20 Book Cover Design Ideas To Inspire You

The rise in the popularity of the Internet has also given rise to various electronic appliances which enable us to enjoy seamless connectivity wherever we are, at any time. The increasing options for viewing content have significantly affected one’s attention span since the most consumed form of content now is graphics, whether it is an image, GIF, or video. This has led to a change in consumer behaviour and psychology, where the aesthetic appeal of a product has a significant impact on one’s decision-making.

Taking this into account, it is no surprise that books have also come under the same umbrella of appraisal. Readers who skim through the shelves of a bookstore or perhaps online platforms often tend to explore books with attractive covers. There are three elements that build one’s book: book title, back blurb, and the book cover. The title of your book is usually the first introduction that readers have to your published work. Ideally, the title should grab attention, accurately describe the contents of the book and make people want to read further. A good book title should:

  • Convey the main topic of the book
  • Be concise
  • Attract readers

Then comes the book cover, which should ideally complement the book title. Your book cover is also one of the factors which contributes to persuading the reader in their purchase decision. Thus, it must be attractive and catch the reader’s attention. One way of ensuring that your book cover and book title are complementary is to ensure that the title is readable on the cover as well as the spine of the book. Here, design elements such as font style, colour, and size come into play. While it is true that book covers may create preconceptions in the reader’s mind, it is debatable whether this is a good thing or not.

The reader then moves to the back blurb to read the synopsis of the book. It generally contains a short description of the main character and the conflict, usually between 100-200 words. The back blurb also highlights the main selling points of the book, which will help the reader decide whether they should purchase the book or not. 

The decision to purchase a book is usually driven by an enticing book cover first and then perhaps, by reading the blurb on the back. Nevertheless, it cannot be disregarded that book cover designs have a vital role to play when it comes to attracting new readership and retaining the benefit of attractive visuals while promoting your book. Book cover designs must carry an element of surprise or even something related to the storyline that is good enough to entice the reader but is also not so obvious that it gives away the climax. Seeing how cover designs are crucial in this aspect, there may be pressure on authors to find ways that ensure their book stands out as compared to others. Very often, authors also take professional help for designing and creating the book covers so that their investment may yield good returns by reaching a broader audience. 

Before you dive into the process of designing, here are some questions you must ask yourself:

  1. What do you want the visuals to convey to the reader?
  2. What is your genre, and does it have an established style?
  3. Where will the book be sold? (eBook/print/ both)

There are a plethora of options when it comes to cover designs, and answering these questions will help you select the best fit for your book. When you have a clear idea of what you want the visuals to look like and depict, it is relatively easy to start working from that point onwards. Knowing your genre helps you look for any established styles according to the genre of your book, which ultimately enables you to save time spent on design ideation. The last question is crucial in terms of the option of publishing online or in print because there are many elements of design that may look good on screen but not so much in print. It is recommended that you must pick designs and colours which are flattering on an eBook as well as in print format. 

Here are 20 book cover design ideas to inspire you for your next best-seller.

There are two things that decide what could be the right book cover for you: the genre of the book and the types of covers trending in the market. When it comes to art, there is no limit to one’s imagination. Similarly, for book cover designs, it is easier to filter through ideas based on two broad categories: types of covers and the genre of book. Dividing the cover design ideas into categories not only helps you narrow down your options but also ensures that your time is used effectively in the process. 

Types of book cover designs

  1. Bold Typography: Heavy and attention-grabbing fonts are considered a statement in the world of books. Bold typography is one trend that can ensure that your reader has all their attention on your book. These covers have text taking up the majority of the space and can be an ideal way to highlight the book title or the author’s name. A fine example of this type of book cover is the cover of  Here I Am’ by Jonathan Safran Foer in which the font and the design immediately grab one’s attention, making them pick up the book and go through the blurb at the back. Another fine example would be Satori in Paris by Jack Kerouac.
  1. Minimalist Covers: Taking aesthetics to another level, minimalism has been trending in all spheres, from product design to graphics. With minimalist book covers, the subtlety of design and the whitespace adds a soothing appeal to the graphics. The ‘less is more’ idea comes into play with minimal covers because they reflect a glimpse of the book’s content and invites the reader to know more about the storyline and characters. Grace Akinlemibola’s In The Eyes of Grace and Leviathan by Philip Hoare are examples of books with minimalist covers that pique the interest of the reader.
  1. Delicately Illustrated Covers: Not to be confused with minimalist covers, the delicately illustrated covers are a modern take on the heavy illustration based covers. Illustrations are a great way to add to the aesthetics of a book cover while also maintaining symmetry and relevance to the title or storyline. More recently, line drawing illustrations have made a solid comeback wherein it emphasises the intricate details of the book cover. As seen in the cover of Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss and White Death by Gabriel Urza, the simplicity and the attention to detail catches your eye immediately. 
  1. Character-Based Covers: Giving the reader a peek of what awaits them once they turn the first page, covers that are based on the characters are a huge trend that is going about town. It gives you a great opportunity to tease the reader’s interest while also not giving it all away. These covers have made a major mark in the Indian readership with Devdutt Patnaik’s Sita and Myth = Mithya books. Some other examples of character-based covers include  Asura by Anand Neelakantan andHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K Rowling.
  1. Rainbows and Primary Colours: Standing toe to toe with stark neutrals, bright and primary colours have made their mark on readers with flamboyant cover designs. A classic example is ‘Dead Astronauts by Jeff Vandermeer, the cover of whose book gives a psychedelic feel to the reader, further emphasising on the euphemism in the title. John Green, one of the most popular authors among young adults, has reflected this trend in his cover for An Abundance of Katherines’. 
  1. Textured Covers: Since these covers play with visuals that “show” a texture, they are an ideal choice for authors looking to publish online and in print. Textured book covers are a designer’s dream come true. These covers allow you to take the sense of touch (crucial to detect textures) to the digital realm, thereby making it possible to “feel the texture through sight.” As seen on the cover of Mouthful of Birds by Samantha Schweblin, the delicate and velvety texture of butterfly wings is detailed down to the shadows and reflection of the surface, making it possible for the reader to know exactly how it would feel if the texture were 3-dimensional instead of 2-dimensional.
  1. Creative Photography Covers: The internet and digital software have made it possible to take imagination a notch above by combining photography and fantasy elements together. Creative photography book covers are a great way to emphasise the element of fantasy in your book, especially if it is a science fiction novel. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe showcases a cover where it adds to the element of mystery and horror, which fits aptly with the storyline of the book.
  1. ‘Materials found in book’ Covers: While authors may still be looking for ways to make their books stand apart, one surefire way to captivate a reader’s attention is including the materials found in the book on the cover. Repurposing the familiar materials into a book cover design has been a sweeping trend today, which does not fail to add to the reader’s curiosity. Its importance is far-reaching because when the reader finishes the book, they can piece it all together, ultimately understanding the impact of the cover and the materials used. Since we are talking about materials to be included in a book cover, the visuals of the materials are added and not real-life materials. One such example is Rachel Eve Moulton’s Tinfoil Butterfly wherein the cover has tinfoil embossed with the lettering of the title. The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa is also one of the examples of a book cover that skillfully used the visuals of the materials found in the book.
  2. Handwritten Pencil Fonts Covers: If you are looking for a cover through which the reader should feel connected, then handwritten pencil fonts are the way to go. Hand Lettering was a huge trend earlier, but now, authors are opting for a more “informal” and “personal” touch to the book covers. The simple and delicate strokes of a pen or pencil are very sought-after and convey a sense of “human” feeling through the book cover. Erosion by Terry Tempest Williams testifies to the fact that handwritten fonts are the new big thing. 
  1. Millennial Pink Covers: While it dominated social media colours and was also announced as the colour of the year in 2019, millennial pink has found its way into the reader community as well. The colour was all the rage among millennials and got its (very apt) name for being the “hip” colour which could be found almost everywhere. Books adapted this colour trend by introducing the “chic” factor through millennial pink and winning over millions of readers worldwide. The colour in book covers was not only popular on the internet but also on shelves, making it hard to miss. You can see an excellent example of this in Georgia Clark’s book The Regulars’. 
  1. Abstract Covers: Just like modern art, abstract covers have taken over the design community when it comes to book covers. Abstract covers have their own place in creating a sense of engagement with the reader and also adding to the aesthetic appeal of the book. With abstract covers, one does find more creative freedom and room for experimentation. This can be seen in books like The Past by Kenneth Thomas, After Dark by Haruki Murakami and Firestarter by Stephen King.
  1. Upscale Finishes: With an increasing accessibility to better tools and printing methods, independent presses and small publishing houses often release books with premium and upscale finishes such as foil stamping, embossing etc. These are not only eye-catching but also make the reader want to explore the contents of the book at first glance. 

Now that we’ve covered the types of covers which are in trend, you can also go about the designing process according to the genre of your book. Many genres have an established style which may include elements like colour, fonts, or even certain graphics. Here are some genres that have established styles, which only makes it easier to recognise the book among all others.

  1. Literary: Literary novels are generally based on profound human stories, which are characterised by high-quality writing. Many classics fall under this category and are often seen with covers that touch the reader even before they dive into the story. The Star Gazer’s Sister is a novel by Carrie Brown, whose book cover gives away very little and yet entices the reader to read the book. Such novels often have an element that indicates the time period of the novel, grabbing more attention with a slightly sepia or yellowish tint. Standing true to this is the cover of This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  1. Fiction: As is in the storyline, fiction books have endless possibilities when it comes to cover design ideas. The most important aspect to keep in mind is that the cover must be related to the storyline but also be subtle because no author wants to give away the element of surprise or thrill. The genre often experiments with creating something new but also adhering to the expected. You can play around with creative photography or perhaps illustrations as well, which can be seen on the cover of The Testaments by Margeret Attwood and The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman.
  1. Self Help/ Management: Self-help books and management books have gained massive popularity over the years. And generally, their covers are more straightforward rather than having an angle of subtlety to it. These books are seen in bold fonts which take up most of the space, or even a picture of the author is often seen adorning the covers. With self-help and management books, it is crucial that you must find the right title so that the reader is intrigued enough to take a gander at the back blurb. The key to putting your own picture on the cover is striking a power pose, conveying success, confidence, and happiness to your readers. Some of the best examples of these books are Getting to Good by Elena Welsh, 7 Habits of Highly Successful Peopleby Stephen Covey and You Can Win by Shiv Khera.
  1. Poetry: Poetry books must grab a reader’s attention in a calming way, making them want to read through the words that were woven by the author. Some established styles of this genre include typography covers, typography + illustration covers, image-based covers, and abstract covers. The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur explores a colourful illustration-based approach while her book Milk and Honey has a neutral cover with minimal design elements.
  1. Autobiographies: Autobiographies can be one’s life story or a collection of personal anecdotes which are turned into short stories. To appropriately convey the tonality of the book, authors often opt for bold typography or image-based book cover designs. Bold typography, along with an image of the author, can be seen on the cover of Girl, Stop Apologising by Rachel Hollis. Another good example of this is Becoming by Michelle Obama, which depicts the two elements as well as establishes the tone of the book.
  1. Crime Thriller/Horror fiction: Mystery and thrill are the two main components of this genre; thus, it is imperative that the book cover design must convey the same. In the case of horror fiction, elements of otherworldly creatures are often seen adorning the cover. Whereas for crime thriller books, eerie cover designs are best-suited. You can take The Border by Don Winslow as an example for this, seen in the eerie background and the glimpse of the image which may pique the reader’s interest enough to have them go through the synopsis on the back of the book.  The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides is another example of a psychological thriller with a cover that rightly conveys the sinister and eerie nature of the contents of the book. 
  1. Philosophy: Books that fall under this genre have covers that depict simplicity or abstract art. The title is written in bold fonts with the graphics serving as the background. Many times, there is also a single object included adding a body to the design. Shashi Tharoor’sWhy I Am a Hindu is an example of how textured backgrounds can be used with bold typography in this genre. ‘The Critique of Pure Reason’ by Immanuel Kant showcases a simple cover that includes the author’s painting and a font that stands stark against a contrasting background.

The process of creating a book cover also entails that you know certain primary details about colours and designs. One such simple hack is to ensure that your computer screen and printer are calibrated correctly. Calibrating your printer means that your inkjet cartridge nozzle is aligned to the paper which ensures that the colours stay rich and the finished result is of the highest quality. This will result in the exact colours being printed out, as seen on the screen. For authors who want to venture out on their own, they can also make the best out of the art community online by commissioning a local artist to hand-paint the visuals for their book cover. Doing so will not only help uplift the local art community but also invite a fresher perspective and talent onboard. An individual with an art or design background will definitely have more to contribute towards the selection of colours and fonts, giving the right advice when needed. 

An author must keep in mind that book covers play a crucial role in attracting new readers and increasing sales. Hence, one must invest their time just as much in the designing process as they do in writing the book. After all, the saying, “Do not judge a book by its cover” might be apt for an ideal world, but in reality, the book cover is just as important in the sales and promotion of the book as the contents inside. 

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