can put your title on the top of your cover or towards the bottom; just make sure you put it somewhere above your name so it’s the first thing people read.
If you’re publishing an ebook, pay extra attention to how your cover looks at a small size, as most people will be viewing it as a tiny thumbnail. Make sure you have one clear visual element that tells your story and makes your cover stand out on the screen.
The right book cover design can increase your visibility by more than 50% , which means more readers nose-deep in your latest book—and more money in your pocket.
So what does a well-designed cover look like? Here are seven book cover design tips.
7 Book Cover Design Tips
- Give readers a sneak peek of what's to come.
- Let the reader know the book's genre.
- Introduce your protagonist.
- Set the right tone.
- Follow the rules of design in a way that makes sense for your genre.
- Pay attention to the details.
- Have a distinct style.
1. Book covers should give the readers a sneak peek of what's to come.
The cover of the universally acclaimed Life of Pi by Yann Martel does an excellent job of framing the story and building an emotional connection to the protagonist, a young man trapped on a lifeboat with a ferocious tiger.
When it comes to how much your cover should give away, think of it in terms of the “The Three Bears Principle”: not too much, not too little . . . but just enough. When a potential reader picks up your book, they should at least get a general framework of what they can expect between the front and back cover .
Your cover design should hint at the overall theme and plot of the story without giving away any major plot details or spoilers. By giving potential readers a sneak preview, you’re pointing them to the information they need to make an informed decision on whether your story is one in which they want to invest their time.
2. Book covers should let readers know the book's genre.
In addition to giving readers a subtle preview of your plot, your cover should also clearly impart the book’s genre .
3. Book covers should introduce your protagonist.
Whether they’re irritatingly perfect or tragically flawed, a model citizen or the definition of an anti-hero, readers have to feel connected to your protagonist in order to feel compelled to read their story. If you can establish a connection with your protagonist before they ever even crack open your book, you’re ahead of the game.
Use your book cover design to start building that connection. Whether it’s overt (like adding a photo or illustration of your main character) or subtle (like visually alluding to a significant part of their character, like the bowler hat they’re never without or their cherished ‘63 bug), using your cover as a way to start building the relationship between your main character and your reader will help you attract the kind of audience that’s going to want to hear your protagonist’s story.
The cover of The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Nighttime by Mark Haddon incorporates multiple elements of a well-designed cover. The designer alludes to the plot with the graphic of the dog and pitchfork and the whimsical font is a great representation of the child protagonist.
4. Book covers should set the right tone.
Your book cover design should match the tone of your book in order to attract the right readers. So, if your book is humorous, the cover shouldn’t include darkly contrasting imagery with a blood red title. And if your book is likely to rip your readers’ hearts out of their chest, cartoonish illustrations with bubble fonts have no business on the front of your book.
5. Book covers should follow the rules of design in a way that makes sense for your genre.
Good book cover design isn’t a guessing game. There are very specific rules and guidelines to follow if you want to create a well-designed anything , from a t-shirt to a website to a—you guessed it—book cover. And if you want your book cover design to lure in your ideal reader, you have to follow the rules, too.
Use fonts that are genre-appropriate and easy to read. Use text hierarchy to emphasis the important text on your cover, like your title. Create contrast between the background colors and the text to make it pop off the page and grab your readers’ attention. Leverage color psychology to elicit the right emotional responses from your readers.
Design rules are rules for a reason: they work. And when you integrate them into your book cover design, you can trust they’ll work for you.
6. Book covers should pay attention to the details.
What’s the difference between looking like a total amateur and having a book cover design that makes your readers automatically assume you’re a seasoned pro?
The details are really where you have the opportunity to elevate your design to a whole new level. Things like lighting, shading, image treatment, image arrangement, text hierarchy, and layering are what takes a book cover design from “ok” to “epic.”
The cover design for Prep by Curtis Sittenfield follows all the rules for a great book cover design. The lavender, pink, and green color palette as well as the preppy belt graphic are the perfect match for the coming-of-age story about an elite boarding school.
7. Book covers should have a distinct style.
Want to know what won’t help you attract more readers? Designing a book cover that looks like literally everything else on the shelf; think another romance with an oil painting of Fabio staring off into the distance wearing a loincloth. Yawn.
