This week, I spotted an article by Bookbub on eight trends for covers that sell books.

The key elements to lure readers? Animals, beaches, seasonal themes, friendship/sisterhood, shirtless men, great photography, chicklit glitter and cute kids.

Sure, I get that. Certain readers will buy stuff that guarantees satisfaction – stuff that does what it says on the tin. Yet I scrolled through those covers and not one appealed to me. No surprise there. I loathe anything mawkish or sentimental, rarely read chicklit/romance/erotica and I’m drawn to covers which promise beauty, intelligence, new ideas and experiences.

I know very little about design, but as a reader, I do judge books by their covers. Never one to keep my opinions to myself, here are ten indie-published covers which appealed to my own personal predelictions. In no particular order, this is my own subjective beauty parade with links to the designers.



by Jim Williams

(JD Smith Design)

Beautiful use of perspective and depth of field. Not to mention the glorious colours and light.

The positioning of the dramatic items in the foreground stand out against the inky canal and the Caravaggio lure of Venetian architecture is just irresistible.

*Covetous sigh*


These-Are-the-MomentsThese Are The Moments

by Jenny Bravo

(Kisscut Design)

That cover is a story in itself and suits the title to a T. A broken chain, a lop-sided swing… something is going to happen. The typeface also reminds me of the Jonas Jonasson books, hence the suggestion of quirkiness. I have no idea what the book is about but on the strength of this image, I’d want to find out.


Bitter Like Orange PeelBitter like Orange Peel

by Jessica Bell

(Jessica Bell)

Wonderful balance of images, colour and surreal swathe of flaming hair. What’s she doing? Running, dancing?

The juxtaposition of differing fonts not only adds interest but hints at a similar boldness within.

How could one resist picking this up?




Black Sun, Red Moon

by Rory Marron

(The Ebook Designer)

This book promises to take me to another place and inside a different culture.  and I’m intrigued by the figure.

The slightly distressed nature of the background adds a parchment-like texture and the typeface against contrast backgrounds is striking.


The-Mage-and-the-MagpieThe Mage and the Magpie

by Austin J. Bailey

(Bookfly Design)

This appeals to the child in me.

Doorways, the promise of change, forests and a bell with magic hinted at by the Potteresque font.

There’s a lot going on here, but it all works and excites curiosity. And didn’t I read somewhere that turquoise/yellow is an appealing combination?



An Unchoreographed LifeAn Unchoreographed Life

by Jane Davis

(Andrew Candy)

Elegant, intriguing and atmospheric. The image evokes thoughts of Shakespeare and the Penguin Café Orchestra. The shades of blue, as if the figure were subtly spotlit, the choice of delicate motifs such as rose stems, deer and ballet combine to lure you in, convinced the story must be equally beautiful.


kurinji flowersKurinji Flowers

by Clare Flynn

(JD Smith Design)

I’m not usually keen on having faces on the cover as I prefer to invent my own image of the characters. But I do love maps and greenery. For me, the 50s-style portrait, sliver of map and suggestion of landscape work perfectly here. The font is elegant and gives us an idea of the kind of story to expect. As with Black Sun, Red Moon above, the whole package tells us we’re going otherwhere and otherwhen.


We All Reach the Earth by FallingWe All Reach the Earth by Falling

by Bauke Kamstra

(Jessica Bell)

OK, the title would be enough to draw me closer, but the texture makes me want to grab this. Those feathers overlapping some of the letters is subtle and understated. The title is also perfectly balanced, leading me to imagine the poems within will be equally so. These colours remind me of Al Brookes’s The Gift of Looking Closely, another plus.


AbsentLordThe Absent Lord

by Jason Beacon

(Chandler Book Design)

Initially attracted because it bears some similarity to Ben Okri’s The Famished Road, I like everything about this,

The leaves/flames forming a frame, autumnal tones, the typewritten title and the way the light catches the eye all hint at a story within. Plus that strapline couldn’t fail.



