Natalie Frank has a Ph.D. in Clinical psychology. She specializes in Pediatric Psychology and Behavioral Medicine.
Getting a reader’s attention can be tough when there are thousands of books on the shelf. One way to help your book stand out is a great cover. While the book subject and reader and critic reviews are important, the first thing that a reader sees is the cover. The first impression created by the cover can increase the likelihood readers will decide to engage with the book.
You want your book cover to create the right impression and the most appropriate emotional response for the book content. The perception created by your cover is often generalized to the content of your book. If the reader believes the cover is sub-par they will likely believe the book content is also sub-par making them unlikely to read your book.
An eye catching book cover should be current, based on recent trends, and seem just slightly outside the box. It’s important for covers to give the reader some idea of what the book is about. For 2019 there are a number of exciting design elements for covers that can make your book distinct. The following are some of the top ideas for book covers that work both for print and online books used for both well-known authors and indie publishers.
Bold type has been a rising trend over the past several years and is predicted to continue through the next few years. Bold, large typography jumps off the shelf for print books, especially when the cover design is dominated by the text. It is especially important for online books since the images for covers are often small on computer screens and smaller on mobile devices. Bold typeface makes a statement and gets a reader’s attention. This trend is also changing and developing in new ways.
An advantage of bold typology is that when you make the title stand out you can use more design elements in the background. While you need to be careful not to push the envelope too much, risking the background images detracting from the text, making the title stand out means more design elements can be allocated to the background such as images or photos. The alternative risks the imagery distracting from the text, making it necessary for potential readers to search for the name of the title and author.
Instead of clear, regular size and clean brushstrokes, irregular, organic looking elements are the order of the day. Other trends include feathered edges, making the text somewhat obscure, opaque or using creative blending and handwritten text produced either through fonts or literally by hand. The most up to date designs often use techniques like letter drips which can be seen on the cover of White Tears by Hari Kunzru. Placing colors and patterns over the bold type is also a popular design option which can be seen on the cover for A Separation by Katie Kitamura. Brad Thor's Code of Conduct uses swirling colors to give the feeling of movement along with the bold type.
Mid-Century Modern Illustrations
As they say, everything old is new again. And that's the case for cover illustrations this year. This style is usually what comes to mind when thing of "retro" designs yet these illustrations look futuristic at the same time. The era is generally thought to encompass the years from 1945 to 1975.
These illustrations are characterized by minimal, curvy shapes and clean lines and angles influenced by geometric shapes instead of ornamentation, with a mix of neutral, bold and vibrant shades. Mid-Century designs have a friendly a and fun feel to them. Typography that is compatible with these illustrations are likewise mimimalistic and usually in the sans-serif group of fonts such as Helvetica, Futura, Franklin Gothic and Standard or Akzidenz-Grotesk.
It’s rare that a single color dominates the trending designs for book colors but this year is one of the exceptions. The color in question is called Millennial Pink and you can hardly pass a bookstore or surf for books online without being inundated with the shade. This group of muted pink tones falls in the dusty rose family and the color has been extremely prevalent on internet-savvy brands over the past couple of years.
More recently, Millennial Pink has been featured as a main color on many print and eBook covers especially those on women’s topics. Since the color comes across as a bit sweet and feminine, it is often counterbalanced with simple images or informal handwritten fonts. Some examples of this trend can be found on the covers for White Lies by Emily Harper. The Idiot by Elif Batuman, uses a cover design that is predominantly millennial pink offset by a relatively small amount of grey.
Photography has always been an essential part of book covers. Before mobile technology, photos taken from stock photography sites were less than ideal. Many authors used different tricks such as fading and negative image to disguise the campy, staged, exaggerated feel of stock photos.
Now, with the development of smartphone cameras,associated apps and editing programs, authors are easily able to create their own high quality images. This resulted in stock photography also improving and becoming more realistic looking, providing another option for finding and creating cover photos.
Authentic photos help create an emotional response in readers and convey the mood of the book. Often, the emotion evoked helps convince readers that the book is something they’d be interested in reading. Using a realistic cover photo which triggers a genuine emotional response in the reader can help differentiate their book from others. This is especially important in the more popular genres where the competition for a reader’s attention is fierce.