If you want your book to fly off the shelves and straight into the hands of your readers, it needs to have a distinct visual style.
Of course, this is a tricky balance. You don’t want to break any of the rules above: your book still needs to make it clear that the readers are getting a cave man romance. But could you do it in the style of a cave painting? Now that would be unique and intriguing!
Not only does this grab your readers’ attention, but it can also help build your author brand; if you integrate your distinct visual style into all of your book covers, it will make it easier for your readers and the world at large to recognize your work.
Once you’ve hooked people with your front cover, they’ll flip your book over to find out more information about the book. The back cover is your chance to build on the intrigue you sparked on the front cover and close them on the idea that your book can’t be missed.
On the back cover, you can include:
- A blurb about your book, also know as the book description
- Book reviews
- An author bio
- ISBN and barcode
If you’re publishing a hardcover book , some of this information can be put onto interior flaps of the dust jacket. Similarly, if you’re publishing digitally, this info will be text on the ebook’s description page.
The last part of your book cover design that you’ll need to put some thought into is your spine. Since most bookstores shelve their books vertically, your spine is the only real way for your potential readers to easily spot your masterpiece on a shelf.
When it comes to spines, you’ll want to keep it simple. On the top of the spine, write the title (this should also be in the largest font). Then, include your author name toward the bottom, followed by your publisher imprint.
When you’re designing your cover, just be sure to check with your designer to make sure your spine design will work with your book length; if your book is less than the 150 page range, you might run into some formatting issues.
Use IngramSpark's Spine Width Calculator
Attracting more readers in an oversaturated market isn’t easy, but the physical quality of your book, including your cover, is key to getting your self-published book off the shelf and into your reader’s hands.
Chris Payne is Corporate Controller at 99designs , a design marketplace that specializes in book cover and book illustration design. In addition to working at 99designs, Chris founded JournalStone Publishing in 2011, where he has published four of his own books and continues to work with award-winning authors such as Adam Nevill, Jonathan Maberry and Christopher Golden.
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The 25 Most Iconic Book Covers of All Time
Isabelle Popp has written all sorts of things, ranging from astrophysics research articles and math tests to crossword puzzles and poetry. These days she's writing romance. When she's not reading or writing, she's probably knitting or scouring used book stores for vintage gothic romance paperbacks. Originally from New York, she's as surprised as anyone that she lives in Bloomington, Indiana.
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When it comes to lists of the most iconic book covers of all time, I am not always impressed with what titles turn up again and again. And I’m ready to take the heat for leaving some of your faves off this list. Here’s my first question for others compiling these lists. Are the covers of books like To Kill a Mockingbird or The Catcher in the Rye really that iconic? Or are they stuck in your mind because you’ve seen them a million times thanks to their status as school curriculum standards? Let’s not peak in high school, folks.
Moreover, why do we seem to celebrate only the covers for books considered literary masterpieces of the 20th century, with a focus on midcentury design? Certainly there are iconic book covers from that era, and you’ll see some below. But there’s more to lionize in the history of design than this singular period and genre. I want to take a wider view.
I’m also not afraid to assert that some of the most iconic book covers have just come out. Because if we don’t believe that at least some of the best things ever to be made are being made right now , be they book covers, movies, music, or literature, then what is the point of making anything? I’d rather take a brave stance here and be proven wrong in the future than go with the same old choices everyone makes. Believe me, there are still plenty of safe choices on this list. So without any further ado, and in no particular order, the most iconic book covers of all time.
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
How recognizable is this cover design by S. Neil Fujita, with illustration by John Kashiwabara? So iconic that you can buy any number of T-shirts that spoof its design. To name a few, you can acquire a shirt to claim you are: The Rodfather (with a fisherman casting instead of marionette strings), The Dogfather (bones as marionette sticks), The Gabagool (for the fans of cured meats), or The Godmother (it’s pink).
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Here’s a classic from R. D. Scudellari. His work makes bold use of typography. The O’s tucked up against the L sort of make a face. Toni Morrison’s name lacks the dots on the i’s. The stacked S’s make a visual play on the assonance of the sounds. The wings are a little angelic perhaps and nod to the biblical title. Overall, this design is less about reflecting the book itself and more about creating something akin to a recognizable logo that proclaims this book to be capital-I Important. Which, to be fair, it is.
Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings by Jorge Luis Borges
The cover of the 1964 paperback of Labyrinths from New Directions includes a photograph by Gilda Kuhlman on the cover. She was the Production Editor and Art Director for New Directions in the 1960s. This is one of my favorite books, and the cover is perfectly mysterious. I like that all at once it is sharp and curved, full of distinct shapes that form a curious collective. It merits being studied. It’s a perfect match for a book that’s always making you question reality.
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
Talk about iconic! Milton Charles designed the paperback, whose silver foil-embossed cover has a die-cut hole representing the house’s attic. When the cover is opened, a full page painting called a stepback reveals the creepy family, illustrated by Gillian Hills. It’s lurid and voyeuristic in the best possible way. The rest of the Dollanganger series received a similarly iconic treatment. If you come across an old copy that has the cutout and the stepback — later printings don’t have the hole in the cover — you’re a lucky duck.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Janet Halverson designed this cover in 1969. Its simplicity is striking, and the colors are vivid. I’m no ornithologist, but I’m guessing the fork-tailed bird on the cover is a swallow. Maya Angelous read the Bible twice as a child, and incorporated Biblical mythology into her heartwrenching autobiography. The Bible uses swallows building nests near the sanctuary as evidence of God’s love. Plus, their agility in flight makes them a bird especially emblematic of freedom. It’s a lovely and fitting choice for this cover.
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Did you know this iconic cover of The Hobbit is Tolkien’s own work? You can read more about the changes to it over the years, but what a gem. The mountains are too pointy to be real. The runes hint at what kind of mythology we’re in for, and hey, don’t those birds look awfully big? Do you like this first cover the best, or did you prefer when they colored the sun in red?
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Edward McKnight Kauffer, who designed this cover, was known mostly for his poster art. It makes sense, therefore, that this cover is so eye-catching. The face on the cover is bathed in both light and shadow. The way the light appears to be falling from above as well as the criss-cross over the face perhaps allude to the beginning of the book. In it, the unnamed narrator describes his underground room lit with electricity stolen from the city’s grid.
Tender is the Storm by Johanna Lindsey
A list of the most iconic book covers without a Robert McGinnis cover is no list at all, if you ask me. I had to choose this romance cover because it was ultimately too hot to handle! The first printing really has the hero’s buttcheeks hanging out like that. But the next one put a red starburst over his loins proclaiming the book a “coast-to-coast best seller.” McGinnis is known for long, leggy figures and dramatic scenes, and at age 96, he’s still working! Check out Hard Case Crime for his recent work.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Jason Ramirez and Nayon Cho designed this cover that makes excellent use of the elegant and classic Lydian font, which has been a popular choice for book covers in the past few years. The gold lines refer to the art of kintsugi, in which broken pottery is repaired using gold. This powerful image shows that in making her name public and telling her story, Miller’s trauma is part of her history, but certainly not all of her.
Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
You know a book cover is iconic when it can be ported from book to movie franchise to theme park rides with ease. This cover by renowned designer Chip Kidd is a quintessential example of this. There’s a great episode of the Spark & Fire podcast about the creation of this cover. The image of Michael Crichton’s fax to proclaim “Wow! Fucking Fantastic Jacket” is not to be missed.
The Animorphs by K.A. Applegate
This whole series has unforgettable covers, predominantly designed by David Mattingly. First published in 1996, Animorphs quaintly shows what computer graphics were capable of, regarding digital morphs between images. These books traumatized a generation with their depiction of the horrors of war and the loss of innocence that comes with it. Aimed at kids on the brink of puberty, these book covers do a great job showing how scary and confusing it is to go through big changes.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
There are those lamenting the “book blob” era of cover design, but I’m never going to be mad at bold, colorful covers. I think The Mothers , published in 2016, somewhat ushered in this era. With lines that perhaps suggest a human profile, or maybe not, Rachel Willey’s cover design eschews making an obvious and reductive choice for what motherhood looks like. The book explores the slipperiness of the concept as well. It’s an enigmatic and intriguing cover.
