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 also recommend joining the book cover marketplace to keep an eye out for great premades; most of these designs can tackle custom designs in any genre (including nonfiction).
Owner of “Yocla Designs”, Clarissa excels at clean, professional design in a variety of genres. Here are some of my favorites. Update: check out the joint design team “JOY” for some epic fantasy premades.
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.
Sylvia’s design and typography at The Book Brander is top-notch – perfect 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.
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.
How much does book cover design cost?
Custom book cover design that’s actually good enough to sell books, is usually in the $350 ~$650 range, which may or may not include the paperback cover. Interior formatting is a separate service that some cover designers offer.
However you can find a great premade for less, in the $150~$350 range. Premade covers allow designers to just make something great, without trying to match the author’s demands (and authors don’t usually know what needs to be on the cover to sell books, so be careful about making a designer create your exact vision. If you’re getting pushback, it’s possible they understand the marketing and genre design tropes better).
The only less expensive option, is doing it yourself – I have some DIY templates that are useful for that, where I teach you where to sort the best fonts and artwork, and you can use my tools to put it together. But your cover is super important. You probably spent a long time working on your book, and you’re probably prepared to spend more time and money marketing it. The cover will make the biggest difference out of everything you try, so get it right. It needs to communicate your genre, not your story.
Your book cover matters! Get the best.
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.
Check it out: (Cover Design Secrets That Sell)
AI art for book cover design
I started talking about Midjourney AI art for book cover design last year, but it’s already gotten very good, very fast. A lot of artists and designers are freaking out, for good reason. But for authors, it means you can get a $1000+ high quality concept art illustration for nearly free. The hard part is adding text, but I have some premade design templates down below and a cover maker tool that should make it easier.
There are some legal considerations, but it’s already becoming fairly common – soon AI art will be a normal feature in most design tools, or you can buy AI art directly from stock photo sites (who are building their own tools). It takes a lot of prompting to get right; I spend dozens of hours on a concept and then another dozen hours in photoshop putting it together. But very soon, you’ll be able to get 1-click art that’s more competitive and beautiful than what most designers could make, especially at the lower-end prices.
Need a book cover designer now?
These designers are reliably good and have fast turnaround.
DIY book cover templates & premades
For about 9 years I’ve been working on an online book cover creator tool so you can DIY your own covers more easily. I finally got the latest version working, so I’m in the process of building new templates and tutorials for every genre. It’ll be a slow process, but if you want to learn more about book cover design, I have a ton of resources for you. It’s possible, but it’s a risk. However, with new AI art generators and my templates, it’s possible to DIY a very cheap cover that’s as good as something very expensive… but only if you know what you’re doing.
If you want to try designing your own book cover, I have some tools, tutorials and resources at www.diybookcovers.com
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.