8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

8 cover design secrets publishers use to manipulate readers into buying books

Indie publishers are slowly coming to realize the importance of an amazing book cover. Since many self-publishing authors are starting out on a very small budget however, homemade, DIY book covers are still a popular choice.

But be forewarned: although book cover designs come in a wide variety, publishers consistently use reliable, time-tested techniques and guidelines to catch your attention and make the sale.

You want your cover to be different and unique, but you also want to tick all the right boxes (because they work). The worst thing an author can do is consider their cover design like a blank canvas and add whatever they want, wherever they want. So here are the tricks you need to know.

(Note: I chose these images and book covers quickly to illustrate my point. I’m sure you can find better examples).

The art & science of covering books

1. Make it “Pop”

A lot of authors ask for covers that “pop.” And many designers have no idea what this means. But I’ve narrowed it down to contrast.  You want a strong light to dark transition, with strong shadows.

book cover design tips: make it pop

You want the central object or character to really “pop” out, by being spotlighted and lighter in color (you can also do the reverse and have a very light cover, with a bold, dark central image). But you also want contrasting colors: colors that are opposites on a color wheel. Movie posts use orange and teal all the time, because they are a very pleasing color combination.

book cover design tips: add contrastbook cover design tips: add contrast

You can also use blue and red (although it’s hard to do well – black/gray and red usually works better), purple and yellow (colors which – I believe, only those born in Aquarius truly love).

(Note: non-fiction covers don’t need to “pop” in the same way – they can stand out by using bright colors or a simple central image).


2. Lots of space

A lot of book covers are too busy. Many of mine certainly are (partly due to my design style, partly because the authors want to include everything on the cover). Even if there are lots of elements, the background should be blended together smoothly – this can be done with a color wash (for example, in Fallen below, the dress could have “popped” more if it were deep red… but that would have made the text harder to read. Lauren Kate’s covers are breathtaking, but very simple.)

There’s also a lot of space in Guy’s cover below. Most non-fiction books will have a central background color/gradient, and a very simple single image that illustrates a concept. If you’re designing your own cover, there probably needs to be a lot more space between the letters. The normal spacing between letters is too cramped for a book cover. This is especially true for author names. See how far the letters in “Lauren Kate” stretch out? (Probably about 350% of normal). It makes it more cinematographic somehow. More epic.

book cover design tips: add more spacebook cover design tips: add more space

Guy’s last name and author title are both pretty long, so he couldn’t fit as much space between the letters, but he makes up for the cramped letters by adding a lot of extra spaces in the middle, and to the sides of the subtitle and blurb lines (look at the subtitle on the very bottom. No reason to break that into two lines. But the extra space makes the cover layout less box-square, and more fluid – like two inverted triangles.


3. Make it clever (non-fiction) or emotional (fiction)

book cover design tips: clever nonfiction

book cover design tips: clever nonfiction

Here’s a quick rule of thumb: non-fiction appeals to the brain. You want an instantly clever image to catch their mental attention.  Non-fiction covers should have a central “gimmick” and a solid color background or gradient (orange and yellow are very popular for business books. (BTW, notice how wide the spacing is between the letters on these two covers). You catch the brain’s attention by showing a juxtaposition – things that shouldn’t really go together and are unexpected. Then the subtitle tells them what the book is about.

On the other hand, fiction appeals to the heart. So fiction covers should be bursting with color, vibrancy, action. They should be beautiful. The art alone should make you feel, something like longing or loss or passion, immediately. Here are two covers for books I really enjoyed: both are simple and use a lot of space. Both use the orange – teal contrast. Both don’t really show anything about the book itself… but the bold, industrial fonts show they’re YA dystopian fiction (paranormal books will have more curly, sharp or ‘wicked’ looking fonts; romances will have a lot of curls and decoration).

book cover design tips: colors and emotionalallegiant-book-cover-high-res

I like that Allegiant put in a little bit of setting on the bottom, which is easy to do and usually works well (so the author name had to be moved up). Ignite Me is done very well too though, and the dark contrast on the bottom getting lighter as it goes up makes the dark eye really stand out. Something else to notice: both had to use dropshadows to make the text stand out – something it’s usually better to avoid (in other genres) but since dystopian fiction covers can be a little aggressive, it works here.