Night Shift by Stephen King
No cover more terrifying! This cover has haunted me since I was a child, and Dom Brautigam is responsible for this nightmare. ( LeVar Burton is responsible for others. ) The first printing had a cover showing the eyes floating against a blue background. That cover had holes cut where the eyeballs were, like Flowers in the Attic ’s attic, so upon opening it, one witnessed the ( shudder ) bandaged hand. I’m sure that was a hell of a reveal, but I find the full hand image on the cover the iconically scary one.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Maybe it’s a cop-out to include a picture book in this list, but this one’s cover really does a lot of work. With the traffic light, we are instantly placed in an urban setting, a rare sight in picture books when this was published. Meanwhile, the child looking at his fresh footprints in the snow evokes the sense of wonder snowy days create. Creating magic out of the ordinary is something children are so good at, and this classic book celebrates that.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Talk about the line between pain and pleasure. This cover photograph by Peter Hujar is titled “Orgasmic Man,” in case you were wondering what’s really going on. Devoid of that context, it truly is impossible to say what the person on this cover is experiencing. Hanya Yanagihara’s books are for readers who, counterintuitively, enjoy books that will destroy them, so this image couldn’t be more appropriate.
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms was the first work of fiction to be given the Penguin paperback treatment, and the iconic status of this design is quite undeniable. Only the general fiction in the series was orange, but that color certainly eclipsed the purple of essays and the green of crime novels, etc. Edward Young created the design, including the original penguin logo. That penguin has undergone changes over the years, and my personal favorite has a little roll of pudge and a jaunty foot in the air. What makes these covers so iconic is their collectability. They were color coded and numbered, making them something you wanted to line up on a shelf rather than discard.
I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
This book made a huge splash, partially due to its brash title, and I think also partially due to this genius cover design by Faye Orlove. The pastel colors and square-within-a-square design call up a nostalgia for ’90s books. It’s a little Baby-Sitters Club, a little Judy Blume. The same way people have nostalgia for iCarly . But the title undercuts that wholesome vibe entirely. The pink urn and Jennette’s bemused, indifferent expression is icing on a messed up cake. Truly unforgettable.
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
This cover, by Greg Stadnyk, uses birds to represent Red and Blue, the time-traveling spies in this epistolary novella. They’re organic, but also a little glitchy. What a perfect way to show that even in a futuristic time war, the human desire to love and be loved cannot be denied. The cover is distilled to only these two characters, with no background detail, the way this novella takes such an expansive context to craft an intimate story.
Face Of An Angel by Dorothy Eden
As a die-hard lover of gothic literature, I had to include a “women running from houses” cover on the list of iconic book covers. It’s hard to choose a single cover to encapsulate this trend, so I picked one cover that includes many of the important features. This one, by Lou Marchetti, features a flowing white gown, a creepy castle/manor, and a conspicuously phallic turret with its light on. There are so many wild and wonderful variations on this theme, and we have other artists, including Victor Prezio, Elaine Duillo, Robert McGinnis, Walter Popp (no relation), George Ziel, Charles Geer, Renato Fratini, Allan Kass, and Harry Bennett, among others, to thank.
Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom
It’s rare for nonfiction book covers to get a lot of love, so let’s show some for this one, designed by Bookbright Media. As the author states in the book, “thick” is a descriptor in sociology to mean that a description is given plenty of context to situate it. The cover shows the other meaning of thick, with that wide H forming something like a torso whose figure is not an hourglass. It implies we will indeed be examining bodies and beauty standards. Thick is a work by a Black author whose work engages with race a lot. The stark black color centers that Blackness. Lastly, the handwriting look of the subtitle and author’s name lend a personal touch, letting us know not to expect stodgy academic prose.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Of course Frankenstein has received countless covers over the years, some of them iconic in their own right. But I chose this one to recognize the amazing era of pulp covers. The early days of the pulp paperback included reprints of classic titles in cheaper editions. And plenty got pulped-up covers that were, like this one, a little misleading about the content. This art style is undeniably striking. While I couldn’t find the artist of this particular cover, some artists known for their pulped classic covers are James Avati, Mitchell Hooks, Charles Binger, Ken Riley, Stanley Meltzoff, and Tom Dunn.
