Book Cover Design Awards — Winter 2023/2024 Edition

POSTED ON Mar 5, 2024

Cameron Chapman

Written by Cameron Chapman

Home > Blog > Cover Design > Book Cover Design Awards — Winter 2023/2024 Edition

Welcome back to the third new edition of the book cover design awards. In the early days of The Book Designer, Joel Friedlander used to present monthly book cover design awards and we’re resurrecting the series (on a quarterly basis for now) to bring attention to some amazing book cover designs. 

In the second edition last fall, we presented nine winning book covers: three fiction, three nonfiction, and a third category for children’s, middle-grade, and YA fiction covers. This time we’re combining the YA and adult fiction categories, and putting children’s and middle-grade fiction into their own category. YA and adult fiction covers often have more in common than YA covers do with children’s books, so shifting those categories makes sense!

The authors and designers of these books should be proud to be featured here, among some stiff competition.

Nonfiction Book Cover Design Awards

A successful nonfiction cover balances creativity with simplicity, ensuring that the design is not only striking but also straightforward enough to convey the book’s purpose or argument. Ultimately, a good nonfiction book cover should make a strong first impression, signaling to readers that the content within is credible, engaging, and worth their time.

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Dandelions: A Pandemic-Era Writing Adventure With Two Unlikely Friends by Bobbi Illing and Bill Soroka

Partial description: “Dandelions: A Pandemic-Era Writing Adventure Between Two Unlikely Friends” is a collection of poignant, inspiring, and transformative essays that offer a unique journey into self-discovery and companionship. Crafted during a time of global uncertainty, this book serves as a gentle invitation to wonder, write, and wander through the landscapes of your mind and heart.

Discover a world where vulnerability meets wisdom, and curiosity is your guiding light. Each essay is a soul-nourishing morsel, akin to a trail of breadcrumbs, leading you deeper into yourself and the joys of shared storytelling. This isn’t just reading; it’s an interactive experience that invites you to reflect, engage, and perhaps even pick up a pen yourself.

What this one gets right: The simplicity of the cover design stands out among many memoir covers, with the title typography really standing out against the dark turquoise background.

A Place of Love & Light: A Journey Back to Compassion, Authenticity, and Making a Positive Contribution to the World by Ellen Edmondson

Partial description: How can I bring my true self into a world that pushes conformity?

A Place of Love & Light addresses this and much more. This book takes you on a journey to expand your awareness and connection with your spirituality and Divine Love, it inspires you to embrace your life’s purpose, and start a ripple effect of positive change, one person at a time.

This collection of wisdom will resonate deeply and touch your soul. A Place of Love & Light is filled with thought provoking scriptures, inspirational quotes, reflective questions, and simple exercises to anchor its guidance.

What this one gets right: The photo used as the background image of the cover is immediately relaxing and calming, while the light effects on the typography reinforce the book’s themes.

The Third Dimension-Air: The Cold War, Experimental Aircraft, and Parachuting into the Past by William M. Knarr Jr. and Marsha D. Knarr

Partial description: Ever dreamt of defying gravity, leaping off structures with a sheet as your parachute? What if that childhood fantasy became a reality?

This memoir takes you on a flying journey with Bill, whose childhood dreams of soaring through the air became a reality. From his daring leaps off coal bins, envisioning himself as a paratrooper, to completing parachute and flight training in the 1970s, Bill’s life became intertwined with the skies. Though it continued to be rewarding, his experiences were tempered by the awareness that aviation is a serious business, as punctuated by the loss of friends and coworkers to aircraft tragedies throughout his career.

The title, inspired by Billy Mitchell’s insight into the crucial role of air power, perfectly encapsulates the essence of this captivating narrative. As a pilot, Bill’s experiences during the Cold War era, in locations like Alaska and Germany, provide an exciting backdrop to his story. The book uncovers his journey, both airborne and on the ground, as he navigates the complexities of military life, experimental aircraft, and the historical significance of parachuting into Normandy for the D-Day commemoration.

What this one gets right: The use of a vintage photograph for the cover immediately gives a sense of the book’s setting. Allowing the helicopter’s rotor to overlap the text elevates the design and makes it look more polished than it otherwise would.

Adult and Young Adult Fiction Book Cover Design Awards

A good novel cover stands out on bookshelves and in online listings through a unique and memorable design, balancing originality with genre conventions to immediately communicate the type of story the reader can expect. Effective novel covers balance aesthetic appeal and storytelling, making them enticing invitations to explore the worlds hidden within their pages.

The Big Bad Wolf Book 4: Death Toll by 13 Pitch Black Cats

Partial description: In the shadow of newfound peace, Lucia’s world shatters into chaos. Rumors of marauding orcs, the haunting return of the sin of lust, and an impending undead horde converge on her home, drive her into action.

The sin of lust, now wielding the terrible power of the Rider of Ruin and exiled by her own kind, is desperate for Lucia’s strength to aid in her survival.

But before Lucia can grapple with this ominous request, an orc raid ends with her dear friend, Fina, captured. Driven by a desperate need to save her, Lucia embarks on a rage-filled pursuit. Tormented by the unrelenting sin of lust, she must decide how far she will go to save a friend. As Lucia races to rescue Fina, a grim horror emerges—the Rider of Deaths’ relentless army of undead marches on her home.

Lucia stands on a precipice, defending her loved ones against every threat. With the fate of her world hanging in the balance, Lucia must confront her most dangerous foes yet. In this harrowing installment, her courage and resilience are put to the ultimate test.

