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Book Cover Trends in 2024 | NINC



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As I turned to face the thousands of options lining my library’s shelves, I asked my librarian, “How do you pick which books to read?” I hoped that she might tip me off to a trade journal or confirm the importance of word-of-mouth recommendations.

Her neck blushed pink before she paused and leaned toward me. “To be honest? I read books based on their covers.”

A nervous laugh seemed to indicate her shame in resorting to a less than “intellectual” way to choose her reading material.

Yet the truth is that more than half our brain is activated by what we see. “More than 50 percent of the cortex, the surface of the brain, is devoted to processing visual information,” points out David R. Williams, the William G. Allyn Professor of Medical Optics at the University of Rochester.

Given that fact, it might not be surprising that design sways our decision-making. So let’s dive into how cover design can help our books catch attention and reach readers!

A year ago, I predicted four trends that have proved to be powerful and actionable:

  1. Animation Anytime: This trend features illustrated covers with high pops of color and animated characters. These play well in online marketplaces where images need to break through as a small thumbnail image and are prominent in the romance genre.
  2. It’s All About the Title, No Extras: Splashing the title right down the full cover has moved from nonfiction to fiction covers, and is also driven by needing to break through in online worlds. The covers below demonstrate both of the first two trends.

4 book covers


3. Welcome to the Magentaverse: Pantone’s 2023 color of the year, Viva Magenta, showed up in plenty of eye-catching covers (including my own new release, Always Orchid).

Samples of covers wit Panetone's color of the year




4. Light It Up: Designers have cleverly used the illusion of lights to “light up” books, electrifying covers with bolts of light, electric neon colors, and shimmers of gold.

"light up" covers


To assess trends going into 2024, we’re going to introduce the dimension of genre cues. We’ll use a selection of Goodreads Choice Awards opening round books to represent several genres and assess how cover designs often provide cues to let readers know a book’s genre.

Historical fiction
Many historical fiction covers convey a nostalgic, dreamy feel, befitting books that transport readers to long-ago times. Clothing, hair, makeup, and architectural details are carefully chosen to be appropriate for the book’s time period. In addition to the genre cues, the covers also feature figures and images appropriate to the story in each book. Notice the Asian character on the front cover of Lady Tan’s Circle of Women, the woman holding a tome on The Keeper of Hidden Books, and the important setting of the river running right up the middle of the cover for The Secret Book of Flora Lea. Several of the covers obscure the characters’ faces, ostensibly to allow readers to imagine the characters themselves.

Historical covers 2024


Mystery and thriller
Mystery and thriller covers appropriately convey an air of eeriness through faded or cracked images, half-hidden faces, and partially obscured buildings. The distortions even extend to the titles. Observe the cracks through The Villa, slashes through Karin Slaughter’s After That Night, rippled letters of All the Dangerous Things, and dripping font of I Have Some Questions for You. The use of colors can effectively insinuate something sinister. Notice the magenta pupils in Bright Young Women and unsettling combination of blood red, black, and purple in The Only One Left.

Mystery & thriller covers


In the romance genre, the use of bright colors and illustrated images have been gaining prominence over a number of years. The high contrast in font and background colors creates more “pop,” especially in online environments where romance sells well. Illustrated characters often have less distinct features, which may allow readers to imagine the characters’ details for themselves (like those on Happy Place and Hello Stranger). It’s worth noting the counterview too. In online forums, some readers claim that illustrated covers convey a juvenile tonality and state that they don’t like the “cartoon” feel. As with most design (not just book covers), taste can be quite individual.

Romance covers


Fantasy with romantic elements (romantasy)
These fantasy novels with romance in them have a clear genre feel. Some of the common elements that achieve this include:

  • A predominance of serif fonts (fonts with the extra flourish). Notice how many of the fonts are highly stylized which can feel as if they’re crafted from another world.
  • A fanciful central image. These include images from nature (birds, snakes, spiders, vegetation) that are often distorted or obscured to impart a mysterious air.
  • Hints of danger, from daggers to blindfolds to pops of blood red. A Game of Gods, A Fire in the Flesh, and Foxglove King all include images of skulls.

