6 Important Lessons from Covers of Critically Acclaimed Books

From The Book Designer:

A book cover is one of the biggest marketing tools a book has—especially in libraries and bookstores. While many readers like to judge a book by its contents, we often consider reading a book if its cover catches our eye. 

Now, what catches the eye of a reader is purely subjective; it depends largely on the aesthetic biases of the reader—whether that is illustrations, photographs, stark covers, busy covers, montages, heavily colored lettering, monotone typography, etc.

Despite this, you, as an author or book cover designer, can still attract your readers by using good art and/or striking colors on your book cover. In this article, we analyze six covers from critically acclaimed books and pinpoint what makes them so visually appealing.

. . . .

The Centre by Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi 

Cover design by Jonathan Bust, Art direction by Evan Gaffney 

Flowers are some of my favorite things to look at because they come in different colors and shapes (and scents, too, if you’re handling them in real life). So it’s no wonder the book cover of The Centre, caught my eye. 

The dark background made the reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks of the bouquet pop and catch my eye (and the eyes of thousands of readers worldwide). But the longer you look at the cover, you start to notice weird and disturbing details that slowly take center stage: the skull-shaped planter, the carnivorous Venus flytraps, the spilled coffee, and the thorny vines circling the cabinet on which the bouquet stands. 

Once you see these things, you know immediately that the contents of the book won’t be all roses and sunshine; there’ll be dark secrets lurking underneath all the beauty. And suddenly, you feel the urge to find out what those secrets are. 

Lesson: Putting a bright image or object against a dark background is a great way to make your book cover visually alluring. If it aligns with your book’s contents, you can also add some semi-concealed elements that keep people’s attention and awaken their curiosity.

. . . .

Every Drop is a Man’s Nightmare by Megan Kamalei Kakimoto

When I first saw this book cover, I was reminded of The Birth of Venus—a 15th-century painting by Italian artist, Sandro Botticelli, depicting the Roman goddess Venus arriving at the shore after her birth, standing on a giant scallop shell. The painting is stunning, much like this book cover depicting a woman emerging from a corpse flower growing in what looks like a body of iridescent blue water. 

The book itself is a collection of short stories with interesting, yet varied, Hawaiian characters whose lives and emotions burst through the pages and find their way into the hearts of readers. 

Lesson: While it might not be the case with this specific book cover, taking inspiration from popular paintings and cultural artwork to make your book cover art is a great way to make people go, “Oh wow—this reminds me of something I know!” 

The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter

If you love fruits, this book cover will draw your attention like a magnet. It’ll do the same if you love interesting-looking art, too. The orange of the background blends well with the orange tones used to depict the contours of the woman’s body. The pears, however, interpose with this orange hue, allowing readers to separate the rich background from the center figure and the pomegranate that accentuates her curves.

If you think this book cover, coupled with the title, teases a tale about food, you’d be on the right track. The main characters of this book, Beatrice and Reiko, were born into a dystopian world governed by corporate greed where it’s taboo to enjoy food or have an appetite. This cover encapsulates the women’s fight against an oppressive system that glorifies undue fasting and thinness.

Lesson: While you want to make your book cover stand out from the stacks of books on the shelves, it’s okay to include familiar elements, even if those elements are food. You should, however, employ striking colors, adequate contrast, and a unique concept to make the cover art look interesting.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

3 thoughts on “6 Important Lessons from Covers of Critically Acclaimed Books”

  1. Reading this in the UK is proving very confusing, as in no case does the image displayed in my browser match the description in the OP. The links that are provided automatically – at least for me – go to the Amazon.co.uk store and, of course, the publishers have used totally different covers in the UK (save, for some reason, in one case where the USA image is used for the UK audio book).

    This is not uncommon (and trad publishing seems to have plenty of money to spend duplicating the cover production). Normally I prefer UK covers but not in this case, where the UK ones are at best uninspiring when not actively unpleasant. For the USA covers, that for “The Centre” is quite attractive but the second is very much not “Venus on a Half Shell” and the “Veronica Lake with a pear for hair” does not make me want to pick up the book.

    Still, as the writer says, the reader’s reaction is going to be “purely subjective” and I guess I’m not the right reader for either the UK or the USA covers.

    And a note for PG: the “Book Designer” link takes me to a posting about “7 Interactive Ebook and Print Book Elements” rather than “6 Important Lessons…”

    • I suspect that Amazon may default to show you Amazon UK products when you’re logging on via a UK internet service provider. I’ll check to see if there is something I can do to show you the same Amazon product pages I’m seeing.

      • Yes, Amazon and the cleverer authors’ websites# do default to the Amazon store that your ISP address indicates you’ll buy from, and nearly always this is what one wants. It is only in very special cases like this one that one needs to be sent to the page showing the images being written about.

        # it can be a bit annoying when an author only links to Amazon.com, especially as Amazon have now dropped their link which supposedly would take one to the book on the UK store (but which actually only did a book search and thus was as likely as not to give the wrong result – this being Amazon’s current search disaster after all). Currently I just highlight the title and author on the USA store page and right click for a google search which almost always works much better than Amazon’s search on the UK site.

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