Book Cover Ideas: Inspiration for Your Book Cover Design from Bestsellers

POSTED ON May 20, 2022

P.J McNulty

Written by P.J McNulty

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If you are self-publishing a book, choosing the right book cover design is just one of the many choices you will have to make—but it’s one of the most important. Thankfully, book cover ideas abound for as sources of inspiration—just take a little stroll through your neighborhood bookstore or go online to the bestseller lists.

A suitable cover for your book can help attract readers that would never otherwise discover it. The wrong cover can condemn your book to failure, no matter how good the content happens to be.

So how do you choose from your book cover ideas, to give your book the best chance of success?

One way is to take inspiration from recent bestselling books. By analyzing and appreciating bestselling book covers, you gain design inspiration that is aligned with the expectations of contemporary readers.

Let’s explore some recent bestselling book covers. Make note of what you like and don’t like about these covers to come up with your own book cover ideas.

Nonfiction Book Cover Ideas

A nonfiction book cover arguably has to do more work than its fiction counterpart.

Nonfiction book titles and subtitles often convey more information to readers than fictional titles. Finding a way to clearly and attractively showcase this information is an important part of a nonfiction book cover.

At the same time, the cover of a nonfiction book should be aesthetically harmonious with its subject matter and meet reader expectations for whichever niche of nonfiction it covers.

Here are three of the bestselling nonfiction books of 2022 and the lessons you can learn from their covers.

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Atomic Habits by James Clear

book cover ideas - atomic habits nonfiction cover design

Although Atomic Habits by James Clear has been on the market for a few years, it’s currently the bestselling nonfiction of 2023 on Amazon. Atomic Habits teaches readers both the theory and practice of building successful habits by showcasing successful case studies and the reasons for their success. 

So what is so effective about the cover of Atomic Habits? The first thing that stands out is the contrast of the neutral background of the cover to its text. The black text for the subtitle and author name, along with the graphic of the book title, stand out impactfully against the plain backdrop.

The key promise of “Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results” sits at the top of the page, and the subtitle An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones rests just below the main book title graphic. This displays both the key benefit the reader will get from Atomic Habits as well as the way this benefit will be taught before the reader has even opened the book.  

Perhaps the most interesting element of the Atomic Habits book cover is the title graphic itself. Rather than being conventional text, the words ‘Atomic Habits’ are made up of small circular pixels, or atoms, an allusion to the book’s title and guiding principle. The ways these circles arch at the top and bottom of the cover also help to draw the eye of a book browser. 

So what are some of the key takeaways of Atomic Habits’ cover that might inspire our own nonfiction book cover ideas?

  1. Ensure the cover text pops off the background.
  2. Convey the benefit a reader will get from the book.
  3. Cleverly display the main book title in a way that links to its subject matter.

Atlas of the Heart by Brené Brown

book cover ideas - atlas of the heart nonfiction cover

Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart is one of the best-performing nonfiction books of 2022 so far, consistently topping the charts both online and in bookstores across the world. Brown’s book gives readers both academic and practical insight into human emotion and experience. 

What is it about the cover of Atlas of the Heart that inspires people to take a closer look? The first thing that stands out is the contrast of the gold author and title text with the rich red background. These colors convey luxury and quality as well as provide an attractive contrast.

Brené Brown’s credentials are displayed in a contrasting white text that allows the reader to feel assured they will be buying the work of not only a Ph.D. and Masters of Social Work holder but one whose ideas have translated into a number 1 New York Times bestseller. With the abundance of nonfiction available in today’s market, emphasizing the credibility of the author is essential. 

The teachings of Atlas of the Heart are showcased through both the subtitle and main book title graphic. The subtitle of Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience explains exactly what the book will teach and also ties in with the ‘atlas’ concept. The main graphic, in the shape of a heart that is closer to an anatomically correct shape rather than the simplistic shape we generally picture, visually showcases both the beauty and nature of being the ‘mapmaker and traveler’ in our lives.

So what can we learn from the Atlas of the Heart cover that might inspire our own nonfiction book cover ideas?

  1. Highlight any author credentials or performance information relevant to potential readers of the book.
  2. Graphics that manage to combine intrigue, beauty, and an allusion to the book’s subject matter.
  3. Colors that help set a book’s tone and prime readers for the mood of the topic.

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessell van der Kolk

book cover designs - body keeps the score nonfiction book cover

Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score is one of the most significant and popular books of recent times dealing with the impact of trauma on people. As more and more of us are waking up to the major role that trauma has in both personal and social dysfunction, we turn to books such as The Body Keeps the Score to help us live better lives.

The cover of The Body Keeps the Score combines color, text, and graphics effectively to catch a reader’s eye and convince them of why they should read this book, why the author is a worthy expert on the topic, and what other credible people have to say about it.

The book cover’s soothing blue background is one of the most instantly noticeable things about The Body Keeps the Score. This color conveys a mood of trustworthiness, calm, and healing, all of which are suitable choices for a book covering the impact of trauma. The title and author name are presented in black text, allowing them to contrast powerfully with the black background. The main graphic of a human silhouette is also in black, providing a pleasing throughline of color between the top, center, and bottom of the cover. This graphic is also framed in white, helping draw the eye to it.