Allegiant really pops out with a heavy dropshadow (and metal gradient), and it also makes the teaser (at the top) easy to read – unlike the teaser for Ignite Me, which I can barely see. Be careful of overusing dropshadows through, I try to avoid them by using natural contrast (put light text on dark areas of the cover). So when designing for fiction, you’re appealing to the subconscious and the emotions. You’re not providing detail for the brain. Focus on colors, abstract symbols, representations. Focus on strong contrast and mood. How does the cover make you feel.


4. Use a subtitle, teaser or tagline (and a review!)

cover design secrets by publishers

Once you’ve got that down, provide just a tiny bit more information with a teaser. For fiction, a teaser should hint at the major plot point or conflict (star crossed love, a family feud, a personal growth quest, etc). It should excite interest without giving away too much. Far too many indie authors aren’t using teasers – just the extra bit of small text makes the covers look more professional.

Make them simple, in a simple font, and small, but find a way to fit them in (and get them edited – pay someone on fiverr.com to help you brainstorm. The teaser has got to be really good. You should also get feedback on the title….) For non-fiction, your subtitle is crucial because it allows you to fit more keywords.

You don’t want to stuff your title with too many keywords, so you can fit in a few more with a very nice subtitle (it should be clear and easy to read, not just a string of keywords).

Fiction books can benefit from subtitles too: recently I helped an author change a 1 word title, which nobody was finding, or if they did find, didn’t know what it was about, to include the subtitle “A Dystopian Adventure.” Not all books will need this, but his book was hidden on about the sixth page of nonrelated books with a similar title – when I was searching for the title of his book. Adding a simple genre-subtitle into the title field on Amazon can help you be found. Example (I’m just making this up).

Title: Smasher

Title+Subtitle: Smasher: a paranormal fantasy

Title+Teaser: Smasher: sometimes you have to break everything before you can put the pieces back together…

You probably don’t need a subtitle and a teaser, and a teaser is probably better for fiction (except if adding keywords or the genre helps your book find the right readers). You can also add a blurb or review – these help sell books even if the reviewer/source isn’t recognized or famous. Edit it down to make it short and punchy – 10 words or less. Smart indie authors in related genres will trade cover blurbs (so start networking!) Reviews establish credibility. Big publishers aren’t using them as much any more, because demonstrating credibility can show a lack or credibility or insecurity. Something to keep in mind…

cover design tips typography and best fontscover design tips typography and best fontscover design tips typography and best fonts

Here are three covers with different teasers on them (all in different places; you may have to squeeze the teaser wherever it will fit). All three have strong dark to light contrast, and all three use color contrast (yellow and blue; Odd Thomas more purple) Bared to You fits the title in nicely over the image, it would be hard to put it anywhere else. Not my favorite cover, and I prefer warm colors to be on top of cool colors (blue doesn’t seem very romantic to me…) but the title font and keywords “possession” and “obsession” let me know what to expect (even without the naked woman, so that’s a bit overkill).

Soulbound uses a very nice background (red goes well with cool blues or grays, there’s a lot of natural contrast) but the text isn’t great. The red+blue+yellow is too much, and title font is a little boring – flat – and I’ll bet that cursive “S” doesn’t belong with the rest of that font family. It’s common to change the first letter of a word (like in Bared to You) but the two font styles shouldn’t conflict. Also the author font is too fancy (stick with one fancy font.) Odd Thomas is one of my favorite covers. It’ll be easier to see why by comparing it to something else…

Note: A lot of indie authors say that you shouldn’t use small text on ebook covers. This isn’t true. Designing for print and ebooks is the same. Thumbnails don’t matter. Small text like reviews and blurbs makes your cover look traditionally published, and actually gives viewers a reason to click on the cover and see the full view (so they can read the small text, which may clinch the sale.) People don’t read the cover; they read the description right next to the cover, and if they want to find out more, they click and see the big view.

