Top Self Publishing Book Cover Trends for 2018
Getting a reader’s attention can be tough when there are thousands of books on the shelf. One way to help your book stand out is a great cover. While the book subject and reader and critic reviews are important, the first thing that a reader sees is the cover. The first impression created by the cover can increase the likelihood readers will decide to engage with the book.
You want your book cover to create the right impression and the most appropriate emotional response for the book content. The perception created by your cover is often generalized to the content of your book. If the reader believes the cover is sub-par they will likely believe the book content is also sub-par making them unlikely to read your book.
An eye catching book cover should be current, based on recent trends, and seem just slightly outside the box. It’s important for covers to give the reader some idea of what the book is about. For 2018 there are a number of exciting design elements for covers that can make your book distinct. The following are some of the top ideas for book covers that work both for print and online books used for both well-known authors and indie publishers.
Bold type has been a rising trend over the past several years and is predicted to continue through the next few years. Bold, large typography jumps off the shelf for print books, especially when the cover design is dominated by the text. It is especially important for online books since the images for covers are often small on computer screens and smaller on mobile devices. Bold typeface makes a statement and gets a reader’s attention. This trend is also changing and developing in new ways.
An advantage of bold typology is that when you make the title stand out you can use more design elements in the background. While you need to be careful not to push the envelope too much, risking the background images detracting from the text, making the title stand out means more design elements can be allocated to the background such as images or photos. The alternative risks the imagery distracting from the text, making it necessary for potential readers to search for the name of the title and author.
Instead of clear, regular size and clean brushstrokes, irregular, organic looking elements are the order of the day. Other trends include feathered edges, making the text somewhat obscure, opaque or using creative blending and handwritten text produced either through fonts or literally by hand. The most up to date designs often use techniques like letter drips which can be seen on the cover of White Tears by Hari Kunzru. Placing colors and patterns over the bold type is also a popular design option which can be seen on the cover for A Separation by Katie Kitamura. Brad Thor's Code of Conduct uses swirling colors to give the feeling of movement along with the bold type.
It’s rare that a single color dominates the trending designs for book colors but this year is one of the exceptions. The color in question is called Millennial Pink and you can hardly pass a bookstore or surf for books online without being inundated with the shade. This group of muted pink tones falls in the dusty rose family and the color has been extremely prevalent on internet-savvy brands over the past couple of years.
More recently, Millennial Pink has been featured as a main color on many print and eBook covers especially those on women’s topics. Since the color comes across as a bit sweet and feminine, it is often counterbalanced with simple images or informal handwritten fonts. Some examples of this trend can be found on the covers for White Lies by Emily Harper. The Idiot by Elif Batuman, uses a cover design that is predominantly millennial pink offset by a relatively small amount of grey.
Photography has always been an essential part of book covers. Before mobile technology, photos taken from stock photography sites were less than ideal. Many authors used different tricks such as fading and negative image to disguise the campy, staged, exaggerated feel of stock photos.
Now, with the development of smartphone cameras,associated apps and editing programs, authors are easily able to create their own high quality images. This resulted in stock photography also improving and becoming more realistic looking, providing another option for finding and creating cover photos.
Authentic photos help create an emotional response in readers and convey the mood of the book. Often, the emotion evoked helps convince readers that the book is something they’d be interested in reading. Using a realistic cover photo which triggers a genuine emotional response in the reader can help differentiate their book from others. This is especially important in the more popular genres where the competition for a reader’s attention is fierce.
The trend with realistic cover photos leans toward black and white or grayscale with touches of pastel or light colors. Two good examples of this trend are We All Saw, a book of poems by Anne Michaels, and The Little Crew of Butchers which employs a mirrored photographic approach.
Text Over Photo or Image
A trend that has been growing in popularity over the past year or so is have the front cover be entirely filled with an image and have the text printed over it. When done well, this can clearly communicate what the book is about with the text and image working together to hit both verbal and visual perception. It also makes the cover feel complete. This combination can be used to give the reader a hint about the plot or subject matter, an insight on one of the characters or some other aspect of an important element of the story.
It is important to be careful not to make the picture so esoteric the reader doesn’t see the connection to the book or use it to reflect something well hidden in the book that you as the author understand but that most readers will not. Even if there’s a big reveal in the book, often by then the opportunity for the cover to have a big impact on the reader is lost. While mystery in the plot makes for a gripping read, mystery as to what your cover is meant to communicate just makes for a chance lost. It’s also important that the expectations your reader develops from your cover art and text are met through the book’s content. Two examples of this method are, Deep Winter by Samuel W. Gailey and The Veil Between by J. L. Luque.
