On Book Cover Design

Now that I’ve decided to self-publish my back log I took the advice from friends and went through my books looking at covers, etc. I made some notes about it. I’m sure this is all stuff you guys already know, but it helps me to get it straight in my mind and process it. So here are the notes I made as I went through my library. They are only general impressions and not meant to be inclusive.


Cover Ideas: What works, what I like, what catches the eye.

Sacajawea — obvious historical romance cover.

Anthologies have “broad” covers, non-specific, but speak to content.

Non-fiction — historical B&W photographs or maybe illustrations. Covers can be thematic like the McMurtry novels. Series have a specific look that ties the individual stories into a whole, making everything immediately recognizable. Covers often reflect some element about the title (or genre) of a story.

Titles should be easy to read — dark on light background or light on dark. Dynamic (action) covers are really hard to do, I think, but are often seen in some specific genres like fantasy.

A series has a tag-line to let reader know what line the story belongs to: A Haxan Story, Matt Helm, J.B. Thriller, etc. Immediately recognizable and gives reader cue to buy the story, if he likes the series and knows he doesn’t have it. Quiller is another series.

My series stories: Haxan, Sugawara, Mama Luiz, etc.

“First Time in Paperback” (or print)

Genre novels have a script, format or art specific to them, for the most part.

SF — spaceships. Fantasy — dragons.


I found this exercise helpful. It made me see some generalities I might be able to use later on. The problem with generalities, though, is they can so easily fall into cliche, so I really want to avoid that. Next I will study layout and arrangement of elements on the covers.

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