5. Pick the right font (and effects)

cover design tips typography and best fontscover design tips typography and best fonts

Here are two very similar covers. Deeply Odd uses a pale blue/yellow contrast, which is stronger than Kelley’s Green/Yellow. The fonts are nearly identical, but I far prefer the Koontz cover, because:

  1. The two different fonts make a nice contrast. They aren’t fancy fonts, but a very simple serif and sans-serif.
  2. They use natural color contrast for text and light/dark contrast. The top and bottom of Deeply Odd are dark enough to add the text without a drop shadow or special effects to make it stand out. Omens‘ top is in that annoying twilight, in between light and dark, where neither dark or light text will stand out well, so she had to add a strong drop shadow. Yes it helps the text stand out, but it overpowers the title and kills the fluidity of the cover.
  3. The letters in “Kelly Armstrong” are too condensed, whereas “Dean Koontz” is widely spread. True, he was lucky to have a shorter name, but it’s also the lack of drop shadow and the simple sans-serif font that make it so clean and elegant. Even using gray rather than white increase its subtlety.
  4. Ditto with the “bestseller” tagline. Kelley’s is a little too heavy and long (probably English Gothic). Koontz’s is elegant and minimal (Open Sans or Lato?)
  5. With the dark cover, the yellow Deeply Odd really stands out, because it’s the lightest thing, in a way that Omens doesn’t, because the top is too light.
  6. Deeply Odd uses two special effects, a very subtle glow which is great to suggest a bit of paranormal, and an underline (the two words in Deeply Odd would probably have been too cramped, if not for the underline, which connects everything.) I would have at least liked to see a subtle gradient on Omens.
  7. I don’t know what either book is really about, but Deeply Odd fixes this with a great teaser “Beauty is skin deep…” So I know it’s a struggle between good and evil.
  8. Deeply Odd is a little more interesting because it has a person in it. More on that in the next section.

When choosing fonts – don’t use anything that comes installed on your computer. Search through hundreds of fonts, on sites like DaFont.com or MyFonts.com.  You can get a free one (if you check for commercial usage), but a paid one will be less used.

You can make your font unique by hiring a designer to tweak it – for example the Twilight fonts which have extended letters (l, n, p, k) which are suggestive of fangs, knives, danger. You can also get a custom font made, if you need a truly 1-of-a-kind, brandable font for a huge publishing phenomenon (like Harry Potter).

book cover fontsbook cover fonts

If you use a fancy font, stick with just one, and make the rest of the fonts clean and simple. (See how widely spaced “Stephenie Meyer” is? She could have made her author name much bigger, but it works better this way).

* 300+ Fool-Proof Fonts to use for your Book Cover Design

PS – the image communicates time and setting. The font communicates genre. The color communicates emotion. If your font isn’t communicating the right genre to the right readers… it’s the wrong font.

6. Make it personal (but not cheesy)

As I pointed out above about the Deeply Odd cover, people sell. Having a person on/in the cover creates intrigue and interest. But only if done right.

book cover design tips

For example, imagine this picture (Fearless) without the guy in the center. It would totally change the cover, and make it a little boring. The boy adds adventure, focus, not to mention much needed color contrast (red on blue). Adding a person from the back (like the Odd covers) is fine – usually better – as it allows readers to form their own mental images of the characters.

But avoid total silhouettes. A lot of indie authors are using them because they are easy, and it’s really hard to find the right pose otherwise, but they are usually cheesy. An exception is Ken Follett’s covers (the new ones), but even here they have some details and a bit of light overlay.

book cover design: historical thrillerbook cover design: historical thrillerbook cover design: historical thriller

By the way, check out how the new cover for Dangerous Fortune compares to earlier versions. (Softer, more subtle, and much more intrigue with the characters, which also helps tell readers the time period.

book cover design: historical thriller book cover design: historical thriller book cover design: historical thriller

Super close up of faces can be really powerful too, but if you find them on a stock photography site, there’s a good chance it will be used on another cover. (The better the picture, the more covers it will show up on). You can avoid this by getting a friend to pose or hiring a model off craigslist for a quick photoshoot.

