Updated May 2023
With so many new authors self-publishing romantic novels, Self-Publishing Relief has noticed that cover art design trends have become so much more than the bodice-ripping Fabio fad of the ’80s.
In the indie romance industry, a book cover can make or break your sales. So it’s important that you accurately reflect the correct subgenre for your self-published romance novel. Your goal is to create a cover that is unique and show-stopping yet genre-appropriate in basic design.
Amish romance novels, for example, all feature the same elements so that they’re easily identifiable: wholesome young women with rosy cheeks and a bonnet—and for the spicier ones, the image of a man in the far background.
Readers don’t want to be fooled into buying a tame, sweet romance when they’re looking for more heat, and vice versa, so make sure your cover art fits your romance.
If you’re ready to self-publish your romance novel and are looking for some cover art inspiration, here are a few trends to consider:
Cover Art Design Ideas For Self-Published Romance Novels
Traditional. Loretta Chase’s cover design lets readers know they can expect a historical romance based on the models’ clothing. And while we may poke gentle fun at “clinch covers” featuring a handsome male model embracing a beautiful woman, this classic cover design won’t be going out of style anytime soon. Traditional romance readers still love these cover designs, and the bold red color suggests a little more passion than sweetness.
Contemporary. The soft pastels and floral design of Debbie Macomber’s book send a strong, clear message to the reader that this will be a modern, sweet romance, and lighter on the spice scale. Other books of this genre feature book covers with beach scenes, cozy-looking front porches, or local ice-cream or yarn shops.
Sensual. At the other end of the spectrum are erotica book covers, which often use black-and-white artwork with sparing touches of bold colors. This stark style suggests wealth and luxury mixed with steamy, sensual romance.
Fantasy. Paranormal romance book covers often use a bold, dark look to evoke a sense of passion and danger. Since these novels focus more on adventure and beasts like vampires and dragons than on lighthearted laughter and romance, the cover art is usually complex and intense.
However, if your paranormal romance ranks high on the sexy scale, don’t veer too far from a traditional cover look for similar titles.
Female Focus. While we’re used to seeing a burly, bare-chested pirate on the cover of a swashbuckling romance, or a powerful, wealthy businessman, there’s been a trend toward featuring strong, sexy female protagonists!
Modern Males. Many romance readers enjoy seeing a bare male torso on indie book covers—which are some of the best-selling covers—but there are some new poses emerging that feature men fully clothed: it’s the “frustrated” male protagonist…with tousled hair, full beard, and a sleeve of tats.
Remember: For the romance genre, it’s important to use cover art that accurately reflects your romance subgenre and meets your readers’ expectations. The professional designers at Self-Publishing Relief can help you create the perfect custom book cover for your novel. And if you’re working with a tight budget, you might want to consider using a predesigned cover for your romance novel.
Serendipitous timing on this. I was playing around with some of my flower photos last night,photoshopping them into a design that I thought might make a nice cover-ground “brand” for a romance series. Now I’m not so sure. “Spice” would be a foreign language for me, I’m more of an intellectual type. Not sure how “sweet” my writing would be, either. Guess I’m the “Casablanca” type. I’m leaning toward a letters and/or postcards sort of format, and I tend to go inside my characters’ heads when I write and play with meanings on multiple levels (I’ve been known to deliberately use “misplaced” modifiers–and mean both possible interpretations).
So does flowers alone work as cover art? Would it matter if a major character was a gardener?