Examine a few books and you may notice some stereotypes or clichés in the cover design—but this isn’t necessarily a negative! Readers of certain genres expect to see specific elements represented in the book cover. And the cover design experts at Self-Publishing Relief know that design ideas can become widely used (or imitated) when they look great and sell well. However, using too many cover clichés won’t help your self-published book stand out and grab the attention of potential buyers. Here’s how to recognize and bust out of book cover design stereotypes so your self-published book doesn’t get lost in a sea of similar covers on the virtual (or bookstore) shelf.
Clichés And Stereotypes In Book Cover Design
Flat Art Style: The high-contrast, lineless look of the flat art style is sweeping cover designs—especially in the romantic comedy genre. While this style is fun, eye-catching, and perfect for summer beach-reads, the limited stylistic choices of the flat style mean that many covers resemble each other. These book cover examples of flat art style show how the designers used dark sunglasses and red lipstick on the cover’s subject for contrast. While it’s an effective design choice, it results in many of the covers looking very similar.
If you want your art style cover design to stand out, consider trying one of these underutilized styles:
Headless Characters: The headless or faceless character is a common subject for book covers of any genre, but notably the historical fiction genre. This technique is designed for anonymity and allows almost any model to represent a character in the novel, whether they actually look like that character in real life or not. While this is an effective technique, it’s a bit overdone. Instead, you might use scenery on your book cover to represent your setting. Lush, sprawling landscapes or clean skylines make for gorgeous book covers.
Giant Author Names: If you want your name front and center on your book cover, you’re not alone. Many writers choose to plaster their names in big, bold letters on their covers rather than feature artwork as the star of the design. If you’re a household name like prolific writer and horror legend Stephen King, this can be a major selling point. However, when you’re just getting started in the publishing world, having your name in giant letters is a strategy you should avoid: You’re not famous enough (yet!) that your name will sell books.
Text Over Silhouettes: Book covers featuring text overlaid on a silhouette (typically of a person from the shoulders up) is another new trend among authors of a variety of genres—from fantasy to contemporary novels and everything in between. But the problem with trendy designs is that once a writer or artist recognizes it as a trend, it’s usually too late to cash in on it. While we love designs with elaborate fonts and silhouettes, they’ve been done enough times already—particularly by notable and bestselling authors. The similarity among these book cover examples is remarkable: If you want your self-published book to stand out from the crowd, don’t add another silhouette to the long line of those that already exist.
Black-And-White Portraits: For nonfiction books and memoirs, a common cover design features a black-and-white portrait of the author or subject. These are classic, timeless designs—but not very original. And, while readers will pick up a book with a photo of a president or famous actor on the cover, they may not be drawn to a photo of a not-very-well-known writer. Instead, we recommend featuring objects, places, or symbols connected to your nonfiction on your book cover.
Use The Book Cover Stereotype, But Provide Your Own Unique Spin
It’s always a smart idea to explore other book covers in your genre, or the latest bestsellers in any genre, so that your book cover design fits what readers are looking for. But you should never borrow too heavily from existing book covers—especially those that already have plenty of imitations. Aim for originality and authenticity! Or, schedule a free consultation and have the experts at Self-Publishing Relief create the perfect cover for you.
Question: Which are your favorite and least favorite book cover trends?