Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Covers » The 60 Best Book Covers of 2016, as Chosen by Designers

The 60 Best Book Covers of 2016, as Chosen by Designers

21 December 2016

From Literary Hub:

Today in “2016 was garbage but at least we had good ____,” we bring you: book covers. Because it’s true: this year, we had a healthy quantity of beautiful, inventive, arresting, unforgettable book cover designs, many of which deserve recognition. Now, of course, since it’s the end of the year, we are socially obligated to ask, but which were the very best? So I wondered: which were the very best? I know what looks good to my laywoman’s eye, but which were really marvelous and which simply pretty? To make sense of it all, I asked seventeen designers whose own work I have deeply admired to talk about their personal favorite book covers of 2016.

As might be expected, some of the artists I asked championed a few of the same book designs, so I feel comfortable saying that the very top three best book covers of the year are the following:

Cannibals in Love, designed by Na Kim (7 nods)
The Bed Moved, designed by Janet Hansen (5 nods)
The Mothers, designed by Rachel Willey (5 nods)

. . . .

Mike Roberts, Cannibals in Love, design by Na Kim

This jacket is one of the most perfect integrations of title and image I’ve ever seen. Every moment makes sense both intellectually and visually. It manages to be abstract and representational at the same time. But the main thing is I can’t stop staring at it, so not only is it a beautiful work of art, but it’s doing its job as a book cover. Genius!

. . . .

Rebecca Schiff, The Bed Moved, design by Janet Hansen

Simplicity in design can be a real battle, but designer Janet Hansen makes it look elementary with her design for The Bed Moved. Hansen manages to balance chaos and composition in such a way that the eye doesn’t at first detect the repeated letters. It’s a design triumph!

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Covers

35 Comments to “The 60 Best Book Covers of 2016, as Chosen by Designers”

  1. Both covers shown are TOO cute – it took ten times longer than normal to figure out what they said.

    Maybe if you’re already Stephen King.

    • I’m with you.

      Incidentally, if you want to see some bad book covers, look at the books advertised in Poets & Writers magazine. Not saying the writing is bad, but the books are typically abandoned by their covers.


    • Cute and annoying.
      Somehow they’re forgetting the goal is to sell the book, not their artistic flair.
      The first one above would do nicely in an art gallery. But a bookstore?
      Don’t think so.

    • Um, yes. Having to design my own covers, I would normally click through to the OP on something like this – but just from the two in PGs excerpt, NO FREAKIN’ WAY!

      Mine aren’t the greatest – but at least I TRY to make it look like a cover for a book that people might want to read.

      Although, I suppose if I were aiming for the coffee-table and dust collector market segment, these would do…

  2. Maybe if ‘readers’ did the choosing …

  3. They look as though they were designed strictly for brick-and-mortar, in person viewing. Almost none would pass muster as a thumbnail.

    • Exactly my thought.

      Having looked at all the covers in the original article I’m astonished at how few have any hope of selling the book in the on line markets. It’s as if the artists don’t give a toss about the authors’ book sales (maybe they don’t but what about the people who approve the covers?)

  4. most look like knock offs out of some old clip /cheat file tear sheets

    I think of all I might see in a book store table, I’d prob only pick the pile of books re ‘his father being a prngrpher.’

    I remember sonny mehta saying he hated clever book covers, that they tried too hard. That the writing had to be more clever than the book cover by far.

    Also, hilariously sorta I read the one book cover wrong cause the typeface is hard to read, as Canabis in Love. Well, that’s not right.

    Also not sure how six fingers on cover and title are somehow ‘perfect integration.’ I guess if you are a cannibal and fingers are appetizers or something.

  5. I wonder how many of these covers would be listed at http://lousybookcovers.com/ if they were done by\for indie authors?

    • I put an early version of mine up on their companion site, for comment. Nothing useful.

      I then redesigned the whole thing with help from J.M. Ney-Grimm, whose covers I love, and like it just fine.

      It’s evocative, NOT Romance (since Pride’s Children is NOT a Romance but a mainstream love story), and some people love it and some people hate it. The former are usually readers, the latter people who just have to give me their opinion that I need a ‘professional’ involved. I looked at many many professional sites; didn’t find any covers I liked.

      Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.

    • My cover ended up there, though I loved how the commenters could find things to complain about that weren’t even there! 😉

      • sometimes allen better to ask some people what they like, otherwise they feel they havent entered the ring unless they take a couple swipes, no matter how irrelevant

        • Heh, I took it with a grain of salt (the grain being a meter one a side) considering they’d ‘hate’ on one the very thing they ‘loved’ on another — depending on if it was a best seller/trad-pub or not.