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
I think this book cover, designed by Ben Wiseman, is iconic for similar reasons that I’m Glad My Mom Died is iconic. They both call to an entire genre of literature with their cover design. Unlike I’m Glad My Mom Died , however, this one embraces rather than subverts that genre. Giving the title and the author’s name nearly equal real estate on the cover calls up dishy books by authors like Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz, and Danielle Steel. The author’s name is meant to tell more about what you’re in for than the title does. With this cover design, Kevin Kwan joins the ranks of authors you associate with breezy but gripping poolside reading. This book promises to be rife with excess, drama, and plenty of name-dropped fashion brands.
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Okay, so John Carter, the protagonist of this book, never took off as a cinematic franchise the way, say, Star Wars has. But tell me, how do we even have Star Wars without book covers like this? Anyone who’s lusted after Princess Leia in the gold bikini can thank artist Frank Frazetta. The way this 1970 cover blends sword and sorcery imagery with outer space imagery, in a pulpy style, sets a visual standard for an adventurous style of sci-fi. And you know a book cover is iconic when the original oil painting sells for $1.2 million at auction!
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
The hardcover release of Shatter Me had a cover that was a little generic, if I’m honest. It was a girl in the gown, not hard to find in YA fantasy, in 2011. This paperback cover features art by Colin Anderson, inspired by a photograph by Sharee Davenport and cover design by Cara E. Petrus. Now we’re talking. Eyes are reliable for grabbing attention, featured on so many of these covers. This eye motif carries into the rest of the covers for the series, making them a cohesive and arresting set. But then the details pull you in. Mafi’s use of strikethroughs, as seen on the cover’s tagline, creates an instant turbulence challenging readers to discover the truth for themselves.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I don’t think this cover is iconic because everyone reads this book in high school. It’s iconic on its own merit, embodying the melancholy jazz age style found in the book. Francis Cugat designed the cover, and he was a true one-hit wonder in this field, as this was the only book he designed in his career. Fitzgerald describes Daisy as a “girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs.” Turns out, he may have been inspired to write that by receiving early versions of the cover before the book was complete. It certainly would explain how the text and cover are so perfectly integrated.
I fully recognize that this list doesn’t get into all eras of book design. I’ll toss out there that I think yellowback books are iconic, I think mapback books are iconic, and I barely scratched the surface of genre fiction cover art. But I hope I’ve convinced you to broaden your scope when thinking about the most iconic book covers. Furthermore, do you think any of the best book covers from 2022 make the cut?
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Fiction Book Cover Design: The Definitive Guide
It’s great when a book is not only a captivating read but also an eye-grabbing beauty that people want to put on a shelf to enjoy the view every day.
Creating such a fiction book cover design requires some serious planning and masterful execution. Fortunately, there is not any secret knowledge you need to possess to come up with trendy book visuals that sell.
In this article, we’ll be sharing with you the essentials of creating an alluring fiction book cover. Read along for insights about typography, color palette, imagery for each genre, and examples from our experience.
Fiction book cover design tips
Custom book cover design for fiction books is where your can let you imagination go places and
- Experiment with images and fonts
- Test various imagery and typography layouts
- Convey the concept of your writing with pictures, illustrations, and signs
However, there are some general guidelines you better follow to ensure a neat and professional-looking final result.
Fiction book cover typography
The primary rule of typography is to make it suitable for the overall design of your book cover.
Above that if you want your typography to look consistent, here are some general tips you should know:
Try not to use more than two different typefaces
If you’re a novice in book cover design, it’s better to use one of the Sans Serif family fonts. You can also try to combine different fonts but that’s thin ice. Tread it carefully to ensure that your book cover will not look cluttered. Use this tool to check out if the fonts combine well together.
Avoid distracting your reader from the title
Choose a smaller size for the subtitle. It may be placed above or beneath the book’s name. Placing it between the lines is also an advantageous option, especially when it serves as a supplementary element of design .
Choose the size of the font for the author’s name
Unless you are a popular author, your name on a book cover should not be bigger than a title.
Align the text against the same margin
You can place the title, subtitle, and author’s name in the left, right, or central part of the page. Yet, the central layout is the most optimal solution.