book cover design: ya fantasybook cover design: ya fantasy

In these two covers, I love the girl in Alpha although I don’t think the font is ideal. Also the author name is squished together needlessly. Requiem is a little boring but clean; although it doesn’t tell me enough about the book. Both could have used a teaser. You can also cut off the top half of the head (or just use the top half/eyes) so that the model isn’t as instantly recognizable.

book cover design: ya fantasybook cover design: ya fantasy

Cassandra Clare’s covers are much loved – note the color contrast. The City of Bones cover is colorful but didn’t have any contrast, so they add that little red circle! City of Glass already has the orange/teal contrast so they didn’t need it. Both covers use exciting light-stream overlays to give them that magical bursting effect. Putting a character on top and a city on the bottom is a good (and common) balance for layout. City of Glass had to use a stronger dropshadow, because the author name and subtitle weren’t standing out enough. They both use reviews instead of blurbs. The source is larger and clearer for the one by Stephanie Meyer because she’s more famous (the first one, by Holly Black, is smaller and a little hard to read).

Note: It’s been pointed out that these covers are super busy – these are YA titles, which tend to sell the most copies, and are colorful/busy/exciting to attract young readers. An adult thriller or law novel would be stark, simple – but still clean and stylish.

7. If it’s too hard, go simple

It’s a mistake to try and fit everything in. I’m working on some covers right now with two characters, and all the details (hair color, eyes, clothes, expression, weapons, decorations, etc) have to be just right. After weeks of work and hiring an illustrator from Russia to hand-draw some elements I can’t make in photoshop, it’s getting pretty close to a decent cover.

But it’s way too much work and something simple probably would have been just as good, or better. If it’s fantasy or paranormal, or epic, or just so huge it can’t be well defined, go simple. Busy covers take more work and rarely outsell simple covers. If you’re dealing with a lot of little details to make sure they match the book precisely, it’s too complex already. You’d have to hire an illustrator or make a whole bunch of changes in photoshop, and the result won’t look natural. Even if it all turns out pretty good, you probably could have published months earlier with a simpler cover.

book cover design: epic fantasy


8. A little more on text placement

Try to fit the text/words together in a balanced way. Usually small words like “the, in, of, and, by…” can be italicized, lower case, and made small to fit between larger text better (example: The Help).

book cover design: historical memoir

Try to add the text in a way that you don’t need any drop shadow or glow – the that the text stands out naturally against the background. (Example: Lolita). Nabokov also has his author name on top, which makes the cover seem upside down or top heavy (perhaps symbolic of the fragile and perverse relationship in the book?)

book cover design: literary classic

Unique text placement can be a form of branding. (Example: Shades of Grey). I don’t love the Shades of Grey covers, but they chose to use very simple, minimal fonts and a unique layout (title aligned top right, the rest aligned bottom left) to create a distinctive style.  The diagonal layout makes room for the strong images and creates a moving interplay (symbolic of the submission/mastery in the books?)

book cover design: romance

I hope these tips help you design a cover that sells more books!

Here’s a detailed tutorial video, based on some presentations I’ve given at writing conferences around the world – there’s some new and different things in the video I haven’t mentioned yet, so it’s worth a watch.

7 Must have qualities for a book cover that sells


Follow up with this post:

Cover design templates & 3D book mockups

For years I’ve wanted to build an online book cover creator, so I can make awesome templates for every genre and you can just upload your art and change the text. I finally finished my tool and am working on the templates. You can play with the 3D mockups in the meantime and the cover creator is great for promo graphics until I have time to build out a huge portfolio of book cover templates.

3D book cover mockups

Cover design secrets that sell books

I’ve helped design over 1000 book covers, including hundreds of bestsellers – download my free book to learn all the insider secrets I use to sell more books. Click here to get it now. I’ll also share some of the advanced book marketing tactics I’ve used to make a full-time income with my writing.

book cover design secrets: how to design a cover that sells


More book cover design resources:

Or hire a professional book cover designer

I try to help authors DIY their book design, but you shouldn’t do that without at least understanding the enormous gap between your homemade efforts and a professional designer. Here’s a list of my favorite designers.