The trend with realistic cover photos leans toward black and white or grayscale with touches of pastel or light colors. Two good examples of this trend are We All Saw, a book of poems by Anne Michaels, and The Little Crew of Butchers which employs a mirrored photographic approach.
Text Over Photo or Image
A trend that has been growing in popularity over the past year or so is have the front cover be entirely filled with an image and have the text printed over it. When done well, this can clearly communicate what the book is about with the text and image working together to hit both verbal and visual perception. It also makes the cover feel complete. This combination can be used to give the reader a hint about the plot or subject matter, an insight on one of the characters or some other aspect of an important element of the story.
It is important to be careful not to make the picture so esoteric the reader doesn’t see the connection to the book or use it to reflect something well hidden in the book that you as the author understand but that most readers will not. Even if there’s a big reveal in the book, often by then the opportunity for the cover to have a big impact on the reader is lost. While mystery in the plot makes for a gripping read, mystery as to what your cover is meant to communicate just makes for a chance lost. It’s also important that the expectations your reader develops from your cover art and text are met through the book’s content. Two examples of this method are, Deep Winter by Samuel W. Gailey and The Veil Between by J. L. Luque.
Collage is a method that lets you create a cover that looks entirely original and set apart from others. Collage is unique as it provides you with the opportunity to express a variety of aspects that characterize your book simultaneously. You can also create a sense of the conflict within the novel by combining two opposing ideas. A good example of this idea can be seen on the cover for The Smallest Thing which combined the image of nature with a gas mask.
Collage can also be a great money saver when it comes to the cover. Creating an image using pieces of different photos allows for increased customization at a lower cost than what you’d pay to commission original photos. Usually this is accomplished through photo manipulation which prevents viewers from even realizing that the final composition comes from different photos.
Some choose to create the image by manually cut and pasting parts together then photographing it. Photos can then be edited with any number of photo editing software programs. The method you choose depends on the style you want for your book. You may decide you want something that looks more professionally produced with a finished appearance or perhaps you want something that is a little rougher around the edges. Collage is a versatile method that can be applied to any style.
Florals, From Traditional to Abstract
Flowers of all shapes and sizes will be gracing book covers in 2019. A wide variety of styles will also debut from designs that resemble wild, unkempt gardens, to fresh and light elements to some that look like Victorian wallpaper. What makes this trend unique is that the flowers are heavily interacting with and sometimes covering the lettering. This trend is one that is already being embraced by both male and female authors.
In contrast to bold, large print is the quiet, purposeful minimalist approach. The motto associated with these covers is less is more and in sticking with that saying, these designs focus on a single element. They often use either a muted monotone or even just white as the primary color. The amount of space given to uniform colored background is balanced by the size and weight of the print. This strategy can be seen in the cover design for Fat by R. M. Ireland, MD. The idea behind minimalism is to emphasize the most central element by removing as much detail as possible. If the only thing on the cover is a one word title and single black and white image that is what gets the attention.
With a minimalist approach, you can even affect the way in which the reader interprets the cover through selective typography such as stylistically broken fonts or contrasting serif and sans-serif typefaces. You can even create a design using a mechanism such as purposely removing letters in some of the words of the title such as in Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslet. These designs allow the simple graphics and print to shine and grab the reader’s attention while the specific design elements create the interpretation you desire.
If you choose to use a minimalist approach, the most important thing to keep in mind is making sure it isn’t boring. Decreasing the number of visual components is only the first step. You also need to ensure the elements you choose to keep are stimulating. Subtlety and nuance can be juxtaposed with individual aspects which are simple yet also pack a punch. For example, the black and white cover of The Ethics of Interrogation has only a single, small illustrative element.
Seventies and Eighties Designs
As they say, everything that’s old is new again and book cover designs are no exception. This year the look of the seventies and eighties is back in style. It brings up memories of years go by and a wistful affection for when life was simpler. The year 2019 will hearken back to the 1970’s and 1980’s with fonts, color choices and imagery.
Overblown seventies fonts and vibrant, eye popping, neon eighties colors are seeing increased popularity and they look contemporary. Peculiar, fun or mysterious, this look can elicit a great deal of emotion. Examples of this style can be seen on the covers of Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz and Out in the Open by Jesus Carrasco
Hand Drawn Covers
Hand-drawn covers have become increasingly popular in the past several years in every genre from children’s books to mysteries to science fiction to crime novels. This has included covers that with digital elements and hand lettering to covers that are entirely created by hand. It appears that this trend is going to continue to be one of the most significant for 2019. Before now, hand drawn covers have included more feminine aspects such as floral designs and pastel colors.
