Book Cover Design: A Marketing Analysis

For years, Publishers and Indie Authors have been trying to find the recipe for a perfect book cover to make it stand out from hundreds of thousands of other books. But it’s been a hit-and-miss trying to balance genre and consumer expectations, trends and well…budget.

Graphic Designing, including freelance designers can be expensive, and most publishers often follow a rough guideline while designing book covers. These ‘guidelines’ often depends on several factors.

Book Genre and Customer Expectations

To give an example, imagine a cover with pastel colors and, bubbly font and a picture of red high heels – this one is most likely to be a contemporary fiction book. But by just changing the color to muted-gray-ish tones and the font is something bold and sherif-sh, while still having the same red high heels, this seems to be a thriller book.

Each genre has a specific ‘theme‘ to the book covers, including font choices, color palette, focal image, etc. Readers’ are tuned to that ‘theme’ when looking for a good read the a genre they are interested in. If a cover is drastically different the norm for that genre, it’ll likely be missed from the reader’s sliding gaze from rows and rows of books.

Diving a little deeper in the ‘pre-set’ genre elements that serve as a guideline for book covers, below are some randomly selected books in three main genres: Thriller, Mystery/Suspense, and Urban Fantasy.

Thrillers are easily identifiable by its Author Names in extremely large font size and simply two-worded titles – and of course nothing better to show a action-packed modern thriller than a suited man running into the distance.

Mystery/Suspense is now increasingly popular with its haunting-question-toned sentences that serve as titles. It may be a standard genre trope set by the master of mystery stories, Agatha Christie.

Urban Fantasy can’t be urban fantasy if it weren’t for the neon colors, curly font titles, and none other than a strong female lead looking head-on while her supportive male lead stands behind her, slightly at an angle.

The list can go on forever. Have you noticed any genre-specific cover designs?

Design Trends and Popularity (Especially in YA)

Young Adult (YA) is a rapidly changing genre which encompasses quite a lot of sub genres and this provides some amount of flexibility that above-mentioned genres may lack. Publishers tend to fall into the “Trend Trap” – as I like to call it – to get some hype and clout of a the previously successful book that perhaps ‘made’ the trend. I can’t type unless I provide examples of over-used trends.

A book with a long and lengthy title. Seriously though! How many books can you think of with titles more than 5 words (It beats the sentence-titles of the Suspense Genre).

The animal with a dark vibe. Crows! Snakes! You name it! I’m not going to lie, it does add a certain degree of alluring darkness that makes me pick up the book.

Got Nothing? Geometric patterns and Arches will do the trick. And they look so pretty!

Coincidence, Accident or Rip-off?

Now, this last category is tricky, because we don’t know for sure if the covers were meant to be ‘similar’ so similar that it confuses the readers. Is this a marketing strategy? – Could be. Was it similarity pure coincidence? – Maybe. Regardless, some books listed below took be off-guard and made me think 1) It’s the same book. 2) It’s a sequel. Alas, it’s not the same book, nor the same author and in some crazy way, not even the same designer. Then how?

This has to be one of my longest recent posts. Tell me your thoughts as a reader, what do you think of book covers? How similar or unique should they be? and do YOU judge a book by its cover?

This post does not intend to cause harm to any individual or organization that are associated with the books pictured in this post. They were simply used as example to support my market-oriented analysis.


Photo via Unsplash