Give Your Book Cover the Gift of Genre

How Your Genre Impacts Book Cover Design


When hunting for your next read, what aspects of a book have you adding it to your shortlist?

Chances are, the cover is one of your primary deciding factors, acting as a beautiful, arresting, or deeply intriguing advertisement for the story itself. The most successful advertisements are those that understand the target audience and tailor the elements of their ad to appeal to the consumers most likely to buy their product, which is why genre is such a vitally important factor when designing a cover.

The Frenchman cover The Australian cover

Every genre has certain markers: imagery or design elements that help to identify a book as fitting with that particular genre. Perhaps one of the most easily identifiable genres is romance, the couple-based or ab-based covers instantly recognizable to romance and non-romance readers alike, thus creating a long-lasting brand identity that ensures those looking for a romantic read will easily be able to find one at quick glance when scanning physical or virtual shelves.

Type is an equally important identifier when it comes to genre, so research is paramount in the early stages of any design to make sure the final artwork checks the boxes that potential readers and lovers of the genre will be able to recognize in a split second.

Lamb to the Slaughter by Karen Ann Hopkins Whispers from the Dead by Karen Ann Hopkins

For instance, mysteries and thrillers tend toward bold, sans-serif fonts, so choosing a flowing script font for a dark, gritty thriller is likely to confuse, leaving readers scratching their heads and passing right on by as they scan for something that better resonates with their visual expectations for a given genre.

As a designer, one of my goals is always to create something unique for my clients that will make a reader snatch their book off the shelf before the reader even registers her hand has moved, but “unique” is hugely influenced by genre.

Secrets in the Grave by Karen Ann Hopkins Hidden in Plain Sight by Karen Ann Hopkins

Trying to reinvent the wheel and design outside the well-known genre markers is likely to result in poor sales no matter how beautiful the cover, as readers are savvy and know what they're looking for when they go to buy. I'm always careful to work within the genre box, but at the same time try to give the lid of that box a bit of a nudge so it sits ever-so-slightly askew, giving me a little room to flex some creative muscle while still paying homage to the established brand identity of the genre.


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Jenny Zemanek

Jenny is an avid reader and blogger who designs book covers when she's not busy with her rescue dogs.

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