What makes a book cover a GOOD book cover?



I am an unapologetic cover snob. When it comes to books, one way to catch my eye is to dress them up in pretty clothes, and more than once I’ve bought a book based on nothing but the appeal of it’s cover. I doubt I’m the only one!


Since I love making “mock covers” for my own WIPs, I’ve given a bit of thought as to what, exactly, makes a book cover a GOOD book cover. I’m no expert in art or design, but there are two main properties that are almost guaranteed to capture my attention when I’m browsing through shelves of books: bold and/or contrasting use of colour, and clever use of imagery.




Bold colour

Of the examples below, three (Radio Silence, I Was Born For This and I’ll Give You the Sun) consist of a bold, uniform-coloured background with black text. I love the simplicity of these! On the other hand, Autoboyography‘s cover uses a blend of a few different colours, but the combination really stands out.


Vivid colour on white background

Shapes and/or splashes of bold, bright colour on a white background are also very striking. Each of the following examples use vivid colours in slightly different ways: Crown of Midnight uses “smoke”, An Echo of Things To Come a sharp circle, The Astonishing Colour of After a feather shape and Picture Us in the Light multi-coloured strokes.


Bright text on dark background

A lot of books make use of white or light-coloured text on a dark background. It’s not that surprising given how AWESOME it looks! In the examples below, Tallow uses white text on black, Wolfsong coloured text on black/deep grey, and both Made of Stars and Starfish have white text on a dark-coloured background. Aren’t they all fantastic?!


Use of shadow and light

The clever employment of shadow, light and colour is something that has always drawn me to certain book covers. Of the below examples, FallenHalo and Across the Universe were pretty much PURE cover buys. I adore the cover of Slide and its use of both black and white text, although I also liked its blurb!




Beautiful artwork

I am an absolute SUCKER for beautiful artwork or sketches on the covers of books. Brandon Sanderson’s The Well of Ascension and The Way of Kings (and the rest of their series) are some of my favourites, as are the covers of The Raven Cycle. The artwork of Ash and Echoes and its sequels also prompted me to check them out!!


Creative photography

I’m not usually a massive fan of photographs on front covers, except when they’re used in creative ways. I love the male/female blend in Static and the “broken glass” effect in Broken, both of which fit really well in with the novels’ themes. As for The Serpent King and I Had Such Friends I just think the photos are really attractive, especially with how the title text has been incorporated.


Striking imagery

Then there are the book covers which simply have striking imagery. This may be due to the use of stunning colours (e.g. Boundless) or very little colour (e.g. Silence). It may also be because the images and pictures used are rather intriguing (e.g. White Rabbit), or perhaps they have a bit of a double-meaning-slash-optical-illusion thing going on if you look closely enough (e.g. Crooked Kingdom)!


Quirky imagery

Finally, some covers are appealing and memorable by virtue of quirky imagery or other features. For example, Half Bad has its sideway text and head-shaped smoke, They Both Die at the End its title trapped in an hourglass, Spellslinger and its sequels are styled like playing cards, and the person on the cover of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda has a speech bubble in place of his head!




What do you think makes a “good” book cover? Which are your favourites? Have you ever bought a book based mainly (or solely!) on its cover?



RA_logo _backdrop-01_miniRebecca Alasdair

  One thought on “What makes a book cover a GOOD book cover?

  1. barbarabrutt
    14/09/2018 at 8:40 PM

    Yes, I’ve definitely ended up with books due to the cover. It always starts there. But I won’t actually invest (time or money) in the book unless the story back cover copy actually interests me!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 15/09/2018 at 8:24 AM

    When I first saw the proposed cover for my novel, I showed it to a few close friends and relatives. Everyone liked it, so I went with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 21/09/2018 at 2:54 PM

    I really enjoyed this post, Rebecca! I especially like the covers you chose for the, “Bold Color,” section. I’m always a sucker for some fun, bright colors!

    Liked by 1 person

    • 21/09/2018 at 3:14 PM

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it!! I just LOVE looking at book covers and figuring out my favourites – and you’re right that bright colours are so much fun 😃

      Liked by 1 person

      • 24/09/2018 at 4:08 PM

        I’m such a visual person that covers are half the reason I’m drawn to a book. It’s horrible, but true. It makes me extra mad when a great book has a horrible cover.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 24/09/2018 at 6:33 PM

        Haha don’t feel bad! Isn’t it a fact of nature that animals (therefore including humans) are attracted to pretty things??

        Liked by 1 person

  4. 27/09/2018 at 11:00 PM

    It’s amazing what our eyes grasp. Mine seem to be drawn to bright text with a dark background. When preparing a book cover it’s got to be crazy for the author.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 28/09/2018 at 11:31 AM

      I love the bright-on-dark too!! And I can imagine how stressful figuring out the best book cover could be – especially if self publishing and its ultimately up to you!!

      Liked by 1 person

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