With this Curse

by Amanda DeWees

(Bookfly Design)

The author has a whole series of these books, employing the same technique of silhouetted head as portal. They look fabulous.

This one is extremely classy, giving you the genre, central character and sense of polish in the way the cover is edged. You immediately know there is a world within and can’t wait to dive in.


There. Those were a few of my favourites. You?


    14 replies to "Beautiful Covers"

    • First Night Design

      I’ve just looked at the Eight Trends post and, bar Blue Jeans and Coffee Beans, they’re grotesque! Having said that, I suspect BJ&CB is unlikely to turn out to be my cup of tea. Your choices, on the other hand, are prompting me to investigate the books themselves and I’ve already put An Unchoreographed Life on my wish list and followed Jane Davis’ blog. Off now to investigate the others!

    • philipparees

      I have always thought ‘An Unchoreographed Life’ an extraordinary cover because it calls out such deep associations. Impossible to resist. Bitter Like Orange Peel is equally arresting but for different reasons. Jason Beacon’s Absent Lord is intriguing and I have read his other extraordinary book, The President, the Terrorist and the Torturer which had a most beautiful cover in its original collectible first edition. I don’t think enough attention has been given to the originality of self published book covers,because they seem more ‘of a piece’ with the work contained.

      • jilljmarsh

        Very good point, Philippa. With the author as creative controller of the project, I think indie covers *can* reflect the interiors with more imagination and understanding. Doesn’t always happen but when it does, it’s very satisfying. I’ll look out for the other Beacon book. Thanks for the tip.


      Interesting and I agree with you – I am really turned off by anything romantic, tacky or gawkish on a cover. When I was working with my cover designer I found it really helped to go round a bookshop and take pictures of what appealed to me. This really helped me narrow down what i did and didn’t like. I was very attracted to simple, uncluttered designs – good visuals, strong drawings. I like many of those you have chosen but the one that probably appeals the most is These Are the Moments.

      • jilljmarsh

        Yes, that’s what my designer advised too, Clara – identify what you like and understand the genre markers.
        And it’s no hardship to spend ages gazing at book covers, after all.

    • jenanita01

      Reblogged this on Anita & Jaye Dawes.

    • April Munday

      Yes, those 8 examples are pretty dreadful, but I think the piece is also making a serious point that some readers like to be reassured by the cover that they’re choosing the kind of book that they think they’re choosing. That seems to work fairly well for genre fiction. If the book is a bit more ‘literary’ there’s more scope for something imaginative and compelling.

      • jilljmarsh

        Absolutely, April. It is exactly that reassurance many readers seek. I have no beef with the Bookbub piece whatsoever and I’m grateful for the reminder. My post was an attempt to balance things, as you say, for the literary reader.

    • Lorraine Devon Wilke

      I completely agree with your thesis and the covers you’ve featured. For the life of me, I’ve never understood the appeal — as a reader, not a carwash greeting card purchaser! — of the examples given in the article you referenced! Mawkish, goofy, sentimental, and those ubiquitous “6-pack abs” shots do NOT draw me to a book…if anything, they turn me away. To each his own, I guess!

      However, every one of those you’ve featured here, do draw me in. And since I’ve read a couple of Jane Davis’ books (you feature her An Unchoreographed Life cover) and know her to be an excellent author, I’d guess you’re right on the money about the rest, as well!

      Good piece.

      • jilljmarsh

        Thanks Lorraine. I should say I’ve not read all these books, yet, but those I have lived up to their cover promises.

    • Lorraine Devon Wilke

      Reblogged this on After the Sucker Punch and commented:
      I have a thing about book covers. They’re not only the initial calling card of a book, an author, they are the art, the statement, the quality, that sets the tone for, hopefully, what follows within. I’m sharing this piece by JJ Marsh because I think she hit the point on the head, in both the covers she features, and article she references with their examples. Yes, to each his own, but why not make your first statement be a thing of intrigue and beauty?

      • Jane Davis

        That’s a perfect summary, Lorraine. I may have to steal it!

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