7 Classic Design Ideas for Your Book Cover


Congratulations! You’ve completed your book, and now it’s time to create an eye-catching book cover.

Sometimes as writers, we focus on our work and neglect how essential other elements are when it comes to publishing. One element that we sometimes underestimate is the book cover. For that reason, a book cover that captures the essence of your work is the perfect tool for gaining readership, marketing, and building your brand.

However, if you’re unsure about what you want on your cover or how to communicate your vision to a designer, this article is for you. We’ll explore seven classic design ideas for book covers to help you find inspiration and effectively convey the essence of your book.

SEE ALSO: Book Covers: Ways to Use a Book Cover Design as a Marketing Tool

SEE ALSO: 6 Mistakes in Your Book Cover Design That Will Make You Lose Potential Readers

1. Consider adding a portrait:

A portrait on your book cover showcases the main character and can be depicted through a real-life model or an illustration. This approach works well across genres like science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Not only does it capture attention, but it also provides potential readers with a glimpse into your book’s world. For instance, if your book belongs to the fantasy genre, you can showcase your character’s power, such as glowing eyes or a fireball in their hand. However, keep in mind that some authors may prefer not to explicitly depict their characters on the cover to allow readers to form their own interpretations. Additionally, this type of design may not be suitable for books with multiple main characters.

Portfolio – Markee Books

2. Add silhouettes:

Similar to portraits, silhouettes offer a glimpse of the main character’s appearance while maintaining an air of mystery. Instead of showing the character’s full face or body, you can artistically obscure them. Silhouettes can be black or seamlessly integrated with other elements of the cover. This design idea works particularly well for mystery and thriller genres. For example, “The Girl of Ink and Stars” book cover creatively uses a silhouette with the title placed within it. Careful execution is crucial to avoid the design looking out of place or confusing.

The Girl of Ink & Stars by Millwood Hargrave, Kiran

3. Consider a minimalist approach:

Sometimes, less is more. Minimalism focuses on essential elements, utilizing white space, bold fonts, and simple graphics. It’s a powerful design style that can effectively convey the essence of a story. However, not every genre lends itself to a minimalist approach. While it may work for some genres, like contemporary fiction or literary works, it might not be suitable for dark fantasy or other genres that benefit from more elaborate designs. An exemplary minimalist book cover is “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which flawlessly captures the story’s essence with its simple yet impactful design. Similarly, classic works like “1984” often utilize recognizable symbols, like Big Brother’s terrifying eye, in minimalist designs.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Atwood, Margaret

1984 by Orwell, George

4. Use photographs:

While the prominence of photographs in design has somewhat diminished with the rise of digital tools, they remain a potent way to evoke emotions. Photographs can work well across genres but are particularly impactful in drama books. Examples like “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo,” “A Little Life,” and “My Dark Vanessa” demonstrate how photographs can evoke raw emotions and set the tone for the story. However, using a photograph as the focal point of a cover may limit the space available for other design elements. Consequently, simple and clean fonts are often preferred in these designs, allowing the photograph to take center stage.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

A Little Life by Yanagihara, Hanya

5. Show a scene from your book:

If a character portrait doesn’t appeal to you, consider showcasing a scene from your book on the cover. Scene-setting covers work best for genres like science fiction, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic works. These covers capture readers’ attention by depicting the main character in action and the environment they inhabit. The dynamic nature of such designs is engaging. However, this approach may not be suitable for genres like coming-of-age, mystery, or nonfiction. It’s essential to carefully consider whether this design aligns with the tone and content of your book.

6. Use a hand-drawn font

There are some designs in which the main focus will be the typography rather than the image. If none of the above options appeal to you, perhaps a typeface that gives the impression of being handmade is your best option. Designers used it mainly on children’s book covers, but today we can find it in diverse genres like mystery, thrillers, and romance. However, the final result will depend on the colors and the background image.

I particularly like this type of design as it gives a calm, mysterious feel. Plus, it can be used in almost any genre and look good.

For instance, look at the “One of Us Is Lying” book cover. It’s a mystery and drama work that benefits from having a book cover with a hand-drawn font because it looks like one of the characters wrote it. In addition, the collage with the characters’ faces going on behind the title contributes to the suspense on the cover.

One of Us Is Lying by McManus, Karen M.

7. Make a collage

Generally, designers advise not to use too many elements on the cover. It can look messy, and most of the time, the reader will get overwhelmed by trying to understand all the information on the book cover. However, it’s a rule that we can break when making a collage.

Collages look original and allow the designer to combine different ideas on the cover. Besides, it’s a style that looks good in every genre.

For instance, look at the book cover for “Tender Is the Flesh”. Tender Is the Flesh tells the story of a society where all the animal meat has been contaminated by a virus. Thus, cannibalism has become legal. To illustrate it, the book cover combines a woman’s face with the horns of a cow.

Tender Is the Flesh by Bazterrica, Agustina


If you have the opportunity to collaborate with a designer who seeks your input on the book cover is a valuable experience. When discussing your ideas with the designer, consider the design approaches discussed in this article—portraits, silhouettes, minimalism, photographs, and scene-setting covers. Remember, design is not set in stone, and your designer may use some or none of these ideas while still creating an impressive book cover. Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram or Twitter for more book cover design tips and inspiration.

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