Select the winning color scheme
Try to achieve a pleasant contrast with your color selection. For example, you can use three different colors to make the title, subtitle, and author’s names look different. However, be cautious with colors as they are a powerful yet finesse-oriented tool.
Experiment to trick your reader
Try to use an unexpected color palette for your book cover design. For example, yellow is associated with energy and optimism. However, using it for the title in a thriller or crime may bring about other feelings and emotions. It throws you off the scent .
Fiction book cover imagery
Choosing imagery for your professional book cover design can be a real struggle. The process includes such all-time classic questions as
- What art/photo is better to choose?
- How to combine images and graphics?
- Which approach works for the genre?
- And dozens of other mind-numbing doubts
We feel you.
Check out these ideas and tips on book cover design for different genres to know better when and how they work the best.
A background scene with a foreground character
A character and a background should be simple enough without unnecessary details and appeal to the target audience. Also, such book covers often hint at the plot.
Character in the top and a background scene in the bottom
This is a great way of creating visual metaphors between characters and environments. It works equally well for widely different genres and moods.
Scene with a small character
The design of the book cover with a small character focuses on the significance of the moment rather than a character.
It reflects a symbolic representation of described events and their powerful influence on the heroes.
Focus on the character’s face
A trend popular during the years — a big face that peers right into your soul. It has its unique charm and can easily attract attention as people are “programmed” to look for faces.
A face-focal idea perfectly fits different genres because the details of one’s face may show additional emotions and enhance readers’ interest.
Minimalism is always a great choice regardless of the genre. Minimalist book cover design features a single graphic element, plain color scheme, and ascetic typography
The floral motif is a leading trend in a book cover design in 2019 . The multicolored palette of flowers makes the book cover vivid and sophisticated. And I can imagine your skeptical countenance if you write thrillers or crimes. Yes, this kind of design also fits these genres. Floral motifs intrigue and attract readers quite well.
Focus on typography
Typography can play into the book concept really well and attract the audience’s attention. Simplicity, readability, and clarity are key factors. You can also use some background images to support the genre and enhance the mood.
So, those were some prevalent approaches to crafting a memorable book design.
It’s time to dive into the secrets of covers for fantasy, romance, crime/mystery, and thriller.
Mind these tips when you choose a book cover design company and feel free to provide the designer with your ideas.
Fantasy book cover design tips
A proper fantasy book cover gives a promise of exhilarating adventure and intrigues the reader to open the book.
Wander how to reach that?
Here are the tips on how to choose the fonts, images, colors, and layouts for your book cover design.
Each font has its unique vibe, so it can amplify whatever mood you want your cover to communicate.
The most basic example: bold fonts are good for implying power and strength, while round fonts — for softness and comfort.
Typography helps you communicate with your reader, so don’t miss this chance.
There are plenty of fonts that work for the genre. However, the following fonts for fantasy book cover desig n are faultless:
- Apple Garamond,
- Trajan Pro,
- Optimus Princeps
The options presented above are basic for fantasy. They look organically and reflect the mood of the genre. Though you still are free to use other fonts.
Font color and size
The choice of the font colors depends on the palette and hues used in the book cover design. They may be either of the same spectra or contrasting. If in doubt, you can always use white. It is an option that matches any color of the cover design.
You can mix the upper and lower case letters or use capitalization for the entire title. Nick Kolenda in his useful guide on font psychology reveals the following insights:
- Mixed case letters are the most readable;
- Letters in bold show power;
- Slanted letters convey a sense of movement;
- Straight letters refer to stability.
Mix them to get the best title for your writing. Read here for more detailed information on fantasy book cover fonts.
Fantasy book covers usually have vivid colors. Neutral black can be combined with bold red, green, purple, and others.
Choosing a single pure color as a core element and then working around with the variation of its shades and tints is also a great option.
In addition, consider the language of color to highlight the focal message of a fantasy book cover:
- Purple is good to demonstrate mystery,
- Golden – royalty,
- Red – anger or danger,
- Green – renewal and balance.
If it comes to combining several colors, consider the following advice:
- Try a gradient to make a book cover catchy;
- Use a color wheel to find matching colors that work together well;
- Contrast black against one of the basic colors (red, blue, purple, orange, yellow, green);
How to come up with imagery for the fantasy book cover?
Here are some variants:
- Focus on the main character’s quirk, special power, or supernatural ability.
- If your book relies on some magic system, try to visualize it on a cover.
- Emphasize the supernatural element to hint at some extraordinary events in the book.
Romance book cover design tips
Romance is about the relationship, tension, emotion, passion, and what all these things do to a person. And the typography on romance book covers should send appropriate vibes. For example, fonts with flourishes or handwriting style guarantee a romantic mood.
Some of the most suitable fonts for romance book cover design include
Or if you strive for a modern look, try these:
Also, keep in mind the time period described in the novel. For instance, you can apply script-based fonts for modern times and edgy fonts for 17-18th centuries.
Following font psychology tips, it’s also a good practice to use light and rounded fonts. They endue your title with beauty, comfort, softness, and femininity.
Crime and mystery book cover design tips
Crime and mystery book cover should thread the line between hinting at the trilling story and avoiding any spoilers. How can you do so?
In crime and mystery book cover design, titles can help build the tension and set the mood. The following fonts can help you achieve the desired result:
A dark color scheme with stark contrasts is popular for crime and mystery book covers. For example, dark hues combined with green, red, blue, or yellow are common choices.
In particular, blue refers to mental engagement; red shows aggression, angst, and anxiety; black signifies death; green is associated with the supernatural. White and grey are used rarely but they may evoke a sense of mystery.
On the contrary, using soft, tender hues can be a nice way of creative a feeling of dissonance and tension as well as grabbing attention.
The crime and mystery book covers don’t focus on images much to inspire a sense of mystery. The genre often uses photos of locations or abstract, vague imagery to evoke a certain feeling without telling much about its characters or world.
Blurred and faded background adds some extra mystery to the book cover desgin. Another trend is vanishing characters, which also imply danger or suspense.
Thriller book cover design tips
Thriller book cover design has a lot in common with crime and mystery books.
The key purpose is to arouse curiosity without revealing major plot points.
The titles of thriller book covers are printed predominantly in capitals. The fonts are bold and clear.
The typography should be clean and simple without extra elements. You can apply texture and gradients to letters to enhance the tension or mystery and reinforce the mood.
The same fonts that work for the mystery genre work for thrillers as well.
The predominant color style for the thriller consists of dark tones with harsh contrasts. Navy blue or black serves perfectly for the design of the background, prompting suspense, and mystery.
The elements in the foreground may be depicted in red to boost tension and create the desired contrast.
Orange and yellow, which often symbolize optimism, confidence, ambition, and creativity, can be used as well to achieve the desired focus.
You can also use light blue or pale green to double down on the mystery vibes.
The book cover for the thriller often uses perspective to reinforce the feeling of danger or confusion.
Also, characters can be depicted moving toward a reader or away from them. Overall, feel free to use any methods that create a tense atmosphere that is full of action and danger.
Those were some basic ideas to keep in mind when approaching fiction book cover design.
Here are the main takeaways:
- Balance typography, imagery, and color scheme;
- Consider the specifics of fantasy, romance, mystery, and thriller;
- Try to use two fonts from different categories. A single font can look boring, while three — too busy;
- Match the font and its color to amplify the message of the cover;
- Use imagery to convey emotions
Consider these guidelines but don’t be afraid to experiment. Try out different things and see what works for your book and always remember to keep your target audience in mind.
We hope that this guide will help you to come up with various ideas. If you have any questions or need advice, we’re ready to help !
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daym thank u
Can you recommend free but good stocks sites like deviantart
Glad you enjoyed our article 🙂
There’s a bunch of sites where you can find some free stock photos for book cover design, including
1) Getty Images 2) Flickr 3) Freepik 4) Unsplash 5) Pexels
If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
It’s too bad that you all don’t advertise doing Christian book covers. That’s a huge market.
I prefer to work with Christian artists.
You certainly seem talented!
Thank you for kind words!
We have another project where we do a variety of non-fiction book covers including Christian. You can check out Getcovers here .
I guess this will fit in my book cover design for my next thriller mystery book. Loved the way you think. Genius!
Thank you, Glen! We’d be happy to see how your cover comes out 🙂
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