Feminine elements will likely still be featured in 2019 though it is predicted that this year there will be a growing number of books written for and by men. This means there will also be more masculine hand drawn covers seen on the market. Wilder and edgier styles will also make a statement for book covers, reflecting a more androgynous feel. Colors that will dominate this trend towards more masculine appearing covers will likely shift from pinks and lavenders to blues, greens gold, black and red. Some examples of this trends include Year 4 Olympian by Jeremiah Brown and Tools of TItans by Tim Ferriss.
Move Over Millennial Pink, Orange and Yellow Are In
While the 2018 trend in millennial pink will continue through 2019, it will have to share space with bright orange and yellows. This is going to be an increasing move of publishers reissuing books or putting out anniversary editions so it's a great chance to have even first novels associated with much more well known books. Even without that, when there are so many blue, green and white covers out there, orange and yellow, a color combination not frequently seen previously, will really grab the eye both on the shelf and online.
Today with technology constantly becoming more and more advanced, the ability to self publish a book either as an eBook, print book or both is something almost anyone can do. Today, the wide availability of design, graphic and photography editing programs along with easy cover design programs let you create breathtaking cover designs. Even if you’re relying on a designer to create your book cover, it’s still important to know about the current cover design trends. It will help you work with a designer to have an idea of what you want and for that idea to be informed by the trends. Having an understanding of the look and feel that you are aiming for is a critical first step when either working with a cover designer or working with a design platform. Whether you design your own cover or work with a professional designer, if you follow some of the trends mentioned here and your book cover will catch the attention of book lovers everywhere.
© 2018 Natalie Frank
Natalie Frank (author) from Chicago, IL on March 15, 2018:
Thanks for stopping by Vicky.
VICKY Wakode on March 15, 2018:
Natalie Frank (author) from Chicago, IL on March 02, 2018:
I agree with you, Threekeys. Making a collage cover is a very enjoyable option. I tried it once for a novella and while it took me all day long that was largely because I was having so much fun creating it! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.
Natalie Frank (author) from Chicago, IL on March 02, 2018:
Thanks for the added info, Mary. The designs here are just as examples to illustrate the points I was making.It goes without saying that attending to format for eReaders. Also the borders here are just to increase visibility, since they are on a white background. Which speaks to the need to pay attention to background when creating a cover for an eReader. The same goes for overly dark covers as you have rightly pointed out. I appreciate your pointing out some other issues that need to be attended to when creating a cover - expecially if it is intended for both eReaders and print. Even if it isn't initially you may change your mind down the road so it's a good idea to initially design it to be compatible with both formats.
threekeys on March 02, 2018:
This was a helpful guide Natalie.
I like the minimalist look but I would really enjoy creating a collage photo for a front cover.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on March 01, 2018:
The book covers and the information that you've shared are interesting. My favourite covers are the fifth and sixth one. Images on covers attract me more than typography, though the text is important as well. The title and text on the last cover are very effective.
Natalie Frank (author) from Chicago, IL on March 01, 2018:
Thanks for stopping by and for the comment Dora. I'm glad it was useful.
Mary Wickison from USA on March 01, 2018:
Excellent ideas. I design book covers and I would add just two more things. When I design them I don't use a border or they could get cut off when they go on to an e-book format.
The example of the minimalist design on "Fat" could prove problematic for an e-reader.
The other thing is if an image is too dark, it could be a problem when converted for an e-reader. On a paperback or hardback it would look okay.
You've listed some excellent examples that all have 'the wow factor' for different reasons.
CaribTales on March 01, 2018:
This is a good reference article. Thanks for sharing these options.
Natalie Frank (author) from Chicago, IL on March 01, 2018:
Glad you have a "Mike" to take care of it. But even so, as I point out, knowing what you want and what trends might prove beneficial to creating an eye catching cover can help your designer provide you with the cover you want and one that will catch the eye of readers. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 01, 2018:
I just follow the simple rule "let Mike do it!" He's never let me down yet. :) Great information!