Book Cover Design

Qualities of a Good Book Cover

An eye-catching book cover is crucial to successfully marketing your book. Here are several factors that determine what makes a book cover stand out and look professional.


The typeface plays an important role in communicating the book’s genre. If a cover is designed well, a reader will be able to know the genre just by glancing at it. Flowing script fonts paired with clean serif fonts are primarily used for romance; Roman-style fonts are common on fantasy covers; and bold sans-serif fonts in large type are common with thriller. It is best to use at most two typefaces on a cover, as more than this can result in a cluttered look. Commonly, one typeface is used for the title while another is used for the author name, usually in complementary styles.

It is important to consider that typography is part of the whole composition, rather than something that is tacked on when the rest of the design is already finished. Typography should interact with elements of the cover design, incorporating things such as light reflections and texture. It should also stand out and be easy to read.

Quality of the images used

High-resolution stock photos with sharp detail will always result in a more professional-looking book cover than poor quality photos. Since the fine details are often what make for a good cover, it’s important that the source photos already have this high degree of quality from the start. Stock photos must also be large enough so that they don’t require being enlarged, since trying to resize a photo to make it larger almost always results in a blurrier, degraded image.


The colors indicate the book’s genre and overall tone. Dark and muted colors are often used to convey a mystery or thriller book, with the occasional pop of bright color to invoke a sense of energy. Vibrant colors find their home in urban fantasy and certain young adult books, while warm colors are commonly used for romance.

The overall composition

Good book covers are intriguing and create a sense of mystery, making readers so curious that they can’t help but pick up the book. The subject of the design, whether that’s a person or object, should be obvious, with no ambiguity as to what is being shown. The design itself needs to have a hierarchy, with any secondary design elements receiving less focus than the main subject.

Thumbnail size

Since most readers will be browsing for books online, your cover image will need to look good at thumbnail size. The design should still stand out, with the title and author name as readable as possible. Fonts and images should have enough contrast so that they don’t muddy together and give an unclear image. With that said, when the cover is viewed at a large size, this is when all the small details will stand out. The cover needs to work at every size.

Book Cover Design

5 Examples of Great Book Covers (and Why They Work)

A book cover should be so intriguing at first glance that a prospective reader can’t help but pick the book up, or, if browsing online, click the book’s thumbnail to see more. Here is a collection of book covers that caught my eye.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Certain book covers stand out above the others simply because they feature a novel design not seen elsewhere. The cover for Delirium by Lauren Oliver features some advanced image manipulation in which a 3-dimensional heart shape is sliced into strips and superimposed with bird feathers. Care is taken to maintain the overall integrity of the heart shape while still allowing some play in the way the feathers and pieces are positioned. A drop shadow settles the heart into the scene. It’s an intriguing design, and it sure makes me want to pick up the book! A simple background and text are all that are needed to finish off the cover – the idea is to not detract from the focal point.

Cold Fear by Rick Mofina

Bookfly Design created this fantastic cover for Cold Fear by Rick Mofina. There is such a sense of motion and urgency that there is no doubt that the genre is thriller. The design is very clever in that it incorporates the text of the title directly into the composition, even being slightly overlapped by plants in the foreground. The font choice for the title is a tall, all-caps sans-serif in italic, which is a hallmark of the thriller genre. Motion blur, with the addition of some particles and bokeh effects, add some detail that really elevate the overall composition.

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu

The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu. The use of negative space creates the outline of a girl in a creative nod to the title of the book. In fact, when I first noticed this book at thumbnail size and only saw the title, I thought, “You know, I bet there’s a hidden figure in there.” I clicked on the book just to see the full-sized version, and it turned out I was right. The design hooked me.

The genre isn’t so obvious from looking at this cover (it’s a sci-fi anthology), but the author is well-known, and name recognition plays a role in getting potential readers to pick up the book. Certainly, it fits the sci-fi genre and wouldn’t be mistaken for something like action-adventure or historical romance.

Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault

Rebel Rose by Emma Theriault. 3D text and a sense of depth combine for a striking cover. Vines criss cross the design and fade into the background, careful to not obscure or interfere with the text or the main subject. The gold color of the title is reflected in the dramatically gold-colored rose, with muted greens and a few highlights of red for interest. The text feels part of the whole composition, living somewhere within that 3D space among the leaves and petals.

The crown image with the series name at the top, along with the typefaces for the title and author name, convey that this is a young adult fantasy book.

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James. Jagged lines suggesting a broken pane of glass interact subtly with the title and author name. The ominous building in the background, unfocused to give a sense of mystery, is cast in a faded blue, while a few splashes of orange in the foreground give some contrast and interest. The grunge/paper texture along with the rounded border give a weathered, not-quite-wholesome look. The cover does well to suggest the book’s genre of thriller with paranormal elements.

The small details in design choices, typography, and creative ideas in the overall composition all lend to an intriguing book cover design. Getting someone interested enough in the cover to pick up a book is one of the most important steps in gaining a reader.