Not everybody is capable of this kind of book cover art; it’s a combination of photoshopping and typography, and sometimes some custom illustration. But a quality cover like this generally costs around $350 to $750 and it’ll drastically, significantly, boost your sales and reduce your marketing spend for ads and promotion.

book cover designers

Midjourney AI for book cover design

AI art is still pretty new, and controversial, but it’s now possible to create pretty amazing art and illustrations, without hiring a designer or illustrator. And a lot of stock photo sites have an AI text to image generator built into their tools, so this will become fairly common. You can learn more about using AI art for book cover design here.


  • Lexi Revellian Posted

    Thank you, that’s a really eye-opening and helpful post.

  • Eva van Loon Posted

    Love this guy!

  • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Posted

    Any suggestions on how to make a basic symbol be the centerpiece of a fiction cover? I learned a lot about typography from your examples – that part may be tricky. I have a professional lined up (reward in a Kickstarter), but I’m not that happy with the things she’s already produced – for the ebook part – because at thumbnail sizes title and name are lost, and the image is hard to make out. One image, which at hardcover size is gorgeous, was completely unintelligible as a thumbnail – and the whole point was lost (it was strongly related to the content).

    I had a brainstorm (I know), ended up designing a symbol I really like, and that will be instantly familiar and yet new, so I’m looking for ideas as to how to get the rest of the cover to go along with it.

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      You can email me the symbol and sample covers so I can take a look. If you just have a sketch of the symbol you want want to get a 3D artist to make it ‘real’. I may be able to do a quick text makeover if that’s the only problem. If it’s a good symbol, try a sky background with a little landscape at the bottom, like the “Allegiant” cover. Congrats on winning Kickstarter (or did you support someone else and win the prize?) [email protected]

  • John Chapman Posted

    9. Sell yourself – Your brand is your name – not the book title. Ken Follett in the covers shown does this well. Do you look for the next book by a favourite author or for it’s title?

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      I agree branding your name is important, the trick is to get readers in the beginning. If Ken had started with really ugly covers, it would have been very hard for him to build up his readership. It happens of course: “Wool” launched with terribly ugly covers, people found H. Howey anyway. If your story is good enough it will probably succeed. (A lot of indie authors start of wanting their name very small, due to beginner insecurity. It doesn’t have to be big – it depends on the genre – but it shouldn’t be hiding).

  • Derek Murphy Posted

    Hi – yes the title is a bit strange – but I don’t think it would have gotten shared so much if I used something more ordinary like “8 cover design tips for indie authors”…

  • Moeskido Posted

    As a graphic designer, I’m looking forward to your follow-up piece that reverse-engineers 8 secrets on how to write a successful book. 😉

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Will do – after my DIY book covers launch I’ll take a year off and crank out bestselling novels. 🙂

  • Wendy Dewar Hughes Posted

    Great tips and observations. Thanks.

  • Rosanne Dingli Posted

    Derek – this is more interesting for me than you think! I make my own covers, I studied in Malta, I’ve done oil painting, I’ve been to Italy … and it would be nice to have more money than I need!!

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Wow, that’s great – nice to meet you. Come to Taiwan and I’ll show you around. 🙂 I’ve gotten really good at making a living online, this year I’m going to focus more on making money directly from art and books (so I have more personal experience and tips to offer). Let me know if you need help with covers or anything.

  • Rebecca Glesener Davis Posted

    Although you’ve made several excellent points, I think you may offend a lot of designers by saying that many of us don’t know what “make it pop means.” Of course we do. If not, we shouldn’t call ourselves a designer.

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Thanks for your comment – I didn’t mean that designers are ignorant, just that “pop” is a vague term and authors may be meaning lots of different things. Usually they want it to look better to them; but authors aren’t a great judge of design quality anyway. I’ve heard a ton of designers complain about clients using vague terms like “pop.”

  • Derek Murphy Posted

    Advising authors to take their own photos is in no way an “insult” to photographers. I’m not saying their photos would would be as good as yours, and I’m sure yours are lovely.

