Differences Between Fiction And Nonfiction Book Covers | Self-Publishing Relief

by | Book Cover Design | 1 comment

Differences Between Fiction And Nonfiction Book Covers | Self-Publishing Relief

Most writers have specific ideas for the front covers of their self-published books. But, while you do want to make a unique statement that grabs your reader’s attention, there’s more to designing a great book cover than meets the eye. Writers are often unfamiliar with what readers expect on a genre book cover, and don’t always know the crucial design differences between fiction and nonfiction book covers. Fortunately, the cover design experts at Self-Publishing Relief are well versed in creating book covers that also function as effective point-of-purchase marketing tools.


Important Differences Between Fiction And Nonfiction Book Cover Designs

Figures and Photographs

Many fiction book covers use faceless, flat, or line art figures. This is a stylish and brilliant strategy that encourages readers to insert their own vision of the book’s characters, while still maintaining their general description. You’ll likely find dozens of books with this eye-catching and effective art style on the shelves of your local bookstore.


While the characters on fiction book covers can be ambiguous, nonfiction books often use real-life photos of the subjects. This adds a personal touch to the overall cover design, especially if the photos are more candid in nature. Not only do personal photos look visually intriguing on book covers, but they allow readers to see firsthand who they’re reading about.


Artwork and Landscapes

Fiction book covers can feature a variety of art styles, especially in backgrounds and scenery. We see illustrations, digital graphics, and paintings (or a combination of mediums) used to represent fictional locations. A skilled artist can capture both the geographic and tonal essence of the novel so writers are not limited to photographs of existing places.


However, nonfiction books, particularly those that focus heavily on a setting or location, will often feature immersive landscape photographs to create gorgeous (or haunting) covers. Nonfiction book cover designers will make this design choice to highlight the connection between the location and the book’s content.


Vibrant and Neutral Colors

Fiction book covers tend to feature the full color spectrum. Savvy cover designers will choose bold, heavily saturated colors to catch the eye of potential buyers. This color-focused strategy may not work for all genres (such as horror or sci-fi), but it allows upbeat, charming novels to shine.


In contrast, many nonfiction books, particularly memoirs and biographies, have monochrome color schemes. The black-and-white designs pair well with narratives or firsthand accounts of events that happened in the past. These classic grayscale color themes fit the tone of nonfiction works and will outlast passing style trends.


Decorative and Classic Fonts

In terms of typography, fiction books tend to have a bit more fun. You’ll often see decorative or hand-drawn fonts for the work’s title, subtitles, taglines, and author name. It’s not uncommon to feature multiple fonts on the front cover, and the color, texture, and placement of the text can be unconventional as well.


Nonfiction book covers usually stick to the standard serif and sans-serif fonts for all of the needed front cover text because they are clean, easy to read, and offer timeless style.

While you definitely want your self-published book cover to be eye-catching and stand out, it’s important to also meet the expectations of your readers. Fiction book covers can incorporate more imaginative, colorful design elements, while nonfiction books should feature traditional design with a personal touch.

If you want to be sure your self-published book cover meets the expectations of both you and your readers, the experts at Self-Publishing Relief are ready to help! Check out our portfolio of budget-friendly predesigned covers and custom book covers, and then sign up for your free consultation call today!

Question: What are your favorite fiction and nonfiction book covers?

1 Comment

  1. Wendy

    This is so…arbitrary. ” Fiction book covers use faceless, flat, or line art figures”? SF (especially space military) and most romance use stock photos and/or digitally-rendered, realistic images. The recent thrillers and general-fiction books I’ve seen often don’t have figures at all.

    Album photos on the cover? More likely one of those “found photo” novels than a genuine history.

    ” The standard serif and sans-serif fonts…clean, easy to read, and offer timeless style”–Yeah for clean and timeless novels as much as NF.

    About the only thing I can really agree with is that a very colorful cover (as opposed to a cover with a very colorful photo) probably belongs to a novel.


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