How to design a lovely book cover for your new fiction book

From shortlisting fonts to picking the right color scheme, learn how to make book covers that get readers reaching for your book.

You’ve poured in much blood, sweat, and tears to pen a moving piece of fiction that your fans will discuss for a long time. Now, it’s time to put the finishing touches by wrapping your story in a beautiful book cover.

“A good book cover draws us in immediately and gives us a glimpse into the narrative of the story without revealing too much,” writes Public Libraries Singapore on Medium.

“It also stands out on a shelf with hundreds of other titles, even if it’s only the book’s spine that can be seen.”

In other words, your book cover will need to:

  • Catch attention,
  • Signal what the story is about, and
  • Get people reaching for your book, over the many others they could be reading instead!

So let’s uncover how you can create eye-catching book cover designs that check off all the above boxes.

1. Keep your book cover design simple

Designing an eye-catching book cover does not necessarily mean coming up with a complicated or convoluted-looking book cover design. Instead, go for something clean and simple.

That’s because if you put too many elements into your cover, people are not going to know what they should be focusing on. They may then get confused as to what your book’s about, or even get turned off from reading it completely.

As book cover designer Holly Dunn explains:

“One thing that indie authors and new designers often struggle with is including too much on a cover. A book cover should be simple, usually with a couple of ideas at the most. It should be appealing to the target audience and demonstrate the genre.”

Accordingly, when she designed a book cover for young adult book “The Raven Boys” by Maggie Stiefvater, she used a simple leaf motif as a decorative element, while putting a raven crest in the middle to illustrate the “collegiate feel” of the story.

2. Choose the right colors

Different colors evoke different emotions. As a result, it’s important to pick a suitable color scheme for your book design. For instance, if your book is about fairies and pixies, you may want to opt for whimsical shades of pink, blue, and green—instead of heavily using black and silver as your color palette.

In a Medium post, designer, writer, and illustrator R. D. Holland provides a handy list of colors typically used for various book genres:

  • Fantasy: Green, purple, yellow, and “everything”
  • Science fiction: Blue, black, green, red
  • Suspense and thriller: red (lots of red) blue, and black

Of course, these are just general guidelines. Depending on the book cover design you’ve come up with, you may find it appropriate to use a color that isn’t on this list.

In that case, go right ahead. As Holland says, “don’t be afraid to break a few rules!”

3. Pick the perfect fonts

The fonts you use for your book cover also go a long way in setting the mood. There are four main font types:

  1. Serif: fonts that have “serifs”, or small lines and strokes, at the ends of letters
  2. Sans serif: fonts that don’t have serifs
  3. Script: fonts designed to mimic handwriting
  4. Display: fonts that are meant to be used for displays or large headings

For example, you may want to use a display font for your book title, while using a serif font for subtitles.

There are plenty of font websites you can check out for inspiration on fonts. DaFont is an oldie but goodie, while Google Fonts is another great place for free and beautiful fonts. We’ve also got a guide to 30 modern fonts that you may find helpful.

But if you’ve scrolled through tons of fonts and can’t find something that you like, you may want to create your own font. This is exactly what Casey Moses did when she was designing a book cover:

4. Hint at the story—without giving the plot away! 

The book cover should give some idea as to what the story is about. This can be in the form of illustrating the main characters of the story, or places that feature prominently in the plot.

The book cover can also showcase an important plot scene—but be careful not to reveal too much about what happens in the book! 

In an email interview, Random House’s executive art director Robbin Schiff shares how they came up with the book cover design for the book “The Music Shop” by Rachel Joyce.

In a nutshell, the book is about a music vinyl shop owner, Frank, who meets a mysterious girl in a pea-green coat. To convey the emotional warmth of the story, the designer decided to depict Frank’s perspective of him looking at this girl. However, the girl is illustrated as having her back face away from Frank, to suggest her character’s mysteriousness.

Also, given the major themes of music in the story, the picture of the girl is haloed by a vinyl pattern. Finally, red is chosen as the background color to add vibrance and catch the reader’s eye. Beautiful.

5. Throw an Easter egg or two into your book covers

No, we don’t mean real Easter eggs. We’re talking about tiny details or graphics that are related to the story, but that readers may not notice right away.

It’s only if they scrutinize the design closely that they might spot the Easter egg. Then, as realization dawns, they might go “Ohhhhh, so that’s why (insert crucial plot point here)!”

This is just a fun small activity to get readers more interested in your book, and discussing their discovery with others.

In this TikTok video, user @Averyreadsbooks31 shares a couple of book cover Easter eggs:

Her video generated over 2,600 comments. Just imagine how much free publicity and interest you could get if you put little surprises into your book cover as well!

Need a book cover maker? Use PosterMyWall!

With PosterMyWall, creating beautiful book covers using the tips above can be as simple as A-B-C. First, pick a book cover template from our selection of free book cover templates, then use our drag-and-drop editor to make the template your own.

Add in the title of your book, upload your book cover images and customize the colors according to your chosen color scheme. Don’t forget to put your name on the cover, too. After all, you’ve slogged hard to write and design your book.

Excited? Then choose your favorite free book cover design here and start bringing your book cover to life.