  • Ben Fenwick Posted

    Derek–there is one element that is present in almost every fiction cover that you didn’t mention. The cover design incorporates an eye with a pupil. It’s obvious in “Ignite Me”, but it’s also present in “Allegiant.” It may not seem obvious at first, but it’s in all the Follett and Koontz covers, and to some degree in all the fiction covers. A cover artist, David Cherry, once explained it to me and showed me cover, after cover, after cover, and they all had some kind of eye in them. He called it a “Target”. A customer scanning the shelves sees an eye looking at him, and he then picks up the book…that’s the majority of all sales, that physical contact. It’s different now with e-books, but that element is still strongly used.

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      That’s fascinating, thanks for sharing. If you want to collect 10 really good examples, I can add a pupil overlay and post a new blog about it (and link to you of course for the tip).

      • Ben Fenwick Posted

        I’ll try to get some together! Glad you thought it was interesting.

        • Liam Taylor Posted

          Ben, that really is absolutely fascinating! Makes sense, as well. I wonder about the effectiveness of this ploy as applied to ebooks when that physical contact is not there.

    • Malena Lott Posted

      Hi, Ben! You were the first reply on the article. Hope you are doing well. Thanks for the comment/tip, too! Are you working on a book?

  • Liam Taylor Posted

    Derek, this post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m currently driving myself quite mad on whether or not I should change my book cover. After paying a graphic designer (who is also an illustrator… and who also wasn’t cheap) to design the cover for my debut novel, I thought I was really happy with it. But after finding the cover on an aptly named, yet still a ‘you bastard’ website called lousybookcovers, I’ve got serious doubts on how good it is. This is the first in a series of at least five, probably six books, and I wanted to start correctly with an awesome cover. Should I go with ‘real life’ covers, or stick with hand-drawn? I want to keep them consistent, and I’d really appreciate your opinion on this. And Derek, honestly, believe me when I say, I am a writer, not a cover designer. That’s fairly bloody obvious. So any feedback you have will most certainly not be met with protestations and a ‘what the hell does he know?’ attitude. If you want to peruse the cover (and possibly have a bit of giggle, as well!), I’ll provide you with my website address.

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Hi – is your book “Overdue” with the red cover? It’s not great – besides the design, the problem is it doesn’t say what the book is about (and the description, likewise, doesn’t say much about the book. So I still don’t know what the book is about, what genre, what kind of readers would like it. Get that figured out and strengthen your Amazon description, then I can try a quick makeover, then you can focus on getting reviews.

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Ah – that’s a different Liam Taylor, yours is the Shard Chronicles. Illustration is really hard to pull off on book covers, I would go with something much simpler. I can do a quick makeover when I have time.

      • Liam Taylor Posted

        Yeah, that ‘Overdue’ is another Liam Taylor. Kind of annoying, actually, so to distance myself I’ll be adding an ‘M’ to my name. Liam M. Taylor. By the way, thanks for the prompt reply, Derek. Much appreciated! I studied your article and the book cover examples very carefully regarding color contrast, font type and font spacing. The font used was designed specially for ‘The Shard Chronicles’, so what do you think of it? Is it too much? Not arranged correctly? In my mind, I’m now trying to apply your advice about keeping the entire cover simple. Less is more and appealing to the emotions, feelings. I used a scene from the book, an important scene, thinking it might convey that, but now I don’t know. Should it be a scene? Those great Dean Koontz covers you used as examples… are they scenes from his novel?

  • Derek Murphy Posted

    Are you a designer also? Glad you liked the post; I hate butting heads with authors over things like this.

  • jumper297 Posted

    Good stuff! Thanks for sharing…

  • T.D. Hart Posted

    When the marketing gurus talk about creating ‘information-rich content’, they should include a link to this blog! I’m posting this to my writer’s group email right now.

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Ha – thanks! I’ll work on making more big long posts like this. I hate those fluff articles that are just meaningless bullet points with nothing useful.

  • Christopher Kecun Posted

    Very valuable insights! Thanks Derek.

  • Malena Lott Posted

    By far the best article I’ve read on cover design. I’ll share it with my authors. I know if one of our covers isn’t working in the design process, it’s usually not doing one of these things – thanks for the piece!

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Thanks Malena – I think cover design is a simple but significant way to boost sales / improve marketing.

