A blog about books. Oh, and some other stuff too.

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Cover Trends

When you work around books every day, you develop some pretty strong feelings about book covers. For instance – why do all “serious” non-fiction books in the fall have white covers? Why do publishers LOVE to use the same stock images (or virtual copies) to try to convince (or con) readers into buying similiarly-themed stories? I know that authors are often caught in the middle, as they are happy to have their book published, and helpless to select the cover for their much-loved book. All is not negative, however, as opening a box from the publisher and seeing a truly wonderful cover for the first time still has the power to take my breath away. Here then are my top ten book cover trends – likes and dislikes.


The “handwritten script over delicious food” trend

handwritten cookbooksCookbooks have a tough go of it. They need to have a pretty great cover on them to catch the eye, but they also have to be representative of what’s inside. Once you have established yourself as a ‘name’ author in the realm of cookbooks, the pressure is off a little as people will begin to ask for “the new Michael Smith”, or the “new Ottolenghi”. Until then, however, it’s survival of the fittest/most delicious looking cover. Lately I’ve noticed a significant shift to the ‘homemade’ look of things – beautifully photographed food, artfully displayed and shot overhead, with what looks like handwriting as the title across the cover. I suspect that Lucky Peach magazine has a lot to do with this trend – and it should be clear how much I love that magazine. For cookbooks though … is it lovely? Yes. Distinctive? Not any more.

The “couple just about to kiss” trend

Almost kissingI saw this one mentioned on Twitter a few days ago in relation to Nicholas Sparks books and I was all “YES. THIS”. Then I started to notice that it wasn’t limited to the Sparks series. While it has common on covers for a while it seems particularly prevalent in New Adult books and their covers – Sabrina Elkins, Ari Tucker, Katie McGarry and others seem to find their books with that moment of time locked forever. What is it with designers? Do they want that suspense of “do they or don’t they?” because, let me tell you … they do. I kind of feel badly for these couples – destined to never lock lips, and to hold what must be terribly uncomfortable side head positions, often backed up against things. Poor characters.

The teen books with ball gowns trend

dressesAre these characters going to the prom? Are they attending a fancy dress party? For a number of years, there’s been an increase in the number of books – particularly teen books – that have young women in large, frilly dresses on the cover. I don’t know if that relates to the plot in all cases, but I can tell you with confidence that it absolutely doesn’t in a number of books, so I find this trend bewildering. I could see the dress on “Anna Dressed in Blood” – it was a major descriptor for the character, or the lovely outfits on Gail Carriger’s School of Etiquette series (it’s a Victorian Steampunk series, so totally fits), but sometimes … it’s just not connected.

The bad mimicking of an existing image trend

flower classicsI’l talk more about the ‘Twilight effect’ below, but one thing that sent me spare was the use of the hands holding objects theme on every book thereafter for about two years. It was either that or the plethora of single flowers on a black background – honestly, it looked so funereal that I felt depressed just looking at the books. The crowning moment came when reissues of classic books appeared on the scene, all with the Twilight treatment. Add in a smaltzy tag line that cheapens the value of the literature inside and I’m done. Enough! Time to move on, and time to let this trend die.


single imageSignificant signature objects

I know that the Twilight series has a lot to answer for but one thing they did well was to re-invent the signature object as a key descriptor for the story inside. A single object, beautifully photographed or illustrated, speaks volumes and can be so much more effective than a garish cover filled with pictures and imagery. When it’s done well, it works beautifully, and it only adds to the enjoyment of the book for the reader. Speaking as a bookseller, I have to say that single object covers always incite discussion and are eye-catching when they are faced out on the shelf. If nothing else, the symbol invites curiosity, and draws you into the book to find out more.

Series that align their covers

smoke and bone seriesI know that authors have little to no say about their covers, but I love, love, love when a series of books has similar covers. I love that there has been thought about what they should look like, and that they have some connection to the story. While Kelley Armstrong laughs about the jewelry pieces on her first YA series (The Darkest Powers series, The Darkness Rising series), each trilogy cover flowed seamlessly (the use of the same cover model also helped enormously). While I have other issues with the covers for the Selection series (see: ball gowns above), I can’t deny that the set is striking when you look at the all together. Add in the same typography for each of the covers, and I’m sold. Nothing is better looking than a striking series that you love to look at when you are finished.

Successful re-branding of an established series

airborn seriesToo often we see new covers for books we love and we cringe. How could they do that, we wonder, the first cover was perfect? Case in point: the debacle that resulted from constantly changing Beth Revis’ wonderful Across the Universe series. How many endless versions did we get with each new book? However, there are times when the rebrand goes exactly the way it should, and it makes you want to pick up a whole new set of books (and let’s face it, that’s the point). I cannot speak highly enough about the incredible reworking of Kenneth Oppel’s fabulous Airborn series in honour of its 10th anniversary and can only hope that other publishers will take note. So, so lovely, and as a bonus, they tie in with his latest release. Talk about savvy cover marketing!!

Beautifully designed and interesting covers with great typography

unique coversSometimes being different can be a gamble, but it sure can pay off. There are a few covers that we’ve looked at recently that have had us doing a double take, but for all the right reasons. Unique images, interesting lettering and a choice of colour that bucks the trend makes for books that grab your attention and make you wonder what might be inside. There are so many examples of this cover trend that it was hard to choose just a few, so take some time and browse the Goodreads shelves for a while. They aren’t necessarily “pretty”, but they sure are interesting and you may just find your next favourite read.

What are your best and worst cover trends? Do you agree or disagree with any of my choices?  Leave your comments below, and be sure to leave a link to your own Top Ten Tuesday posting so I can visit in return!


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