When it comes to book cover ideas, the winning cover design will make or break your self-published book's success.
Don't believe the old adage – we DO judge books by their cover.
To keep up with the seemingly endless demand for more and more books, some authors frantically release their content out in the open without a slight thought for their covers.
This belittling of the book cover design process has unknowingly created an aura of negativity towards self-published works as being “merely second class”.
There is a glimmer of hope, though.
A remnant of writers went a notch above the rest and transformed this widespread pessimism towards self-publishing by choosing to package their masterpieces in an attractive design.
In this blog article, I have gathered twenty great book cover ideas to help you conceptualize that perfect look.
Whether you’re a novice writer aspiring to publish your first novel or a seasoned one seeking to release a fresh edition, you will never regret investing in a well-designed cover.
Read on and stir up your imagination with this big list of ideas. Who knows? You just might come up with that concept you really want.
Tips for Book Cover Ideas
You've written your book, and now it's time to tie it all together and commission a book cover design. But first you need a book cover idea!
Your book's cover design and illustration should do more than look professional.
It needs to really speak and amplify your book's content. A book cover design needs to complement the content.
Here are some top tips for book cover ideas:
#1 – Get inspiration from other book covers related to your genre, topic or industry
#2 – Hire a professional book cover designer (preferably with experience with your genre)
#3 – Be flexible with your book cover design. It's okay to have an idea of what type of cover you want, but don't micromanage the graphic designer (they are the expert, not you)
#4 – Get feedback! Once you have some book cover ideas, be sure to get feedback from your ideal reader to see which design stands out to them more
Best Fiction Book Cover Ideas
#1 – Last Chance by Michelle O’Leary
Most fictional works employ common techniques on their covers, but this book stood out in terms of design (minus the sensuality, please). Graphic artists usually combine two or more stock photos to generate a stunning visual effect. In this case, the designer went further and applied a filter over the photos to match the sun’s colors, which is obviously the theme for this trilogy.
#2 – The Alliance by Chris G. Wright
If you’re writing science fiction, you cannot really expect to find stock photos that accurately depict your imagination of dystopian Earth. From the looks of The Alliance, its author may have resorted to hiring a talented graphic artist who could perfectly convey the story’s idea through a digital illustration that appears very realistic. And he did.
#3 – Mortality Bites series by Ramy Vance
Need book cover ideas for fantasy and/or the Sci-Fi genre? I have to say this book cover is truly a piece of art. The artist used graphic design effects with a vibrant color scheme to give it the fantasy and Sci-Fi feel.
Two possible techniques were utilized on this cover. One, a model may have posed for a photograph, which was then edited and enhanced. Or two, a stock photo was used with the background removed. Whatever the case, the designer did a brilliant job of manipulating the photo by adjusting the color hue and contrast to the right amount.
#5 – Speranza's Sweater by Marcy Pusey
This children's book features an eye-catching design and font. The designer's creative use of the sweater threads merging into the title adds a fun element that catches your eye.
#6 – Roads of Madness by Keith Robinson
Whether the artist used a stock photo or shot a real photograph, he selected a good closeup with an angle that fits perfectly on the cover. I like his creativity in adding a textured layer to the face’s skin, which surely contributed to this cover’s uniqueness. If you’re going for a clean design, this one is worthy of emulation since its serif font type is uniform and highly readable.
#7 – Taking Heart by June Gray
This concept is quite special if you're looking for creative book cover ideas. You rarely find this distinctive design among self-published books, but it’s here! Hats off to the graphic illustrator, who did his or her magic with vector images by adding a simple yet very effective 3D effect like shadows. These successfully achieved the illusion of the main images jumping off the background, emphasizing them.
#8 – The End of the World by Andrew Biss
If you’re in a rush and need a cool, D-I-Y cover, picking one stock image will do. It will only take a little tweaking with saturation, brightness, contrast, or other levels, but don’t overdo all these adjustments, as they can make or break the overall cover. With this design, the photo editor captured the exact gloomy atmosphere expressed in the book’s title. Of particular interest is the title’s placement, which is block-aligned with the solitary house.
#9 – Chronicles of Steele: Raven by Pauline Creeden
Here’s a complicated one that suits the genre well. Covers of young adult fantasy literature are expected to be a bit more challenging for designers. The example above utilizes a variety of photo-editing techniques to achieve the desired “fantastical” look without going overboard. Its artist cleverly left a lot of white background to maintain minimalism, while accentuating the protagonist with “messy” black brush strokes. The opacity of the gray background layer was also adjusted.
#10 – Darkroom by Mary Maddox
A chalkboard cover is another unique book cover idea concept that keeps up with the times. The photo editor did an amazing job on the image by darkening and blending it into the background to be almost indiscernible. He also accomplished the chalkboard effect by applying a grunge texture on the title text and frame. If you want an out-of-the-ordinary yet minimalist cover, this book cover idea can be very helpful.