  6. The covers are chosen as examples of excellent *graphic design*, eye-catching art. That’s an entirely separate issue from saleability. And I’m quite sure they’re intended for print editions, which gives the designer far more leeway than digital designs meant to be viewed as thumbnails.

    • The trouble with this is that a lot of the print edition sales will be on Amazon so that the thumbnails on the print versions still matter for saleability. Plus the Kindle editions have the same covers on the cases that I have checked.

      • I see most of them as quite eye-catching at thumbnail size. I realize the going wisdom is that all covers must scream genre genre genre, but my best earning series ($70k or so) has covers that are much more eye-catching than genre specific (they don’t reflect genre at all, only tone, and have truly terrible title legibility at thumbnail size). The stuff with the standard covers? Just not my best earning stuff at all. So I can’t buy into some of these cover design rules for indies that get repeated all the time, because it has not been my experience at all.

      • @Mike Hall If the publishers chose to use those covers, then they might consider Amazon irrelevant. But your point is irrelevant because the choices shown on LitHub are purely *design* choices.

        • We’ll have to agree to disagree.

          I see the fact that LitHub chose them as “design” choices as being irrelevant as the question is why the publishers chose them to go on their books. A publisher (if there are any) who considers a retailer as important as Amazon “irrelevant” is betraying their authors and would not deserve to remain in business.

          • The question to consider is *why* the publisher paid the designer for the cover. Was it to sell the book or help the designer win artistic awards?

            The artistic merit is fine.
            Suitability to mission isn’t.

  7. i looked at all the covers via the link and there’s only one that would make me pick up the book and read a bit to see if it’s a good match for me: Imagi e Me G ne

    I’m a big fan of book cover art so I’m surprised more didn’t appeal to me. At one point in my life — in the ’90s, I think — I toyed with the idea of framing book covers to hang in my office.

    • IM with you Patricia. The site with images seemed like rote covers. Nothing thrillingly alive except maybe one

  8. Both covers are awful, imo. I wouldn’t pick them up in a pstore, and couldn’t read the titles or authors in an estore. Way too clever to be useful.

    If that’s what professionals call great, I’ll stick with making my own covers. I can’t do any worse.

  9. I read the first one as “Cannabis In Love” when I first saw it….

    Sadly for the author neither Cannabis nor Cannibals float my boat.

    Anyone who wants to steal the obvious book idea of cannabis loving cannibals I just teed up for you – feel free…

    • Another hand up for reading the first one as “Cannabis In Love”. As much as I could read it at all, which isn’t much.

      As for the second:

      Hansen manages to balance chaos and composition in such a way that the eye doesn’t at first detect the repeated letters.

      Um, my eye did. Instantly. It took a fair bit more than an instant to decipher the cover.

      A cover should catch the eye, then convey information to the captured eye. I think many of the 60 best book covers fail on the second point.

      Of the ten in the group illustration at the top of the article, I think “How to See” is the most effective. The eye is grabbed because something is off, then you instantly see what the error is, then you see how the error is a clever reference to the title. The Mothers, The Wangs vs. The World, and Black Moses aren’t bad, though I think the gap between “Black” and “Moses” makes it hard to scan.

      The other of the ten are illegible.

  10. Eh. None of those are really my style, although I like Imagine Me Gone’s cover.

    I like people on my covers. Probably a result of what I read regularly.

  11. I definitely would have stopped to look at the Cannibals one (both erotic and creepy as crap, so interesting) and I liked the Stargazer’s Sister cover and Dancing with the Tiger a lot. I found it also a bit creepy and a bit beautiful. Really liked the Murakami backlist. 😀

    The others probably would not have gained my attention, even if I thought some were very nice. A few were a little to a lot hard to read (like the pencils one; Bohemians; Innocents; even Cannibals) or headache-inducing (The Bed Moved; Bohemians; Virgin; Klosterman’s upside down one). The cat creeped me out.

    • I agree Mirtika about the cat one. That book is way old, and when I read it a million years ago it also had a creepy DIFFERENT cat on the cover.

  12. Many of the covers caught my attention in a bad way. Couldn’t generate enough interest to scroll through the entire OP.


  13. Joel Friedlander has a monthly “contest” of e-book cover design awards, split between fiction and non-fic. With snaps of the covers and his comments. I religiously read and download it every month.

    I don’t always agree with his choices and/or comments, but it’s a great learning tool for covers that work.

  14. Another “Cannabis.” But it did get me to look twice. The rest, meh. Designers rating art, not saleability.

    But I do love the James Gleick, Time Travel cover. Eye-catching, and perfect for the book.

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