The Body Keeps the Score’s cover also highlights the credibility of Bessel van der Kolk as an M.D, a credential also shared by Judith Herman, who provides the endorsement quotation at the base of the book cover. The cover’s use of this endorsement persuades a potential buyer to further check out the book by drawing on the psychological principle of social proof. 

What can self-published nonfiction authors apply to their own book cover ideas from this example?

  1. Endorsement quotations are effective showcases of social proof of a book’s promise.
  2. How to limit the number of colors on a book cover to offer visual intrigue while avoiding clutter.
  3. That an eye-catching graphic can boost the appeal and accessibility of a somewhat academic topic.
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Fiction Book Cover Ideas

Fiction book covers have an essential role to play in helping potential readers decide if the book is likely to meet their expectations in terms of genre and subject matter. For independent authors, a fiction cover is also one of the best ways to help a reader feel reassured that just because a book is self-published, it doesn’t mean it’s low quality. Conversely, a low-quality book cover is one of the fastest routes to failure for self-publishers.

Let’s explore three of recently bestselling fiction books and determine what ideas can be gleaned from their covers.

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover

book cover inspiration - it ends with us fiction book cover bestseller

Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us is not only one of the bestselling romance novels of 2022 but one of the bestselling fiction books overall. Its plot deals with protagonist Lily’s relationship with a commitment-averse neurosurgeon and the subsequent reappearance of her first love. So what role does this book’s cover play in its success?

One of the most instantly striking elements of It Ends with Us’s cover is the lack of contrast in color between the book’s title, the author’s name text, and the primary graphic of destroyed flowers. The deep pink color used in all three not only links them cohesively but also conveys the romance genre of the book. 

How the main graphic of the shattered flowers goes under and above the book title is beautiful. Many book covers treat text and graphics as entirely separated elements, so to see them entwined in this way is very effective. The black text quotation endorsing the book at the top of the cover, and the black text stating that Colleen Hoover is a New York Times bestselling author at its base, help to soberly frame the intense color of its center.

So what design insight and possible book cover ideas can indie fiction authors take from this cover?

  1. The color of text and images on a fiction book cover should show compatibility with the book’s genre the majority of the time.
  2. Showcasing the bestseller status of not only the author, but the writer providing the endorsement quotation, helps to convince a potential buyer a book is worth reading.
  3. A fiction book cover’s text and graphics can intertwine rather than being treated as separate elements.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

book cover ideas - where the crawdads sing

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens has delighted countless readers with its mix of a mysterious plot, beautiful descriptions of nature, and relatable themes. Its fantastic prose is complemented by one of the most attractive book covers found on the fiction bestseller list. 

Perhaps the most striking component of the Where the Crawdads Sing cover is the full-page image used as a backdrop. The beauty of the sky and the lush blue of the water are stunning and likely to appeal to a generation familiar with the aesthetic of natural images like these that perform so well online.

Aside from its background, other noteworthy features of this book cover include the use of a book club sticker graphic as well as the choice of endorsement blurb at the cover’s base. The book club graphic grants Where the Crawdads Sing not only social proof but also the promise that this is a book so interesting people will want to discuss it socially. Choosing to attribute the blurb to The New York Times Book Review rather than any individual writer draws upon the prestige of the publication to appeal to the reader.

What kind of book cover ideas can self-published fiction authors get from this cover?

  1. Using an image as the entire backdrop of your book cover can be a beautiful choice.
  2. A small sticker-style graphic showcasing book clubs or awards can add an element of social proof to your book.
  3. Consider using the name of a publication rather than an author for your blurb quote.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

book cover inspiration - seven husbands fiction book cover

Immersive and exquisitely-crafted romance novels always have a chance of selling well, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is proof. Reid’s novel is one of the bestselling books of 2022, despite not being the author’s latest work. The book is told from the perspectives of both a glamorous Hollywood star and the magazine reporter she decides to share her story with. 

An interesting aspect of the cover for The Seven Husbands is how the green background color of the cover and the dress featured in its main graphic are very close to each other. Despite the similarity in color, the result is a feeling of continuity, with contrast provided by the subtle differences in texture. From the top left corner down to the bottom right, the green gradient lightens gradually, helping draw attention across the cover. This particular green also conveys glamour and glitz, tying in with the novel’s subject matter. 

The feeling of glitz and glamour provided by this book cover is further reinforced by the author’s name in gold text. To provide visual contrast, the book title, the description ‘a novel’ and the sentence ‘author of Maybe in Another Life’ are written in white, allowing them to pop pleasingly against the almost all-green background.

Aside from admiring its aesthetic, what can self-published authors learn from this to come up with their own book cover ideas?

  1. Diagonal gradient color is an attractive choice of book cover background.
  2. It’s possible to use a main book cover image and background that are almost the same color.
  3. In the case of fiction, text showcasing the author’s other work can help convince a potential buyer that this is the right book for them.
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Next Steps

Your choice of cover is one of the most crucial elements that will lead to success or failure as a self-published author. Use the book cover ideas from this guide as well as inspiration from covers you love and admire to give your book the best chance of success, whether you design your own book cover or hire a pro.

For more information on the topic, check out these articles and be sure to download your Book Cover Design checklist.

P.J McNulty

Written by
P.J McNulty

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