start here

How to Craft a Stunning Book Cover

How to Craft a Stunning Book Cover
Featured cover designs courtesy of Miblart

Do you know that a book cover is one of the top reasons people choose a particular book? If yours is better than books of the same genre, the chances that you will have a +1 buyer increase. It is essential to analyze the market and competitors before designing the book cover to make sure you will meet the readers’ expectations and draw the attention of the right target audience.

Today, we will tell you how to conduct a detailed analysis to increase your sales and beat rivals. 

Why book cover design matters

You’ve probably heard the famous idiom, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ However, it doesn’t work in the world of writing and publishing. An excellent book cover is an essential step to becoming a best-selling author. Here’s why.

  • A book cover is crucial to getting people to buy your book. For example, about 28% of people choose books in Canada because of their covers. Also, when readers enter a bookstore, no matter whether it’s a physical or online shop, stunning and vivid book covers catch their eyes. And once their attention has been caught, people usually start to read descriptions or reviews.
  • A book cover signifies genre and plot. It helps readers quickly find the right book, as there are certain expectations about what items should be on the horror story or romance covers. For example, if you are looking for a fantasy novel then mysterious castles, dragons, medieval attire, and weapons will certainly attract your attention.
  • A book cover is essential for developing your author’s brand. It works great with a book series if all parts are designed in the same style and concept. However, even if you don’t write sequels, you can use specific typography, symbols, or patterns for all your books, so readers associate these features with you. In this way, people can recognize your books easily among thousands.

Why it’s essential to analyze the market and competitors

Market analysis helps you understand the main peculiarities of the particular genre – there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Each genre has its specific features and established standards. So you don’t need to be too unique to make it work – follow the pattern but don’t forget to add something that will make your story stand out. Let’s look at some examples in detail.

You can’t imagine a romance book cover without a couple hugging and touching. As for the color gamut, designers usually use pink or red (symbolizes love), ivory (symbolizes coziness and calm), and yellow (associated with joy and warmth).

Then, if we talk about a young adult fantasy book cover, it most likely includes a protagonist in the center of the composition, lush fonts, exciting textures, and ornamentations. Speaking about colors, designers can use one dominating hue or sharp contrasts.

And knowing these peculiarities, you can find out how to make your book fit in while preventing it from being too cliche. For example, if everyone uses a dragon image on their fantasy book covers, you should probably choose another creature from your plot. Also, competitor analysis helps you avoid mistakes made by other authors, such as wrong color combinations, font choice, lack of intrigue, too many details or text, low visibility of the title, and more.

Finally, you should analyze the market and competitors to know how to stand out from the books of the same genre. Have you ever wondered how many books on similar topic exist? It’s quite a lot. For instance, if you write contemporary romance, there are over 60,000 books in this genre on Amazon. And your book cover can play a crucial role in beating the competitors there if it has the most stunning and relevant design.

However, before getting the most out of the book cover, you should know to properly analyze the market and rivals.

How to make an effective analysis

All you need to do is visit a physical or online bookstore. By using Amazon, you don’t even need to go outside. Just choose your genre and the bestselling books in this category. You don’t have to analyze all the books – a few dozen will be enough.

The first thing to consider is a general style. It means what you can see on the book covers from a cursory glance: some abstractions, ornamentations, patterns, symbols, and signs, or the main protagonist. Any book cover can include these items, but they differ from the genre. For example, let’s take the main characters. As we said earlier, for a romance novel, it’s lovers; for a fantasy story, it’s a brave armed warrior, and a horror book can have a scary murderer on its cover. The same thing is about ornamentations: Designers choose delicate, smooth lines for romantic stories, and they take rough, sharp patterns for horror and thrillers.

Then pay attention to colors. As you already know, each genre has specific colors. Pastel, light, and gentle hues are preferable for romantic stories; dark and deep colors suit fantasies and horrors. However, it would be best to consider book cover color psychology here, as the designer can choose an unexpected solution to evoke a particular emotion. For example, on the one hand, the green color symbolizes nature, vitality, environment, and health. And on the other hand, it’s associated with magic, mysterious light, and paranormal phenomena. That’s why we can see its shades on the book covers of different genres.

The next step is typography. This essential part of the design tells the title, ties up the cover art, and emphasizes the book’s genre. Serifs are typical for apocalyptic and horror books; cursive fonts or fonts with excessive ornamentation are standard for fantasy and romance. We should remember that typography can add a certain mood to the book cover: Mystery, Fear, Warmth, Optimism, etc. So, while analyzing your competitors’ book covers, try to guess the role of a specific font.

After that, it’s time for composition. The book cover can be super minimalist or full of small details, harmoniously scattered throughout the area. The main focus may be on the hero, the building, or an artifact. The composition may also include one large drawing or several smaller ones. If it is a series of books, pay attention to whether there is an extra easter egg hidden in the book cover, for example, when the spines of all books form a separate image.

Then, if the book cover includes a protagonist or other characters, look at them. After reading the book’s title and annotation, assess how the heroes correspond to the association that arises in your head. Pay attention to the emotions of the hero – whether they meet expectations. If we’re talking about horror books, the hero’s face should be scared or disturbed. In a romance, the characters smile or look at each other dreamily. It can’t be the other way around.

Finally, ask yourself, what emotions and feelings does the book evoke in you? Is it what you expect when you want to buy a book of this genre? Remember that a book cover can hint at some events in the plot, intriguing potential readers and motivating them to buy the book.

The book cover isn’t just about what you see on the front – don’t forget about the back. You usually find the author’s short bio, some reviews, and a blurb there. More to the point, the blurb is also among the top reasons people buy books. So it would help if you analyzed whether these things are on your competitors’ book covers, too.

You should consider many details when analyzing the market and competitors. Here’s a tip: create a spreadsheet listing all of these criteria. It will make it much easier to explore and compare many book covers so you don’t miss anything.

Summing up

To recap, remember that proper book cover design can increase your book sales and help to overcome rivals. It’s essential for building your author’s brand and attracting new readers. Suppose you want to design a stunning book cover. In that case, you should analyze the market and competitors in detail, starting from colors, typography, and composition to the emotions and feeling the book cover evokes. It may take time, but the result will exceed expectations.



Vasylysa is a content writer at MiblArt – a book cover design company for indie authors. She loves to write about books, writing and self-publishing – and helps indies authors understand the power and importance of a book’s cover design in the marketing process.