What this one gets right: The cover design here slowly reveals more elements than are visible on first glance: a dragon, a castle, fire, clouds, and more. It’s eye-catching and hints at the contents without giving too much away.

Deviant Courses: An Epic Portal Fantasy Adventure (Book One of the Errant Gambols) by Elizabethe LaCoste

Partial description: Babysitting a newborn dragon was not high on Kat’s list of extracurricular activities.

Katarina McCaber’s life revolves around maintaining good grades and avoiding trouble while she attends Lycée. Unfortunately, hatching and caring for a baby dragon wasn’t part of that plan, especially amidst an anti-dragon social order that could spell doom for her little friend.

Hiding a baby dragon isn’t the only thing Kat has to worry about. Her innate talent for finding herself in the wrong place at the wrong time lands her in the midst of a sinister plot unfolding at the heart of her school.

In her quest to uncover the truth, Kat, accompanied by her loyal friend Jonathan, stumbles upon a portal that transports them to an entirely new world. As Kat and Jonathan navigate this foreign realm, they unearth long-buried secrets, face mythical creatures, and encounter a charismatic yet malevolent figure known as Master Dolan.

Kat must summon every ounce of resilience, courage, and her newfound magical abilities to escape the clutches of this powerful enemy.

What this one gets right: The imagery on the cover hints strongly at the storyline, especially with the baby dragon peeking out of the backpack. The background also gives a good sense of the setting for the novel.

Seeking Grace Among the Living by Lillian Díaz Imbelli

Partial description: As a White Latina from the Bronx, Grace is used to the misrepresentation of her identity. But with the strength of her faith, cherished traditions, and her loving family, she finally sees a ray of hope.

When tragedy strikes and Grace tragically loses her whole family, she is left adrift in a sea of grief.

Despite her accomplishments, Grace struggles to find purpose and balance in her life as she navigates the challenges of being a young mother, her career as a multimedia artist, and her cultural identity that others relentlessly overlook. Without the support of her family, she is left to question her identity and purpose alone.

What this one gets right: What really stands out to me is the detail in the tree and title typography. Vines running down from the tree in the background add depth and interest to the image, while the metallic effect on the typography obscured in places by the background image adds even more aesthetic appeal.

Children’s Book Cover Design Awards

A good cover for a children’s book is vibrant, inviting, and rich with whimsical elements that capture the imagination of its young audience. It utilizes bright, eye-catching colors and playful typography to draw attention and convey the joy and wonder of the story inside. It hints at the themes of the story—friendship, courage, discovery—without giving too much away, sparking curiosity and encouraging children to explore the story.

Pretty, Pretty Panda by Nicole R. Harrington

Partial description: Embark on a heartwarming journey through the clouds with Pretty, Pretty Panda, a lovable tale that will touch your heart and brighten your day.

Meet Pretty, a remarkable panda with a heart as big as her love for sunflowers. When she and her new friend Eagle decide to trace the colors of the radiant rainbow through a sunflower field, they encounter a diverse cast of animal friends, each with their own unique story.

Their colorful journey reminds us all that inner beauty is all about the kindness and love we share with each other. This enchanting story is a celebration of friendship, forgiveness, and the extraordinary power of spreading happiness and love to all you meet.

What this one gets right: While books for teens and adults might want to experiment with more intrigue and mystery, children’s book covers should be more literal. And the panda surrounded by pretty flowers nails that point.

Papa The Popular Printer: A True Story about The Forniss Printing Company by T. Lynette Yankson

Partial description: Papa the Popular Printer is an extraordinary nonfiction story about protagonist James Henry Forniss. He amazingly evolves from a young man as a shoe shiner, to become a successful Professional Printer. Akin to today’s “IT” Information Technologist. His ingenious transformation was rare for a colored man especially in the south during the post slavery 20th Century era.

This true story depicts challenges Colored people faced to overcome racial barriers to advance in America in the early 1900’s. Children will learn about “The Power of One”! and how one determined youth with strong faith, confidence and courage to “never give up” transformed his life and many others.

JH became a Community Activist whose influence dramatically enhanced the development of his hometown, Uniontown, Alabama.

What this one gets right: The contrast between the young Black boy leaving what appears to be a school (given the book under his arm) in comparison to the field workers in the background illustrates the differences in the protagonist’s story compared to those typical of the time.

My Adventures by Fallon the Traveling Cat: Crater Lake and Yellowstone National Parks (Fallon the Traveling Cat Series Book 2) by Elizabeth Sanguedolce, illustrated by Kirsten Ventimiglio

Partial description: Adopted by a retired couple, Fallon has many adventures traveling across the U.S. in a motorhome.

In this second book of the series, Fallon visits Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. She observes a bison jam, a bear close-up, and a variety of other wildlife, as well as geysers and other natural wonders. She discovers how Yellowstone, the first U.S. National Park, got its name.

Fallon enjoys being outside and notices how her family interacts with nature. After a full vacation, Fallon starts planning her next adventure in the four Colorado National Parks, Book 3.

What this one gets right: The child-like illustration style and prominent placement of the protagonist on this cover will immediately jump out to children, making it a clear winner.

Final Thoughts

Book cover design is an art, but it also requires a fair amount of marketing knowledge to create a successful design. Knowing the genre tropes, what readers expect, and how to make a design stand out without being jarring are all things that book cover designers have to master.

Check back each quarter for a new edition of The Book Designer’s Book Cover Design Awards! And if you’re curious about what criteria we’re using to select the best book covers, check out this article by Joel Friedlander on Book Cover Success and Failure Explained.

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Cameron Chapman

Written by
Cameron Chapman

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