#11 – The Shack by William Paul Young
This is perhaps one of the most successful self-published novels that made it to the big screen. Its cover features the movie rendition’s main actors posing in front of a familiar scene – the mysterious shack. What makes this design so surreal/absurd (as it’s supposed to be) is the artist’s adept application of blue and yellow-orange gradients over the cover image, magically achieving that heavenly afterglow one ought to feel after reading the book or watching the movie.
#12 – Fast Track to Glory by Tomasz Chrusciel
Fiction book cover designers would normally select and edit several stock images in layers, applying a hodge-podge of effects on them to attain the desired outcome. Sometimes, the resulting covers appear too hurried up and come out as not-so-pleasing to the eye. This designer, however, nailed it with a monochromatic filter on about four to five different layers of photos. I particularly appreciate how he conceptualized the burned map at the edges to reveal the inside.
Non-Fiction Book Cover Ideas
#13 – It Ain’t Rocket Science by Susan C. Cooper
Non-fiction books regarding information technology can definitely use the most basic vector lines, shapes, or icons, but I have yet to see these symbols placed solely on fictional covers. Nevertheless, design decisions such as these will depend upon the agreement between the author and cover artist.
#14 – Columbus: The Untold Story by Manuel Rosa
Because of its beautifully crafted cover, a history book full of primary source citations may be the content you least expect. The colorful 3D depiction of Columbus and his concealed identity will make you itch to pick up this valuable research material. If you would like a sophisticated illustration similar to this, be sure to hire a cover designer who can illustrate in 3D. If you’re dead serious about finding one, you might want to consider outsourcing. This kind of digital artist is definitely a rare talent for keeps.
#15 – Find Your Voice as a Leader by Paul N. Larsen
Now, here’s one straight-forward book cover, which utilizes bold letters and contrasting colors in a minimalist design. Positioning the title in a speech bubble is a simple yet creative tactic for emphasis. I personally find the color combination of navy and muted gold very attractive. If you need an elegant, easy-to-do cover for your non-fiction book, go for book cover ideas like this.
#16 – Hungry for Touch: A Journey from Fear to Desire by Laureen Peltier
At times, a single photo is enough to succinctly express the content’s main gist – in this design, that of a woman’s recovery from sexual trauma. This touching memoir’s cover appropriately unmasks the author’s own emotions, particularly her fear of intimacy with a man. Should you decide to settle with a cover image, a few basic photo enhancements will suffice.
#17 – My Million-Dollar Donkey: The Price I Paid for Wanting to Live Simply by Ginny East
If you’re heading down the minimalist route, this book cover idea is for you. The designer here used mostly white space and selected one image – a pen sketch of a donkey. What makes this design so clever despite its being very plain is the layout of each element. Only half of the donkey’s trunk is seen, while the important text is aligned on the right, all of which appear very neat. The artist also chose appropriate fonts and colors and alternated them well without going over the top. Proper layout of text and images is oftentimes neglected by some novice artists to their detriment. If you’re an author who has a knack for layout, I’m positive that you can easily design your own book’s cover inspired by this example.
#18 – Choose Your Best Life by Gary Williams
Here’s another attractive cover. The color combination adds a modern touch to the overall self-development theme. Plus, the design skillfully adds pops of color against a white background.
#19 – Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook: Updated Guide to Protecting Your Rights and Wallet by Helen Sedwick
Minimalist-themed covers do not have to be on a white canvas all the time. In this example, a dark blue-green background provides the illusion of an office table, and images of things usually scattered on a busy table further proves this point. The cover designer attained a powerful contrast by highlighting the book’s title in golden-orange and a slightly engraved effect.
#20 – Undefeated by Scott Allan
Last but definitely not least, this professional cover design is so good, you can't even tell whether it's self published or traditional published. And that's how it should be! This book, for the record, is self-published, but the high quality of the cover design sets it apart. The creative elements, eye-catching focal points, and bold text all pulls together extremely well aesthetically.
Your Book Cover Ideas
In this industry, it cannot be denied that books are “judged by their covers,” and that, “first impressions last.”
And in the world of self-publishing, I must add that book cover designs tend to be more harshly judged.
I’m confident, however, that your upcoming book has the potential to turn that stigma on its head.
All it will take is carefully laid-out content, and of course, an attractive book cover.
A critical deciding factor in marketing, your book’s cover possesses the power to lure people into picking up your hard copy; or, in online publishing parlance, clicking that link and “adding it to their cart”.
Whether you like it or not, your book’s cover will matter. Authors will be wise to invest in an excellent cover design.
So, we have listed some great book cover ideas. It is my simple hope that you have gained fresh insights and developed new concepts for your own book’s cover design.
Kudos for making it this far in your self-publishing journey! You’re almost there!
Disclaimer: I was privileged to teach art for quite some time, yet I am no book cover designer. I did marry one, though.
Editor's note: If you're already published and you're looking for new cover ideas, You can always split test your cover designs on Amazon. Here's a great article on how to do it