Romantasy covers


Fantasy book cover designs evoke the feeling of another world through the combination of details, fonts, and figures. For instance, pay attention to the following covers’ use of:

  • Intricate details: There’s a lot of fine detail on A Day of Fallen Night, subtlety on The Unmaking of June Farrow, and mirrored patterns of birds on Starling House, which add an air of mysteriousness.
  • Scroll-like fonts and effects: Check out the highly stylized serif title fonts on Encyclopaedia of Faeries and The Adventures of Amina Al-Sirafi, which employ extra flourishes to give an otherworldly feel.
  • Mysterious figures: See V.E. Schwab’s hooded woman, the Medusa head on Stone Blind, and the silhouette on Trees of the Emerald Sea, and consider how these provide an eerie sense of the unknown.

Fantasy covers


Science fiction
Science fiction books create a feeling of futurism through different tactics. Take a look at the angular depiction of a fox in The Future, the predominant sans serif title fonts which have a contemporary feel (Children of Memory, Some Desperate Glory, The Marriage Act), and the use of expansive skies (Land of Milk and Honey, The Deluge, The Ferryman). It’s clever how the title of The Great Transition falls off the edge of the cover, giving the word “transition” itself a transition from one line to another.

science fiction covers


These book covers include some classic elements of horror, including:

  • The use of blood red, either as full cover color (Silver Nitrate, Don’t Fear the Reaper), or as elements of the design (Rouge, Our Share of Night)
  • Scary images like the dagger nails in Our Share of Night, the distorted dripping TV in Mister Magic, or eerily lit houses in Her Little Flowers, Holly, The September House, How to Sell a Haunted House.

I’m particularly intrigued by how odd juxtapositions can work in this genre. The font for Rouge is rounded, bubbly, almost campy, and reminiscent of burlesque. Coupled with the thorned rose emitting red wisps of smoke, the cover creates an eerie vibe. Another example is Mister Magic where the central image of an old-fashioned television with quaint rabbit ears might normally evoke nostalgia. But pair it with dripping tar, and the cover creates an unsettling effect.

Horror covers


Young adult (YA) fiction
In many ways, these YA fiction covers echo the visual cues of romance, which makes sense as these titles often include love interests as a main part of the storyline or as a subplot. There’s a predominance of brightly contrasting colors, especially in hues of red and pink. Notice the illustrated style of books like Katherine McGee’s Reign, Talia Hibbert’s Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute, Ali Hazlewood’s Check Mate. Of course, the characters depicted look more youthful, which is appropriate for the age of the books’ characters.

Young adult fiction covers


Going into 2024, expect to see more examples of the predictions we’ve discussed. Multiple genres will tap into the It’s All About the Title trend, using oversized fonts and the title as the most prominent feature. More books outside of the romance genre will also venture into the Animation Anytime trend, which breaks through well in a digital environment.

As with any creative endeavor, there are many exceptions to these trends as well. Designers are striving to achieve quick recognition for the category while showcasing what’s unique about this particular book. At the same time, the design needs to visually break through to be noticed and be distinctive enough to be memorable. It’s a tall order, so remember to be a great collaborator with your designer.

Lastly, expect more “Experimentation and Creativity” in design. Designers are innovating with sprayed edges, ARC kits, limited edition covers, and interior design. As one example, readers love the shattering orchids inside the pages of my Goodbye, Orchid series.

Finally, in case you’re wondering about Pantone’s 2024 Color of the Year, they’ve chosen PANTONE 13-1023, Peach Fuzz. Multiple book covers are already incorporating its soft warm hue. Peach Fuzz is described as a “velvety gentle peach tone, whose all-embracing spirit enriches mind, body, and soul.” Be careful though. Depending on the execution, its pale tone may also fade into the background. Take a look and decide for yourself.

Peach color sample




Author photoCarol Van Den Hende is an award-winning author who pens stories of resilience and hope. Her novels Orchid Blooming and Goodbye, Orchid draw from her Chinese American heritage, and have won 30-plus literary and design awards, including the American Fiction Award, IAN Outstanding Fiction First Novel Award, and Royal Dragonfly Awards for Cultural Diversity and Disability Awareness. Her mission is unlocking optimism as a writer, speaker, strategist, board member, and Climate Reality Leader. One secret to her good fortune? Her humorous hubby and twins, who prove that love really does conquer all.

This article appeared in the April 2024 edition of Nink.


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