Collage is a method that lets you create a cover that looks entirely original and set apart from others. Collage is unique as it provides you with the opportunity to express a variety of aspects that characterize your book simultaneously. You can also create a sense of the conflict within the novel by combining two opposing ideas. A good example of this idea can be seen on the cover for The Smallest Thing which combined the image of nature with a gas mask.
Collage can also be a great money saver when it comes to the cover. Creating an image using pieces of different photos allows for increased customization at a lower cost than what you’d pay to commission original photos. Usually this is accomplished through photo manipulation which prevents viewers from even realizing that the final composition comes from different photos.
Some choose to create the image by manually cut and pasting parts together then photographing it. Photos can then be edited with any number of photo editing software programs. The method you choose depends on the style you want for your book. You may decide you want something that looks more professionally produced with a finished appearance or perhaps you want something that is a little rougher around the edges. Collage is a versatile method that can be applied to any style.
In contrast to bold, large print is the quiet, purposeful minimalist approach. The motto associated with these covers is less is more and in sticking with that saying, these designs focus on a single element. They often use either a muted monotone or even just white as the primary color. The amount of space given to uniform colored background is balanced by the size and weight of the print. This strategy can be seen in the cover design for Fat by R. M. Ireland, MD. The idea behind minimalism is to emphasize the most central element by removing as much detail as possible. If the only thing on the cover is a one word title and single black and white image that is what gets the attention.
With a minimalist approach, you can even affect the way in which the reader interprets the cover through selective typography such as stylistically broken fonts or contrasting serif and sans-serif typefaces. You can even create a design using a mechanism such as purposely removing letters in some of the words of the title such as in Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslet. These designs allow the simple graphics and print to shine and grab the reader’s attention while the specific design elements create the interpretation you desire.
If you choose to use a minimalist approach, the most important thing to keep in mind is making sure it isn’t boring. Decreasing the number of visual components is only the first step. You also need to ensure the elements you choose to keep are stimulating. Subtlety and nuance can be juxtaposed with individual aspects which are simple yet also pack a punch. For example, the black and white cover of The Ethics of Interrogation has only a single, small illustrative element.
Seventies and Eighties Designs
As they say, everything that’s old is new again and book cover designs are no exception. This year the look of the seventies and eighties is back in style. It brings up memories of years go by and a wistful affection for when life was simpler. The year 2018 will hearken back to the 1970’s and 1980’s with fonts, color choices and imagery.
Overblown seventies fonts and vibrant, eye popping, neon eighties colors are seeing increased popularity and they look contemporary. Peculiar, fun or mysterious, this look can elicit a great deal of emotion. Examples of this style can be seen on the covers of Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz and Out in the Open by Jesus Carrasco
Hand Drawn Covers
Hand-drawn covers have become increasingly popular in the past several years in every genre from children’s books to mysteries to science fiction to crime novels. This has included covers that with digital elements and hand lettering to covers that are entirely created by hand. It appears that this trend is going to continue to be one of the most significant for 2018. Before now, hand drawn covers have included more feminine aspects such as floral designs and pastel colors.
Feminine elements will likely still be featured in 2018 though it is predicted that this year there will be a growing number of books written for and by men. This means there will also be more masculine hand drawn covers seen on the market. Wilder and edgier styles will also make a statement for book covers, reflecting a more androgynous feel. Colors that will dominate this trend towards more masculine appearing covers will likely shift from pinks and lavenders to blues, greens gold, black and red. Some examples of this trends include Year 4 Olympian by Jeremiah Brown and Tools of TItans by Tim Ferriss.
Today with technology constantly becoming more and more advanced, the ability to self publish a book either as an eBook, print book or both is something almost anyone can do. Today, the wide availability of design, graphic and photography editing programs along with easy cover design programs let you create breathtaking cover designs. Even if you’re relying on a designer to create your book cover, it’s still important to know about the current cover design trends. It will help you work with a designer to have an idea of what you want and for that idea to be informed by the trends. Having an understanding of the look and feel that you are aiming for is a critical first step when either working with a cover designer or working with a design platform. Whether you design your own cover or work with a professional designer, if you follow some of the trends mentioned here and your book cover will catch the attention of book lovers everywhere.
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© 2018 Natalie Frank