Book cover design has changed a lot over the past few years, and I’ve seen a rise in high-quality covers for a much lower price than what was available in the past – however, some of the best designers aren’t well known, are booked out a year in advance, and only sell through Facebook (often a cover is bought minutes after posting online).
Since most “best cover design” example articles focus on literary fiction by traditional publishers, I wanted to show off some of my favorite covers and book designers, so you can get a sense of what you’re up against if you’re self-publishing. Most of these are fantasy or scifi covers, because those genres typically need a lot more skill to pull off successfully, and most have that hand-drawn, illustrated look that requires a Wacom tablet.
I chose designers who have been in the game long enough to develop a distinct, recognizable style; most of them charge less than $500 for custom design… if you can get on their calendar.
I recommend joining the book cover marketplace to keep an eye out for great premades.
NOTE: Some of these are premade covers so they say “author name” – if one of these is yours and you’d rather update it to the real author name, let me know. I’ve *tried* not to put anything without permission, or too early, as some authors like to do a “cover reveal” and I don’t want to spoil it for them. But if I screwed up and you want one of these covers removed or replaced, please let me know.
Owner of “Yocla Designs”, Clarissa excels at clean, professional design in a variety of genres. Here are some of my favorites.
Rebecca practically invented the now-common style you see in many dark fantasy covers; heavy glow, whipped hair, elegant decoration.
Sanja Balan has been putting out some amazing work in 2019, both her customs and premades stand out for their color and movement.
Book Covers by Juan
Jay Villalobos produces consistently great work in a variety of difficult genres, with a heavy illustrated look and great colors.
Jennifer Munswami experiments with some very unusual cover design, but her designs are very powerful and stand out if you’re looking for something a little different.
Mirella does a lot of Portuguese language books and her work has a dreamy, illustrated look to it. I actually use some of Mirella’s artwork on my fiction site.
Moor Book Design
A relative newcomer, but I’ve been impressed by their clean, professional designs. One to watch for sure.
Amalia’s work stands out for looking like (breathtaking) custom art and illustration, ideal for YA and MG fiction.
When you want one of those “symbolic” covers, similar to what’s in vogue with trad publishers, Stefanie Saw is the best.
Llilijana Fantasy Designs
Truly beautiful work with that subtle warm glow and heavy dark contrast that makes you feel like you’re interrupting a suspenseful conversation.
Consistently high quality and innovative designs – it’s difficult to know the genre rules so well that you can get away with not following them and still produce brilliant work. Clean, simple typography with well chosen fonts and creative layouts.
J Caleb Design
Sweeping, epic scenes that belong in a movie. Definitely a designer that’s having fun with his work.
Covers by Definition
Danielle Fine’s covers have an emotional resonance that’s hard to put into words.
Covers by Christian
Moody and colorful art, especially suited to epic fantasy and post-apocalyptic.
Carol Marques Cover Designs
Carol’s covers have a rough energy to them and bright, eye-catching colors.
Orina is a Greek photomanipulator & freelance digital artist with really strong illustration skills who’s been making beautiful covers for many bestselling authors.
BZN Studio Designs
Arel B Grant often makes trilogy sets with a heavy textured style.
Molly also does formatting and her typography is always excellent.
Silvia’s design and typography at The Book Brander is top-notch – especially for manchest/romance covers (historical and contemporary) but also for breathtaking fantasy.
Although Mariah can handle a variety of styles, I love her cozy mystery covers – if you’re looking for that cute and fun, cartoon-styled cover she has a ton of great options.
Andreea Elena Vraciu
This design agency has a team of talented designers and illustrators, so if you’re looking for that illustrated look or a scene or character-heavy cover they’re a safe bet.
Paradise Cover Design – Premade Book Covers Group
K.D. Ritchie of Story Wrappers has a deeply emotive style with fantastic detail work that really stands out. Not the cheapest at $1000 right now, but totally worth it for this level of quality.
Red Leaf Book Design
*** I didn’t specifically look for other genres, like contemporary, thriller, historical romance, cozy mystery, etc… but I will add those soon.***
Who didn’t make the list? I removed a bunch of links I’d added years ago – I was appalled at some of the choices I’d been recommending, compared to these newer artists. I’m a stickler for clean typography (no bevel or heavy dropshadow) though it’s fine when it’s done well.
I looked for people who had at least 4 covers I loved and without a portfolio that looked like they were just copying other people (which is fine, for practice and getting started). It takes years to become good enough at design to take more creative risks. I keep my eye out for talented book designers so I’ll keep this list updated.
Also, I’ve picked designers who I think are massively undervalued – most of these charge less than $500 for custom design work, and provide art that previously would have cost several thousand (which is why a lot of them are chronically overworked and booked out…)
From personal experience, I know that while making a premade cover can be fun and easy, designing a custom for an author is often frustrating and difficult.
Ps. I decided not to use links for now, because things on the internet change and I’d have to go through and clean or remove them later – Google them or search on Facebook to join their private groups.
I hope the curated examples above will inspire you. Leave a comment below and let me know which cover is your favorite! For more cover design inspiration, I also keep a Pinterest Board of amazing book cover design examples.
Your cover matters! Make sure yours is great.
Some of the designers listed here will probably be pushing up their prices soon, expect to pay $300~$600 for quality book cover design and closer to $1000 for complete fantasy art with heavy digital overpainting and detail work.
You can find budget deals, especially for simple covers. But keep in mind, a good book cover is 95% of your marketing effort and expense. Don’t go cheap on a cover so you can spend more on book marketing or promotion.
On the other hand: it’s entirely possible to overpay for a cover that is well-designed, but doesn’t sell books. Before you invest or hire a designer, make sure you learn the basics so you know what to ask, who to hire and what kind of cover your book actually needs (don’t just hire a designer to make “your vision” – your inexperience can be costly).
After designing books for over a decade, I put together a short guide that will help you get the cover your book deserves.
Need a cover now?
These designers are reliably good and have fast turnaround.