  • Bel Posted

    This is a fascinating article that I’m sure I’ll be returning to again in the future — thanks! It makes you wonder, doesn’t it, regarding “wicked” fonts, as to how a particular font could possibly evoke feelings of scariness. But then, years ago, I had some lessons in graphology, and I saw an example of a psychopath’s handwriting …

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      Thanks – I’ve studied graphology too – my handwriting is borderline psychopathic… that’s why I prefer to type. Wicked fonts are usually very sharp like thorns, often gothic, can also be super bold and broken or cracked (but those are more ‘horror’…)

  • Meg Justus Posted

    I’m late to the discussion, apparently, but this is definitely one of the best cover design articles I’ve seen. What I would like to see is a good article on what kind of art works best for what kind of genre, with specifics, if such a thing exists. Any thoughts?

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      That’s a good idea Meg, maybe I’ll have time for it (I am working on a huge list of the best fonts to use for each genre… that’ll help some!)

      • Meg Justus Posted

        Yes, the fonts would be very useful, too.

  • Derek Murphy Posted

    Book covers appeal to their target readers. There is no “better” or “best”. Design styles change. Maybe those books still appeal to you because they were targeted towards your demographic. “Soul” does not sell books. Trying to use a design style that YOU like is vanity publishing; vanity publishing is ego-stroking and self-gratification. If it makes you happy, fine. If you want to sell books, learn what works and be willing to use whatever strategy produces results.

    • Antara Man Posted

      I agree with your statement but you’re gonna piss off some true artists out there…

  • Michele DeFilippo Posted

    Great advice. I’d use the word “entice” rather than “manipulate” as the latter implies dishonesty. The cover’s job is to make people look and want to learn more. The buyer makes the final decision after reading the book description.

  • Vygintas Varnas Posted

    If you’re doing only online sales – make a banner, I’ve just covered this in my junk market. 🙂
    Although my writing isn’t that cheesy.

  • Hugh B. Long Posted

    Great tips!

  • tomi rues Posted

    Great article! Thank you.

  • Perpetual Learner Posted

    Hi Derek,
    great article which I found while searching for improving my current cover design.
    Enthusiastically I clicked on your lead magnet at the end of the article, but the link seems to be broken.
    The one on your homepage works.

  • KamlaKay Posted

    Hi Ben, amazing article that I stumbled across as I was researching book covers. Not sure if you will see this comment since this post is 4 years old – but if yes, amazing. I am publishing a book about the modeling industry; it is a guide to help aspiring models as I am a professional model myself. So the idea was to use a photo of myself on the cover, book title, teaser and then my name. For this type of book, if there really a way to make the book cover catchy without making it look as though it’s just your average boring white background book… or on the flip side I am concerned it will look more like a romance novel or fictional novel since it is a close up headshot of myself against a maroon background. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated?? Thanks a million

  • Muhamad Septian Wijaya Posted

    thanks for the inspiration

  • Priya Posted

    Great article, Derek. I had just Googled, and didn’t know it was you til the end. Great points!
    Question: I am an illustrator who is working on finishing the first of five novels I will be publishing in the inspirational romance market (a thriller). Years ago I remember that using illustration on romances was the norm. I even got great tips on the phone from the famous Elaine Duillo, who made Fabio famous! Now, I see that the market leans toward photographs (examples, Becky Wade, Dee Henderson). Whether I use photos or do illustrations, I know I need to hire models. So the question is this: for contemporary romance, would I be wasting my time doing illustrations? I am an award-winning illustrator and could pull it off (with your advice above about layout) Should I stick to photographs, given that’s what the market seems to use? Thank you!

  • Binsu Susan John Posted

    Hi Derek, I am a Post Graduation student in English literature . I would like to do my dissertation on the cover pages of English novels. Can i expect your help?

  • Talia Redhotink Posted

    Probably the best article I’ve read so far on book covers. As a designer, I think the biggest struggle is to find a compromise between what the author wants and what you know will look better and sell more. And yes, cluttering is often an unpleasant side effect. Anyway, I hadn’t really thought about focal points of color and making them pop so thank you!

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *