Learn From Bestsellers: Dissecting The Covers of 5 Successful Fiction Books

self-publishing Dec 14, 2020

As children, many of us are told not to judge a book by its cover, but the truth is that this is the number one way we first notice our next read. We look for covers that appeal to us, that look like other books we’ve loved, and that have a high-quality design. 

As self-publishing has become more mainstream, the quality of cover has become incredibly high. You can’t afford to throw up a cover that looks like you’ve put it together in MS Word. However, the good news is that if you find your cover isn’t working, you can always replace it. Today, we’ll look at 5 successful books and dissect their covers so you can learn what they’re doing right and apply that to your own fiction book cover strategy.  

5 Successful Fiction Book Covers 

Many people follow book trends and find themselves looking for a book similar to ones they've already read, but different. These five books cash in on that habit by making it clear which respective genre they belong to.

The Girl in Cabin 13 by A. J. Rivers

This FBI mystery cover is the epitome of chilling. The cold, dark cover depicts a frozen lake, snowy grass and dark, spindly trees. We see no protagonist on the cover, which adds to the idea of someone who is missing, hiding or lurking in the shadows. The title is written in big, bold, red writing, depicting drama and hinting at blood spilling. This book’s cover is simple, like others in its genre, but it stands out among them. The title is easy to read, and there’s a minimal color scheme that doesn’t distract from the book’s tone.

Make Me Yours by Melanie Harlow

There’s no doubt that this book is a romantic comedy. The cover features an image of a muscular man with striking eyes and a flirtatious pose, while looking relaxed and smiling. The typography is clear yet playful. There’s also not too much to distract the reader from this man, and why would you want that? His level of undress also prepares readers for the level of heat they’ll encounter in this romance. 

Roommaid by Sariah Wilson

Generally, if a romance novel doesn't feature a couple on the cover, it features cute or quirky illustrations, and Roommaid is no different. This book’s demographic is college-age adults (New Adult) who love a happy ending. The feminine colors are the backdrop to post-it notes, and the little drawings are blue, evoking an image of a young woman doodling and daydreaming about a fantastic romance in the city! This cover nails it in what it promises, and judging by it’s sales, the book inside delivers! 

Dawnshard by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson could likely sell a book with a blank cover these days, but this cover still meets current epic fantasy trends. This cover is a prime example how covers can be simple and effective, and it also adopts the current trend away from illustrated fantasy covers. The colors reflect the maritime setting of the book, and the metal effects suggest weapons like swords. 

Midnight Lies by Raye Wagner

This YA Urban Fantasy cover ticks all the boxes for lovers of the genre – wolves, a young beautiful woman, dark colors with light effects to show the power and magic surrounding them. At the time of writing, all the books at the top of this genre have this kind of cover, which goes to show you that you should aim to fit in with the other books, far more than you should try to be different.  

How to Choose a Fiction Book Cover 

If you’re an author and want to hire a designer, go for someone who knows your genre well and will create a genre-appropriate cover that shows what your book is about. Don’t be attracted to designers who create incredible covers for other genres, because while you’ll end up with a stunning cover, there’s a good chance it won’t hit the mark with your audience. 

If you design your own or plan to buy a premade cover, look through the covers of other authors within your genre. Examine the similarities between books and emulate those. When you have a cover you like, hold it up besides bestselling covers, and if it fits in, you're good to go!

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